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.
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.
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.”
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.
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