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How to Keep Your Marriage From Sucking

Luke BenedictusBy Luke Benedictus.
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Walking down the aisle with someone is an extraordinary leap of faith. Because you’re not just getting hitched to your current wife. You’re marrying the woman she becomes in five years, ten years, 25 years. People change and, believe it or not, you may too.

Over the years, storybook weddings can degenerate into twisted psychodramas. So how do you keep the bitter grudges and nonsensical arguments (“You cheated on me in my dream!”) at bay?

Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola have some ideas. They’re the husband and wife duo behind How to Keep Your Marriage From Sucking (Hachette), a pull-no-punches book that explores their epic fails and unexpected wins over the course of an 18-year marriage that’s produced two daughters.

It’s also fair to say their marriage has real texture. Greg, the script consultant for the Sex and the City series, is a recovering alcoholic and is currently in remission from cancer. He’s also brutally honest and very funny. He checked in to answer some questions about how to keep your relationship happy amid the craziness of family life.

TFH: According to the Relationship Research Institute, within three years of the birth of a child, two-thirds of couples find the quality of their relationship declines. How do you navigate the chaos of small kids while maintaining a happy marriage?

Greg Behrendt: If I had to do it again I think I’d make more of a stand about making sure the relationship has a place in the hierarchy of the family dynamic. Meaning that kids displaced a lot of our time together and we didn’t recover quickly. I think that it ends up creating problems later. There are probably even biological elements to it, but knowing in advance that the relationship will need tending to all throughout and that it is crucial to be wary of it.

TFH: You write “My marriage to Amiira has been beautiful, but it has—at times—downright sucked ass”. What single realisation has most improved your own marriage?

GB: That we can only be married one day at a time. I can’t stay married the rest of my life today I just have to make it to midnight. So does she. I don’t know how she does it hour to hour.

TFH: Your book describes the importance of learning how to fight better so as not to damage your relationship is not damaged beyond repair. What was your key learning here?

GB: My wife wrote that part of the book. Ha, ha! I’m not great at that part. I’m impulsive and bratty, and often more frustrated with my inability to mount a good argument on my own behalf than the fight itself. I’m trying as an adult to be more solution-based. I know we disagree, what then is our solution? Because everything else is just bringing up the past.

TFH: Scheduling sex – yes or no?

GB: Yes, schedule it if you must, but please don’t forget it all together. If you are not having sex then you need to bring it up. Not having sex will do damage to one, if not both of your, self-esteem. Even an acknowledgment that your partner is a sexual being and one you continue to be interested in is important, sometimes more important than the sex itself!