Ben Shapiro: 10 Lessons in 10 Years—What Marriage Has Taught Me | Opinion

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This week, my wife and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We were quite young when we married—I was 24, and she was 20—and a lot has happened since then. I’ve changed jobs several times, she’s become a doctor, and we’ve had two children. Thank God, our marriage is better than ever.

But you learn a few things over the course of 10 years, and now is as good an opportunity as any to offer up some of those lessons. So, for 10 years, 10 lessons.

1. Share Values

Too many people believe that marriage is built on the back of mutual need. In Stephen Sondheim’s Company, the final case made by the main character for marriage is the romantic idea of reaching out in existential angst to another human being.

But that doesn’t set the groundwork to maintain a solid marriage, even during those times when your spouse is driving you up a wall. Instead, base your marriage on shared values; the things you think are important.

Obviously, chemistry matters; so do shared interests. But these are necessary, not sufficient conditions for marriage. Over time, passionate love shifts into companionate love—you’d better pick the right partner for your life journey, someone who wants the same life that you want.

2. Root For Each Other—And Be Willing To Put Skin In The Game.

Your spouse will be the only person in your life rooting for you wholeheartedly. Your victories are their victories; your losses are their losses. But marriages sometimes founder when dreams conflict. Early in our marriage, my wife was still in college at UCLA, and I was interested in taking a job in New York; she dutifully offered to transfer to a college across the country. When she applied to medical school across the country; I offered to move my job.

Those decisions were tough for each of us, but our willingness to make them made our marriage stronger.

3. Your Spouse Should Handle Their Family

When you get married, you marry your spouse’s family, too. Whatever problems exist with her family, you’ll be inheriting them. But you don’t have to do so. Your spouse’s family troubles are their family troubles, and interfering in them won’t make your life any better. It’s your spouse’s job to protect your marriage from their family; the same holds true for you. 

When the Bible says you’re supposed to leave your father and mother and cleave to your spouse, it ain’t kidding.

4. Don’t Expect Your Spouse To Change, But Prepare For Them To Change

When my wife and I were married, we didn’t know each other. That’s because nobody knows each other when they get married—people change over time. This presents two problems.

First, because we know we’re going to change, we expect our spouses to change in ways we like. That’s not how this works. Whatever the flaws you spot in your potential spouse are, they’re generally going to get worse over time, not better—so make sure your potential spouse is self-critical and interested in self-betterment.

Second, prepare for your spouse to change in ways you don’t necessarily like. That’s why betting on values trumps betting on chemistry. Building a life together creates a marriage; building on a solid foundation of values allows you to build a life.

5. Kids Change Everything, So Plan Time For Each Other

Marriage is a merger of two lives; kids turn the object of those lives outward. This means more emotional volatility, less time with each other, and more pressure. It’s deeply important to carve out time with your spouse and to reassure them that they are the most important person in your life—even if your first priority has to be taking care of kids who can’t take care of themselves.

6. Spend On Small Things, Save On Big Things

Money is a major issue in almost every marriage, but people tend to go wrong when they don’t prioritize correctly. You’re not going to go broke going to a movie. It’s something that will make you feel wealthy even if you’re not. You will go broke buying a car, a house, or a boat. Cook at home more, go out for ice cream more, and save your money on the big ticket items.

7. Determine The Purpose Of Important Conversations

Early in our marriage, I discovered that my wife and I had a problem in some of our conversations: She’d want to tell me about a problem she was experiencing, and I’d immediately leap to try to solve it. She found this deeply annoying, since what she really wanted was emotional sympathy and not a solution.

Thus, we have a simple, time-saving trick: When she’s got a problem she wants to talk about, I ask her directly whether this is a conversation in which she wants me to listen, or one in which she wants me to fire off solutions. It actually works quite well.

8. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Space

Your spouse is still an individual human being. He or she needs some space. That means that you should be able to ask your spouse for some space, too, so long as you’re not shirking your responsibilities. It’s important to spend some time on your own, and it’s important for your spouse to take the kids for a little while to allow you to do so.

9. It’s Your Job

Don’t ask your spouse to do something you can’t do yourself. That means that before you ask your spouse to wash the dishes or take the kids, consider the possibility that you may be better situated to do it. You have no right to expect that your spouse is going to fulfil your every wish, particularly in situations in which you can damn well get off your fat ass and perform the task on your own.

Marriages in which spouses argue over whether duties are split 50/50 fail. Marriages in which spouses both assume they’re responsible for 100% succeed.

10. Let Your Spouse Help You

With all of this said, it’s important for your spouse to feel like you need them—because you do. It’s great to be independent and self-sufficient, but allowing yourself to be vulnerable and open with your spouse is what builds trust and self-esteem in a marriage.

Ten years isn’t all that long a time. I hope in another 10 years, I’ll have learned another 10 lessons. With our kids growing up, I’m sure I’ll learn more than that. But that’s really what marriage is; a learning process.

You don’t know what you’re getting into when you sign up. But if you do it right, marriage is the most wonderful adventure you can take—and the most important decision you’ll ever make.

Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of “The Ben Shapiro Show,” available on iTunes and syndicated across America.​

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​