Today Dave and I celebrate eleven years of marriage. Last year, for our tenth we threw a huge party with all of our friends and family. This year we’re celebrating with a shopping trip and dinner at the same restaurant we go to every year on this day. After eleven years, two demanding careers and three handsome little boys I’d like to think that we’ve learned some great marriage advice along the way. The road hasn’t always been smooth but we’ve laughed a lot more than we’ve cried and we still make out like teenagers so I feel like we must be doing something right! So here it is, eleven pieces of marriage advice I’ve learned in eleven years.
1. Be Friends First – My husband and I have been best friends since we met each other thirteen years ago. We still talk and text several times a day like we’re sixteen years old, and no one makes me laugh like he does. I think of him as my friend first and my husband second. The idea being that we’re often nicer, easier, more catering to our friends than we might be to our spouse. I can’t imagine what my world would be like if he wasn’t there to brighten my day and since it’s a friendship I value deeply I work hard to be the kind of friend I’d like to have.
2. Keep Dating – If there’s one piece of advice I’ve heard Dave give other men over and over it’s “keep dating your wife”. I love hearing his reasoning behind this and I love that it’s a mantra he feels so passionately about. You will, without a doubt become overwhelmed with bills and kids and dogs and rent and keeping up with your job and keeping up with the laundry and it’s easy to get to a place where you don’t even remember why you liked this person in the first place. Dave and I have tried to be pretty strict with a weekly date, even if that’s as simple as a trip to the local diner by ourselves. For that brief respite we enjoy each others company and remember what it was like to be young and in love.
3. Talk it Out – One of our biggest issues early on is that Dave and I had very different opinions on what it meant to be husband and wife. He was raised in a very traditional home and fairly soon after we got married it became apparent he expected me to handle the majority of the household chores… cooking, cleaning, etc. Since I was working 40+ hours a week just like he was, I expected us to be equal partners. There were a few blow ups before we finally realized the issue was a miscommunication about what we both expected out of each other. We learned to accept each other for who were are, not who we imagined our spouse would be… we also learned that hiring a housekeeper is an untold secret to marital bliss.
4. Kids are the Best and They’re Also the Worst – I love my boys more than anything on this earth. That being said, nothing has ever been harder on our marriage then the first six months after our first baby was born. You’re exhausted, and overwhelmed and you tend to take out your frustrations on each other. It’s the toughest road we’ve walked but there really isn’t anyone else I’d want to be in this fox hole with but him. Having a baby will put your marriage through the ringer, so some serious marriage advice? Make sure you’re ready.
5. Wine is Your Friend – Ok, wine is my friend it doesn’t necessarily have to be yours. But you should have something… a workout, reading, prayer, mediation, etc that you can use to destress. Marriage is stressful y’all. It’s awesome and fun and great but there are also times when you’re going to want to strangle him with your pantyhose. Take a deep breath and go to your happy place (mine is at the bottom of a glass of a sauvignon blanc) until you calm down.
6. It’s Not My Job to Make Him Happy – I am a people pleaser to a crazy degree and this manifests itself worst when it comes to my marriage. For years my moods were dictated by Dave’s moods. If he was happy I was happy. If he was tired or cranky or having a bad day I would freak out and try to fix it. Years ago he looked at me and said “Rach, it’s not your job to make me happy. I’m having a bad day, I’ll get over it soon and it’s ok.” It was such an eye opening moment for me because I wasn’t even aware of how much pressure I was putting on myself.
7. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – You know that bumper sticker “don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff”? Cheesy yes, but accurate as well. I hate fighting, and I hate drama. So unless he’s really done something to piss me off (or I’m really hormonal) I’m not going let it agitate me. I don’t want the kind of marriage where we bicker over everything from chores, to who’s tidier, to who’s turn it is to put the kids to bed. I’m forgiving of his little faults and he’s forgiving of mine.
8. Make It a Priority – Ok readers, I’m talking about sex... don’t be appalled. I might offend some people when I say this but I believe sex is vital to a happy marriage. I know there are times in my life where it is literally the last thing I’d be interested (those 6 months post baby come to mind) but connecting on that level is essential. Remember when you first met and you couldn’t keep your hands off each other? Remember the way he used to kiss your neck and it made your toes curl? If you don’t, ask him to remind you.
9. I’m Not Perfect – I know, it comes as a shock to me too! But if I’ve learned one thing on this journey it’s that I mess up too. I can be pretty self-righteous and it’s extremely hard for me to admit that I’m wrong. But if I expect Dave to fess up when he was in the wrong then I have to swallow my pride and do that as well.
10. You’re Entitled to Your Feelings – It took me a long time to understand that just because I don’t agree with Dave’s feelings, it doesn’t diminish his right to have them. This is an important lesson for any relationship you have. You might think it’s ludicrous that your mom is hurt that you’re spending this holiday with your in-laws (especially since you’ve spent the last three with her) but that doesn’t change that she feels that way. Learn to accept your spouse’s point of view, and allow them their emotions because you’d expect the same thing in return.
11. You Have to Choose a Happy Marriage – Every morning you wake up and you get a choice. You get to choose your perspective. You get to choose how you’ll approach the day. You get to choose happiness. Every morning I want to wake up and choose to be a kind mother. I want to choose to be a good friend. I want to choose joy in my marriage. By choosing to have a happy marriage you’re more forgiving, more kind, more willing to laugh together and look for special moments to connect. Believe me, I don’t always get there but if I start the day with the intention I’m far happier than I am without it. Whether you’ve been married eleven years or fifty or a week and a half, you get to choose how to go through life together. Choose to be happy.