Twelve years ago, when this Cancer (water sign) met an Aries (fire sign), this ESTJ (executive – think Judge Judy or Robb Stark) matched with a INFJ (advocate – think Mother Teresa or MLK Jr.) and this politico met an apathetic voter (who has since never missed a vote), there was some serious steam! Let’s also throw in the fact that we are both independent, strong willed, first-borns! While we found our perfect match, I’ll just say that it took us a minute to hit our stride once we moved under the same roof.
We just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary which made me want to look through pictures of our wedding but also made me think about how far we’ve come! What?! I didn’t know everything there was to know about marriage at the ripe old age of 25?! HA, no!
Here are 10 of the lessons I’ve learned (yes, just 10 out of the millions of lessons) about making marriage work after
you find the love of your life finds you (moves to DC, convinces you that he’s the only one for you and takes you back to your hometown to have two kids):😘
- Make smart deals – Before we got married, we made a list of our non-negotiables – a list of our biggest requests from each other. We really got into the weeds and picked our top 3 or 4 things that we thought we’d be able to keep up. For example: After being a bachelor for several years, John really, really, really, really wanted home cooked meals. While I don’t mind cooking, putting together a full dinner every night was definitely not a top priority for me. However, he offered to always do the dishes when I cooked. BINGO! We had a deal. Now, I have a full dinner 4 or 5 nights a week (SAMS is your friend, people!! Flounder + steamed broccoli + rice = dinner) and leave the dishes for John. If either us starts slacking, the other has some leverage. Ha.
- Be your spouse’s biggest fan – I guess I’ve always thought John was good at his job, so that part was easy. It was all the other stuff that we learned together about keeping up a house, taking care of our kids, or making big decisions that had us questioning each other’s ability (ok, mostly me questioning…) to do things the right way. Learning that my way isn’t the only way (although usually the best way….he he) was a serious milestone for this independent girl.
- Keep letters/gifts/mementos of your favorite memories around – John is really good about keeping notes/cards. I am not so good. I’m more of a picture kind of person. A way around that is a Pinterest board! We have pinned our special vacations, restaurants and gifts. When times are harder, it’s a great reminder of all of the fun things we’ve done, moments we’ve shared and bucket list of adventures that we have to look forward to.
- Lay down the sword (or get two tubes of toothpaste) – Seriously, there are just some things that aren’t worth it. I don’t know why I thought we had to share everything and agree on everything. O.M.G. It was so life giving to learn to “agree to disagree” about the things that aren’t pillars of the relationship (e.g. politics).
- Do what works for you – Ever heard that you shouldn’t go to bed mad? That’s actually one of the best things John and I can do! I used to be quite the night owl, but these days (ahem…two toddlers) I pretty much shut down around 10:30pm. Anyone else get irrational and overly emotional when you are tired?! Yeah, me too. If a disagreement crops up when one of us is tired, it goes downhill fast. We do well to hold our tongues and discuss the next day. Many times it wasn’t even a big deal and we forget it and move on.
- Spend time together! I never understood the concept of “date night” before we had kids, but now totally get it. Planning one night a week (or month) to just be “us” has been so beneficial for our
sanityrelationship. Don’t forget to do the things you did together before you got married. After all, these are fun things that got this relationship to the alter. As our relationship grows and morphs, things we do together have changed too. We can’t take two toddlers to the tennis courts and risk them getting pelted with 50 mph balls. While we still make time for it occasionally (the babysitting money is totally worth it); a lot of times we would rather spend time having an adult conversation over a relaxing meal.😅
- Take interest in what your spouse likes (and remember what you like) – I’m still not awesome at this (primarily because I’m worried it entails hours playing Mario Kart…he he, just kidding). John is good at this. He *pretends* to be excited about good deals I’ve found for clothes/groceries/anything at Target, lives at the pool in the summer, indulges my excitement about Disney World, and listens to my rants about the latest issue in the news. It is also good to have separate interests! Putting pressure on our spouse to be our “everything” is a lot for anyone to bear.
- Communicate and be flexible – I have to admit, John and I both are the opposite of flexible, so this has taken some work. (*Note: we are still working on this*) No one likes stepping out of their comfort zone and doing things that they don’t want to or don’t think is the best way, but I’ve noticed that when one of us does this, it makes the other want to do the same (occasionally). Communication is hard for anyone. John is crazy tech savvy, so even the thought of adding information to a paper calendar has him cringing. We have set up a family calendar on our phones and are able to add in doctor’s appointments, who is picking up the kids on what day, and any other piece of information that the other should know. This has saved us a TON of irritation about forgetting to tell the other about the-family-trip-we-have-had-planned-for-two-months thing.
- Divide and Conquer – This is especially important for parents. John and I have tried to do it all and then tried the divide and conquer technique. I’ll tell ya, DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALL! That will just burn you out and make you tired and grumpy (see #5). Team work makes the dream work. 😂
- Show Love – This one seems like it should be the easiest right? I think sometimes its the thing that goes by the wayside. For us, it can be as easy as stocking the Coke Zero stash or stalking the ADIDAS website until I can score a pair of the latest NMD shoes (you can probably tell the love language here right?!😄). Speaking of Love Language, check this out to see what yours and your spouses’ are: Love Language Quiz.
What things have you learned in your years of marriage? Tips? Secrets? New Ideas? We’d LOVE to hear from you.