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Why my husband never sleeps on the couch and other marriage advice to ignore

POSTED: August 4, 2014 8:00 p.m.
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You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly. Sam Keen

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Offering wedding advice to new brides and grooms is a common occurrence. Family and friends are excited to see people they love start a new life, and more experienced couples want to help make the relationship successful. Thankfully, you don't have to follow all the advice you get. In fact, I advise that you ignore some of the marriage advice you get, starting with these 6 traditional ideas.

1. Never go to bed angry
Disagreements and arguments occur in most marriages. Sometimes conflict can't be resolved before the sun goes down. Don't be afraid to put the argument aside for the night, or even a day or two. Often, heightened feelings resolve themselves after time to cool down and think. I always try to leave a discussion with a positive thought even if I am still at odds with my husband when bedtime comes, and I try to stay calm as I table the discussion for another day.

2. Happy wife, happy life
For me, marriage is about equality. Both spouses need to work to make each other happy. Neither the wife nor the husband should dominate all decisions and preferences. I can't imagine being happy if my husband was not, and I consider it a big part of my responsibility to contribute to his happiness. Being a gentleman does not mean giving your wife her way all of the time. This phrase needs a rebranding, but I can't think of a good rhyme for "Happy spouse" or "Happy couple."

3. You're sleeping on the couch
Movies often depict husbands being sent to the couch for the night if they make a mistake or if an argument is not resolved. I don't think I have any right to demand my husband sleep anywhere other than his bed, although he graciously takes the couch if one of us is sick. If I have a problem sleeping in the same bed as my husband, it's my prerogative to move to the couch.

4. Only one person wears the pants
It's not uncommon for friends and family to joke about who wears the pants in a relationship, meaning one person makes most of the decisions and has veto power. In this day and age, however, most marriage relationships are built on equality, not on a woman deferring to a man, or vice versa. Long before you tie the knot, make sure you understand your potential spouse's personality and expectations. My husband was well aware that I came from a family of mostly women who were raised to think and act for ourselves. We strive to have a marriage where both points-of-view are considered and valued.

5. Love means never having to say you're sorry
This is a silly phrase that doesn't even make sense. If there's one thing I've learned from being married, it's that the sooner you can forgive and forget, the happier you will be. Saying "I'm sorry" shouldn't be difficult if you truly love someone and have hurt them. If you are sincere in your apology and work to right any wrongs, your spouse should be forgiving in return.

6. Always be honest
Honesty, loyalty and fidelity are all important in marriage, but there are some times a little white lie might be better than the honest truth. For example, when your wife is feeling less-than-beautiful while pregnant or having a baby and she asks "Does this make me look fat?" the answer is never "Yes, honey, you do." If your spouse is nervous about a work interview or big presentation, build him or her up with confidence, even if you're not sure how it will go. When one of you makes a new dish for dinner, find positive things to say about it even if it didn't turn out perfectly or isn't to your taste. There are plenty of times when you need to be honest, but recognize the times when tact supercedes honesty.

I treasure some of the advice given to me on my wedding day, and there are couples who inspire my husband and me. However, I also know not to take all advice at face value. As you work to improve your marriage, be smart about the advice you take and the advice you ignore. Have good communication with your spouse, and you'll find most issues get resolved quickly, leaving more time for that happy life you've always wanted — together.

Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.

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