Marriage Lessons Learned in 8 Years of Marriage
Neil and I have been married 8 years today. In the early years of our marriage, this day was all about us. What gifts were we going to give one another? What adventure were we going to embark upon the following weekend to celebrate? Who was going to eat the leftover wedding cake first? All normal thoughts, but all self-involved nonetheless. Then, the girls came along and upset that apple cart completely. Now, this day is usually a brief acknowledgement of a seemingly bygone era before moving on to packing lunches and tying shoelaces and fixing the leaking toilet before heading out the door for the day. Ah, life. It moves on, even when we don’t really want it to.
I won’t lie about the anniversaries during the girls’ first few years of life. There were a few years there when they were tiny, and I lost sight of who I was as a wife and partner to this person sleeping on the other side of
my our bed. But as I have matured as both an individual and a collective entity, there a few marriage lessons learned that I thought others might want to know.
Marriage is Messy
When two people decide to spend the rest of their lives together, there is all kinds of baggage that comes with it. It doesn’t matter if neither of you were married before or there are no kids involved at the start. There is always baggage. Which way does the toilet paper go on the holder (the correct way is over, by the way)? Do you leave your dishes in the sink or put them straight in the dishwasher? Are you going to send the kids to public or private school (or homeschool for that matter)? No decision will ever be black and white again because you have asked another person’s opinion, and they are most certainly going to give it to you.
Marriage is messy, but mess doesn’t have to mean disaster.
Marriage is Sweet
Just like my girls always being there for one another, my husband is always there for me. When I’m about to lose my mind because I’ve repeated myself for the tenth time in 5 minutes, he’s stepping up to allow me to step away and calm down. When I’m sick and need to rest, he tirelessly fills the roles of mom and dad without skipping a beat. He texts me silly emojis when I’m having a bad day. We meet for lunch just because. He takes one for the team on many occasions. Marriage is sweet, thoughtful moments that come right when you need them to.
Marriage is Complicated
Baggage complicates things. Marriage is, more often than not, the stuff that happens after the credits roll. The fairytale wedding and exotic honeymoon are over and now you have to live with someone for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. That stuff is hard, yo. Marriage is not for the faint of heart. Human beings are imperfect, and, yes, that means no marriage is perfect either. It is work.
Marriage is Work
Saying that marriage is work makes it sound dull and dreary, but I say it is anything but that. Working toward a goal often brings a reward. When you invest in your marriage, whatever that looks like to you and your spouse, you will be rewarded. Like my children, time spent with my husband is never wasted. It isn’t always glamorous or thrilling, but it’s real life. Life is made up of the small moments strung together over time that make the big picture clearer.
Marriage is not defined by one moment of crowning achievement, but the small, seemingly insignificant moments that reveal the depth of love and commitment two people truly have for one another.
Marriage is a Commitment
The dictionary defines commitment as “the state or quality of being dedicated.” Dedication to something involves time. Giving something your time requires action. Marriages don’t flourish without action. I can’t simply exist in my home with these extra people and expect to have a great quality of life. I have to act on my commitment, whether that’s by doing activities that demonstrate my love or speaking it, out loud, to Neil and the girls. Committing to our marriage means placing a high priority on it.
Marriage is Love
I know. I’m real profound with that one. But it’s an important one. I didn’t marry Neil because he was funny or good looking or smart or had a steady job. Those things are bonuses to me. I married Neil because I am head-over-heels, “You had me at Hello,” ooey-gooey, can’t imagine living in this world without him in love with him. Love is one of those things in life that is a beautiful mystery. What does it even mean to be in love? How do you know if it’s love or just infatuation? I don’t know those answers concretely for everyone, but I do know this; when I fell in love with him, I knew it. Marrying him was just a public expression of my inward feelings.
Marriage is a Journey
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” How many times have you heard that quote? It’s applicable to many situations, marriage included. I’m in it for the long haul. I’m in it for the slow, gradual burn of a passionate, abundant life with someone I love. Do we have setbacks? Sure. Do we have great surges forward? Absolutely. Two kids at once will definitely propel your marriage forward to a place you may not have quite been ready for yet! Going back to “how things were before” or wishing for “one day in the future” robs me of the joy of the present.
Marriage is More
Marriage is about more than being married. It’s more than a piece of paper, a joint tax return, or owning property together. It is a selfless gift you give to someone else. When Neil and I exchanged vows 8 years ago today, we promised one another so many things, but every single one of the things we promised had to do with the other. It was no longer “my” life, but “our” life.In my 8 years of being married, I have learned a lot, but I still have a long way to go. I pray to always long to give my best to my husband and not just settle for a “happy” life. Honey, if you’re reading this, I love you. Each day we spend together, I grow more and more in love with you. The man you were and the man you are now have been so interesting to be married to (ha)! I know the man you will become will be even more interesting that this current iteration of yourself, and I can’t wait to find out who we will be together as we grow. Happy anniversary!