When I was nineteen years old, at my dad’s request, I stopped by Auto Zone to pick up a quart of motor oil. No one expects such a mundane task to become a life defining moment, but in my case it did because the guy who sold me that quart of oil turned out to be my future husband. Ours isn’t a story of love at first sight, he actually asked me to hook him up with a friend that was with me that day (ouch!), but luckily for me she wasn’t interested. He later told me he only went for her because he thought I was out of his league (nice save!). Over the course of several months we became friends and he eventually asked to take me out on a date. I didn’t really want to go, I liked him as a friend and not much more, but didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I agreed. I was surprised when I had a great time. We really clicked and I found myself falling in love. Afterwards, when my best friend called and asked me how the date went, I responded with “He’s the man I am going to marry.” I don’t how I knew, I just did. My prediction came true when we walked down the aisle and said our “I dos” three years later. And so our journey as a married couple began. And it has been quite a journey. There have been obstacles and smooth sailing, there have been happy times and devastating times, and there have been successes and failures. We have weathered through them all and made it to ten years of wedded bliss, but not without lessons learned. Here are some of the things that ten years of marriage has taught me:
- The art of compromise. I went into marriage young and slightly spoiled, and as with many young and spoiled women I had an “it’s my way or the highway” attitude. This caused a lot of clashes in our household the first couple of years, but with some growth and maturity I came to realize that marriage is about what two people want and need, not just what I want and need. There is a lot of give and take in a marriage and I’ve learned to choose my battles wisely. In the big scheme of things, does it really matter what brand of ketchup we buy? Not really, it’s better to keep the peace over the trivial stuff. In my experience, a peaceful household is a happy household.
- The importance of communication. Almost any book or article on relationships will tell you that good communication is one of the most important elements of a successful relationship. It isn’t just page filler, it’s true. Through the years I have learned that men and women communicate differently. Men expect us to tell them what we want them to do and us women expect them to read our minds and just know what we want them to do. Come on ladies, we are all guilty of it. I used to do it too, and it caused a lot of arguments and tension. Now when I am aggravated at him for sitting and watching tv instead of helping me fold clothes when he sees me doing it right in front of him, I avoid the urge to stew angrily and give him the silent treatment for 24 hours and simply ask him to help me fold the laundry. He always happily puts down the remote and helps. We avoid an argument and the laundry gets done faster, leaving me with a little free time. It’s a win-win all around.
- Change is a constant. Times they are a changing… and changing…and changing. A lot has happened over the past decade. We’ve lost loved ones and gained loved ones. We’ve begun careers and ended them.We’ve moved away and come back home again. We’ve been on top of the world and we’ve been so low we couldn’t sleep at night wondering how we were going to dig our way back out of the hole we’d found ourselves in. We’ve grown from a family of two to a family of three… and then to a family of four. Life is constantly changing and you have to either change with it or be left behind. Ten years ago I was a carefree, bright eyed twenty-two year old. Now I am a thirty-three year old mother of two with a full time career. Let’s just say my eyes aren’t so bright any more (most likely from lack of sleep). My husband isn’t the same man he was when we got married, either. People grow and change, and it’s important that you and your spouse grow together. It just means there will be new things to love about each other. Besides, if we all stayed the exact same our entire life, then that would make for a rather dull life.
- The power of forgiveness. Forgive and forget is a hard concept for me, as it is with many women. We tend to take every harsh word, hurt feeling, and slight, bottle it up and hold it for just the right moment to lash out with it, usually during an argument about a completely different matter altogether. Holding on to resentment and anger is not only unhealthy for a marriage, it’s unhealthy mentally as well. When your spouse does something wrong or hurtful, work through it and let it go. You’ll both be happier for it.
- Always be supportive. If it’s important to him then it becomes important to me. We encourage each other to achieve our dreams and reach our goals. I’m sure there are times when we are both doubtful that the other is making a good decision, but we jump on the band wagon anyway. It is hard to believe in yourself if your spouse doesn’t believe in you, and vice versa. So swallow your pride (and your criticism) and support whatever crazy endeavor your spouse throws your way.
- Laughter really is the best medicine. No matter how down, frustrated, or mad I am, my husband manages to make me laugh and pull me out of it. It isn’t only good for marriage, a good chuckle is good for the entire family. The family that laughs together stays together. Want my advice? Marry someone who makes you laugh!
- Marriage takes effort. Whoever first said that marriage is hard work wasn’t kidding. Marriage is like a garden, you have to constantly nourish it to keep it growing and healthy. Life gets hectic and when kids are thrown in the mix, it can be hard for spouses to connect with one another. Make alone time with your spouse a priority, if only for a couple of hours a week. Don’t stop going on dates, ever. Having fun together is the best way to keep that loving feeling.
Just as life is what you make of it, so is marriage. The man I lay next to each night is more than just my husband. He is my past, my present, and my future. There is something comforting in knowing someone so well you can finish each other’s sentences. He knows all of my secrets, all of my quirks, and all of my faults … and he still loves me anyway. For that I am forever grateful. So tonight I raise a glass to my husband, Kameron. Here’s hoping the next ten years are even more amazing than the first.