Brett and I are celebrating five years of marriage today, and we're both now in our thirties. This pretty much makes us extremely wise and marriage experts, right? HA!
I want to preface this post with stating that these lessons, are lessons I have personally learned (the hard way, because that's just me) but that doesn't mean I have them mastered. We are a work in progress, always, and fall very short of a perfect couple. As humans, we are all so incredibly flawed and complex. Not a single person out there, I don't care how "qualified" they are, can fix your marriage or mend your soul. You can read a hundred books, and go to therapy every week with your spouse, and it still not succeed.
You know what we've learned in our five short years of marriage? It. is. WORK. and it. takes. TWO. Both of you have to make the effort and have enough self awareness to make changes from within. Society and our culture has given us a very warped image of what a healthy marriage means and what it takes to have a lasting relationship. When I think of what it means to "date" now, it still blows my mind how many apps are available at our fingertips to help make a match yet our divorce rate is insanely high. Speaking of technology, social media has all of us blasting our highlight reel out to the world of all of the best moments with our families and spouses, but what you can't see are the fights and arguments, sleepless nights, and pain. Perhaps the person making that post is living a lie, and is secretly miserable but doesn't want the world to know it. This isn't a plea for people to start airing their dirty laundry to the world, but this is just a gentle reminder that consistently seeing this can warp your view that everyone else is super satisfied and happy and yet you're dealing with challenges in your marriage. You're not alone friend. In fact, you're in good company.
In our five short years of marriage we've experienced an incredible amount of challenges. Some coming from circumstances out of our control (yay for military life) but most coming from choices we've made and reacting out of fear, selfishness, or anger. I hope my lessons speak to you on some level.
"A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers." - Ruth Graham
Wow, Ruth nailed it with that one.
You know what's really hard about this? We all have something called an ego. This ego we have, gets in the way of so many aspects of our life but especially being able to forgive.
Forgive yourself. Forgive your spouse. Ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness isn't for the weak and if you struggle with this, I promise it gets easier the more you practice. You will become stronger, and lighter, all at the same time. Don't wait on your spouse either (again, ego) instead, be brave and take that first step. You'll be glad you did.
2. Let go
"Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on." - Ekhart Tolle
Let go of the past: If you want to kill a relationship, keep reminding your spouse of something they did wrong to you on a regular basis. Holding something over someone's head that you love will only destroy yourself and your relationship. Do it for yourself. Do it for you both.
Now, this doesn't mean to continuously allow someone to walk all over you in a relationship and either emotionally or physically defeat you. That is never OK and that's an entirely different issue. But if you truly forgive someone, you have to be able to let go.
3. Lighten up
Laughter heals the soul.
Humor will get you through the crazy times. Sometimes life is just a chaotic mess. The house will be a disaster, the kids will have tantrums, the HVAC will stop working, your car will break down, and you will forget to pack your child's lunch and/or lock your keys in the car- again (all in the same week). I realized you just have to laugh through the madness to keep from crying and it's always better if you can laugh together. Lighten up also means to realize that life is too dang short to sweat the small stuff. Let's be honest, most of what we stress about is completely minuscule in the long run. Breathe, laugh, move on. Repeat.
Schedule "nothing" in your calendar. Block it off as unavailable for any social obligations. This "balance" is different for each person and each couple, but we've found out the hard way many times that over-scheduling our family isn't healthy for us. We need a decent amount of downtime to relax as a couple and as parents. Our "do nothing" time is important for us separately as well as together. Brett needs more alone time than I do, but we definitely have learned to respect that time for each other. Between school, sports, clubs, dates, playdates, volunteering, running our own business, and social gatherings, we can get burnt out quickly. Making sure we take time to simply chill and recoup is important for us to maintain peace in our home and our marriage. Disconnect, unplug, and enjoy nature.
Count your blessings.
For me, this goes hand-in-hand with acceptance. My husband is who he is. I can not change him and I thank God for that. I appreciate every quirk, every facial expression, and talent he has. Appreciate what makes your spouse unique. Take the time to tell your spouse you appreciate and admire them. Pour into them. Fill their cup. Do they do an awesome job getting the kids ready for school? Do they work hard to put food on the table? Are they the one that actually prepares the food? I can get so annoyed when Brett leaves his socks on the floor, but man oh man, do those little annoyances quickly fade when I remind myself (and him!) of all the good he does for us. When I actually say it to him, it fills my heart as well. Don't hold back from showering your spouse with appreciation. Say it. Write it. Live it.
Happy five years my love. Here's to a lifetime of richness: learning, growing, and having fun along the way. I love you.
Photography by Sarah Ingram.
Thank you Sarah for letting us be ourselves.