Saturday will mark 11 years of marriage for my husband & me. In a way it seems like we just got married, & in another way our wedding day feels like a lifetime ago. A lot has changed but a lot has stayed the same too. My husband just got back from a 10 day work trip & while a few days apart is occasionally nice, I can truly say I missed him & was absolutely thrilled when he got home last night. Even after all these years! Now by no means do I think we are a paragon of marital virtue, but I do think we have some wisdom that’s worth sharing. So today I thought it would be fun to share 11 things I’ve/we’ve learned over the past 11 years.
If I’m being really honest, we learned most of these BEFORE we were married since we were together so long before actually getting married. But these lessons have definitely become even clearer with time. Keep in mind that I am not saying anyone has to follow all of these because not everyone is like us. Also keep in mind that we don’t view divorce as the absolute end of the world either. A lot of people realize they married the wrong person altogether – therefore, divorce is the only logical conclusion. Others might have married the right person at the time but then they grow apart over the years. And that doesn’t have to be the end of the world either. It happens. Obviously we hope neither of those situations every happens to us & we’re doing everything in our power to avoid it, but I just want you to know that if you’re reading this & you’re divorced, it doesn’t mean I think we’re somehow better or smarter than you. Not at all.
Having said all that, here are some lessons we have learned over the years that I think can be useful in keeping a marriage (or any serious relationship) intact.
- Express your appreciation often. It’s so easy to take each other for granted but that will kill a relationship. Say thank you & generally let the other person know how much you appreciate them & all the things they do for you on a regular basis. Also, remember that love isn’t expressed so much through tangible gifts as it is through the daily acts of caring for someone & making their life a little easier or better.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! Don’t expect the other person to read your mind. Say what you mean & mean what you say. Bitterness blossoms where communication withers. That picture at the top of the post? Do NOT be that person. That is toxic bullshit that is immature & frankly abusive. Don’t do it!
- It’s ok to maintain some separate interests. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING together. Yes, you’re a couple but you’re still two individuals. Maintaining your individuality will only strengthen your relationship.
- On that note, it’s ok to have separate bank accounts. This doesn’t mean you can’t share expenses or pass money back & forth as needed, if one of you has a big purchase to make. Or maybe you have a shared large expense (say a new roof for the house) & one has more savings than the other. So you help the other person so that the burden is shared. The point is that you won’t argue as much over discretionary spending if you have separate accounts. “He spent how much on native plants?!” “She spent that much on earrings & CDs?!” See, we avoid these arguments entirely by having separate accounts. I realize this won’t work for everyone, but I think it’s something to consider that most folks don’t even realize is an option.
- When you do have an argument, don’t run to your family or friends about it. And definitely don’t run to the internet about it. The more you bring other people into your relationship, the more complicated it will be. Just don’t do it. It never ends well.
- Never talk down your spouse in front of others. I realize we all need to vent once in a while, but it’s best to keep that to a very small number of people, & as a general rule we should not be running around bitching about our partner all the time. It only breeds negativity & resentment.
- Never stop having sex. I know, I know, it’s hard sometimes to find the time or energy- but make it happen anyway. Perhaps the number one way to kill a relationship is to stop being intimate. As far as I can tell, if you don’t want to have sex, that points to far deeper issues in the relationship than the sex itself. I could write a whole blog post just about this. Oh wait, I already did. You can read that here:https://athicketofmusings.wordpress.com/2021/06/04/do-we-owe-our-spouses-sex/?preview=true.
- Share the housework. It’s ok if one of you primarily does certain tasks, but in general things should be shared. If one person is doing everything, that person is going to get burnt out & resent the other person. It’s just human nature. And if the other person takes on a task you normally do & does it slightly differently than you, just go with it. Don’t berate them about it because that just makes you seem unappreciative & decreases the likelihood that the other person will want to help you in the future. Again, that’s just human nature.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Your husband doesn’t change the TP roll? Your wife leaves hair in the shower? Just pull an Elsa & LET IT GO. No matter who you live with & no matter how much you love them, everyone is going to drive you crazy now & again with certain habits or mannerisms. Think back to your college roommates or your siblings as a child. Didn’t they all do things that annoyed you even if they were also your best friends? I bet the answer is yes. Keep the bigger picture in mind & don’t ruin a relationship over trivial matters that won’t amount to a hill of beans in the long run. (Yes, I just threw in a very country idiom there, just for fun.)
- Make time for each other. No matter how busy life gets, make sure you have at least a few minutes each day when you reconnect with each other & check in on how things are going. Even if it’s just 5 minutes before bed talking about your day, it still counts. If you find yourself telling your friends or family about things that you haven’t even told your spouse yet (unless it’s a surprise party you’re planning), that’s a problem.
- Marriage isn’t always easy but it really isn’t that hard either. At least if you’re married to your best friend it shouldn’t be. (I for one wouldn’t recommend any other type of marriage.) I think people often say marriage is hard but what they really mean is LIFE is hard. It’s just that the two often go hand in hand. So yes, life will throw you curveballs & you will likely face challenges you didn’t anticipate, but if you’re married to your best friend & you keep the lines of communication open, anything is possible.