My husband Alex and I are coming up on our 5 year wedding anniversary in 4 months and I was challenged by one of my “friends” to put into words what all has changed and what I’ve learned about marriage since we’ve been together. I’m going to go a step further than that because our relationship didn’t start when we said I do. Our story/friendship/relationship started earlier than that and our relationship itself is what changes and evolves over time. Marriage is a piece of paper that allows us to file our taxes jointly and gives us certain rights as spouses. Our relationship together…now from that, I have learned quite a lot.
When we got married, we didn’t say for better or for worse. We said we would continue to grow together, to have faith in what brought us together, and to always be true to each other. We did that because that has always been the foundation of our relationship together. No lies, no games, having open communication and being as up front as humanly possible about what’s going on.
What I’ve learned though is that it goes so, so, so far beyond that. I’ve learned that having the important conversations early is key to success. What did we both want out of life? What were our ambitions? What were our ideas on world issues and problems? What were our deepest, darkest experiences? What things were we even reluctant to admit to ourselves? What did we want to have happen to the other one should something bad happen to us? What were our goals? What were our dreams? These were not conversations that we saved for after our marriage took place. You have to constantly be each other’s friend AND partner in that you have to be as open as you would be with your best friend over a coffee about everything. There is no point in waiting until later to bring up the questions that will shape your relationship.
I’ve learned that patience is not just a fake thing that people cite to get others to chill out and stop mentioning something. Patience is a true work of art that requires acknowledging that you may just need to take a breath before you respond to something. You do not do your partner or yourself any good by giving in to your knee jerk reactions. Getting angry is normal, but remember that your words can still sting and hurt no matter how much you don’t mean it at the time. And if you get angry, do it quickly and then let it go. You have a solid day of moaning and groaning before you’re just holding a grudge for no reason.
I’ve learned that growing together takes time, commitment, and skill. It isn’t something that just happens and you can see that in couples that hit their 10 year anniversary and fall apart. My husband always has my back and I always have his. Period. Plain and simple. Yes, we have different things that we enjoy but we also do things together – grocery shopping, cooking meals, video games, movies, long conversations well into 3AM when we’re laughing hard and have no idea why we’re up. That’s how you stay connected and grow. Have an open line of communication at all times and be willing to accept what they’re saying and work on it together.
I’ve learned that you don’t just fall in love with someone one time. You do it over and over and over again in the quiet hours of the morning when they’re laughing in their sleep at something in a dream, or when they look at you just the right way when you’re doing something completely undesirable and you know that you are still wanted, when they randomly set down a bowl of your favorite snack while you’re working on something and are deep in thought, when you see them get excited about something, when you see them get lonely and sad about something and make themselves vulnerable to you, when you can’t help but run your fingers through their hair just because, and when you have a triumphant moment together. Love is extraordinarily mundane and is beautiful as such.
I’ve learned that making a commitment to someone else is at times both the most heart breaking and best thing you will ever do. Not in the commitment itself, but in that you are promising to be there through thick and thin, through rich and poor, through every little up and down in the roller coaster. You are going to share their highs and their lows, their triumphs and losses, their glee and their hurt. You are more intertwined with your significant other than I think I ever realized I was going to be. And you know what?
I’ve learned that it is all completely worth it.