Twenty Years Married, and Three Lessons that Helped Us Get There
I’m as surprised as anyone to be celebrating twenty years of marriage to my husband. I’ve always loved him, love was never an issue, but marriage is hard work, which is too cliché to be a lie, and it teaches you lessons.
The first, and maybe hardest lesson I learned was that self-esteem had to come from myself. I had to feel good about myself and my own achievements. No one, not even my husband, could fix that for me. No one could give it to me and it doesn’t happen overnight. That led to prioritizing my mental health to the same degree as my physical health. Having good mental stability helps create a better foundation for a good relationship. My husband can support my positive mental health, but he’s not responsible for it.
That leads into a second lesson which is that we had to learn to have the difficult but honest conversations. I tell myself “If I can’t have the difficult and awkward conversations with the person I love most, who can I have those conversations with?” The other side of that is creating a safe space for your partner to be honest. Remember it is not you versus your partner, it’s you and your partner versus the problem. Discuss solutions that might work for both of you. If you find yourself unable or unwilling to compromise at all, you may be allowing your selfishness to come before your relationship. Conversely if you find yourself getting steamrolled too often, it’s time to reread the beginning of this paragraph, take a deep breath, and have the difficult, honest conversation about your feelings with your partner. Loving partners work towards compromise, not winning at all costs.
If I had to think of one thing that has strengthened my marriage more than anything else, it has been that Mr. Sharkspeare and I work hard to cultivate regular mutual expressions of gratitude. When you actively look for ways to appreciate your partner, and find ways to thank them, it’s hard to wallow in resentment for the things they don’t do. At the same time, it’s hard to blow off their needs and desires as well, when you feel appreciated for your efforts. Maybe it should be a give in that my husband does mundane household chores, or cooks, or says sweet things, but I thank him anyway, because I do appreciate his partnership. I have found that the more I express appreciation, the more I hear it back in return, and the better I feel.
After twenty years of marriage, I can say that it’s been better than I thought it could be, and it makes me look forward to the future with this awesome guy.