After a recent life-changing trip to Italy, I called my best friend to — well, let's just be honest, I called to brag.
We had traveled together during college, and I wanted to relive some of those memories with him, while sharing my latest experiences in Europe. After finishing telling him about the trip, he said the saddest thing I had heard in a long time.
“That sounds awesome,” he sighed. “I'd love to do something like that… in ten years.”
“What?!” I said. “Ten years? Dude, are you kidding me?”
He went on to say a trip like that just wasn't realistic. Not for him. Not now. It wasn't financially feasible and not something he and his wife had time for.
What's more, they were expecting their second child and were spending most of their energy preparing for that transition. I asked him when was the last time they had gone a vacation, just the two of them.
“Oh, I dunno… probably a few years.”
A few years?!
I had had enough.
“Do you remember what you told me right before I got married?”
Months before I got married, my friend gave me some important advice, something he had heard from a premarital counselor, I think.
They were seven sage words that I will never forget—the secret, I've found, to a happy marriage:
Always have something to look forward to
That's it. That's the secret. It sounds so simple and yet it can be the hardest part of a lifelong commitment. Here are two reasons why it works.
First, it breaks the monotony.
Marriage begins with excitement, but as with any emotional high, it has its boring moments. Times when you wake up next to the love of your life and the morning breath gets the best of you.
You may have vowed to experience the adventure of life together, but don't be surprised when your story has a little taste of the mundane. That's called life. However, this commitment can easily turn into begrudged obligation if you don't have something disrupt the ordinary ongoings of matrimony.
Second, it gives you and your spouse a common goal.
When you have something that requires both of you to plan, you remember this is a partnership—something you agreed to do together.
And when you might otherwise be distracted by your own weekly activities and forget to spend quality time together, this shared project can unite you.
It's something to talk about over dinner, something to text each other about in the middle of the day. A common goal, something to anticipate, can bring you together in ways that the daily grind won't.
So what should you look forward to?
Always have a common goal
It could be anything, really: a vacation, home improvement project, even an upcoming move. As long as it's something you both enjoy doing, it qualifies and should do the trick of breaking up the monotony and bringing you two together.
That's why I had to remind my friend of the best advice he'd given me, advice I had taken to heart since marrying my wife six years before. And it has saved my marriage a few times.
A few months afterwards, not altogether surprisingly, my friend called me. He wanted to tell me about a recent trip he and his wife took to an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.
Man, thanks for talking me into that. I've never seen my wife so relaxed. It was just what we needed before starting a new job and having baby number two.
My friend thanked me, but really I needed to thank him.
We all need little things to look forward to in life — small interruptions to our normal flow. Not because we have to escape from our lives, but so we can appreciate them.
Because without the gift of looking forward, even the most wonderful relationships can grow stale.
[specialbox]My friend Tyler Ward, author of Marriage Rebranded, recently asked 25 leaders for their single-best marriage advice. The level of insight and wisdom he received, compiled in a free eBook called Marriage Hacks, is guaranteed to help many navigate their own marriages. I was honored to share the above in the book. Click here to download the free eBook.[/specialbox]
What are you looking forward to? Share in the comments.