10 Lessons I’ve Learned from 10 Years of Marriage
Today is my 10th wedding anniversary.
Ten years. A decade! 3,653 days!!
Putting aside the fact that I feel ancient as a result of this milestone, there’s plenty to celebrate today. For starters, Brendan and I still like each other. A lot.
We’ve had so many incredible experiences in the past ten years, we’ve achieved more than we ever could have imagined, and we’re more in love than we were on that day when I walked down the aisle to a song called Clubbed to Death (true story) towards the smooth-faced man I now call my (rather less smooth-faced) husband.
We’ve learned a lot throughout these years, too. About ourselves, about each other, about friendships, and about marriage.
Not that a decade makes me any kind of marriage expert, but I have picked up a tip or two along the way. And today, because I have my own online platform on which I can offer unsolicited advice, I’m sharing 10 lessons I’ve learned from 10 years of marriage.
And a few photos of me as a 22 year old bride, if you’d rather just look at those.
Get a dishwasher
Literally the number one piece of advice I give any couple is to invest in a dishwasher.
Unless, of course, you’re one of those crazy people who actually likes to wash dishes. In which case, go, be free, have all the sudsy fun your strange little heart desires.
But if you’re normal and hate the chore of washing up, like my husband and I do, a dishwasher will cut your arguments in half overnight.
That’s not even an exaggeration. When we finally got a dishwasher, 50% of our arguments just evaporated.
Now if only there was an equally simple solution to room tidiness and timekeeping…
Let the sun go down on your anger
This one may surprise you. After all, everyone’s heard the old saying that suggests you should stay awake till all hours of the morning to resolve conflict.
I don’t know about you, but when I get tired, I get overly emotional and blow everything out of proportion.
So trying to resolve an argument late at night just ends up in a cycle of tears, exaggeration and frustration that feels like it’ll never end.
Nowadays, after trying to solve things late at night for years, we go to bed instead.
Nine times out of ten, by the time we wake up the next day the argument is forgotten and life goes on.
And the one time when the issue still needs to be hashed out, we can do it calmly and after a full night of rest.
This might not work for everyone, or in every situation, but for us, trying to work out a problem late at night is a recipe for tear-filled disaster.
Don’t make comparisons
I don’t like to be one of those social media haters (it is my job, after all), but there are times when looking at other people’s lives makes our own life more complicated than it needs to be.
Comparing your life in its entirety to anyone’s highlight reel is inadvisable. But never more so than when it comes to your relationship.
Your marriage is unique, and it shouldn’t be compared to anyone else’s.
It can be so difficult to resist the temptation to wish you had what others share: an extravagant date night every week like those guys. Or stunning, #relationshipgoals selfies like that couple. Or an immaculate, design-led house like they have.
But comparison really is the thief of joy.
Work on your marriage, not your image.
Invest time in each other, not in social media.
And use your energy to be grateful, not constantly measuring the health of your relationship against someone else’s perfectly-curated projection.
It’s easy to get caught up in yourselves: your finances, your frustrations, your routine.
But by taking a few hours a week to do something for someone else, you’ll get a fresh perspective of your own life. Removing yourself from familiarity every once in a while does wonders for making you appreciate and cherish what you once might have found boring.
Brendan and I volunteer in the youth group at our church, which means we’ve waved goodbye to Sunday sleep ins, and hello to a weekly dose of fun and a shared sense of fulfilment.
Watching Brendan helping kids who are going through tough times at home or school, or seeing him teaching a teenager to DJ, has made me love him even more. Volunteering is hands down one of the best things we’ve done for our marriage.
Whatever it looks like for you, I highly recommend finding a cause you’re both passionate about, and getting stuck in together.
Go your separate ways
Brendan and I share a number of interests, have plenty of mutual friends, and unsurprisingly spend a lot of time together. Which we really do enjoy, thankfully.
But we both benefit from time apart, from separate hobbies, from hanging out with our own friends, and even from spending a few hours alone every so often.
Marriage is about doing life together, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend time apart. In fact, it’s healthy for us to go our own ways for a few hours, a day, or even a few days when we’re travelling for work.
And when we do see each other again, we have so many new things to talk about, and appreciate the time we have together all the more.
Know your love languages
Have you heard of the five love languages? If not, go do the quiz and work out what yours are.
In essence, your love languages are the ways that you express and receive love. For me, that’s quality time (just hanging out with no distractions). For Brendan, it’s words of affirmation (telling him what a legend he is for changing that hard-to-reach lightbulb).
I spent ages wondering why my husband expected a compliment for taking out the bins. And why he wouldn’t just turn off his phone and talk to me. Then I realised that we were speaking completely different languages.
Once we understood the importance of love languages, and learned what the other person needed in order to feel loved, it was like Tetris blocks falling into place.
Know yours and your spouse’s love languages, so you’re not forcing your idea of romance on them!
Don’t make your wedding the best day of your life
If your wedding is the best day of your life, the rest of your days will be pretty dull in comparison.
I loved my wedding day. But it wasn’t the best day of my life. It might not even be in my top five (gasp!).
And I hope that in the next ten years it’ll slip right off the top ten list of best days in my life.
Because I believe in the principle that the best is yet to come. In life, in my marriage, in my career, in my friendships.
Believing that your wedding is the pinnacle of your experiences is just selling yourself — and your marriage — short.
Make your wedding day memorable. Just don’t pin your life on it.
Go back to your roots
Brendan and I have been together for so long that sometimes it’s easy to forget those two kids who sat on the stone wall by the beach, sipping Gloria Jean’s (because Starbucks wasn’t open in Adelaide yet), watching planes taking off and dreaming of a life filled with adventure.
We’re living that life now, but it’s important not to forget the things that brought us together in the first place. The things that made us fall in love.
Whenever we’re back in Adelaide we try to take some time to sit back on that wall and remember the balmy nights filled with possibilities that our future could hold. But sometimes, we just go to Starbucks in London and laugh over a cup of coffee. Because flights to Australia are expensive.
However you do it, remember the moments that formed the foundation of your marriage.
Every day, if possible.
There will be times when that’s hard, or even impossible, but whenever, wherever and however you can, laugh together. As often as you can.
Go see a funny film, tell a stupid story about your day, play air guitar, do an evil laugh (Brendan’s go-to method to make me giggle), pull a ridiculous face. I don’t know your particular brand of humour. Mine’s kinda dark and dry, but luckily Brendan gets my jokes. Most of the time.
Bonus fact: the best time to laugh, believe it or not, is in the middle of an argument. It drains all of the tension from the room in no time at all.
Laughter is miraculous. It’s powerful. It’s infectious. Don’t underestimate its effect, and never become too serious or grown up to laugh together.
Give (and take) advice sparingly
All of this being said, any marriage advice can (and probably should) be taken with a pinch of salt.
Your marriage is yours. It’s made up of two imperfect individuals trying to navigate this crazy, fun, scary ride of life together without killing each other.
I love hearing from people who have been happily married for far longer than I have.
But some advice is unwelcome, irrelevant, or just wrong. If we’d listened to all of the (mostly well-meaning) advice we’d ever been given we’d never have travelled, never tried new career paths, never lived in London.
Learn from your own mistakes. Learn from each other. Become better. Become stronger.
And fall more deeply in love, no matter what that looks like to you.
Post originally published on April 14, 2017 on ellecroft.com