Today marks nine years since I married the only boy I’ve ever really loved. Because we had been together off and on since we were 16, I thought I knew what was in store for us in our marriage because we had already been through and worked through so much before getting married (plus, don’t we always think we know more than we do when we’re young?) We dated other people throughout college, I lost my dad, we dated long distance for 2 1/2 years (before smart phones and FaceTime, and before he even had a cell phone at all!)… But when two people commit to spending their lives together it is still two imperfect humans who cannot predict the future sharing close quarters with another person day in and day out, forever. And then sometimes those two people bring new little into those close quarters. Basically, I didn’t know sh*t! 🙂 But over the last nine years I have learned a lot of lessons and feel like I have a small amount of wisdom I could share. So, here goes…
Your wedding is just one day, but your marriage is (theoretically) for the rest of your lives. Plan accordingly.
If someone told me that one day I’d call a wedding “just a day” I’d have laughed. Because I was really into our wedding. But 9 years later I am one of those old married people that sees couples put so much money and energy into one (very special) day and not put the same focus on to the days that follow. Remember to continue to nourish that underlying relationship and connection in the midst of all of the wedding stuff. Who gives a shit about the candy bar or the signature cocktail if takes precedent over the stability of the marriage. Have a weekly date where you don’t talk about wedding stuff. Don’t go into debt over your wedding — if you can’t afford it, you don’t need it. Someday you’ll have a home and maybe kids or hospital bills or one of you will lose your job and you might wish you had a little bit of that money back.
All of that being said, I don’t regret our wedding. I wouldn’t really change anything and we truly enjoyed the day and soaked up every second with friends and family. I think we did it right for the most part. I do wish that I had scrapped some of the unnecessary decor expenses or extras and sprung for the wedding cinematographer. Nine years later, the “stuff” is more forgettable but the documentation of the day is priceless.
Figure out your financial expectations and communicate them clearly from the get go.
My husband and I lived together before we were married. We both had jobs and our own accounts and paid our own bills. That system worked for us so we just continued it, and added a joint account as well, once we were married. But jobs changed and responsibilities changed and finances changed. We figured out we were not on the same page. I kept track of and was responsible for paying the bills, but when I made a mistake I would get defensive. Or if he asked how much something usually cost and I couldn’t answer right away (mom brain plus thyroid brain means I don’t retail that type of info easily) then I would feel like I was doing a bad job. Keeping track of our finances became an albatross around my neck that I wanted to ditch. Until we sat down and had a calm and extensive conversation about money — where it came from, where it was going, how much we needed, and how much we had — we were not making any progress. Had we sat down and talked about who would do what, pay for what, and maybe have a monthly meeting to look at our finances, we could have saved ourselves a lot of stress. Oh, and I wish we had set a budget in the beginning. Neither of us are budget people.
Oh, and you don’t have to do things the way people traditionally have. Do them the way they work best for YOU.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Marriage doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is part of your every day life. And there are going to be points in your life that, for whatever reason, you aren’t happy. So chances are there will be points during your marriage that you aren’t happy. That’s normal. Communicate, practice self care, go to counseling, reconnect — things will get better (this is all assuming there is no violence, abuse, infidelity, or other betrayals going on. I’m just talking regular daily life hard stuff.) Happiness in marriage, just like life, ebbs and flows. Marriage is not a fairy tale. There will be times when you’re marriage isn’t in a great place. And that’s ok (normal even).
I know some people are like, “DUH.” But I know there are many MANY women out there going into a marriage thinking it is all romance and soulmates and completing each other. But that is total made up BS. Marriage is HARD. It is real life with jobs and kids and bills and health problems. It can be stressful and suffocating some days. But other days are magical in their simple joys and sweet gestures. Each day you wake up an imperfect human and make a choice to be a loving partner who wants to make things work with another imperfect human.
And if you the type of person who isn’t happy in your life and is always searching for something to fill that void (like, are you always looking for a new job, a new hobby, a new purse, a new pet, a new baby, etc) then until you work on you and figure out why you aren’t happy, you can’t expect another person to be able to “make you happy.” Your partner can support you, can be a shoulder, can be your adventure partner, and be a companion. You can be happy with them, but they cannot provide you with happiness that wasn’t there before them or isn’t there with them. Only you can do that.
And if you married that person who is never happy or satisfied it is NOT your job to make them happy. Only they can do that.
You are not always right. And being right isn’t the most important thing.
Oh man, this is a tough one to learn. We are all human and we all make mistakes and for the most part we are all just doing the best we can. Couples disagree. They fight. Each person thinks they are the one on the right side of the argument. And at some point you might realize “shit, maybe I’m wrong here.” Or at the very least “maybe we’re both a little wrong.” If you are stubborn or headstrong this is an even harder lesson to learn. But it is true. You are not always right. Admit your mistake and learn from it.
Sometimes you’ll KNOW you are right, but to keep arguing your point will be to the detriment of your marriage. It is ok to just know inside that you are right but to let it go and move on for the good of your relationship. Which is more important to you, being right or being in a good solid marriage? If the answer is your marriage (which it should be or you probably shouldn’t be in one) then sometimes you’ve just gotta let it go. And quietly mutter “I’m right and you’re wrong” under your breath when you know they can’t hear you 😉
It is ok to go to bed angry.
You always hear people say “never go to bed angry” as a nugget of advice for newly married couples. That is bullshit advice. If you are in a heated discussion or fighting and you feel your emotions getting the best of you, WALK AWAY. Go to bed. Resume talking things out when cooler heads can prevail. I often need a break when things get heated because I can get to a point where I don’t fight fair and I just see red. I don’t want to be the mean fighter, so I usually need to step away. My husband likes to continue to work things out. Plus sometimes he thinks I’ve said my piece but he didn’t get to say his. But I know if I don’t give myself a timeout I will regret it (in situations with my kids too). When cooler heads do prevail (the next day or maybe a few days later) then you should also make up just as hard as you fought.
One person’s big deal is another person’s eye roll.
I can’t tell you the number of times my husband thought my reaction to something was blown out of proportion. And many times he’s right. However, we all feel and perceive things differently. I’m sensitive and emotional, he’s more logical and grounded. But just because I feel things big does not mean my feelings are wrong. They are my experience and how something feels to me. It doesn’t mean i’m perceiving the experience correctly, but it also doesn’t mean my feelings should be dismissed or invalidated. Be empathetic and let your partner feel their feelings — they are coming from somewhere and just need to work through them to get where you are. We have all walked different paths, gone through different traumas, and react to things from those perspectives.
Don’t marry someone thinking you can change or fix what you don’t like about them later.
Guys, people are who they are. If you are marrying someone who is an introvert, don’t think that once you’re married they will turn into a social butterfly. If you married a crappy cheating person, don’t think that is going to stop because you’re married. If you married someone who isn’t super romantic, don’t think that marriage will suddenly turn them into a person who plans grand gestures of love. Don’t fault your partner if they don’t change who they are after you are married. Either learn to love and accept them for who they are or realize they may not be the person for you, and that isn’t their fault. On the flip side, don’t change who you are at your core for your partner (unless you don’t like who you are, and then change for YOU.)
Date your spouse.
Once upon a time you committed to each other and loved each other. Later you might find yourself wondering “do I even like this person!?” It’s normal. You’re going to annoy each other and you’ll get comfortable and you’ll be tired and you’ll stop trying. You probably used to work hard to make each other feel special and loved. You once cared that they found you attractive. Those things shouldn’t fall by the wayside because a few years have gone by or because you have kids. But it is totally normal for them to from time to time. Just remember to take time to reconnect. Continue to water and feed your relationship, even (and especially) after you have kids. Go on a date. Try new things. Put your phones away. Make time for each other, have fun together, laugh and dance and kiss in front of your kids. Work at it. And if one of you does but one of you doesn’t, communicate that you miss it or need it and want to work on it.
Remember that you are two different people. Learn each other’s love language and don’t take everything personally.
This one took us a long time, I think because we knew each other so well and dated for so long. But it is so obvious. We realized we often gave the other what we wish the other gave us. I would show my love and appreciation by doing little things for him: leaving notes, cooking dinner, doing his laundry, buying him a new shirt. He would show his love and appreciation by giving me time to do things I enjoy and the support to do them. He would encourage my friendships and hobbies. We realized later that his love language is the freedom to take time for himself to go running or to a movie or spend time with friends, and sometimes that means without me. And I need gestures, verbal acknowledgment, and thoughtfulness to feel seen. Now that we have kids, that translates to helping me without my asking and getting time for myself. Once you learn how your partner feels love you learn how to best show them love and appreciation.
It used to hurt my feelings that he wanted time without me. It wasn’t something I needed at the time and I couldn’t understand it. But now that we have kids, I totally get it! I need time to myself and for myself too. He is an only child and was used to having time to himself. He is more solitary than I am. That is totally ok and wasn’t a personal rejection of me.
Another realization I had after we had kids: men really are different from women. Like, I knew that but it took having more boys in the house to see the similarity among them and the difference from me. The biggest thing I grew to understand is that when I talk and they don’t hear me, it isn’t personal. They aren’t necessarily trying to ignore me (at least not every time) but they just aren’t great multitaskers and when their focus is already on something else then I’m just background noise. Tuned out, but not intentionally so. This was HUGE for me. So many things I would get so frustrated about just didn’t bother me as much once I realized it wasn’t personal or a conscious choice — we are just two totally different people.
After nine years of marriage, three babies, and one cross-country move I still have no doubt that this man is who I want to do life with. We are imperfect people and make mistakes and don’t always understand each other and sometimes are downright fed up. But each day we recommit to doing the work, making each other laugh, sharing each other’s burdens, supporting each other’s goals, and loving each other fiercely — even when we don’t feel like it. No, marriage is not easy. But it is absolutely worth the effort.
What are some lessons you’ve learned after years of marriage? What piece of advice would you give your younger, unmarried selves?
PS- Happy anniversary babe. I love you always.