10 Lessons in 10 Years
Yesterday was my 10-year anniversary. After 10 years of marriage I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a very lucky guy. I mean that in two different sense of the word. To help me explain let’s look at two quotes.
“No matter what your laundry list of requirements in choosing a mate, there has to be an element of good luck and good fortune and good timing.”
– Patty Duke
When I think about all the factors that had to come together in order for my wife and I to meet and fall in love, I can’t help but think luck played some role in our relationship.
Had we met at a different stage of our life, we likely wouldn’t have ended up together, yet we somehow found one another at the perfect stage of our lives. Despite the many obstacles our relationship faced, we persevered. Through some miracle of God or fate, we had ‘good luck and good fortune and good timing.’
Anybody who is happily married knows that this kind of fatalistic luck isn’t enough. A second kind of luck is required to make marriage work.
“Good luck happens to people who work hard for it. Sometimes people just fall into the honey pot, but I’ve consistently strived to create whatever good fortune I can get in my life – and consistently strive just as hard not to screw it up once I have it!”
– Patrick Duffy
Luck may have played a role in the fortuitous circumstances of our meet-cute. However, it was good old-fashioned hard work that allowed us to forge the relationship into a success.
We dated for six years before getting married, spending the first two years in varying degrees of long distance. This solidified our friendship as we spent so much time talking with one another. We didn’t have the distractions of traditional date activities, so we got really good at communicating.
We spent the next four years of our dating life in the same area. This allowed us to do some of those traditional dating activities. It also brought with it some new challenges that we had to work through. Fortunately we got through those challenges and our relationship got stronger with each obstacle we overcame.
Top Ten List
In honor of our tenth anniversary, I thought it would be fitting to put together a list of ten things I’ve learned over the course of our relationship. While this isn’t an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a good start.
Opposites really do Attract
My wife and I are very much opposites. This was a challenge early on in our dating relationship. It caused a lot of uncertainty and insecurity in both of us.
We did the work to navigate through these feelings. Finding a way to allow these differences to complement one another and not divide us.
I am a far better person today because of my wife. More considerate, understanding, and accepting because I love someone who is different from me. I am more firm in my beliefs and have stronger convictions because they’ve been tested. I have more humility and less stagnation because I have a partner who pushes me to change and grow.
Opposites do attract and if you foster your differences rather than fight against them, you’ll have a better relationship and be a better person as a result.
Marriage is Easy…if Dating was Hard
I had always heard that the first year of marriage was the hardest. We discovered that this wasn’t the case. In fact, there hasn’t been a single hard year in the ten we’ve been married.
I can count on one hand the number of fights we’ve had as a married couple. Even those conflicts weren’t very dramatic. They were mostly disagreements that took a little longer to work out.
It was our dating relationship that was hard. We spent a lot of our dating relationship figuring out how to be in a relationship with one another. Learning to communicate and develop relational maturity.
This was difficult, particularly when our friends seemed to have a lot more “fun” in their dating lives. That said, I wouldn’t change it for anything. We spent our dating life building a solid foundation for the rest our marriage.
While the foundation isn’t fun or much to look at, it is rock solid. And we’ve been able to build a pretty amazing (and fun) marriage on top of it.
Love as you know it isn’t Enough
As much as I love my wife, we wouldn’t have made it through our six years of dating and ten years of marriage without hard work and sacrifice.
Falling in love is great. It is exciting and fun…and fleeting. The feelings you have in the early stages of your relationship eventually give way to something more profound. Not as exciting, but real.
Love must grow and evolve. What you think love is during the early stages of your relationship isn’t what it is after the fun of the early stages wears off. Love must evolve in order for marriage to work.
At every stage of our relationship, the love that I had previously felt wasn’t enough to propel our relationship forward. Therefore it needed to evolve. When the newness wore off, it evolved. When we struggled, it evolved. When we got married, it evolved. When we had kids, it evolved. And it will need to continue to evolve with each stage of life we face.
Insecurity Fades in a Healthy Relationship
Insecurity filled the early stages of our dating life. This is partly due to our ages at the time (very early 20’s), but also due to the newness of being in a relationship.
As we got older, we became more secure in our own personal identities. We also put in a great deal of work into our relationship. This work transformed into an amazing sense of security in our relationship.
The healthier our relationship became the more confident and secure we each felt in it. Time alone will create comfort in a marriage, but it is only hard work that creates security.
Marriage is a Muscle
If you don’t use it, it will atrophy. You have to continue to work at your marriage. There is no autopilot function, you can’t sit back and rest on your laurels. Marriage is a muscle, use it or lose it.
Getting to know your Spouse Never Stops
A great way to exercise that marriage muscle is to remember that people change. In the sixteen years since we started dating, I know I have changed a great deal. It would be foolish to expect that my wife is the same person she was back then.
If you aren’t getting to know who your spouse is today, you may not know them as well as you think. Interests, passions, hopes, dreams, goals, fears. All of these things will change over time. When was the last time you asked your spouse about theirs?
Marrying your Best Friend is Awesome
I had the unique advantage of marrying my best friend. Due to our two years of long distance dating, we became friends before anything else. Our friendship has remained one of the pillars of our marriage.
The Relationship Needs to Become a Priority
There are three components to our marriage. There is my wife, our relationship, and myself. Up until meeting my wife, I had spent the entirety of my life focused on my own needs.
Then I met my wife. I quickly learned that an awareness and consideration of her needs would be necessary to maintain a healthy relationship. It took me longer to realize that our relationship was an entity in and of itself. We had to prioritize what our relationship needed ahead of our own individual needs.
Instead of avoiding a fight because we didn’t have the energy for, we learned that dealing with the conflict now avoided a much bigger fight later. This was not what either of us wanted as individuals. However, it was exactly what our relationship needed.
We we’re able to build something amazing, when we learned to put our relationship first. When we put our own needs first, we did so at the expense of our marriage.
You Can Be Right and Wrong at the Same Time
Perspective matters. This image sums it up perfectly.
Taking the time to understand your partner’s perspective is invaluable. Being overly focused on proving yourself right, will cause you to miss the value your partner’s perspective.
Instead put your own perspective aside (temporarily) and fully adopt your spouse’s point of view. You’ll develop a deeper understanding of the conflict itself. You’ll be better informed to resolve the conflict, and you’ll set the stage for a partner who is in a better place to hear your perspective.
One of the best ways to get someone to listen to you is to make sure that they first feel heard and understood. If you don’t create this feeling in your partner, they’ll continue to try to make their point.
Communication is Key
I know this is the most cliché’ marriage lesson ever, but cliché’s are cliché’s for a reason. Good communication will elevate a relationship while bad communication can threaten to end it.
Learning to use language to express emotions, defuse confrontation, create a connection, and build intimacy is the best investment you can make in your marriage.