My husband and I just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. Prior to getting married, we lived together for several years so honestly I’ve felt married to this man for much longer than 18 years.
Our marriage has certainly had its shining moments as well as its moments we both hope to someday forget. We are two very different people who were very young when we started dating. We became adults together and as we’ve both changed and grown we have had to manage each others’ changes and growth. I once saw a quote that said something about marriage being a choice that you make every day. I’m not sure if it’s as obvious as that but I think the sentiment is true. Some days it’s easier to make that choice than others but we continue to start each new day staring our choice in the face (literally) so I guess we are doing something right.
We were one of the first couples we knew to get married. Because of this, we had limited exposure to marriage, with the exception of our parents, before we started ours. We had not watched marriages fall apart. We had not spent time in other married couples’ homes. We had no one give us advice. We had no one tell us about their sad stories.
So all of our learning about marriage was done “on the job” so to speak. We have stumbled and made some mistakes. We have also figured out how to keep us moving along in a good mutual rhythm. I always reflect on our marriage around our anniversary and this year I’m thinking that these are the most important lessons we’ve learned so far. (Disclaimer: Every marriage is as different as the people who are in it. These are the lessons we learned as a couple and guidelines that work for us. I certainly understand that nothing works for everyone.)
- It’s okay to go to bed angry. It is almost impossible to be the best version of yourself when you are tired. It is definitely impossible when you are tired AND emotionally charged. When a child is throwing a tantrum or having a meltdown what do we always say? He needs a nap. It’s past her bedtime. Let’s take a time out. So when we are tired and angry and upset with each other we have found that shutting it down and going to sleep is always the best option. Things look and feel much better in the morning.
- It is not okay to be angry with each other in front of others. I will never criticize, put down, or poke fun at my husband’s expense in front of others. Sure, we’ve been known to joke around or tease each other for a laugh but never about anything that is important or sensitive. We know each other’s “triggers” and we stay far away in front of others. When we are with friends we work hard to appear as a united front and there is no mistaking that we are a couple who loves and respects each other (even if we are not liking each other very much in that moment).
- Spending time with each other is a priority. Family time is important for the children to see our commitment to this family and to each other. We also spend time without them. We find time to talk uninterrupted, laugh, and experience things as a couple. This has gotten much easier as our children have gotten older. With teenagers in the house we can easily escape for a nice meal, a drive, or even just a quick drink somewhere. We try to get away overnight once or twice a year. If we go too long without some “quality time” as I like to call it, we can start to feel disconnected and when we disconnect we tend to annoy each other. And that isn’t good.
- Spending time on our own is important too. We have different interests and hobbies and while we have many common friends we have our own friends as well. I like to spend hours reading, he enjoys hours spent in front of Netflix. He enjoys an afternoon out and about. I love a good Sunday afternoon home doing nothing. We are extremely busy, tired, and often under lots of stress. We each need time to unwind and decompress. It doesn’t always have to be together. Plus, spending some time on our own or out with our own friends makes the time together that much sweeter.
- Romance cannot die. For us romance is not social media declarations of devotion or flowers delivered at work “just because”. It isn’t moonlit walks and lavish gifts. For us romance is simply letting the other one know that he or she is loved and needed. Romance is knowing how we like our coffee and always making the other a cup, without asking, when we make our own. Romance is using our pet names for each other to punctuate the most mundane sentence (i.e. Where’s the Tylenol, Babe?) . Romance is staying quiet if we are up in the middle of the night so the other can get some sleep. Romance is talking…a lot. My husband and I talk on the phone, for at least an hour and often more, each day. We talk about the kids, work, and the news that day. We tell each other jokes, make each other laugh so hard we struggle to keep the car on the road (me more than him), and discuss dinner options for that night. We talk so we can stay connected. We talk because we need to hear each others’ voices to get through long busy days. We are each other’s someone. If that isn’t romance, I don’t know what is.
I know our marriage is an accomplishment and I am proud of us. Our relationship has weathered so much stress and pressure and we keep figuring it out. I also know we can’t stop doing what we are doing. We cannot take each other for granted and we can’t assume this marriage will last another eighteen years without nourishment, love, and work. I love this family we’ve created. It will always be worth it. Happy Anniversary to Us.