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As a young girl, I dreamed of the wedding (thanks, Disney). I didn’t think much about a marriage. If I did, it was in a Leave It to Beaver setting, unrealistic and picture perfect. Real life marriage is anything but. It is the joining of two imperfect people so that they can spend their lives supporting each other and being better together than they would be separately. It is the every day mundane routines, raising babies, balancing family and work obligations. Marriage is also the truest partnership, allowing yourselves to be seen fully and loved fully, it is learning about yourself and your partner, and being your partner’s greatest supporter. The first five years of marriage are full of opportunities to learn.
My husband and I celebrated our fifth anniversary this past fall.
I cannot believe how much we have changed since our wedding day, both as individuals and as a couple. We have grown, matured, and settled in to our roles. We have had two babies. My husband took a new job, and I went from working 50 hours a week to 5. He and I are not the kids that we were when we met almost nine years ago. And I would not change it for the world.
The boy I fell in love with is now a man who is a true partner to me and a loving father to our babies. I have seen him come into the roles of head of the household, provider, supporter, caretaker with such grace and strength. I have learned things about myself, entering into motherhood and learning what that means for me as a wife. Our relationship changed – it’s better, more real, of much more substance and depth than it was in the beginning.
I am so very excited to see where live will take us and how our marriage will continue to grow.
What I’ve Learned in Five Years of Marriage
Unsurprisingly, marriage has been one of my life’s greatest teachers. Along with motherhood, this relationship, this commitment, has taught me more about life, relationships, and myself than anything else. There have been a few overarching lessons we have learned. From making important decisions together to learning what each of us need from our relationship, these past five years of marriage have been chock full of lessons.
How to make your partner feel loved.
In our premarital counseling with the Catholic church, we were made to take a quiz to determine our Love Language. If you have not taken this quiz or read this book, you are missing out. It is a game changer for romantic relationships and something that my husband and I still discuss and use as a tool in our marriage.
The basic premise of the book is that every person has a different “love language” or way of feeling and receiving love, and that in order to make your spouse feel loved, one has to approach them by speaking their love language. What a powerful lesson.
Figure out what makes your partner feel loved, special, and understood – and DO THAT THING! If they need to be complemented, complement them! If they need to quality time, take the initiative and schedule some date nights. We still work at this, because we are human and because my husband and I have very different love languages. But, it is a wonderful tool and guide in helping us understand one another.
What Your Partner Needs to Feel Their Best and Thrive.
I thought I knew my husband well when we married, but I learn more about him all the time. I learn by watching him and experiencing life at his side what makes him the most happy and what causes him the most stress. My husband is very extroverted. His whole life is a party and he likes it that way. He has more friends than he can count, and loves to be surrounded by people he loves. He thrives in company. I am much more introverted. All of my favorite activities are solo activities: cooking, reading, writing.
So what do we do? We compromise! We each make sure that the needs of the other are met and we are happier for it. Sometimes we stay at home, sometimes we have company. Sometimes we split the day up as to give him time with people and allow me my down time as well. We have to know what the other person needs and meet them there – help your partner have their best life. Which brings my to my next point,
Pick your battles – know when to compromise, when to concede, and when to put your foot down.
My husband hates clutter – hates it. I was always the girl whose car and bedroom appeared to have been hit by a tornado. When we were new in our relationship, this caused A LOT of arguments. I was raised with different standards of what it meant to pick up and put things away. Why was he angry about this? Why was it so important that the house by spotless? Seven years ago, when we first were living together, I had resigned myself to the supposed fact that messy was just a part of who I was and that we would continue to argue over this for the rest of our life together.
This is an area in which I have conceded to my husband because he happens to be right. Over the course of our relationship, I have become a much neater person. At first, it was just to please him, and avoid disappointing him. Now, I LOVE having a tidy home. I can’t go to bed without picking up and doing the dishes. It feels good to wake up to a blank slate.
There are other areas of our relationship, like our social life, that require compromise. And, of course, sometimes my husband is wrong and it is my job to steer him in the right direction. The advice here is never insist on being right for the sake of being right. You married your partner for a reason. More than likely, part of that reason is that your partner adds value to your life and can share some of their ideals and ways of life with you. Take pieces of each of you to create your best life together.
How to fight
I am sure that there are people who were raised in home where they were taught how to resolve conflict in a healthy, productive way. I am not one of those people.
In five years of marriage, my husband has taught me so much about sticking with it through an argument and not walking away (this is something I am still working on). And together, we have been learning to not overreact and speak from a place of anger, which is sometimes easier said than done.
It is of enormous value for you and your partner to learn how to have disagreements respectfully and lovingly. Part of this comes from controlling your emotional responses and part comes from understanding your partner. Understand what buttons not to push and how they best receive criticism. Learn how to express your concerns without complaining to or about your partner.
How you work best together as a team
That’s the dream, isn’t it? For you and your partner to be a well-oiled machine that works well together and can weather any storm? Unfortunately, this ideal is not achieved just by loving each other. A couple who is a great time is a product of trust and communication. It takes time to build.
Do you ever watch older couples when you are out to dinner or shopping? So many of those couples who have been together for 40 or 50 years have SEAMLESS communication. These couples know each other so well that they can anticipate each other’s needs and fill those in without being asked. In the beginning of marriage, we are settling into our roles, finding out which areas are our strengths or weaknesses and assigning duties to each partner based on that knowledge.
Marriage is Work
Anyone who tells you different is lying or clueless. This year, I have set several goals for myself regarding my marriage, things I am working on personally that will better my relationship with my partner. I am a better wife to my husband than I was five years ago, and I hope than in five more years, I can love him even better.
Five years of marriage is the starting block. Right now, we are laying the groundwork for a full, beautiful life together. I hope that I never become lazy in my relationship with my husband and that we continue to give each other our best. I hope we never stop trying to learn how to be better spouses to each other.
I’m looking forward to the growth we will make in the next five years.
What are the most valuable lessons you have learned in your own marriage?
If you have been married for a while, what advice for would you give to newly married couples?
If not, what do you anticipate will present the biggest challenges in your early years of marriage?