I’ve learned a lot about myself through my marriage. I don’t just credit my spouse, but also my ability to be open to change and growth. Likewise, my husband has also learned a lot from me. Together, we have slowly evolved into the people we are today through the trials and challenges that make a marriage. The most important things I’ve learned are these:
1. The first years are your hardest.
You know those early years when you mesh lifestyles and then realize the person you married drinks from the milk jug? Yeah, that. It only goes uphill after that. You learn to dance around the things that aren’t a big deal and stand your ground for the things that are. Then, one day, you wake up and realize you know each other so well, you don’t even have to say anything. But sometimes you do because they still drink from the milk jug when no one is looking.
2. The toilet seat lid is not worth arguing over.
Save it for something that really counts, like who takes the next 2 a.m. diaper change.
3. A Rug Doctor is the best investment you can make as a couple.
We bought ours before we even had kids, and next to the refrigerator, it’s become the single most used item in our home. Need to get poop off the floor? Rug Doctor. Need to get puke off the couch? Rug Doctor. The carpet’s colored in crayon and four shades darker than when it was installed? Rug Doctor — saving marriages since 1972.
4. Nobody cares what you look like without makeup.
Sure, it’s nice to feel pretty. Most days, makeup helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something, even if it’s the only item on my list I check off. Still, it’s not a requirement. When you’re both six years behind on sleep and running off adrenaline in survival mode, the last thing your husband cares about is your smokey eye look.
5. Kids are soul-sucking.
They will suck your time, energy, emotional capacity, and your will to do anything but exist. You will think of them 24/7. Even if they aren’t around, you will still use your time to think of them. You have to remember to remember each other, so you don’t forget. Otherwise, you might find that in 20 years you’ve not only drifted apart but have become strangers.
6. Communication gets stronger.
Sometimes this means being louder, because in a house full of toddlers, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The more you work together, the more you learn to communicate. The more you argue, the more you learn to communicate. Eventually, you find yourself arguing less and less and understanding each other more and more.
7. Your limited time together is used more wisely.
Even if it’s just a beer on the porch after everyone goes to bed, you learn to appreciate the quiet times together. Once, you had an overabundance of these moments. Today, they are fleeting, so you don’t take them for granted. Twenty minutes in Parents Only Land is like a vacation.
8. Nothing can ever prepare you for the amount of laundry you will have plaguing your home.
It will consume your life. You will talk about it in your sleep. You will consider setting it all on fire because even you know it’ll get done faster that way.
9. You really don’t have to know how to cook.
I mean, I don’t, and everyone in my house is still alive. You just need to know how to make the basic foods like peanut butter sandwiches and baking processed foods. If you really want to get fancy, buy some spaghetti sauce in a jar and boil some noodles. Throw in a salad to make it “healthy.”
10. You don’t have to like the same things.
When we first started dating, I wanted to do everything with my husband. Then we had kids, and I desperately wanted to be alone. Having different hobbies is healthy. It encourages independence and helps you remember that once, you were more than a caffeine-propelled zombie.
11. Everyone needs a break.
I used to think I always needed a break because my husband was out of the house all day and worked — therefore that was his break. It wasn’t until about four years into our marriage when I realized just how hard he worked all day and how much he gave up for our family. The truth is, we both work hard, and we both have to remember that. When we do and allow the other person some downtime, happy is the home.
12. You’re not the same people you were the day you got married.
And that is a good thing. If you played your cards right, you’ve both taken on some aspects of your partner’s ideas, opinions, and methods (never my cooking skills). You’ve adopted new ways of thinking into your life and better ways of communicating. If we never evolved as a person during our marriage, we would be missing out on the many things we can teach our children about working together and growing individually.
The best thing anyone ever told me about marriage was: “Some days, you’ll look at this person and wonder why on Earth you married them.” And you will. You’ll wonder why, and you’ll what-if. Maybe you’ll part ways, and maybe you’ll stick it out. If you’re both willing, your friendship will grow. Your partnership will flourish. Sometimes you’ll give more, and sometimes you’ll take more. You’ll overcome obstacles until you find yourself looking at that person and thinking, “Hell yes! We’ve totally got this!” You’ll have invested hard work and sacrificed greatly.
And, maybe you’ll never be able to get him to completely quit the milk jug, but if you play your cards right, you might be able to pass off a majority of those 2 a.m. diaper changes.
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