Time really flies when you’re having fun, that’s for sure! It feels like only yesterday we were standing together with our closest friends and family to make a lifelong commitment to each other – and yet, it was one year ago (on the 13th)! I cannot believe how fast the time went by, it was truly a blink of an eye.
In this past year, Kellan and I really threw ourselves into a lot of situations that many people won’t find themselves in so soon in their marriage – but we kept at it, and we learned so much! I am so grateful for every moment we got to experience. I firmly believe that every marriage is different, and will have things that work best for them that they have learned, but I feel as though it’s every bit as helpful to share some things we learned.
Something that I have been discussing recently with some close friends, has been that people we know do not really seem to share anything about their marriage that is negative. This leads a lot of other young people we know who are heading into marriage to assume that things will be perfect once you get married, and that being married means you have no problems – ever – and that life is perfect. Obviously, that’s not true. But people do not openly talk about the negative things once they’re married, because they do not want people to think that they “have problems”. When you date someone, you have an argument and you move past it, but when you’re married, God forbid you have an argument, because that means you “have problems”. It’s really quite silly.
A marriage takes work – you have two imperfect people who are consistently coexisting with one another, making unified decisions instead of individual ones, and are determined to tackle the bumps of life together. It can get messy, it can get frustrating, and it can be brilliant. A lot of social media posts (mine included) are shared to relish in the happiness of life and marriage (as they should be), but can lead others to forget that behind the carefully filtered post, is a real couple who tackle real problems together. With that, here are 10 of the things I have learned in this past year of marriage.
- You have to choose to love every single day.
I love my husband. Of course I love my husband, and I always will. But being married means making an active choice every single day to treat that person with love and continue to choose that person every single day for the rest of your life. Sometimes, they may make you frustrated, but you choose to keep loving them, to keep showing them love, every single day. You do not give your love to your spouse conditionally – it is not something that will only be given if they are happy 24/7, do x, y, and z for you, or bring you flowers every day. Love is a constant choice to give to them each and every day, without condition, for who they truly are – flaws and all.
- We are not superheroes, no one can read minds – just talk about it.
It can be so easy when your spouse says something that bothers you to just brood over it, and expect them to know what offended you, or expect them to know why you are not having a good day – but there is no way for them to know unless you tell them. It goes both ways. I find communication to be the absolute key. Even the tiniest little things that are seemingly irrelevant, like eating the last pickle in the jar, if it bothers you just say it. With time, you will both know and understand the tones, actions, and words that bother your spouse, and while you’ll never truly eradicate all issues (no one is perfect), the more you talk about why something bothers you, the easier it will be next time!
- When arguments/frustrations occur, make a plan for next time once resolved.
Speaking of next time, one of the things that I found really helped when we found ourselves in a disagreement or frustrating situation, was to discuss a plan of action for the next time. What I mean by that, is that let’s say Kellan said something silly like “I ate the last pickle.” I could take his tone to be rude and rubbing it in my face that he ate the last pickle, when I thought he knew I was planning to eat the last pickle after I finished eating whatever I was already eating. On his end, he could simply be informing me that we are now entirely out of pickles, and will need to buy more – not intending in any way to rub it in my face that he ate the last pickle, and unaware that I was intending to eat it. So once we have talked it out to realize the truth of the matter (see #4) we can make a plan for next time by agreeing that next time something similar happens, we will tackle it by Kellan saying, “I just had the last pickle, we will need to get some more next time we’re at the store.” and I can let him know that I was planning to have the last pickle, but I will wait until we get a new jar.
- You’re a Mac and they’re a PC – you import and export differently.
Using the above example, you can see that what he exported was not what I imported – aka, what he said and meant by what he said, is not what I heard or took from what he said. No matter who you are, you will both import and export differently. If one of you takes offense to something that was said, be sure to ask what was meant by what they said, and then explain how you perceived it. This has helped us a lot, because arguments can escalate if one person says something that the other one takes differently, and can get worse from there. It makes such a difference if you instantly explain what you took from it and why it bothered you, and you can both understand and move forward. Everyone says and hears things differently, and it’s really useful to remember that the sooner you address and understand, the quicker you can get it solved and move on.
- You both have to actively put your marriage first.
Sometimes it can be difficult to stop thinking individually, and put the needs of the marriage first. Trust me, I get it. I am a very independent woman, and sometimes it can be difficult for me to remember that every choice I make (or pair of shoes I buy) can affect my marriage. While it is important to try to put the other person first, and equally important to take time for yourself and your personal needs, it’s important to put the needs of the marriage above the rest. If you have been working 24/7 for a month without spending much time together and have a date night scheduled for Friday, but a friend asks you to hang out, you need to take a moment to understand that putting in time together with your spouse is important for your marriage, and you need that time. So unless that friend has free tickets to see TSwift, you should take the opportunity to choose your spouse.
- Your priorities will be different – and that’s okay.
Financially, emotionally, physically, work-wise, clothing-wise – you will both have different priorities in one or more of these things, and that’s okay. While there are some things that you should work together for (such as making paying off debt or saving money for something a mutual priority), there are other things that you will prioritize differently from your spouse, and the key is to understand and agree on limits for that. For example, I love to get clothes and shoes – pretty sure that’s obvious – but Kellan doesn’t really prioritize buying new clothes as much as I do. But he understands that I enjoy it, that it is important to me, and we agree on certain items and amounts. The same goes for him and records/tech/music items. I know that it is important to him, and so we agree on items and amounts for him to spend money on and go from there. The key is to understand and respect each others (reasonable) wants and needs.
- Take time apart.
Of course it is very important to spend time together and do things together, but it is also important to have other interests, friends, and things that you do separately. It’s great that my husband will watch The Bachelor with me and drink wine with me (bless him) but it’s just not the same as when I would watch it with my girls. The same goes for him; I can try my best to play video games with him, but at the end of the day I can only play so much Duck Game before I burst.
- Value the others interests.
Similar to the previous two, it’s important to try to value the other person’s interests. While I didn’t thoroughly enjoy watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Kellan loves it and I wanted to experience that with him. In turn, he watched Doctor Who with me, and we can both appreciate the interests of the other, without being megafans of it ourselves. The same goes for hobbies, etc. You don’t need to love it, but try it out with them to show your support, and have them do the same.
- Make time for date night.
This is one that I learned rather recently. We’d been spending a lot of nights and weekends inside, binge-watching TV shows, watching movies, and browsing on our computers. It really doesn’t bring too much fun or romance into the relationship, and after going on a date night the other day, we’ve decided to make it a priority every week or two weeks to go out or do something for a date night. Spending time together doing something different and going on a date is something that will keep the romance going, which is really important! An easy date night can be simply going for a long walk somewhere scenic, out to a movie on the cheap movie day, or going to a free lecture or event happening locally! There are a ton of fun options, and I’d suggest making a date jar if you cannot decide what to do – there are a lot of fun tutorials on Pinterest for that!
- Find couple friends and community.
This is another one that we’ve recently discovered is beneficial. Having friends who are at the same life stage as you – ie, newly married – who can hang out with both of you, provides a really great balance and gives you an opportunity to hang out as a couple within a group. We’re really excited about joining a connect group at our new church in the city where we can connect and hang out with other couples and people who are at the same stage as us, who we can learn from and enjoy spending time with.
Of course, we have learned countless other things this past year, but these are the ones that come to mind. It’s important for all of us who are newly married to heed the advice of those who have been married for a long time; a marriage is work, very important work, and if you continue to prioritize your marriage and your spouse, and they do the same, you can walk, laugh, and smile through life together – both the good times and bad. No matter the age that you marry, it will be a continual learning process for the rest of your life, and it’s a fantastic journey.