I can’t believe I’m writing this, but this June, Adam and I will have been married for 10 years!! It’s crazy – I actually still feel like we’re newlyweds even though both of us have grown up so much over the years. Thinking back to the 24-year-old me who was totally swept off her feet and said “yes,” then got married 6 months later, I can remember people telling me that after the honeymoon phase is over, get ready to kiss romance goodbye. Or when you have kids… or hit the 7-year itch…
I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never happened as Adam and I grew closer with every passing year. So what have been the factors in growing together instead of apart as we both evolved as individuals?
With Valentine’s (and our milestone anniversary) on the horizon, I wanted to take some time to think about which elements of our relationship have been most key to keeping our marriage full of happiness and love. And I’d love to hear your rules for a happy marriage in the comments so I can incorporate some new ones into the next 10 years!
Be a team.
When we first got engaged, a family friend told us that we should always approach situations as a team. That intention stuck with us through building a house, having kids, starting businesses, and so many other life situations that could have become sources of major conflict had we not been on the same page. Even now if things feel a little tense, just reminding each other that we’re on the same team helps keep our perspective in check and diffuses arguments.
Make “togetherness” your default.
Hear me out: I’m not saying you shouldn’t sometimes do your own thing, but as a general rule – when we’re not at work, we’re together. On the weekends, we run errands and do breakfast as a family. We both go to our kids’ sports activities, we do housework as a team. I love a good girls’ night, but I usually schedule them during the week so I can protect our weekend time together, and I limit their frequency so that the majority of my evenings are reserved for either family time or a date night where Adam and I can really catch up. This much togetherness might not work for everyone, but for us, it keeps the communication lines open and we stay super engaged with everything going on in the other’s life. Plus, we just really love hanging out with each other!
We’ve both gotten a lot better at putting away our stubborness and saying those two powerful words: “I’m sorry.” The sheer act of swallowing our pride shows that we’re taking responsibility for our own part in the conflict, admitting that we’re imperfect, and most importantly, that we truly care about how the other person feels. It might be tough, but it’s always worth it. Then we make out.
Be open and honest.
We talk about the good, talk about the bad – we pretty much talk about everything. Being vulnerable and sharing our authentic feelings is key to intimacy. And since we know that honesty is our all-the-time policy, there’s a trust level that keeps suspicion, doubt, and jealousy totally out of our relationship. The only thing we don’t talk about? The small annoyances that really don’t matter in the long run. Things like leaving clothes out on the bedroom chair or forgetting to take out the trash. No one’s perfect, so we choose our battles carefully.
Work out your disagreements.
In other words, when things get uncomfortable, don’t walk out, shut the door, or go to sleep. I’ve learned that for us, it pays to stay in the conversation in an engaged way, continuing to work through it even when things get tough. I used to be really bad at this. The minute Adam and I would get in an argument, I’d want to stomp off and slam the door or hop in my car to drive around while ugly-crying. He hated it when I did this, because it immediately blocked all lines of communication and didn’t give either of us a chance to share our side of things. Now we try to stay in the conversation and work to see the other person’s point of view until we come to a resolution that we can both feel good about.
Remember what made you fall in love.
Think back to the first time you saw your spouse… the first date… the first kiss. What attracted you to them in the first place and gave you so many butterflies you couldn’t eat or sleep? Okay well that person is literally sharing a house with you and sleeping in your bed, so don’t forget to be wow’d daily by this fact and thankful that you get to spend every day with that person you fell in love with. Sometimes I take a step back and remember how I felt when I first met Adam, and just thinking about those memories makes all the feelings come flooding back in a fresh way.