I am not a marriage counsellor. I only have my experiences to go off of. Here are 12 things I have learned about marriage over the past 12 years.
1. Love Changes
The love you have for your spouse will grow and sometimes shrink. I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I felt so much love in my heart, I thought it was going to burst. We had two miscarriages before this pregnancy, and I wanted so desperately to make my husband a father. I was so in love with him. Fast-forward nine long months, our son was born. We sat happy and in love as a family of three. It wasn't long until my husband made a "helpful" comment about my breastfeeding that my love turned to vicious daggers. I wanted to rip his head off for telling me what I was doing wrong with my body and my baby. I must say however that through the ups and downs, my love for him had compounded over and over again.
2. With the Good Comes the Bad
My husband is very good with his hands, if you know what I mean. But seriously, he can build a lot of things. He has made me a bathroom vanity, a barn door, tables, and picture frames. He is also a perfectionist. Sometimes the projects last for months. It would have been cheaper and more time efficient to buy the product. However having him build it with his hands gives him a sense of pride that is very attractive, even if it takes months to hang the picture. It may drive me crazy, but the end result is almost always worth the wait.
3. We Evolve as People
I am the same person he married, but I have changed along the way. I am more independent and confident. I am more outspoken and direct. I was able to change because my husband has helped me figure out who I am supposed to be. It has been rocky at times and we have had some knock-down-drag-out arguments, but we have survived. He wants me to be better, and I want the same for him.
4. You Evolve as Parents
If I could go back and slap first-time-mum me, I would. I would slap me so hard, my mumma would feel it. I was constantly nervous, judgemental, rigid, unapologetic, and soap boxy, if that's a word. My husband used to be very hands-off and aloof. I am happy to say that with three children now, I am more go-with-the-flow than I ever imagined possible, and my husband has stepped up to be the most wonderful dad. We still fight about the kids, but if we weren't fighting, I would be worried. Having conversations about how we raise these impressionable ankle biters is key to improving.
5. You Really Can't Buy Love
I know it sounds super cliché, but "presents" don't make my marriage any better. The thing that has made me most happy in my marriage is that my husband has become more "present" in our daily lives. Being with him is better than any piece of jewellery that I will likely lose.
6. You Need to Go on Dates
Dating doesn't stop when you get married. If the courting process ends, the love will slowly die. You need to find time to remember why you married each other. Going out doesn't need to be expensive, and you don't need to get dressed up. Hit the beach, go to the park, send the kids to the grandparents and cook dinner at home. Just remember to date.
7. The Sex Gets Better
It might not be as frequent as when you were first in love, but quality beats quantity any time if you ask me. You know what the other ones likes, and you are not afraid to tell them what you want. I am no sexpert, but I know that sex is a very important part of a marriage. Without sex, you become roommates.
8. You Know What Really Matters
I had a health scare two years back and it put things into perspective. It was clear how much I loved my husband and my children and how much he loved me. It was scary to really think about what would happen if I was gone, but I also realised that I would want him to move on and be happy. He would need to store my urn over the headboard in the bedroom, but I don't think that's an unreasonable request.
9. Communication Is Key, and Silence Is Golden
It sounds kind of ironic, but it's true. When you need to talk, talk. If you have an issue, discuss it. If you're mad, tell them. If there is no reason to talk, enjoy the peace. I like sitting next to my husband and know that we don't have to fill the air. Sometimes we get worried and ask each other, "Are you OK?" Just don't lie. If you're not OK, say so.
10. Laugh Often
I love to make jokes and have fun. I have always said I would rather laugh than cry. My husband makes me laugh, and I almost always do the same. Laughter is the best medicine. Find the humour in your marriage and in life. It will makes the tough times easier.
11. Remember to Say "Thank You"
This one is hard to do. We get so busy in the daily grind, that we forget to say "thank you" to the one who we love the most. It becomes implied and causes hurt feelings. I don't care if you do the ironing or pick up the dry-cleaning, either way a "thank you" is the correct response. Feeling appreciated is so important.
12. It Never Gets Easier, but That's OK
Each year of our marriage we have confronted different problems. We have had different arguments, made different choices, and waded through the waters. I can't say that any year was easier, because they were all so different. I can say that you learn to read the other person and interpret their behaviours. If it was easy, the divorce rate would be zero. Marriage is the hardest job, outside of raising children. Both of these things will cause terror, fear, anxiety, right alongside of joy, peace, and happiness.
Take time to remember why you love your spouse, then tell them. You picked them for a reason. Sometimes it is easy to forget and hard to remember. In those times, think long and hard about where it all began. If you smile when you think about it, I'd say that's a good sign.