A Girlfriends’ Guide to a Healthy Marriage

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First comes love, then comes marriage, and for 41 percent of the population within eight years comes divorce. Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce and 73 percent of third marriage end in divorce.

Not the kind of introduction you were expecting from a girl writing about her blissful engagement and idyllic wedding journey? According to statistics there are nine divorces in the time it takes a couple to recite their wedding vows (two minutes) and 1,385 divorces happen during an average five-hour wedding reception. The facts are disheartening, but even worse is the reality of two people who at one point seemed drunk in love falling into the addiction of sabotaging themselves and their loved ones all due to the pain of a broken heart.

For some, the D word is the side effect of a promiscuous neighbor, a younger coworker, trouble with finances, power struggles or even simply growing apart. But just as there are gateways to certain drugs, I believe the path to divorce must come laced with cautionary signs and signals.

As I sit here and watch Season 5 of “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” I am a little shocked by Hollywood’s attempt to glamorize the aftermath of such a life-altering decision. While it might be entertaining to see the main characters flaunt their expensive shoes around their million dollar LA homes, while their other divorced girlfriends rally behind their sexy new hookup escapades, something tells me that for most newly single men and women, divorce might actually look a little less sexy and a little more … lonely.

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In light of Bravo’s attempt to romanticize a breakup, I’ve asked a few girlfriends for their own guide – not to divorce – but for a healthy and happy marriage. Here is what some of them have to say:

Mary Crane Orne – Married 4 ½ years

As a wife, I think you have to wear many hats. Be his best friend. Be his biggest cheerleader and most proud fan. Don’t forget to also be his mistress. I also think it is critical to hold him accountable and expect all of these things in return!

Like life, your marriage will likely always be evolving so don’t forget to check your marriages pulse and keep it interesting. Don’t get caught up in being married that you forget to have fun.

Sometimes you are going to win and sometimes you are going to lose. If you win a battle, win it and move on, don’t gloat. If you lose a battle, lose it and move on, don’t pout. Trust that you need to be right but he does too. You have to trust his decisions just as much as you need him to trust your decisions.

Whitney Huff – Married 1 month

I will never forget about 10 years ago sitting next to an older couple at a coffee shop celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary and I asked them what the secret was to a healthy happy marriage and he spoke up and said, “when you get married don’t try and turn the other person into you. People have a natural tendency to think that everyone should see things the way they do. We’re amazed and bewildered when someone disagrees with us. We do this the most with the person that we marry. Regardless of how perfectly matched you think you are, there will always be disagreement. People are different. Men and women are especially different. Accept it, embrace it, and turn it into a positive.”

Lindsay Brownlee – Married 3 years

My piece of advice is to never compare your marriage or relationship to anyone else’s and to laugh laugh laugh and laugh some more — together!

Morgan Jenny – Married 4 years

You’ve probably already heard this a million times but can’t stress it enough: Don’t go to bed angry with each other. It’s never fun arguing with your significant other and going to bed mad only results in a bad night’s sleep and starting the next day on the wrong foot.

Compromise is key. It’s no longer only about you. You and your significant other are now one and a team. Try to keep in mind where their point of view is coming from and to realize what is best for y’all as a couple, not an individual.

Separate hobbies: while doing activities together as a couple and spending time together is so great and important, it is also healthy to maintain and establish your own hobbies separately. Maybe she likes to shop with girlfriends or have a wine night out and he prefers to go hunting or fishing with his buds. Whatever the preferred hobbies are, time spent apart can be healthy and as they say “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

 Hana Shaffner – Married 4 years

The first thing that came to mind: plans change and life has such unexpected ups and downs, so give each other grace when things don’t work out how you expected and when life plans have to be revised. No matter how the journey changes, be glad you are on it together!

Katie Heatherington – Married 9 years

I always encourage young couples to keep dating, even after they tie the knot. Life will always get busier with jobs and starting families and finances will only get tighter, but it is always worth it to pull away and make time to spend one on one and connect.

Figure out your spouse’s love language (quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service) and strive to encourage them in the way that they best receive love.

 Sophie Fulmer – Married 4 ½ years

Communication is key! Don’t assume your spouse knows how your feeling. Talk through everything and no secrets.

Laura Able – Married 5 years

Never let yourself forget why you said, “I do.”

Nora Clark – Married 4 years

A healthy marriage means hiding 80 percent of your shopping bags plus at least one date night a week.

Cassie Neal – Married 4 years

Fight naked. Also, kiss each other every day. You think it’s a no brainer, but as you have kids and your life gets hectic, it is easy to forget.

Julie Murphy (my Mom) – Married 37 years

Communication. Compromise. Be flexible. Be humble. Be grateful and show appreciation often, no matter how small the gesture. Be thankful. Don’t sweat the small stuff (cliché, I know, but so true). Compliment often.

Work together toward common goals. No one is perfect, but as long as it works for you, it IS perfect. There are seasons when one of you must lead the team and other times when you must follow. Knowing “when” is the tricky part. See the good in everything. Surround yourself with positive friends and relationships. Never take for granted. Stay in the moment and enjoy the journey.  Enjoy the simplicity of each other’s company.  Remember, you were born with two ears and one mouth. … be a better listener than too quick to speak.  Love unconditionally.

A huge thank you to everyone who offered such wonderful advice! I realize most of these tips are from newlywed friends, so if anyone would like to add, please feel free to comment below!

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About Aly Murphy

Aly Murphy is an international etiquette consultant based in Charleston, SC. She previously lived in Manhattan while she studied the history, social psychology and neuroscience...

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