Today marks my 9th year wedding anniversary! I’ll be the first to say that marriage is tough. It’s not like the romcoms that make it seem like this whimsical story of two people that meet and fit together perfectly. Even though it can be a challenge at times, it’s also pretty amazing. I’m so grateful for my partner in life and the relationship we’ve built. I thought I’d share 9 lessons I’ve learned in 9 years of marriage:
- The importance of self-love- For the first several years, I put too much pressure on my husband to fulfill me. I wanted him to fill in the cracks of all of the areas I felt broken in. What I’ve discovered is that by cultivating my self-love not only do I not expect him to complete me but I don’t need him to.
- Two separate and complimenting “wholes”- This piggybacks on the previous lesson. I came into my relationship thinking he was a perfect fit because of the “we complete each other” “opposites attract” “he’s my other half” train of thought. What I found out the hard way is our relationship reached its peak when I became a fully functioning “whole”. We are two complete and separate individuals that support and compliment one another.
- Love is cultivated- While falling in love encompasses chemistry, attraction, high emotions, and even some mystery, staying in love is a choice. It’s hard to be in a long-term committed relationship. Staying in love means being there when times are tough, seeing the best in your partner when you’re going through a rough time, choosing to do even the little things with love. Cultivating love on a daily basis through actions by both partners is important to keep the relationship alive and strong. Cultivating love means to act, react, and respond from a place of love which isn’t always easy but you reap what you sow. It’s important for both partners to plant seeds of love daily.
- A wedding is one day, a marriage is daily- We got married at the courthouse, it was simple but we celebrated it with those close to us and had a great time. That in itself was a lesson. Whether simple or extravagant, the wedding is one day but the marriage is built on daily habits. The way you talk to each other, treat one another, support, challenge, encourage, and look after each other are what make the relationship.
- Part Relay Part Triathalon- As I look back, it seems like marriage is a hybrid of a relay race and a triathlon. The relationship can go through different events like overcoming obstacles and long stretches of bliss with short runs of not so blissful times (or vise verse). You’re always learning and growing from previous events. Sometimes you’re both at your best and others one partner runs with the baton of the relationship leading the way for both. It’s a lot of work, takes time and patience, and both teammates have to put in the effort to make it work. There are various checkpoints along the way but unlike a triathlon, you don’t want it to end. The sweet reward of victory is in the quiet moments that no one is there to witness and the hard work put in behind closed doors.
- Appreciation over expectation- I’ve learned that my expectations often let me down. Whether it’s wanting my husband to react a certain way, to a certain thing, not do something, when reality doesn’t match my expectation it’s a formula for disappointment. I’ve instead had to learn to appreciate the things I overlooked when I was distracted by my disappointment. There are so many good qualities and behaviors that should be appreciated and encouraged.
- Focus on what’s in my control- This goes hand in hand with the point above. I had to learn to accept the things I can’t control. What I can control is my actions, attitude and the way I handle things. This applies to life in general as well. At some point, I wanted to try to change things about my partner because I was unhappy. The more I focused on personal growth, the more I realized it had less to do with him and more to do with me. Don’t get me wrong, there are still habits I wish he’d break but I love and accept him for who he is and am thankful that he does the same.
- Identity- I think it’s important not to let yourself get lost in the roles you have. There are things you do and things that make you who you are. I had to learn to find time for myself to give into my wants, needs, and passions. I had to stop being everything for everybody because I lost myself in the process. While I am a wife and mom, I’m also a creative, writer, photographer, reader, and crafter, with a sense of adventure who loves to socialize. When I didn’t pursue things beyond what fit into my wife and mom roles, I felt unfulfilled which wasn’t good for me personally, in my relationship, or my family. I’ve learned how to better incorporate all of these different parts of me into my life. The thing is it makes me feel good and that helps me be a better “whole” in my relationship.
- Your life partner doesn’t have to be in every area of your life- I’ve learned that my husband and I are two very different people and that’s ok. It’s not such a drastic difference that doesn’t allow there to be harmony. I’m extroverted and he’s introverted. I enjoy change and he enjoys consistency. I love dinner parties and game nights and he prefers the movies or Netflix. After the initial dating phase, this was challenging because I wanted to do the things I enjoyed and wanted him to not only go but enjoy himself as well. What I realized is there’s no need for him to be involved in every aspect of my life. I found a group of moms to have a game night with. I joined a book club to discuss my novels with. Just like he doesn’t torture me with going to all day baseball games, I had to be ok with finding other people who shared my interests to enjoy them with. We can still each enjoy the things we love whether it’s together for some things and separately for others. It gives us a chance to appreciate things about one another, keeps an element of interest and novelty in the relationship, and is also great for conversation.
I don’t want to paint an inaccurate picture here, I’ve learned from the wonderful aspects of our relationships but the biggest lessons have come from finding our footing in the tricky parts. So while our relationship is in the best place it’s ever been, even 9 years in we still have to put effort into maintaining a healthy dynamic and choosing love. Now I’m not saying I’ve passed the test in all of these lessons, I’m still working on some of them. I think being aware of them is the key to being able to apply the lesson and move on to the next one. At the end of the day, my goal is to be the best “whole” I can.
No matter where you are in your relationship, I just want to encourage you to look for the lessons your relationship can teach you. How can you grow as an individual? As a couple? Can you relate to any of the ones I’ve shared? Are there any you weren’t aware of until I pointed them out? Feel free to share in the comments! ❤