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10 Lessons Learned From 5 Years Of Marriage

10 Lessons Learned From 5 Years Of Marriage

My wife and I have been married for five years, and while that’s not going to win any golden awards, anyone who has been married long enough will attest that in this day and age, even five years is a big accomplishment. Like the development of a child, these formative years of infancy in a marriage are crucial to its development and potential future success.
In the short while that Sarah and I have been married, here are ten lessons we have learned.

1. Don’t get too used to the honeymoon phase.

My wife and I went through a cupcake or honeymoon phase in the first year of our marriage where it seemed like we could not irritate one another. We had sex like rabbits; money and food was of no concern because we felt like we could live our entire lives off air and love. However, this period was a mirage that eventually came to an end. Coming out of this phase into the reality of marriage is not a bad thing. However, if a couple is not expecting this switch from fantasy to reality, it may seem like your marriage is falling apart.

2. The second year is the hardest.

This may not be true for everybody, as every marriage is different. For Sarah and I, this was the year after our cupcake phase. Not only did we have the stress of bills, jobs, school, and family; we had to learn to make decisions as a couple, not individuals. A lot of times even at the beginning of a relationship, you will defer to the decision of one partner because in your mindset you still view each other as individuals. In the second year of marriage, you are going to have to learn how to make big decisions together and how to deal with the stress and frustration of your partner not agreeing with your decisions.

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3. Communication is key.

This is a point that you will find in any relationship manual. But it is one even my wife and I struggled to apply in our marriage. There are two extreme reactions to communication in marriage. The first is the passive-aggressive desire to bottle all of your feeling and frustrations. The second is the desire to dump all your feeling and emotions on your partner. Neither of these is communicating and both put the blame for your feelings at your partner’s feet. Sarah and I had to learn to give each other the opportunity to express our feeling equally without judging the other or defending ourselves.

4. There is a fine line between love and hate.

Some of the things that may have attracted you to your spouse will become the very things you hate about them or that simply annoy you. When Sarah and I were dating, she loved the security of knowing that I was good with money, planning, and finances. But in the first and second years of our marriage she became frustrated with my insatiable need to stick to a budget and save money. Sarah is a free spirit and while she appreciated the idea of a budget, the application often felt restrictive and controlling to her.

5. Love does not equal attraction.

Sex is an important part of a marriage and anyone who tells you anything different is probably not having sex in their marriage. While there are many important aspects including love that make up a great relationship, sex is undeniably the glue that holds it all together. A huge amount of marriages in America today end primarily due to sexual incompatibility. A lot of times, this incompatibility may stem not from a lack of love, but from a lack of attraction. My wife and I got into a dry spell because we had stopped dating and wooing each other. Putting some attention into taking care of yourself and planning special moments with your spouse can be enough to reignite the spark.

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6. Doubt is the death of a marriage.

A marriage without trust is no marriage at all. There are so many levels of trust that develop over time between you and your partner; emotional trust, sexual trust, monogamous trust, financial trust, and just plain basic trust. If my wife begins to doubt me in anyone of these aspects of trust in our relationship then my marriage is in trouble. Sarah knows that I will not cheat on her; should she even begin to doubt that fact, the relationship is in distress.

7. Say you are sorry first.

I am an independent person and have lived alone for most of my life, so apologizing and depending on someone doesn’t come easy to me. In most marriages, there is a saver, someone who will apologize first 90% of the time and pull the marriage back together. For us, Sarah is that person so I have had to learn how to be the one to say that I am sorry first. It’s not about who is right or who is wrong; it’s about getting to a good place where communication can begin again.

8. Leave room for change but don’t force change.

There is an old joke that says, “Women enter into a marriage expecting the man to change and men enter into a marriage expecting the woman to never change.”

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As we age and go through different stages in our lives, we are bound to change. We have to leave room for our partners to grow. On the other hand, sometimes we see the changes our partners should make and it’s too easy to try to force those on them even if they aren’t ready. Sarah expected me to stay the fun-loving college guy she met, while I was ready for more responsibility and a calmer lifestyle. This led to a period of friction in our marriage we eventually had to work through. You can’t keep going two separate directions in a marriage and you can’t force your partner to walk your path. However, for the marriage to work, you will eventually you have to get back on the same path.

9. Give yourselves time before kids.

Sarah and I have been together for almost eight years and been married five of those years and we are still without kids. There is no magic number as to the right time to have a baby. However, too many people jump too soon into ready-made families. If you haven’t taken the time to learn to be alone with your spouse, then a baby could become an unwanted stress to the marriage. Many people spend so much time just surviving and raising kids that by the time they leave home they realize that you have no idea who their spouse is.

10. Couples that exercise together stay together.

I can’t tell you how many times a walk has saved my marriage. When Sarah and I get into a conflict, we simply go on a trail and walk. The period of walking gives us a chance to calm down and talk things out. Also it’s a daily habit for us to go to the gym and workout together. Any physical activity that you and your partner share is going to relieve stress and release endorphins. It also allows you to bond and gives you a neutral environment to communicate in.

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These ten points are crucial lessons that helped Sarah and I in our marriage. Do you have any tips?

Featured photo credit: Deji and Sarah Akingbade via facebook.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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