We’ve Been Married for 20 Years and Don’t Hate Each Other. Here’s How We Do It.
Go to bed angry, appreciate each other out loud, and other lessons
Co-authored by Rob Cottingham
It’s our 20th wedding anniversary. This feels like both a blessing and an achievement, and we wanted to celebrate by sharing what we’ve learned — and what we’ve recognized in retrospect — about how to make a marriage work over the long haul.
The truth is, happiness in marriage is largely a function of choosing the right person in the first place. (It tells you a lot about our compatibility that we both thought that writing a marriage guide would be a fun way to spend our anniversary.) But once you’ve found that person, there’s still plenty that goes into the care and feeding of the relationship.
How to find the one
For those of you who are looking, here’s what we think matters.
Go for similar tastes, but opposite temperaments. We both love Star Trek, vivid colors, technology, and progressive politics. That makes it easy to decide what to watch, how to decorate, what to spend our money on, and which causes to invest in. But in terms of temperaments, we’re opposites: Alex is intense and high energy, while Rob is easygoing and relaxed. This combination means we complement each other, and don’t have too many things to quarrel over.
One thing those similar tastes can give you is a shared cultural vocabulary. We can express our feelings about a given situation with a reference to a Friends scene or a Battlestar Galactica character. (Why, it’s like that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the Enterprise encounters a civilization that speaks entirely in references to stories from their past.)
Prioritize character. When Alex was young and single, she wanted to find a partner who was both smart and funny — “good person” wasn’t even on her radar. It was dumb luck that the smartest, funniest person she’s ever met also turns out to be the kindest and most decent person she’s ever met. But it turns out that in the long run, being married to a really good person is incredibly important — more so than any of that other stuff.