Today marks our 8th wedding anniversary and 10 years together. After 5 kids and a whole lot of ups and downs, here’s what I’ve learned about being married this long.
Know when to talk and when to shut the hell up.
Talk, listen, blah, blah. Sometimes you just need to keep what you’re thinking to yourself and move on with your day. Not every single thing needs addressing, we call that nagging. If something is really bothering you, though, always make sure to talk it out as clear as you can.
Explain your actions (but don’t justify)
Most arguments are a) you both being stupid b) you both over reacting or c) the result of stress about something else entirely that you’re just not communicating effectively. If you make a mistake, apologise for it, but go a step farther and talk about why it happened. Likewise, if something really upset you, make sure you be clear as to why. Usually it’s deeper than the actual argument that happened.
Never justify your actions. That is, to try and convince your partner that you were right to act in a negative way, or that you at the very least are not to blame. You are the only one in control of your behaviour.
Make jokes. Lots of them.
My marriage is buried under so many layers of sarcasm and irony that neither my husband nor I can tell what is and isn’t real anymore. “Thanks for reminding me that I was lucky no one threw me back into the water while laying on the beach, babe, go eat some more corn dogs ok? Also, this spite beard is coming along nicely. Don’t call my facial hair gross again. Xoxo.”
Seriously though, make more jokes, nothing seems as bad if you tackle it with humour.
Fair doesn’t mean equal.
There are hundreds of posts online, articles in magazines, and very upset women on Facebook all demanding the same thing: equal division of labour in the home. The problem with this stuff is it’s often skewed with everyone looking to divide all responsibilities evenly.
Instead, divide to your family’s needs and each of your strengths and weaknesses. Washing dishes makes my eczema flair up. My husband is subscribing to the do it badly enough and I won’t have to do it again technique to folding and putting away laundry. I almost never wash dishes. He almost never puts away laundry. He has never cleaned a bathroom. I have never cut the grass. We divide in a bunch of different ways and even when it’s not even there is always something to balance the scales and make it fair.
It’s taken a long time for us to get to this point and a lot of frustration along the way. The sooner you can get your marriage to a point where the chores feel fair, the better things will be.
Both partners need to participate
One sided relationships lead to resentment and hate. If you want to stay married, both people are going to need to bring their best to the table and try. That means making sure chores, work, and childcare are fairly distributed, respecting each other, and taking the time to not only understand each other’s feelings but trying to resolve anything that’s not working in the relationship.
Having kids, changing jobs, or just growing and learning over time will change the way your relationship works and you will need to change with it. As soon as one person checks out the marriage suffers.
Life’s too short to be unhappy.
Too many times over the past 8 years I suffered through being miserable, hating my husband, and wanting to leave – but never did. It wasn’t until I actually started seriously making plans to leave (finally) that the message about what wasn’t working finally got across and things improved so much I was willing to keep going. After all, it’s so hard to divorce someone you love.
Still, if you’ve tried everything to make it work and your partner still isn’t willing to make the effort you owe it to yourself to be happy. Saving a marriage because of it’s “symbolism” or “because of the kids” and staying unhappy isn’t noble, it makes you a martyr.
Marry your best friend.
Have you ever looked at a couple and asked yourself “how are they together?” Don’t be that couple. Be with someone who at least shares some of your interests and who you love being with. Not just going out and having some kind of planned fun with, or watching TV alongside, but that you actually love spending time with.
After 8 years we still haven’t run out of things to talk about, debate, or gush over and I love it.
There is no right way to make a marriage work.
Just because you do something in your relationship that’s traditionally against the grain doesn’t mean that it’s the wrong way to be married. Even if it’s something that you get judged for, enjoy the smug satisfaction of a successful relationship built on mutual trust, love, and understanding.