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5 Cynical Marriage Tips Every Couple Needs to Learn

At age 20, I married my very first boyfriend after dating him for 14 months. Seventeen years, three kids, and zero separations later, we're still married and we still like each other, despite the fact that 20-year-olds are crappy judges of character, and we could have been marrying psychopaths for all we knew.

My husband and I didn't know it at the time, but we were permanently sealing the deal while the morphine of new love was still flowing through our veins, which is kind of like signing a mortgage while high on heroin. At age 20, I would have said, "Of course we'll make it! We love each other and love conquers all!" At age 38, I say, "Hahahahaha! What a pair of lucky dummies we were." Lucky because no one knows what terrible demons lurk inside a person they've only dated for a year, and dumb because only an idiot thinks their marriage will never end.

Here's the good news! There are shortcuts to a lasting marriage, and those shortcuts are probably way more cynical and calculating than you'd expect. In other words, anyone can do them.

#5. Drop Your Grudges as Fast as Humanly Possible

Have you ever noticed that we talk about grudges like they're helpless infants who need our care? We "nurse" grudges and "hold" grudges and "suckle them at our bosoms like little newborn infants who need nutrition." All are common and accurate idioms to describe what it takes to carry a tiny baby insult to a full grown manbeast that has its own pubic hair and a mortgage.

Despite the coddling, nursing, and suckling it takes to keep them alive, there is nothing that will rot your soul from the inside out more thoroughly than a grudge. Even when they're completely justified, those little pockets of resentment that you secretly harbor for a rainy day are as poisonous as strychnine on a Bret Michaels sandwich, and the first thing they murder is your own peace of mind. The second thing they murder is your relationships. The third thing is the Pope, but usually the poison doesn't spread beyond the first few victims.

grudge2 Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty
Talk to the hand, cuz the face is mad you screwed my sister.

As a kid, your grudges are managed by the people around you. Staying angry at your brother for peeing anarchy symbols all over your door is as reasonable an option as buying a whole new door, so you're quick to let things go. If you're not bleeding or emotionally traumatized, your parents probably don't care that the universe hasn't treated you fairly, which is why petty grudges get dropped during commercial breaks. As a grownup, the grudge police don't exist. Unless you're dealing with grudges that come from actual crimes, in which case go ahead and use the real-world police as your grudge police.

Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images
We're here to manage your feelings about homicide.

Once you're permanently sharing a bed with someone, there's nowhere to hide from hurt feelings. Nobody cares if your husband forgot your half-half anniversary or pointed out your one weird chin hair that he wasn't supposed to notice. Which is why it took me about a year to figure out the most important shortcut to happiness that no one ever told me:

Be the first to apologize. Even when you're right and you both know it.

Obviously, this advice doesn't work for people in toxic relationships. If you're with someone who is an unrepentantly bad person who hurts you for fun, you're probably better off cutting your losses and call it a day. But most of us aren't in toxic relationships; we're in perfectly fine marriages comprised of two well-meaning humans who don't know what to do with themselves when they get their feelings hurt. What I figured out that first year of marriage was that nurturing hurt feelings is as useful as nurturing a rock. Give them an hour to stew, cry a little bit, then drop them like they're Hot Pockets full of boogers.

After all, is teaching your husband or wife a lesson more important than whatever else you could be doing? If your spouse hasn't lied, cheated, abused, or otherwise wronged you in a way that would warrant a Lifetime storyline, there's a 99 percent chance that the grudge you're holding isn't worth 30 more minutes of your time. Especially if you'd be embarrassed to explain the fight to a third party, if you could even remember what you were mad about in the first place. If being right makes you happier than being happy, then good luck with the rest of your life, homey.

#4. Know Your Partner CAN'T Complete You

TriStar Pictures

In the 1996 sportsy rom-com Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise delivers a heartfelt, emotionally riveting "You complete me" speech to Renee Zellweger at the romantic pinnacle of the movie. The only way I could make that sentence more 1996ier is by throwing the Spice Girls and a pair of chunky clogs into the mix somehow.

While the speech touched hearts and and moistened panties in theaters all over the country, the sentiment has been around as long as people have been hooking up: If you're an arrogant, driven man-cunt of a human, you could use a soft counterpart to make you a whole being. And if you're a woman, you could use all the help you can get. There's something comfortable and romantic about imagining that your husband or wife is your other half, that without him or her, you're only a partial person. To take it a step further, it's even more beautiful to imagine that God or the universe itself put you two together so that you could be one complete Love Transformer.

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
As individuals, we are nothing. Together, we are Death.

It's a sweet notion, but eff that You Complete Me speech right in the booty hole.

If you get to a point in your life where you think you're incomplete without (blank), something's gone wrong and you're setting yourself up for years of heartache. Hinging your lifetime of happiness on the actions, reactions, and erections of another human is as reckless as laying down your life savings on the bet that Tupac and Biggie are still alive and sharing a garage apartment in Iowa. It's a nice thought, but not a good bet.


Biggie Biggie Biggie, can't you see it's your turn to take out the recycling bin.

In the first few years of a relationship, it's natural to get sucked into the cult of the person you've committed yourself to. And your identity gets smooshed into that cult as well - you used to be an "I," now you're a "we." It's like you joined the world's sexiest gang of two. When I got married, I was no longer "Kristi," I was "Kristi Harrison of the Hell's Bangles" (That was our gang name). The rush of having a constant love-buddy was exactly what I imagine real gangbanging is like. Please confirm if life in a gang is just like being in love, readers who are in the Crips.

Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images
You know who you are.

Eventually, that rush wears off, and you slowly have to remember that you used to be a person on your own before the romance started, and the person you used to be still exists, and is just as interesting and worthwhile as who you were before you permanently hitched your wagon to your cult/lover. Not remembering and honoring your original self is as dangerous as willingly succumbing to amnesia forever and ever. You might have been lonely, but you weren't unfinished as a human. Expecting someone else to complete the job of being a whole person for you is like demanding someone else finish this sent

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