My husband and I are coming up on our 18-year anniversary. I’ve learned a few things about marriage over the years, which I hope might help others who are working on long-term love. These things may or may not be true in other successful marriages, but they are true for us.
1. We don’t complete each other.
That line in Jerry Maguire got me when it first came out, but now it seems silly at best and dysfunctional at worst. Ideally, the two people in a relationship should be as whole as possible and should constantly be striving toward becoming their best selves. My husband and I help each other in that process by complementing one another, not completing one another.
2. It helps to laugh off little faults and weaknesses.
Nobody is perfect, and when you share a life with someone, there are many things that could get under your skin. When you see one another’s little quirks as funny, those things become endearing rather than annoying. My husband has this bizarre habit of leaving small amounts of perfectly good food on the cutting board. Rather than complain about the waste, I call it his sacrifice to the food gods and we both laugh.
3. Nitpicking is for lice, and lice only.
Did you ever think of “nitpicking” as a lice term? Yup. You’re welcome. Seriously, though, looking for ways to find fault and nagging one another over little things is just not worth it. See #2.
4. Love languages are a real thing.
Both my husband and I score very low on the gift giving language, which is why we don’t even give one another birthday presents. My husband knows that if he wants to show me he loves me, the best thing he can do is tell me (with words of affirmation) or clean the kitchen (as acts of service). If I want to show him I love him, I can ask him to go for a walk (for quality time) or snuggle up to him (physical touch). Knowing which languages we speak is huge.
5. Physical intimacy can fix a lot of small things.
Sex certainly can’t rescue a capsizing marriage, but it can seal some small leaks that might be forming. I know every couple’s sex life is different, but a lot of little annoyances melt away when both partners are happy in that arena. Kids can pose a challenge to intimacy, but it’s worth finding a way to maintain it.
6. Children make marriage much more complicated.
Speaking of kids making things hard, becoming parents affects marriage in more ways than one. Your time, energy, money, and identities all take a major turn when kids come along. It’s awesome, but it’s not easy — and anyone who thinks that having a baby will help a rocky marriage is fooling themselves.
7. A long talk and a good night’s sleep can fix a lot of bigger things.
The old adage of “never go to bed mad” doesn’t feel right to me. I can get mighty cranky when I’m tired. Without fail, whatever might be irking me at 10:30 p.m. will be an exponentially smaller issue at 7:30 a.m. If we talk things through and I’m still feeling not 100% when we go to bed, I know I’ll be good by morning.
8. Doing something differently doesn’t mean doing it wrong.
We’ve been married 18 years, and we’ve never been able to agree on the best way to fold laundry. I don’t even understand what my husband does to fold a T-shirt. Bath towels, too. C’est la vie.
9. Having similar tastes in music and movies is an underrated bonus.
I love sharing songs and talking about movies we watch together. I know some couples who have diametrically opposed tastes in such things and they make it work, but I’m really glad we are simpatico in that way.
10. Sharing the same core beliefs makes a bigger difference than you might think.
Especially when it comes to raising children, it’s really nice to be on the same page as far as faith and fundamental values go. I’ve watched many marriages struggle to survive because the two partners’ beliefs were in conflict. It’s not an insurmountable obstacle, necessarily, but definitely a continual challenge.
11. Small gestures make a big impact.
My husband gets up every morning, makes me a latte, and brings it to me in bed. That one simple act means that I start the day knowing I am loved. Rubbing backs, picking up a favorite ice cream flavor, doing a chore the other usually does — all of those little acts of thoughtfulness make marriage sweeter.
12. Laughter is invaluable.
Honestly, I think laughing together might be more bonding than sex. I love laughing with my husband. I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me when he giggles until he cries. The. Best.
13. It’s fun to look ahead to when the kids are grown.
I love our family life and I am savoring every stage of it, but I’m also looking forward to our time after the kids are grown and flown. Hubby and I like to make plans for where we’ll go or what we’ll do in our empty nest years. I think it’s a good sign that those years together sound awesome.
14. Love changes because it’s supposed to.
The spark that kicks off a relationship is not the same as the flame that maintains it. I know a lot of people feel those initial fireworks subside and think that something’s wrong, but the slow-burning coals of long-time love are crazy hot. They just look and feel different.
15. Marriage is constant compromise and occasional sacrifice.
This is really the crux of it. Two people cannot share a life successfully if they aren’t willing to give. Hubs and I are pretty easygoing anyway, but we also understood this fact from the get-go. It’s easy to slip into selfishness, so we try to stay mindful.
16. Love and commitment are daily choices.
A lifetime is made up of a series of days, and each day is an opportunity to either nurture a relationship or to neglect it. I fully admit that life often gets in the way, but this choice is more of a mindset than an action. We got married on our wedding day; we’ve chosen to be married every day since.
17. Time flies when you’re having fun.
These 18 years have been full of kids and family and friends and memories. In some ways, it feels like we’ve been married forever, but at the same time, I can’t believe it’s been 18 years. And I’m so thankful that despite life’s bumpy roads, we’re still enjoying the ride.
18. What works for us doesn’t necessarily work for other couples.
Every couple’s dynamics and circumstances are different. Some of why our marriage works is because of our laid back personalities, some is deliberate work, and some is luck/providence. But we don’t have the secret to a happy marriage. That’s something each couple needs to find for themselves.
Here’s to all of us engaged in a lifetime of love, learning, and letting little things go.