My hubby and I have successfully made our first trip around the sun as man and wife, and it's definitely been a roller coaster. We had a roommate for the first month of our marriage (with whom we shared a bathroom!). We moved to a new state 800 miles from home. We spent a quiet Christmas Eve and morning alone in our little apartment and celebrated Thanksgiving while on a plane. We pay for almost all of our own bills and insurance and are really diving into this whole adult thing. We've also had some great weekends exploring an amazing city, made fun memories with new friends and felt the joy of settling into our very own little home.
And with all of those experiences, come some life lessons.
So, here are the top ten things I've learned in our first year of marriage. Perhaps it will someday help a couple getting ready to walk down the aisle.
10. Sometimes, you need to bite your tongue.
Honesty is the best policy, right? Sure, but pointing out that your spouse has gained some weight or complaining about something they did or didn't do, is hardly constructive. I've made (and sometimes continue to make) these mistakes, and I've learned that unnecessarily drawing attention to minor flaws and constant nagging will create more animosity than foster communication, so when you get the urge to nitpick or whine, just keep your mouth shut.
9. Sometimes, you need to say what's on your mind.
On the flip side of the shut-your-mouth coin, I've also learned not to let things stew up inside me, because it will explode and it won't be pretty. Our worst arguments are usually a mutant conglomerate of many issues that I've let slide, even though something really bothered me. So, approach your spouse calmly and respectfully about whatever it is that is annoying or upsetting you. Talking it out is much better than screaming it out. Your neighbors will thank you.
8. Share a hobby or an activity.
Having something fun that you both enjoy together makes life so much more entertaining, and I think it helps strengthen your bond. For example, Robert loves fishing and I'm a runner, but we don't always share each other's enthusiasm for our respective activities. One thing we are equally passionate about, however, is a good meal. We love cooking together, trying new foods, going to wine tastings and pairing drinks with dinner. We have a lot of fun spending that time together, and it helps us stay friends and keeps the flirtation alive.
7. Share the housework.
To me, there is NOTHING worse than coming home after a long day of work to an overflowing trash can, a mountain of dirty clothes in the bedroom and a pile of dishes in the sink. I'll admit it, I'm better at housework than the hubs, but I don't want to always have to do it myself! Likewise, if he is working on a repair or a project (or someday, yard work) that I asked him to do, it wouldn't be fair to never pitch in. Doing chores together not only lightens the load but is another little way to show your love in a practical way.
6. Be a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.
I saw a short video recently that has been spreading on Facebook about a wife complaining about a pain in her head, and we see a nail sticking out of her forehead. Her husband tries to tell her that maybe they should remove the nail and the pain would go away. Her reply was, "You always try to fix everything, and sometimes I just need you to listen." Silly video, but SO. TRUE. Women (especially) always have a million emotions and thoughts going at once, and sometimes it just helps to say them out loud to someone so that we can express our feelings and clear our heads. We don't always need to pull out the nail.
5. Be a willing helper and a supportive teammate.
However, when the nail's gotta come out, it's not going to be easy. When either of you have a tough decision to make or a scary new opportunity, it's so much easier with the support of your best friend. If you are having a problem at work or having issues with a family member or friend, there often times are things a spouse can do to help. Maybe it's mediate a conversation to lead to a solution, or put in a good word with your friend at that other company. There are times when supporting means listening and times when it means doing.
4. Fight a little.
Living with a person is bound to create situations where little things they do will start to annoy you. And sometimes you get careless, and you use a harsh word or are snappy. Or maybe you really really disagree about something that may or may not be a big deal. It's ok to argue. It's not ok to let things build up until you explode and have a knock-down, drag-out, I'm-staying-with-my-mother throw-down. Not ok at all. So have an argument or a heated "discussion." Then have fun making up after.
3. Laugh a lot.
You're married. You're best friends. This probably isn't a hard thing to do, but sometimes you can get in a rut, and you have to find things to do to have fun with just the two of you. Be silly. Robert and I change the lyrics to songs that come on the radio Weird Al style and then laugh our butts off because we're so ridiculous. We also eat snacks and play old school Super Nintendo on the living room floor. And we have tickle wars that would bring the Hulk to his knees. Basically, just find ways to stay in touch with the two kids you still are on the inside so that when you're in your 80's, your laugh lines are deeper than your worry lines.
2. Give each other some love.
I love foot massages, Robert loves a good back scratch. I make him dinner, he draws me a bath. I go fishing with him, he picks me some wildflowers. It's a beautiful give and take. If you haven't read The Five Love Languages, I would suggest picking it up. It's a great book about how you best give and receive love. Find out which is both of your strengths and then shower your partner with theirs. And if you're feeling unloved, just let them know you need a little something in the form of your love language. It really works wonders.
1. Give each other some space.
My bubble baths are an oasis. My run is an escape. My current book is an adventure, and while I love my husband more than life itself, sometimes, I just need to do those things alone. "Me" time is probably the most important part of a relationship, in my opinion. I need time to enjoy things that are special to me, to reflect on the events going on in my life, and to remember who I am as an individual, not just a wife. When I spend some time focusing on bettering myself, then I am a better woman for Robert, and we are both happier.
So, as a recap:
It's only been a little over a year, but I have learned a lot. Hopefully, each passing April 14th will equip me with more knowledge on how to be a better partner, and we will have a strong, healthy marriage to last us a lifetime.