June 17, 2000
Today’s my 13th anniversary. Some say 13 is unlucky, but I was born on the 13th and it’s been a favorite of mine ever since. So with a song and a prayer and a big knock on wood, I’m excited to see what our 13th year has in store for us.
And for our anniversary, I’m updating this old post to share 13 things I’ve learned in 13 years of marriage.
1. Marry Your Best Friend.
I’ve loved spending time with my husband from the beginning. I knew he was “the one” when I would rather go renew my car tags with him than go for a picnic with anyone else.
Turns out, this is a recipe for success. The most important factor for a good marriage is a strong friendship.
2. He’s The One. Really.
When things are tough–especially in the first year–my tendency was to abandon all sense of proportion (say, after he put the empty Brita pitcher back in the fridge, again) and wonder if I’d made some epic mistake and married the wrong guy. I didn’t. He’s the one.
3. Marriage is hard, but not in the way I expected.
I married a really great guy. Which, oddly enough, made for a frequently painful first year of marriage. It was a good year, but suddenly I was partnered with another human being–with his own needs, desires, plans and schedules. Living with my husband that first year made me realize for the first time how selfish I really was. Discovering your own glaring faults is not fun.
But, as my husband said repeatedly during Year 1, if this is what “hard” looks like–bring it on!
4. It’s what you do every day that counts.
Before I actually got married, I thought that a relationship was defined by its Big Moments. The Romantic Proposal, the Night on the Town, the Major Crisis, the Big Fight. I was wrong.
It turns out, a marriage is made of a million little moments, and comparatively few Big Moments. The everyday things matter more. The kiss good morning, the smile hello, the what-can-I-get-you-dear, the casual touch on the arm. Or the lack thereof.
5. Sometimes I want to wage war. I need to get over it.
I have become blindingly infuriated with my husband over some pretty dumb stuff. It happens. I’ve learned how to deal with it…a little bit better than I used to.
Last time my husband and I were gridlocked over an issue that was minor but loaded with significance all the same, I happened to sit down to sort through some old papers. My pile held a poem I’d saved that my sweet friend had written me for a bridal shower way back when, complete with goofy rhymes and (mild) potty talk. And a sweet sentiment along the lines of “he’ll do really stupid things sometimes, but remember–he’s crazy about you.” The combination of perspective and potty talk brought me back to my senses.
6. The strangest things have been good for our marriage.
Example: our marriage benefited enormously when I first went back to work. I remember when it was new for my husband to watch the kids a few hours each week while I went to the office.
I never foresaw the positive effect this would have on our relationship. I learned what it’s like to come home from work to a waiting family; he experienced staying home with the kids. This deepened empathy for each others’ roles boosted our relationship, and navigating working parent logistics kept us attuned to the day-to-day flow of each others’ lives.
7. We will both change; so will our marriage.
People evolve; so do relationships: we have constantly re-thought and re-engineered how we do things. Lisa McMinn’s pithy quote sums up our philosophy: “A strong marriage is one in which the husband and wife say to each other, ‘I am highly committed to your growth as a person.’”
This one works for us. It’s our favorite time to talk, and good accountability to go to bed on time, which is tough for me.
9. Timing is everything.
This one took me a decade to even begin to learn. There’s not much you can’t talk about with your spouse–if you choose your timing with care.
10. Get (professional) help when you need it.
When our kid was diagnosed with something scary, our family therapist was a lifesaver. I found a counselor when I was 31 for my own junk, and I’ll schedule a check-up in a heartbeat if I feel like it’s time. Life is tough; so is marriage: I’ll take all the help I can get.
Life is lived in seasons. We’ve learned to shift responsibilities and priorities–at home and at work–to match the season we’re in. Finally.
12. “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”
Make the plans, dream the dreams–but you don’t know what’s coming next. You may get a great job offer; you may lose your job. You may carefully lay out your plans for starting a family–but you can’t force a pregnancy (and you can’t always prevent one, either).
(That quote? Eisenhower. It’s one of my favorites.)
13. Watch out for “should.”
I’m a rule-follower by nature and this one took me too long to learn: Within some broad parameters (which I’m sure nobody agrees on), my marriage doesn’t have to conform to anyone else’s standards or expectations. Marriage advice has helped us a ton, but now I’m careful to filter it–and take it with a grain of salt. And you should do the same for my list here!
What are your best relationship tips?