Wednesday, June 20, 2018

15 Things I've Learned in 15 Years of Marriage

Today, Phillip and I have been married for 15 years. I know we have a strong and close relationship, but when I'm asked to share The Secret to a Good Marriage, I never know quite what to say. We don't even go on date nights.

I'm still searching for a definitive nugget of wisdom that is definitely The Secret, but maybe it's a lot of little things, so allow me to share 15 things I've learned about marriage in the last 15 years.

1. Be optimistic about your future together. When we first got married I tended to catastrophize. We'd have an argument or go through a stressful season in school or work and I'd think Oh my gosh it's always going to be this way I can't live like this. But now I know that some days, months, or even years can be hard on a marriage, and you need to be confident things can get better and look forward eagerly to the time when they will.

2. Try to see their quirks as endearing instead of annoying. I'm a stressed-out perfectionist who wants everything done and done right 24/7, and instead of getting exasperated Phillip just pulls me to his chest and affectionately says "You're my crazy lady," and then both start laughing. Whereas it used to drive me bonkers when Phillip dropped everything right where he finished using it (I can often look around and work out CSI-style exactly what he was doing that day,) now I can honestly say it makes me smile because it's so Phillip. As time goes on I think we've both toned down our uniquely annoying habits, but we've also accepted each other's quirks and even come to love them.

I’m not a marriage therapist or a professional; I’m just a woman who has been happily married to the love of her life for 15 years. And when I think about it, here are the 15 unspoken marriage rules we live by to maintain a healthy marriage. #marriageadvice #husband #marriagetips #marriagerules

3. Never say "calm down" when they're freaking out. If you ever feel the urge to tell your frustrated/panicked/flustered/upset spouse to "relax," please go stick your head in the dryer and turn it on. Alternatively, you can ask "How can I help?" then listen to their answer and do it.

4. Learn about the other's needs for sleep. I can function on very little sleep, and I didn't fully realize until I got married that not everyone could do this  or even wanted to. While I still don't get people who say they "like" to sleep, I make an effort to get us to bed in a timely manner, or at the very least, let Phillip sleep in the next morning.

5. Say thank you and be specific. You really can't thank a person too many times, so do it often and for everything. Not only for extra stuff, but for regular things they do every day. Aim for 5 thank-yous a day, big or small.

6. Build them up in the eyes of your children. When one parent talks up the other to the kids, everybody wins: the kids get a new reason to look up to their parent, they see a model of spouses showing admiration and respect for each other, and not least of all it makes me feel pretty good to hear Phillip telling the kids how lucky they are to have me as a mom.

7. Give them the benefit of the doubt. I tend to stretch myself too thin and give Phillip the short end of the stick, and I'm always astounded when I apologize for a late night or a broken promise to spend time together and Phillip somehow hasn't concluded that I'm a horrible person. He usually says something like, "It's okay. You're just stressed out." I am so lucky to have a husband who always assumes the best of me.

8. Sleep on it. For me, at least, sleep is my reset button. No matter how upset I am, things seem better in the morning.

9. Have a vision for your family. Our shared faith is pretty family-centered but even so, it's important to regularly talk beyond the day-to-day minutiae of calendaring and logistics to ask what can we do better as a couple/family? What habits do we need to stop or start? Where are we going? (A family motto is a good place to start, even if it didn't really work for us.)

10. Be physically affectionate. Without physical affection, a spouse is just a really congenial roommate. Hug, kiss, and hold hands when you're walking. Do it in front of the kids. They'll get used to it.

11. Pay attention to your sex life. Sex fuels emotional intimacy and emotional intimacy fuels sex, so if both are in a downward spiral then sex is a relatively straightforward way to get things back on the rails.

Everything I know about creating a rock-solid marriage (plus a story about dirty diapers) in 15 points.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

12. Never badmouth them to others. Publicly criticizing your spouse, both when they're present and especially when they're not, is so destructive. If you need to vent, write it down and throw it away. If you need to talk about the difficult parts of your marriage, do it with your spouse or a marriage counselor.

13. Remember that you are best friends. Phillip and I don't share a lot of common interests, but I think our marriage works because we're on the same team and most of all, we both like each other more than anyone else in the world.

14. Never intentionally hurt each other. We may be insensitive or thoughtless sometimes, but I don't think either of us has ever deliberately said or done something mean to the other. Well, there was one time I told Phillip if he left another dirty diaper sitting open on the dresser I was going to wrap it up and throw it in his work bag. He left a dirty diaper out and I'm sorry, but I'm a woman of my word. Other than that, though, never.

15. Greet each other cheerfully. How you say hello and goodbye to each other matters, including when you wake up and when you go to sleep. I think in psychology circles they call these 'transition times.' In practical terms, there really is a big difference between a spouse who's excited to see you when you come home and a spouse who doesn't look up when you walk in the door.

People say marriage is hard work, but I don't think I'd ever describe it that way. I'm not sure if Phillip and I are living The Secret unknowingly, or if maybe I just won the lottery by stumbling into a great marriage with the world's easiest man to get along with. Maybe it's a little bit of both.

Whatever the case, it's been working for us for the past 15 years.

I’m not a marriage therapist or a professional; I’m just a woman who has been happily married to the love of her life for 15 years. And when I think about it, here are the 15 unspoken marriage rules we live by to maintain a healthy marriage. #marriage #husband
I’m not a marriage therapist or a professional; I’m just a woman who has been happily married to the love of her life for 15 years. And when I think about it, here are the 15 unspoken marriage rules we live by to maintain a healthy marriage. #marriage #couplegoals

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Unknown said...

Happy anniversary! These are fantastic lessons, thanks for sharing! As someone who is still in the toddler stages of marriage (we'll be 5 years later this summer, so I think we've passed the "baby newlywed" stage, though we're still so new at this!), I love hearing from couples who have a decade or two (or more-I LOVE talking to old married couples) of experience :)

OH, and funny story that relates to #6, about a month or so ago, when my husband walked in from work one day, before I could even say anything, my 2 year old turned around and cheerfully yelled "HI HANDSOME!!!!!!!" and he's proceeded to do that several times since. It's forcing me to come up with new ways to greet my husband, since my toddler has stolen my most commonly-used method of greeting :P

Anonymous said...

Yes to it all!

Jenny Evans said...

I honestly feel like a little bit of a fraud writing this because I don't feel like it's been that long. We plan to be married for eternity (seriously, there's an actual ceremony for that in Mormonism) so 15 years feels like the piddliest drop in the bucket! But I suppose I have learned some things, so I might as well share.

The Lady Okie said...

Love #3! It makes me even more upset than I already was when Jordan tells me to calm down. Happy anniversary!

Megan said...

I love all of these, so true.

Jenny Evans said...

Fun fact: saying "calm down" has never in the history of people made anyone calm down. Please direct him to the nearest dryer next time.

PurpleSlob said...

You're a smart woman that is blessed by God!