My husband and I have been together for almost a decade. Over the years together, we’ve had some amazingly good days, and some when we honestly weren’t sure our marriage would work.
Sometimes I look at him and know that marrying him was the best decision I ever made. But there have also been times that he’s felt more like a roommate than a lover.
Some days I’ve felt closer to him than any person I’ve ever known, and some days we might as well have been strangers who shared a bed.
We’ve learned a lot about the ups and downs of marriage, and although we’re far from perfect, we’ve grown a lot. Here are nine truths we’ve learned about marriage:
1. Intimacy is more important than sex.
There will be times where your sex life has completely flatlined, especially if you have small children. But intimacy is necessary every day. Never underestimate the power of a good kiss, some flirting, a much-needed hug, or a well-timed slap on the ass.
2. Don’t start the day off angry.
Everyone always says “Don’t go to bed angry,” but in my experience, it’s worse to start the day off mad at each other. When you’re annoyed with your spouse, everything they do annoys you even more. So start the day off doing something nice for each other instead. Make them a cup of coffee, go out of your way to say some nice things, or just don’t be a cranky asshole in the morning.
3. Romantic love is not unconditional.
Surprise! The love we have for our spouse is not at all like the unconditional love we have for our children. It has to be continually earned. When we start taking our spouse for granted, romantic love can fade. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s important to make time for one another and remember why you fell in love in the first place.
4. Saying “I love you” can get boring.
When we say the same things over and over again, they begin to lose their meaning. Maybe you’re not the romantic type, but there are alternatives to saying “I love you.” Say things like, “I’m glad we’re married,” or “I’m so lucky to have you in my life,” or “You’re the best husband/wife ever.” The words you use to express your love can make a difference and bring out the best in each other.
5. Stress is often to blame, not your spouse.
Sometimes we take things out on the people we love most because we trust that they’ll love us anyway. But there is never an excuse to talk down to your partner, treat them cruelly, or say unkind things. If you’re upset, try taking a walk. Lock yourself in the bathroom if you have to. Vent with your BFF or bust out the hidden stash of stress candy. Do what you need to do to calm down — before you say something you can’t take back.
6. Time apart is as important as time together.
As an introvert, my mental health is better when I have some alone time to recharge. Recognize and respect that sometimes your spouse needs alone time too. Taking the time to make your own health and relaxation a priority will renew your appreciation for one another. But make time for date nights too — even if it’s just having a picnic together in the living room after the kids finally pass out.
7. Communication is everything.
And when I say everything, I mean everything. No one can read your mind. Learn to get comfortable discussing your needs, feelings, and desires. Find a way that you can both talk openly and honestly with one another, even if it means passing notes back and forth. Text each other. Make smoke signals if you have to. But your relationship needs communication to survive.
8. Help each other, but don’t keep score.
Neither partner should have to take on all the household chores, keep track of every activity, or solely take care of the kids. Each person in the relationship should take the initiative to help out and listen to their partner when they say they need it. But don’t do it for their credit or keep a running tally about whose turn it is to do what. Just support your spouse when they need you. It’s really that simple (and that hard sometimes).
9. Have a sense of humor.
Make it your goal to laugh together as much as possible. If you can find the funny in any situation, it becomes impossible to take life too seriously.
Yes, it’s a cliché that every marriage takes work, but it’s true. They also take fairness, communication, and humor. They take time, both for yourself and your partner. They take effort to be open, supportive, and kind.
Every marriage has its seasons, and some of those seasons are harder than others. Some days, all we can do is try.
Luckily, a little bit of trying can go a long way.