Lessons Learned After Ten Years of Marriage

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On Saturday, November 10, 2007, I married my best friend…

…is something I would never say. Yes, I love my husband and he absolutely is one of my best friends, but come on. If you can utter that sentence with complete sincerity, I applaud you, but I don’t think we can be friends.

Do you know why? Because marriage is hard.

When you talk to someone who has been married for a short time, they may tell you about bad days here and there. When you talk to someone who has been married for forty or fifty years, they talk about it in terms of bad YEARS. Years, people!

As my husband and I reach this milestone in our relationship, and as we’ve had our fair share of tough times, I feel like I can write with a little authority on the matter.

We were babies!

YEAR ONE

Have ALL the sex. Yes, I said it. It’s no secret that in general, the amount of sex you have with a long-term partner tends to dwindle as the years pass. Obviously there are things you can (and should) do to keep the spark alive, but the fact is, when it comes to this area of marriage, there will probably never be another time like this. Take advantage of the newness, the excitement, and enjoy!

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YEAR TWO

Travel the world… or least as much as you can afford. Another thing newlyweds are is notoriously broke, but make travelling with your spouse a priority. You will get to know them on a whole other level. David and I were lucky enough to pull off a trip to London and Paris not too long into our marriage, and we’ve continued to be lucky since with smaller trips all over the country (Vegas, Austin, Palm Springs/LA, and an Alaskan cruise have been a few of my favorites) in the years since.

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YEAR THREE

Remember to say “thank you.” One of the most common themes in our arguments over the years has been feeling taken for granted. Both of us work outside the home and then do our tasks around the house. I might not always see him taking out the trash, and he might not always see me packing lunch for our son, but we all know how things get done. Never assume “that’s just how it is” and make sure your partner knows how much you appreciate all they do.

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YEAR FOUR

Fight! Several years ago, a colleague of mine said he wanted our office to have a culture where we “run to conflict.” It sounds horrible, but it’s actually brilliant. How many times have you had something completely petty (as in, you didn’t put the dishes away) evolve into a HUGE issue (you NEVER help around the house)? How much easier would it be to just say something about the dishes in the first place? Not avoiding the initial conflict stops many (not all) of the bigger blowouts from ever happening.

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YEAR FIVE

Plan a date. Beyond that, ask your spouse out, get ready like you did in the early days (you remember that excitement?), and go on a real date. The phrase “date your spouse” is quickly approaching cliche status, but that is for good reason. Some people recommend weekly, but goodness, who has the time/money/energy?! But make a real effort to do something special with your partner at least once a month if at all possible. It’s fun, and sometimes (especially if you have kids) it’s the only time you have to reconnect.

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YEAR SIX

Listen. No really listen. Put the phone down (guilty!). Press “pause” on whatever your watching on TV (also guilty!). Push aside that voice in your head trying to come up with something clever to add when your partner is done talking (yep, do that too!). And really listen to every word they’re saying. I can’t tell you how many misunderstandings there have been over the last decade just because one or both of us wasn’t really listening. Rookie mistake!

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YEAR SEVEN

Keep it to yourself. I have a couple of very close friends to whom I vent about frustrations with my husband. That’s it. I don’t post about it on social media. I don’t tell either of our parents about. I don’t disclose all the details to my church under the veil of a “prayer request.” I have no problem saying we’re having a tough time, but sometimes (unless either of you is in actual danger) your issues with your spouse need to stay between you. I love my husband very much, and I would hate for some ill-timed venting to change how people see him… you know, since he’s pretty great most of the time.

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YEAR EIGHT

Get help. On the flip side of that, I fully support seeking out professional help in tough times. For a long time, there was a stigma attached to going to counseling. I don’t know if it was a generational thing, but it seems like that is slowly lifting thankfully. I grew up in house where if you were sick, you rested and drank juice and took some over-the-counter meds. And if that didn’t work, YOU WENT TO THE DOCTOR. I don’t see this as any different. You work your butt off at your marriage, but if you’re still struggling, go to a doctor!

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YEAR NINE

Run out of things to say. When I was in college, I made a list of the qualities I wanted in my future husband. Ladies, that’s a horrible idea. I mean, yes, think about the kind of partner you want to end up with, but don’t have such a specific picture in mind that you can’t see what’s in front of you. I digress. One thing on my list was that I never wanted to run out of things to talk about with my partner. Wrong. There is nothing wrong with silence! Learn to enjoy just being near each other without constantly needing to fill the quiet, and know that there’s nothing wrong with it.

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YEAR TEN

Know that “love” will come and go… and that’s okay. By “love,” I mean the butterflies, the uncontrollable attraction, the excitement that comes with new relationships. You won’t always feel those things, but you will feel them again if you don’t right now. There are a lot of ups and down in marriage, and it’s important to remember that an up WILL come if you make it through the down – no matter how endless the down feels right now. Real love, love without the ” “, that’s up to you. It’s a choice and a commitment you have to make every day.

I’ll end on this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Replace “life” with “marriage” and you’re well on your way. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

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