Recently, my husband and I celebrated ten years of marriage.
We were high-fiving each other, and not just because we were going away for the weekend without the kids.
We were acknowledging that ten years of marriage is less about romance and more about commitment.
It’s about ten years we’ve lived, fought and loved together. A celebration of starting a family, and all the highs and lows that come with it. It’s ten years of learning lessons – that, I’m sure, will continue for the years still to come.
Here’s what I’ve learnt about marriage so far …
1. Not going to sleep angry is bullshit
It’s a sweet sentiment, but sometimes you’re just too damn tired to make nice after a big blue. Sometimes sleep takes the edge off your anger, sometimes just a few hours helps you get some perspective. Either way, going to sleep angry doesn’t kill your marriage. Though, leaving the anger to simmer unacknowledged for longer than a few days is probably not a good idea.
2. You don’t have to agree on everything
When we were younger, friends were appalled to find out that my husband was quite conservative in his politics. How could we possibly make it work when we voted differently? At the time I worried about it too, but over the years I’ve come to realise that life is much more nuanced than the political battle lines we draw between us. You can disagree about politics and still love the way a person is – their generosity, their humour, the way they treat other people.
3. Being dependent on each other is part of the gig
I also used to worry about the idea of being interdependent. Being my own woman is important to me. But then I realised, we married to share a life. To be together, support each other and care for each other. Then we had kids and that dependence increased. Dependence can make you feel vulnerable, but when you work together, create something together, it can also make you stronger.
4. Giving each other time to do your own thing is important
Before kids, negotiating time to go to a yoga class would have felt completely alien. After kids, it can feel like you need to negotiate time to clean (or even go to) the bathroom. Being generous and giving your partner time to pursue their interests is a much less stressful, more enjoyable experience. Having said this, it needs to be Even Steven. Being a martyr doesn’t work (for anyone). You both need some time out.
5. Saying “I do” does not mean you have to put up with snoring
My Pop used to snore like a bear. But my Nana slept next to him for their entire marriage. I suspect towards the end she was slightly deaf. I am not deaf. And after more than five years of interrupted sleep thanks to children, I refuse to be woken by a snoring husband, so we sleep in separate beds. We still love each other, we still have sex, and he still snores.
6. You will not always like each other, but that is when you make a choice
There are times when the relentlessness of life will wear you down. Times when the tiny little habits they have always had will drive you to the brink of insanity. At that point you may question whether you should stay together, and that’s when you make a choice. If you choose to keep going, these moments will pass. Loving someone for a lifetime takes work, and will have its ups and downs. It’s OK if sometimes you need to scream into a pillow.
7. ‘Date night’ should be a permanent part of your diary
I don’t always adhere to this lesson, but it is something I keep on learning. Time together, doing something you both enjoy, can release all the tension that builds up when you’re working and keeping a family running. It gives you space to relax together, to talk and reconnect. It may feel prescriptive, but it works — and it’s fun!
8. Kids can make a relationship challenging, but it also makes it stronger
No one else will love your children as much as you and your partner love them. Your spouse will cry at their first dance recital and love watching them while they sleep. They are the only other one who will really care about the consistency of their bowel movements. And while children can throw a spanner in the works when it comes to how you relate to each other as lovers, it will draw you closer as parents.
9. Laughter will see you through almost anything
My husband prides himself on his ability to make people laugh. Now he’s a dad, he’s in his element (because the kids think he’s hilarious). There have been times he’s tried to make me laugh when I could scream in frustration. But if I let myself laugh, it makes everything easier.
10. We all change as we grow older, growing together is the key
My husband and I are not the same people we were ten years ago. We won’t be the same people in ten years to come. Humans are constantly changing and evolving. I can’t change the way my husband changes, nor him, me. What we can do is keep talking, keep fighting, keep making up. In the process, we will sacrifice things, learn humility and ultimately grow together.
I know it won’t be easy, but he’s worth it.
We’re worth it.
Need some support to be the best parent you can be? Our Parent School parent coaching experts can help. Click to find out more or book a one-on-one session.