My sweet husband, we have passed the five-year mark. We’ve grown our family (both pug and human), our waistlines (unfortunately), and our careers. We’ve shared our dreams and our defeats, our disappointments, and our wins. And let’s not forget, we’ve shared a bathroom — that alone is worthy of some serious accolades.
Marriage is a beautiful journey, but it is not easy — anyone who tells you it’s been nothing but sunshine and unicorns should be met with a healthy dose of suspicion. There are highs and lows, adoration interspersed with resentment. The highs can be hard to recall when you settle in the valley of a low, and those days can be dark. But, there is love, laughter, and the calm that comes with knowing you have a witness to your time on earth.
There are times when our union is far from glamorous, when we realize we haven’t kissed good-bye all week. There are Saturday afternoons spent watching reruns of Criminal Minds in contented silence. We are lucky to get two nights out alone any given year, so date night has gradually evolved into take-out, wine (that I purchased from Target, thank you very much), and Netflix after we get our children into bed. There are nights when snoring sends us to separate bedrooms for the night — and you know what? That glorious night (or two) of sleep privacy is absolutely marvelous. It may sound as if we’ve grown complacent, but we are solid. We are just as happy as we were five years ago.
We’ve trial-and-errored our way through the first season of our marriage and come out armed with some serious marriage skills.
1. Talk it out. All of it. Communication is vital. Talk to each other. Be honest, even when it’s clear that a white lie could make the conversation far easier. Clearly communicating your opinions and needs cuts off resentment. We don’t keep secrets, and we don’t make decisions without checking in with one another. My husband (we’ll call him T) is an introvert while I am a card-carrying extrovert, so maintaining an open dialogue is not effortless for us. But, we’ve hit our stride. He’s chatty at night, while I want to discuss the intricacies of our budget at 5:00 a.m. I understand now that discussing interest rates before the sun rises irks most people, but I can’t help who I am.
2. Those chores, though. Divide the responsibilities in your household based on your strengths and interests. T loves lawn work, while I would rather plunge my hand into the garbage disposal than pull up one solitary weed, so he handles the landscaping. Alternatively, I love a good spreadsheet, so the family budget is my gig. Neither of us likes taking empty shampoo bottles to the recycling bin, so we have 13 bottles in our shower right now. When one of us feels we are carrying the brunt of the load, we commit to becoming more intentional about sharing the responsibilities fairly — but not until I have a good temper tantrum because that’s how I roll.
3. Spend time together, but don’t be afraid to pursue your own passions. Maintaining your sense of self is essential to your wellbeing and to the success of your union. Our individual interests round out our relationship; they give us novel content for conversations when we find ourselves in that cycle of talking exclusively about what to have for dinner, toddler tantrums, and the electric bill.
4. It’s all about the Benjamins. No, seriously — it is. We decided before we tied the knot to combine our finances entirely. We felt it necessary to work together towards our financial goals — whether weekly trips to Taco Bueno or building an enviable retirement portfolio. It affords us complete financial transparency, which basically equals instant accountability. There’s no room for a secret Amazon binge when we share a checking account. For us, it has worked for me to handle the actual implementation of money-related tasks — paying bills, investing, and choosing a budget strategy that works for us (zero balance is our jam). But first, we come together to create a plan we can both accept. We usually “meet” to talk money once a month — we celebrate what went well last month and make excuses for what didn’t. We brainstorm how we can decrease the amount of money I spend at Starbucks (we can’t), and then I take it from there. Let’s face it — we can barely stay on top of our toilet paper inventory. If we both meddled with our online bill pay, we’d be without water in a matter of weeks.
5. Fight fair. No matter how compatible you are, you will inevitably face off with your spouse every now and then. Or every other day, perhaps, depending on the season of your life (the newborn stage, anyone?). There is nothing wrong with disagreeing, but if you don’t establish some boundaries, a little scrimmage can quickly escalate into a damaging clash. Avoid words like always or never. Don’t attack one another’s character — keep your focus on the issue at hand. Don’t resurface a rusty old grievance from 17 months ago. Don’t argue louder. Argue smarter — listening is when learning happens. If you never stop yelling, you’ll hear nothing. Don’t argue for the sake of being right. Learn to apologize.
T, I adore you. So far, we’ve coasted through the blissed-out newlywed phase, welcomed two beautiful children into our family, and said goodbye to loved ones. We’ve bought houses and groceries, shopped for diapers and life insurance. We’ve survived not one, but two rounds of adult orthodontia. We’ve laughed and pouted, held grudges and forgiven (always you first, because you are a gem). No one takes care of me like you, and I can only hope I provide you with half of the comfort and security you have given me. I love you.