10 Things I've Learned in 10 Years of Marriage

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Here's another "early marriage" guest post today — this time from 31-year-old Nikki Moran, who has been married for 10 years, with three children spanning 9 months and 6 years. She's a maternity nurse in Canada, where she's currently finishing up the last few weeks of her maternity leave (a foreign concept to many of us here in the U.S., ahem), and she's willing to share her seasoned experience with us when it comes to marriage:

My husband and I celebrated our tenth anniversary this past summer. I feel so lucky to be married to Neil and I feel like we have a great marriage. Ten years in and we’re still in love and we’re still happy. We must be doing something right! Here are ten things I know and believe are important to growing a happy marriage:

1. You are a team.

You really are. So tackle things together. Contribute what you can. Find what you’re good at and let that be the thing you do. There aren't any “pink jobs” or “blue jobs”.  Do what works for you — which may not be what worked for your parents, or what works for your married friends. Help out where help is needed. Don’t leave the garbage busting at the seams because that’s “his” job. Take it out this time. Maybe one day he’ll throw a load of laundry in for you. (Maybe even fold it, too.) You’re in this together and the harder you work together, the better it will be. You’re a team: act like it.

2. Learn and improve.

Don’t be content to just stay where you are in life skills. Being a wife can be hard and sometimes you need to take time to learn to be a better one. You will personally feel more fulfilled in your marriage if you know that you are contributing the best parts of yourself. I am still learning how to manage a household, how to keep up with the housework, take care of the children, and make meals, and besides all of that, (and most importantly!), make sure my husband knows how loved and important he is. I know that I’m better at this than I used to be, but I’m going to keep working at it — and hopefully I’ll keep getting better at it.

P.S. It’s nice if your husband is working to improve himself too, but that’s not your responsibility!

3. Enjoy it.

Like, EVERY part of it. It’s so easy to find yourself pining for the next season in life (….when you have kids, ……when the kids are out of diapers, ….when the kids move out, etc.) Stop pining! Be happy where you are! Seriously.

4. Do things together.

This might seem obvious, but sometimes you need to make a conscious effort to do things together. (Not just be in the same house together.) Go places together. To Hawaii! To the movies! To the grocery store! Leave the kids at home and have fun together. It’s so important to take time to do this, not only because it’s fun, but because it can truly recharge your relationship and remind you why it was you fell in love in the first place, all those years ago.

5. Do things apart.

As awesome as it is to spend time together, sometimes you just need to spend some time apart. Make sure you have some good girlfriends and take the time to hang out with them. Make sure your husband goes out with the guys sometimes, too. (In moderation of course!)

6. Be nice to each other.

Duh.

But sometimes it’s so easy to be mean. Try not to be. Learn to fight nice (because fights are gonna happen) and forgive quickly. Honestly, I’ve got a long way to go on this one. Also, be polite to each other. Use your manners! Don’t be bossy! You’ll find each other a lot easier to live with if you behave civilly.

7. Appreciate each other.

Take the time to notice all that your spouse does for you and make sure to thank them. My husband works ten hours a day five days a week while I stay home all day with the kids (not that that isn’t work, of course). Then he comes home from work and steps straight through our door into a veritable zoo of small children and chaos at every turn. And he does it with a smile on his face! I am so thankful that he works so hard to support us and I am so thankful for the way he loves me and our children and I want him to know it. Say thank you OUT LOUD to your spouse regularly. Just the other night my husband sincerely thanked me for everything I do for our family. Honestly, I was a bit surprised because our house was in a complete state of disarray and I felt like I’d been a crabby mom and probably a crabby wife that day too. It meant so much to me that despite all of that he notices all of those (sometimes mindless) things that I do all day every day, even if I’m not doing a perfect job, and he appreciates me for doing them.

8. Find some married couple friends.

Find some married couples (that you both like!) to be friends with, and hang out with them. Make sure they’re the kind of married couples who are super cool and super committed and super in love. You’ll inspire each other and learn from each other.

9. Invest your energy wisely.

 My husband does certain things that cause me to shake my head over and over again. I feel like I have spent YEARS asking him to put his hats away. Ten years into marriage, I still find his hats littered all throughout our house. Ten years into marriage, I know that he is not purposely doing this to drive me insane and that I may as well just pick up his hats and put them away. He does a lot for me, and so I’ll let this little thing slide. They’re just hats. (But why does he have so many!? And why does he think they belong on the top of the kids’ play kitchen!? ) Anyway, hats are not a big deal. I choose not to invest my energy whining, nagging, etc. about this issue. Well, not as much as I’d like too, anyway. Because no doubt there are things that I do that drive him crazy, and he’s letting those slide for me.

10. It’s going to be great.

Believe it, because it really is. Don’t listen to those naysayers. You’re not too young, you’re not too dumb. The first year isn’t the hardest; it isn’t the easiest. Your kids aren't going to ruin it; they’re not going to save it. It’s going to be what you make it, so make it great. Yes, of course, marriage is hard, but it’s also so much better than I thought it might be.

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Thanks, Nikki! Read more about her and Neil (+ their adorable kids) at Outnumbered. And even though Nikki has over twice as much marriage experience than me, I wrote a little something about marriage, too.

Photo credit: happy photo co.