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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 September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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