For the past 2 years, I’ve spoken to a lot of older couples (age 50+) who have had decades-long marriages. Combining what I’ve learned from them, with my own experience in the matter, I think I’ve reached a concrete conclusion: Who you choose to give your life to is the most important decision you will ever make. Why? Because they are your partner. They will either hold you back, or get you farther than you ever could have gone on your own.

And this just reinforces something I’ve always believed, which is that your partner shouldn’t be a clone of yourself. You don’t want a partner with the same weaknesses you have, or even the same strengths. They are your other half. They need to balance you. Where they are weak, you are strong, and vice-versa. Where they don’t know, you are knowledgeable, and vice-versa. Mistakes you are going to make are mistakes they already made (or never will make), and vice-versa.

The less you have in common, the better. The only thing you must have in common is the path you want your lives to go.

For example, as I explained when I told the full story of my marriage, when my daughter was born, I knew my wife had far more experience regarding how to care for infants, and thus, I allowed her to take charge in that department. She interpreted that as not caring about our child, because she’s not very intelligent, but nonetheless, I wanted the expert to be in charge when it came to that particular subject. I helped in other ways, such as being her hands and feet while she was pregnant and giving birth, or paying for everything for several months, or just plain asking her if she needs something. And that’s really the essence of what I’m getting at.

Your partner is your partner. You are a team. I know that’s cliché, but take that word with the utmost seriousness: Partner. Whatever your partner is doing, help them out, even if you’re not good at what they’re doing, or you have no idea how to do it at all. If your husband is fixing the roof, maybe ask him if he needs more water. If your wife is swamped taking care of your 5 kids who are all screaming at each other, ask what you can do to help. Like I just said, you don’t need to know as much as they do in any particular situation, but you can still be their partner in every situation.

My favorite couples don’t ask each other for help, they just outright demand it. Not literally demand, but they give commands as if they just expect their partner to do it. Like, “Hey, be sure to pick up some laundry detergent while you’re out!” I find it funny when couples have reached that point in their marriage, where they just tell each other what to do instead of politely asking. That polite shit is for couples whose relationship is still fragile because they haven’t been together very long.

Speaking of relationships that are still fragile, I’ve observed that when couples have been together long enough, they really don’t hold anything back, including anger. Take my ex-wife’s aunt and uncle as example. I’ve seen her uncle snap at his wife, as in raising his voice in anger and frustration about something she’s doing or not doing. And it might surprise her a little, but it certainly doesn’t come close to hurting her or breaking her. They’re still together, they’re still in love, they’re still a team. Why is this okay? Because part of sharing your life is someone is being there when they get angry. Because humans get angry. You can’t spend 40 or 50 years with someone and you guys never once get pissed off at the other, or disappointed, or even dissatisfied. Your partner is just as human as you are.

They are still human, they are still your partner. You can never forget either one of those things.

Women file for divorce twice as often as men, and the reasons given almost always come down to the plain, simple fact that the relationship had problems. It’s like most women are children who think marriage means happily ever after and now everything will be perfect. No, it just means you are living the rest of your life with a partner. Life is still life, but you got someone in your corner now who’s going to help you through it, every minute of every day.

That’s why every older couple I talk to emphasizes how vital and crucial and important communication is. You have to communicate. You have to communicate obsessively. I’m surprised my own marriage even lasted 2 years, because my wife was literally against communication. She outright told me she prefers to let “bad thoughts” sit in her mind until they go away on their own. That’s precisely what made all our issues as a couple get worse, when they were very fixable issues. Consciously choosing not to communicate is absolutely not okay in a committed relationship. You may as well be trying to make your relationship fail.

Oh wait, she did ….

Your body communicates with its different parts all the damn time. When you scrape your arm, those pain signals you feel is your body communicating that something is wrong. When you’re hungry, that’s your body communicating that you need to eat. When you are sleepy, that’s your body communicating that you need to rest. Relationships are no different, because your partner is your other half, almost like they literally are half your body. You have to treat it like that. So, when I say couples must communicate obsessively, I really mean it. Don’t let there be anything – ANYTHING – that you don’t communicate.

Want some practice communicating obsessively? When you go to bed together and you have nothing to communicate, say something really fucking mundane, like, “That tiny hole in the table cloth kinda bugs me…” I mean, it’s just a fucking table cloth, but communicate that anyway. Mundane crap like that would be good practice for communicating obsessively, if there’s really nothing else to communicate.

It’s yet another reason I despise cheating, and it’s why I define cheating to mean more than just sleeping with someone else. Cheating, in my mind, also means when your partner emotionally confides in someone else. That’s not what a partner does. That’s not what your other half is supposed to do. Imagine if your body didn’t communicate with you, but instead communicated with someone else. Imagine if you got hungry, but someone else felt that hunger it instead of you. Imagine if you touched a burning stove, but someone else felt the heat instead of you… How long could you survive if your body didn’t communicate with itself like those examples? Not very long. Same with relationships. So, I think of cheating as anything in a relationship that betrays the very purpose of a relationship. Don’t confide in someone else, don’t sleep with someone else, don’t be supportive of someone else. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be in a relationship, with anyone.