Brandon and I are celebrating twelve years of marriage, over a decade of learning to dance with each other through this crazy thing called life. It feels like yesterday I was packing my car to move to Tennessee to join my boyfriend in college. Now I’m sharing a house with him and two wild little girls who have his brown eyes and sense of humor – with a third Baby A on the way!
12 Things I’ve Learned in 12 Years of Marriage
1. You’re on the same team.
When the kids are making you insane or there’s a quarrel with your extended family, always remember you’re on the same team as each other.
2. Hug it out.
Sometimes the best way to get through an argument is with a good ole fashioned hug. Is it horrible that it took my having two children to figure it out?
3. Bite your tongue.
If I had a dollar for every time I blurted out something awful to my husband I would never have to work again. Sometimes it’s important to bite your tongue and hold back that nasty thought. Just because you think it doesn’t mean your husband should know it! Words hurt.
Note: If your spouse says something that hurts your feelings, wait until the moment has passed. After things have cooled down, tell your spouse “I feel hurt when __________.”
4. Communication goes both ways.
For a couple that’s been together since 2004, you’d think we would have amazing communication skills. Honestly, I believe it took a lot of time for us to figure out that communication isn’t just talking, it’s listening too. I used to be guilty of not taking the time to pay attention to my spouse when he was talking, even if it wasn’t related to something I care about.
Don’t forget how different a conversation will develop when you use “I feel” statements instead of “YOU are” statements. “I feel angry/hurt” is accepted better by a partner than “You are mean.” Practice discussing how you feel instead of telling your loved one they are not nice.
5. It’s not all about you.
6. RESPOND first. React later (or not at all).
One of my biggest flaws used to be my inability to hide my reaction to particular situations before I could really think about what was happening. In therapy I’ve learned about the significance of a response vs. a reaction, as well as when it’s appropriate to have one before the other. It’s OK to walk away from a moment and allow yourself to explore in your mind how you want to move forward. Reactions are purely emotional while responses are thoughtful.
7. It’s okay to go to bed angry.
Part of our wedding video has our guests giving us advice for a good marriage and at least three couples say, “Never go to bed angry.” In our marriage, it’s okay to go to bed angry because there are times we need to sleep off whatever’s made us mad. I always need time to process my thoughts and calm down when we are having an argument, not figure it all out in the heat of the moment. (In case you missed it, SEE NUMBER 6).
8. You don’t have to agree on everything.
Parenting – yes. Money – yes. Which way the toilet paper goes on the holder – NO. Best band of all time – Negative. You don’t have to agree on everything in a marriage, but agree to disagree on the small stuff. Some battles just aren’t worth having.
9. Find time to be alone.
Once children became a part of our lives, we found ourselves spending less time alone together. Sure we had ‘date nights,’ but long gone were some of the moments I loved the most about our relationship. It’s so important to connect with your spouse without the little ones interrupting a conversation or stealing the remote. My favorite times together lately are the few minutes we can get while we drink our coffee before the girls wake up in the morning.
10. People CAN change.
If you asked me 9 years ago (when I first wrote this post) if partners can change during a marriage, I’d say, “That’s yes to be a proven fact.” But after the 2020 pandemic almost stopped the world from turning, people all across the world CHANGED – and most for the best. My Covid battle will always be personally be a life changing event as I went into it as one person and came out as another. Therapy is a huge factor in my transformation, but my husband’s experiences altered who he is as a partner as well. We learned a lot about our roles as husband and wife, mom and dad, and as companions. Brandon and I learned to lean on one another in new ways, but to also look for silent cues when the other needs more of something. Space, patience, HELP, rest… the list goes on and on.
The more of the story – don’t give up on each other. People CAN change.
11. Apologize. And mean it.
A heartfelt “I’m sorry” can do wonders for a tumultuous moment in marriage.
12. Laughter is invaluable.
If you can’t laugh about life, then you’re doing it all wrong. There have been so many times we found ourselves down in the dumps, only to turn the situation into something we can laugh about. My husband makes me laugh harder than anyone I know and when I can make him laugh too – oh the feeling is priceless.
The Summary of my Marriage Advice
What works for us might not work for other couples. I’m aware some duos don’t need to have an argument every once in awhile to blow off steam, but we do. I can’t say that after nine years I know it all about marriage, but I’ve learned quite a bit about how marriage works. With each day that passes, new lessons arise and mistakes turn into blurry memories of the past.
Here’s to a million years of love.