Today is my 11 year anniversary…that’s right, we are celebrating 11 years of marriage.
Honestly, sometimes it feels like we’ve been married forever and other days, it feels like I just met my husband last week.
While our marriage is not perfect by any means, it is pretty damn awesome and I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together over the last decade. We’ve seen couples meet and break up, friends get married and divorced, and that we’ve somehow managed to not become one of those divorce statistics sometimes surprises me!
I’d be lying if I said that our marriage has never had problems. Anyone who’s been together for a lengthy amount of time knows that like all relationships, marriage is really hard work.
So, what’s my secret?
No, seriously. When we’ve hit a rough patch, we didn’t give up. When my husband and I were at odds, grew bored, or just plain old got stuck in a rut, we didn’t accept it as the end of our relationship. We saw it as a phase in our relationship. When we took those marriage vows, we meant them, and we never lost sight of that commitment.
While there are many reasons why relationships don’t work out – lying, cheating, addictions, betrayal – those haven’t been our issues. We have faced the normal, everyday issues that I think are just as dangerous to a marriage, as they can lead the way to those issues.
I wanted to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned in these past 11 years of marriage…
1. Accept that people change over time.
It seems that I am always hearing people complain that their significant other has changed since they met, since they got married, since they had children, etc. I think it’s unrealistic to think that the person you marry will stay exactly the same for the rest of their lives. When I met my husband, he enjoyed going out, but as he’s gotten older, he no longer enjoys being a night owl. Sure, he does the occasional happy hour or birthday party – but he’s really a bit of a homebody.
I had a hard time with it at first, but then I slowly got used to it. I still go out on occasion with the girls, but I learned to make peace with the fact that our partying life was over. Instead of fighting that change, when I saw that it wasn’t doing any good, I accepted it.
Now…when my friends call at 9 to ask me to come out with them, I laugh, because I’m already in my pajamas!
And I’ve changed as well – probably even more than my husband! While I was once that workaholic who spent 50+ hours in the office, climbing the corporate ladder, I’m now a housewife – and my husband completely supported that decision and happily absorbed 100% of the financial responsibility for our family.
2. Never take your significant other for granted.
It can be too easy to lose appreciation for someone when they’ve been around for a long time. I’ve heard the complaint so often: “They take me for granted” and I’ve experienced that myself. It’s never fun to realize that the most important person in your life doesn’t appreciate your awesomeness.
How do you avoid that? Honestly, I’m not quite sure.
I think that you have to make a conscious decision to appreciate your significant other on a daily basis.
If you don’t think your spouse is doing anything fantastic for you, think again. Do they go to work every day to earn an income to support your family? Well, that’s pretty damn awesome. Does your spouse offer to make dinner when you’ve had a busy day? That’s pretty kick ass.
If you think your spouse doesn’t appreciate you, TELL THEM. About 5 years into our marriage, I felt unappreciated and taken for granted. We had long talks about it, and I realized that he DID appreciate me, he just felt that we were past the point that he needed to tell me. He thought I knew. I needed verbal affirmations to feel loved and appreciated and once I explained my feelings, he did a much better job of making me feel special and important on a regular basis. And honestly, I was guilty as well, he just wasn’t verbal about it. He made me realize that I was so busy feeling unappreciated that I stopped telling him how much I appreciated him.
3. Nothing is as important as communication.
Honesty is the key to a successful marriage. I think honesty is the most important thing – every problem can be avoided, or fixed, with honesty. When we have had issues in our marriage, it was open and honest communication that has rectified the situation.
Around the 7 year mark, we went through that phase in our marriage where we began growing apart. We married at 23 and 24, and by the time we hit 30, we were different people. I felt it, he felt it, and for a while, neither of us wanted to address it. We pretended like it wasn’t happening, hoping that it would go away and that the situation would fix itself.
Once we were honest and talked about how we felt, we realized that we needed a break. We needed to get away from our jobs, leave our daughter at home with grandma, and go off and reconnect. We took a week-long vacation in Western North Carolina – in a remote area in the mountains with no one else around, no internet, no cell phone, no cable…and we just spent an entire week together.
If we had not been honest with each other about what was happening, our marriage would have been doomed.
4. Make time for each other.
Once my husband and I took that vacation together, we realized that we hadn’t been spending any time together. We were always together, but never alone – and this is a problem that most parents face.
We take regular vacations together now, aside from our family vacations. We do date nights without my daughter. When she goes off to visit her grandparents and aunts and uncles, we take full advantage of that time and go to the movies, go out to eat – the point is, we do activities together. Just us, no friends, no coworkers, no family – we just concentrate on each other.
If you aren’t able to have babysitters, go meet your spouse for lunch during the workday. Even if you can only manage it once a month, it will make a difference.
I realize that this isn’t your usual “It’s my anniversary!!” blog post…but whenever I tell people how long I’ve been married, they are always shocked because frankly, most marriages don’t last this long anymore.
Do you have any pointers for couples on how to make their relationship last? I’d love to hear them!