Twenty years. That’s how long my husband and I have been together. I know, God willing, we still have years to go before I can wax rhapsodic on our long life together, but still, twenty years ain’t nothin’. I think twenty years qualifies me on this, National Spouse’s Day, to talk about long-term commitments, what they mean, and how to preserve them. Especially since, despite his penchant for New Age music that sounds like a Casio keyboard backing the long, slow drop of each piece of a kitchen cutlery drawer, my husband still does it for me, and I’d happily bet my meager fortune that we’re in this for life.

Last year, when my husband and I wrote about how gaming together is a lot like marriage, we spoke from experience (figurative and literal.) If our two sons ever ask for partnership advice, I’d probably point them to that piece because it’s the declaration of parental love least likely to make them gag. There are some solid tips there on having each other’s backs, enjoying each other’s successes, and knowing who you are and what you bring to the relationship. Sitting down to write this piece, I asked myself what else I could tell them. What is the one key thing they’d need to know to ensure their marriage is happy, even when the times around them aren’t? I decided it’s really very simple: marry someone you truly and deeply like.

Thought I was going to say “love” there, didn’t you? Of course that’s true. I love my husband more than anything else in the world, and why wouldn’t I? He’s a great baker, he never fails to call me “cutie” and he’s always there to wipe up kid (or cat) puke. He’s built like a Scotsman, he loves 80’s music and he’s pretty funny, even though I’d never admit it considering a full 68% of his humor is god-awful puns. Of course, more than that, he is kind and fair, gentle and strong, accepting and generous. There’s a lot there to fall in love with. He’s been making me do it over and over for two decades now.

But more than that? I like him. He’s the kind of guy that, if we weren’t together, I’d genuinely want as a best friend. I enjoy his company—his energy. Simply put, being around him makes me feel good. I’ve met my fair share of couples that love each other—maybe even desperately—but they don’t seem to like each other very much. They have to spend a lot of time looking beyond characteristics that go anywhere from infuriating them to genuinely hurting them. They fight so hard to make the relationship work through things that should have sunk it years before. I’ve been in these relationships myself, and it’s often agony. A relationship where we only loved each other because we needed each other, if that makes any sense. My relationship with my husband? We don’t need each other. We just love each other. We just genuinely like each other. And that’s enough to carry you through times when you are too foggy from walking a non-sleeping newborn for hours and you forget what being in love even is. That’s enough to ease you through disagreements with each other over, say, whether the song “The Captain of Her Heart” is the worst song of all time (hint: it is.) That’s enough to build memories and years of good conversations, from discussing the current political climate (ugh) to the current choice of Netflix offerings (yay!) Don’t get me wrong—romantic chemistry is important, and I’d certainly miss what would be taken off the table if we were just friends. But God, it’s so important to have that base of friendship. To like each other as much as we do.

All I can hope for my boys is that they marry as well as I have. All I can hope is that they enjoy spending their lives with their favorite person, as I am lucky enough to do. If I teach them nothing else about relationships besides the obvious rewards of chore-play (nothing sexier than a partner who vacuums, am I right?) I hope that I teach them through osmosis how important it is to marry someone you like. For while love is not always borne out of friendship, friendship is a key component to feeling safe and content enough to fall in love. And that makes for a spouse worth having a national holiday for.

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