Charles and I are celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary today – and I’m more in love with him today that I ever have been! Here’s what I’ve learned about marriage so far and some thoughts on what has gotten us through the rough patches.
I am so grateful that we are able to celebrate another year together, happier now than ever (excluding when we first met, that was a bit ridiculous… in the best way ever). Charles and I don’t have a perfect marriage (not sure that exists), but we are pretty solid. We love each other to bits, respect each other and most important, are growing in the same direction with the same values and goals for our family.
There’s no doubt that marriage is NOT easy. One look at the statistics is all the evidence you need. But people don’t talk about the hard stuff. And if all we see on social media is gushy happiness, it leads us to believe that everyone else’s relationships are perfect and to carry shame when ours are not.
Charles and I have been having some really good conversations lately on what we feel are keys to a good marriage. Some of the things on our list we are nailing and others still need some work, but I LOVE that we are talking about it! We are both entirely invested in each other and our family. At the end of the day, his is hands are the hands that I want to hold when we are older and more wrinkly and probably wearing Depends.
What would Aunt Becky say?
My aunt Becky, who is a marriage commissioner, came over with my uncle Jim the other night and it dawned on me that I had never really asked about her thoughts on this topic. I mean, she is witness to so many marriages. Does she know at a glance if a couple is going to make it (her answer was yes)? What advice does she give these couples on one of the most important days of their lives?
Aunt Becky shared that, after 50 years of marriage and still in love, that the biggest key to their happy marriage was the ability to give each other the space to grow as an individual, even when it isn’t easy to do so. In all honesty, it confirmed a blind spot of mine that I am mindful of and doing a better job at lately. While I could think of better ways for Charles to spend a day than golfing, it makes him happy. Which is what he needs. And ultimately what WE need.
Brené Brown shared something the other day that I really loved. I’m paraphrasing here, but essentially her and her husband get home and check in with each other. They rate where they are at that given moment; “I’m at a 8/10, I had a good day” while perhaps the other is like “I’m a solid 1/10 – not so good”. The one having the better day picks up the slack for the other, and visa versa when the tables are turned. Brilliant. We’ve been doing it and I really think it helps.
3 Things We Have Learned About Marriage
Charles and I chatted about all of this over coffee this morning. I asked him to share with me the key things that he thought were important to keeping our marriage healthy. Here are the three pearls of marriage ‘wisdom’ that we came up with – I’m sure they will keep changing as we learn and grow together!
- Don’t keep score. Tit for tat doesn’t work well. Charles went golfing so that means that I can go shopping with the girls for that exact same amount of time. I don’t think it’s a healthy way to navigate a relationship personally, and certainly hasn’t worked for us in the past. Of course it has to balance out in general, but keeping score isn’t healthy for us.
- Modify your expectations. That feeling of first love that you had when you met? Uh, yeah, that was great but don’t expect that level of emotion on the daily. Having kids, or handling life’s curve balls, can drastically change your reality. Creating realistic expectations helps you be happier with the new reality. All of a sudden a backyard picnic looks pretty darned awesome.
- Get help early. Few marriages sail through without a rough patch or two. Ours is no exception and I try to be open about it. I know now as an adult that my parents had theirs (they shared their own marriage advice here), but I didn’t know that growing up. The point here is that it’s ok to ask for help from a qualified counsellor (we have many times), and the earlier you do it the better. Letting things fester is not the answer, this I promise you. I was impressed that Charles was the first to articulate this today. I will never understand the shame around counselling. In fact, Jillian posted a great two-part post here and here that was written from their counsellor that I really loved if you want to give them a read.