I once met a couple on their 50th wedding anniversary, and when I asked them how the years had been, the wife told me: “I never once considered divorcing my husband. I thought about killing him a few times, though…”. (true story!) On April 16th, my husband and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. I feel like that’s a real accomplishment in this day and age, and I thought maybe today I’d share 10 Secrets to My 17 Years of Marriage.
- Ask for what you need. This doesn’t always mean you’ll get it, but since the only person you’re responsible for is YOU, make yourself clear. This may not apply to the -1% of you who have husbands with ESP, but for the rest of us, it’s best not to play the “I wish he knew what I needed without having to tell him” game. There’s just no winners there, I promise you.
- Manage your expectations. I often wish my husband could handle all the things I am called to handle on any given day. And then I realize: if I was married to someone just like me, I would go insane. My husband is not me, period. Sometimes I am unreasonable in my expectations, and I have to leave room for him to just BE who HE is.
- Forgive and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes he’s wrong, sometimes you’re wrong. Don’t have too much pride to fix it before it becomes one big grudge match.
- When things seem hard, just bear down and wait for time to pass. A researcher once interviewed couples on the brink of divorce who ultimately decided to stay together. When interviewed five years later, a high percentage of the couples said they were grateful they stayed together. Time does wonders for healing, adjusting priorities, and giving perspective. It can totally be on your side, if you use it well.
- Make sure you spend some time together like this:
(the fabulous San Francisco Downtown Marriott, where we spent our 14th anniversary)
And like this:
(for part of our 17th anniversary, we crashed for 30 minutes in the lawn furniture section at Target. it was hilarious!)
- Be prepared for change/be willing to renegotiate. My husband and I married when I was 19 and he was 21 – and we knew each other less than 2 months before we eloped. I’ve never had the luxury of saying, “You’re not the man I married,” because honestly, I didn’t even KNOW the man I married! What that’s taught me is that it’s entirely possible to learn, change, grow, and not necessarily grow apart. I am not the person I was 17 years ago; in fact, I’ve probably been through at least 5 revisions of that person, and it’s the same for my husband. But changing togetherover time is possible if you’re willing to renegotiate the landscape of your relationship to accommodate for those changes.
- For pete’s sake, HAVE FUN. Just recently I had to sit my husband down and point out that all we ever talk about anymore is what we’re worried about: bills, kids, selling the car, projects around the house, etc. Boooooooooring! Some day all those things won’t be as big of a concern, and then what? When we’re not unified over fixing our life up “just right,” what will be unified over? Hopeful, we’ll be unified by the continued ability to just be silly together and create funny memories (like our night in the Target lawn furniture section!).
- Know when to cheer, and when to be the party pooper. Admittedly, this is one of the hardest things on this list to figure out. It takes a delicate mix of time, intuition, and guts to do it properly. All I know is that if I had cheered on every one of my husband’s schemes, we could have either lived in a French-speaking Canadian province, scraped by on a jazz player’s meager wages, or struggled to see him become a pro golfer. I have said, “I don’t think so” more times than I can count, always in an effort to keep food on the table and shoes on my kids’ feet. BUT…when I’ve seen a true glimmer in his eye and felt more positively inclined towards an idea of his, I do cheer with all my heart. It’s a balance, that’s all.
- “Loving” can be just as good as being “in love.” My idea of love and happiness has changed a lot over time. I rely a lot less on surface emotions and much more on the deeper contentment and love I feel for my husband. Some moments bring a return of those butterflies when I’m with him, but when your life is diapers and dishes and negotiating household roles/duties, you can’t get hung up on always wanting that “rush.”
What about you? Do you have any relationship secrets I can use over the next 17 years? Do tell!