Last month, Kyle and I went away for a week to celebrate ten years of marriage. TEN YEARS. Not long in the big picture, but you know, long for certain animal species. We feel blessed and bewildered and in awe of it all, really—I remember on our first anniversary feeling like we had already been married forever, but then I blinked, and years two through ten whooshed by.
Ten years does not a marital expert make, certainly, but when I think back on those children that said “I do” ten years ago this Friday, I’m rather floored by how much we’ve learned. Here are ten of those things.
1. It’s hard.
Anyone who says marriage is always easy has never been married, I’d wager. Staying committed to one other person for all your live-long days requires rolling up your sleeves and making it work.
Choosing to listen and hold your tongue; asking questions when you’re dying to share your brilliant advice. Sharing frustrations instead of letting them fester. Rubbing his back when you’d rather have yours rubbed first. And of course, the many, many things so much bigger than that, along with the million tiny little things that make up a day and a year and a lifetime.
2. …But it can be easy sometimes.
It’s also been a sweet surprise that a decade later, it’s still fun to be together. When we’re doing well, we’re doing well. Kyle and I both still enjoy each other’s company, and we have a long shared history full of stories that don’t require detailed explanation. Our marriage is work, but that work often makes it easy to live life. We’re grateful to keep short lists and delight in the crazy of our like-mindedness.
3. We are still our own people.
Marriage didn’t change the fact that Kyle prefers snow and crampons and I prefer flip-flops and shorts. For the life of me, I still can’t get it through his head that zucchini and squash are some of the most delectable vegetables ever created, and that parmesan only makes them better.
I need more friend time than Kyle, and though I appreciate the high-quality craftsmanship of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, I don’t agree that they’re the best movies ever made. And he has a hard time keeping weight on, the jerk.
4. Focus on improving yourself, not your spouse.
I spent the first few years of our marriage occasionally reminding Kyle how he can better himself. I don’t really do that any more, unless he asks or it’s a major issue affecting our relationship. I can tell you 20 ways I’d like to be more the way I want to be, but I don’t think Kyle has ever come to me with a laundry list of his requests for improving me. In fact, he squirms if I ask his opinion on one of my amoral personality quirks or preferences.
I was not put on earth to be Kyle’s personal Holy Spirit, I vowed to be his life mate. And to grow and learn and get wisdom as best I can, hopefully as he does the same.
5. Love the way they hear it, not how you want to show it.
It’s so much easier for Kyle to give me a hug or rub my back than it is to ask me what’s on my mind, or to tell me what’s on his. And I plain-old sometimes forget to sit close to him when we watch a movie or to rub his neck when he’s in the driver’s seat. That’s because my primary love language is words of affirmation, and Kyle’s is physical touch. (Ironically enough, switch those two and you’ll find both of our least important love languages—words for Kyle and touch for me. Thanks, God.)
Learn each other’s primary love languages, and remember to express love the way the other person best feels it, not the way you’d prefer to show it. In my experience, it gets the message across so much better.
6. Intimacy is a learning process that never ends.
Being really, really close to someone can be awkward and uncomfortable and awfully revealing, but the rewards outweigh the risks with your spouse. He or she is the one person on earth you should be able to bare it all, physically and otherwise, because well, they’re your life mate. They’re going to be the one who watches you get wrinkly and grey, and according to how it’s divinely set up, he or she should still choose to love you and find you marvelous.
Sex takes time to work well, too, so don’t give up on that learning curve either. You’ve gotta talk about it a lot to make it work well (well, with each other, not in general), and if I’m already being honest here, that adage seems to be proving true—it gets better with age. If you’re a newlywed and you don’t love it, that’s normal. But don’t give up—work on it. It’s really important.
7. Kids will change your marriage. It’s up to you whether that’s a good change or a bad one.
Parenting refines you as a person. In fact, I sit in the school of thought that being a parent is just as much about maturing you as it is about raising another person.
Kyle wasn’t a dad when we first married, but I was there when he was christened one. He’s a great dad, and it’s transformed him into a different guy than the 24-year-old I married. I’m different, too. So is our living situation. We have more gray hair, and the noise in our car is palpable. Heck, said car is a MINIVAN, which I never thought I’d see the day.
This has changed our marriage. Our one-on-one time is gold, and our investment in each other has multiplied eternally because of those little people we made together. There are also a lot of diapers and sticky hands and late nights and Diego, and we can choose to make those things tools for refinement or nails in the coffin with our sanity inside. If we go with the former, I hear it can be really quite beautiful.
8. Your spouse is your home.
You can live in Portland or Austin or Paris or Azerbaijan, as far away as you can get from your passport country or mere blocks from where you both grew up, and home is always the soil under the shoes of the other person.
Moving to a new place helps you align your loyalties to the person to whom you’ve committed, because it’s not easy, and because those apron strings tend to run long.
9. Keep dating.
In our myriad pins labeled home on our map, Kyle and I have had a variety of babysitting set-ups. Our favorites have always been where we’ve had regular childcare. In the first year of our married life overseas, we could count on one hand our number of dates—that wasn’t so good. Not a recommended strategy there.
So to solve the issue, we started having regular “balcony dates”—Kyle would run to our neighborhood bakery for a slice of cake to share, we’d crack open a bottle of wine, and we’d sit on our balcony that overlooked the city lights with the bay waving below. Sometimes we’d play a game, or sometimes we’d talk.
We’ve learned the hard way that it’s worth the money to go on a weekly date, even if tight funds mean balcony dates.
10. I haven’t learned it all. At ALL.
I’m still growing and learning how to best love Kyle, and I’m pretty sure I still will in 40 years. He’ll change, I’ll change, and hopefully our trajectory moves towards wisdom and grace with each other.
I also just learned (as in, ten minutes ago) that he used to love an obscure Rod Stewart song as a child, and was mortified later when he learned it was sung by him. Things like that? I love learning about him. I think I know most everything, and he’ll lob one out of left field in my direction. Thankfully, they usually make me laugh. And I hope in 20 years he tells me of a song he loved in 2012 but was too embarrassed to tell me at the time.
Clink clink, Kyle—here’s to us. The past ten years have been outstanding, and I think it has something to do with you.
Lots of you are married, so now it’s your turn—what’s one thing you’ve learned in your married years?