San Francisco-based author Jo Piazza was delighted to finally meet the man of her dreams on a working trip to the Galapagos Islands, and even more to get engaged three months later. Until she realized one thing: she had absolutely no idea how to be married. Fortunately, as travel writer and editor, Jo had a plan. While traveling the world with and without her current husband, she sought the advice of anyone who would give her advice on what, exactly, makes a marriage work. His resulting book, How to get married, is a thoughtful, touching, and hilarious look at what people can learn from each other about love and marriage if they just ask.
While Jo is quick to point out that no culture is a monolith or can be boiled down to a few wise advice snippets, the vast array of perspectives has taught her invaluable lessons that she still carries with her long after the unpacking suitcases. Here, Jo shares some of the best advice she’s received, from over 20 countries.
1. Yes, you can go in bed angry. The worst advice I had before I got married was not to go to bed angry. Do you know what helps calm a ridiculous argument that goes nowhere? Sleep, and an Ambien, and coffee in the morning. Nothing good comes out of combat until you are exhausted. I have heard this advice over and over again from my conservative Muslim tour guide in Qatar to a half drunk Scottish taxi driver. Sleep a little. Treat it in the morning.
2. Have less sex to have better sex. My favorite advice on married sex came from Orthodox Jewish women in Jerusalem. Many Orthodox couples only have sex at specific times of the month. Husbands and wives do not even touch each other for about two weeks per month (i.e., the five days of menstruation and the seven days after). The rest of the month is fair game. An Orthodox woman of about my age (who had been married for over a decade) told me, “Quality takes precedence over quantity. We both separate for part of the month in order to get to know each other better and then to find each other more complete. It keeps the passion alive.
Marital sex only gets boring when you make it boring, when you make it habitual instead of something special and exciting. Don’t do it just because it’s Sunday night and you run out of things to watch on Netflix. Stay intentional about how you get off.
3. Keep all screens out of the bedroom. Making the bedroom a welcoming and relaxed place without computer screens, phones and work distractions naturally lends itself to better married sex life. “If you both look at your phones and computers in bed all the time, you might as well watch porn,” a Danish woman told me in her handy Danish way when we discussed how the concept Danish hygge, creating a comfortable home and life, could be applied to creating a happy and sane marriage where you still want to have sex with the person you are committed to spending the rest of your time with. your life.
4. Let go of your insecurities and baggage at the start of a marriage. You are married. This person chose you. They stood up in front of all the people who are dear to you and said, “Hey, I want to be with you for a very long time. Now is the time to let go of your old relationship baggage and insecurities. While visiting Mexico while reporting on the book, my new husband did so in a temezcal cleaning ceremony (basically sweating our asses in a very hot hut with someone who told me that ‘he was a shaman, but could have been just a guy with a sweat lodge and a loincloth). It’s just as easy to let go of all your emotional bullshit. Forget about his ex-girlfriends and your addictions about your love handles. Stop worrying that you will repeat all of your parents’ marriage mistakes. Your new marriage is a clean slate, take advantage of it and get off to a good start after the “I do”.
5. Money does not necessarily equal power. When I was reporting on marriage in northeast India, I ended up interviewing women and men from one of the few matrilineal tribes in the world. In the Khasi and Jaintia hill tribes of Meghalaya, property and assets are passed down through the youngest daughter in a family. All children are named after the mother instead of the father. The husband moves into his wife’s house, often taking with him only one suitcase of his things. Women run the household and largely control the finances. Yet even though women technically had more earning power, women insisted that all major financial and household decisions be made by compromise rather than control. This is an important lesson in a world where men still generally earn more than their wives, especially when a woman needs time off to have children. Money shouldn’t mean that someone can make important decisions without consulting you.
6. Marriage is not a romantic comedy. In America, we act as if marriage is the end goal, rather than the start of a new adventure. Every romantic comedy ends with the engagement or marriage and ends. The French have advised me that both sides of a marriage should work hard to keep the other interested. “It’s work,” a Parisian told me. “I have to put in the effort – and here’s what’s important: I want to do the job.
Other tips from the French: Walk around the house naked, harass your coworkers instead of your spouse, be the most interesting person at the party, and even flirt with other people. Yes, flirt with other people! “When you know that other men still want you, you become even more confident, which makes you a lot sexier,” they told me.
7. Take care of yourself first. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get done. In fact, give yourself priority. Do you know what flight attendants tell you in the plane’s safety instructions that no one ever listens to? “Make sure you get your own oxygen mask first before helping others. This is also true in life. If you don’t make sure that you continue to take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of another person. The wisest advice I have received on this matter has come from the women of Jerusalem, a city constantly rocked by political turmoil and violence. “It’s easy to get lost in a marriage,” one Israeli woman told me. “It’s easy to feed your husband and your relationship, and forget to take care of yourself. Take the time to reset and your marriage will be better for it. “
8. A marriage takes a village. “Do you want a co-wife?” This is the first thing I was asked when I sat down with a group of Maasai women in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. My first answer was, No fucking way. But then I learned that Maasai polygamy has nothing to do with San Francisco polyamory. Polygamy in this culture is about the division of labor, allowing someone else to do the heavy lifting from time to time. Maybe your husband’s friends can shoulder the burden of constantly complaining about work or going on those camping trips he loves and hates you. Tribal polygamy builds a village to help nurture a marriage. There is always someone there to ask for advice and help. Americans are often afraid to ask for advice and help with our marriages until something really goes wrong. And we don’t like to share the parts of our marriage that are difficult; rather, we prefer to post photoshoped photos of our relationship on social networks. If I learned anything on this trip, it’s that you need to ask for help before you really need it.
9. No one has a perfect marriage. Do not worry. I started this book thinking that someone somewhere had discovered the secret to the perfect marriage. Now I know everyone has a hard time getting it to work. If you visited my Instagram in my first year of marriage, you would see a cute couple with a ridiculously beautiful dog traveling together to exotic places, climbing mountains, strolling along the Dutch canals, eating too many delicious food. You would have no idea that I lost my job, had a crappy medical diagnosis, that the doctors told me my dad was about to die three times, or that my mom did a nervous breakdown. You wouldn’t know all the times I had a fight with my husband or drank too much wine and fell asleep crying, confused as to whether I had made any of the right decisions in my life. This is really what the first year of marriage looks like. Yeah, it’s hard. But it is also an incredible adventure.
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