Ten years ago, I stood in front of a man I’d fallen in love with and committed to spend the rest of my days learning to create a life together. I was all aflutter that day, couldn’t imagine being happier, luckier, or more hopeful about the future. I had no idea!
Since then, Tony and I have sold all our belongings and moved across the country TWICE, and we’re about to do it again. We’ve brought three of the best people I know into the world, our sweet daughters. We’ve experienced the crushing pain of major depression and the gloriousness of healing and finding joy again.
We’ve learned more than a handful of things over these ten years. As I reflect back on this wild and wonderful life, I thought I’d share some of those lessons with you.
10 Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage
1. A little kindness goes a long way.
Being a grown-up comes with so many have-to’s. But, being kind to your partner isn’t one of them. You could bring them an unexpected cup of coffee. You could text them a sweet “thinking of you” message. You could rub their shoulders. You could offer them 15 guilt-free minutes without the kids around. Today, you and I get to figure out a way to show and tell the most important person in our lives that we love them. It’s not a “have-to,” it’s a “get-to.”
2. Our relationship with each other is more important than our relationship with our kids.
We love our kids like crazy, but we know the best thing we can do for them is to take care of each other first! We’re in the thick of it with 3 little ones but someday it’ll be just the two of us again and we need to make sure we’ve loved each other well all along so that we don’t feel like strangers when we become empty nesters. Plus, building a strong relationship with each other adds to a sense of security and confidence for our kids. It’s a win-WIN!
3. Conflict is inevitable. Combat is optional.
Isn’t it great when you can learn lessons from OTHER PEOPLE’S experiences. Some wise friends told us early on that not every battle is worth fighting and that we would spend more time enjoying each other if we chose wisely. Keeping kindness in mind, even when we disagree and both feel passionately, has kept our conflicts mostly out of the battle zone.
4. Defensiveness gets you nowhere.
Because we know each other so well, we also know how to push each other’s buttons. We’ve learned that getting defensive doesn’t help. When we’re feeling defensive, it’s a good indication that we need a break and we need to find another way to listen and be heard.
5. Dreaming together is a necessity, not a luxury.
We each have our own dreams and ideas of what we want to do with our lives, but we make it a priority to share our dreams with each other before we share them with other people. This gives us the opportunity to cheer each other on every step of the way. We’ve looked for ways to sacrifice for each other in order to help make our dreams a reality. We’ve learned that nothing at all will ever come to fruition if we’re both being selfish instead of supportive.
6. Curiosity is a relationship booster.
I’m not the same person I was when we first met and neither is he. Staying curious about each other, making time to ask good questions (like we do at the beginning of each episode of The #staymarried Podcast) and then really listening and learning keeps us engaged in our relationship instead of drifting away assuming we already know all there is to know.
7. Expectations without clear communication leads to conflict.
We have to be able to communicate what we want. I resisted this for along time, thinking it would be better and I would feel more loved if my husband figured out what I wanted on his own and then did it because he wanted to, not because I asked him to. The truth is, if I don’t ask, I don’t get, and that goes for everything from presents to help around the house to sex. Being brave and asking has made our lives so much better.
8. Even great marriages go through really crappy times.
We’ve had our share of rough seasons. There were times when I thought we would never see eye-to-eye, never find a solution, never get back to those first feelings of love. We’ve gotten through those seasons, but I’m sure they’ll come again. That doesn’t mean we need to call it quits. What we have together is fundamentally good, but that doesn’t mean it’ll always be easy.
9. You’re never justified for being a jerk.
The question is not whether or not you should argue with your spouse. The question is how will you argue? Will you be respectful while you argue, avoiding low-blows, name-calling, and ultimatums? Will you approach believing your partner is guilty before they’ve had a chance to explain themselves OR with the intention of giving your partner the benefit of the doubt? It’s okay to be angry. It’s never okay to be cruel.
10. Apologize and forgive often.
Sometimes you will be a jerk. Sometimes you won’t realize it until after the damage to your relationship has already been inflicted. As much as Tony and I value kindness and respect, neither of us will ever be perfect. Keeping a good rhythm of forgivness has carried us through some of our most challenging times.
11. Marriages succeed in community and fail in isolation.
A great marriage starts with a solid friendship. But, even if your partner really is your best friend, your partner was never meant to fullfill all of your relational needs. Make every effort to spend time with your friends with or without your partner. Making sure you’ve built and kept a close community of people is one of the best things you can do to ensure your marriage lasts to ten years and beyond.
Yes, I know I promised you ten lessons, and here I gave you eleven. But, let that remind you that a little extra effort and generosity are never wasted.
This tenth year of marriage has been a beautiful reminder that we couldn’t have come this far, we wouldn’t have made it to ten whole years, without our incredible community loving and supporting us every step of the way.
We’ve shared all of this with you over the years here on The #staymarried Blog and The #staymarried Podcast and have been received with such grace. Ten years have come and gone, there is much to celebrate, and still, it feels like we are just at the beginning. We’re grateful.
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