Oh JoyOh Joy

12 things we’ve learned from 12 years of marriage...

Oh Joy / 12 Things I've Learned in 12 Years of Marriage

This weekend, my husband, Bob, and I are celebrating 12 years of marriage and 22 years together in total. So, I thought it would be fun (with input from Bob) to share some things we've learned in our last 12 years with you. These things aren't only important for marriage but serious relationships in general. Here we go...

1. You don’t have to agree about everything, but you need to agree about some important things. Specifically: 1) Number of kids (and what happens if you don’t get the gender mix you are hoping for—do you stop or have more?).  We agreed on two kids, no matter the gender mix. 2) Who handles the money (joint bank accounts vs. separate vs. mostly joint bank accounts with small separate personal ones). We do the latter. 3) What religion will you practice?  What religion will your kids be raised in? 4) How will you handle your respective parents? Will you support them financially? How will holidays be separated and when family visits occur?

2. Don’t expect your partner to change any of those annoying habits. Embrace them or make peace with them as they will likely continue to persist forever. Appreciate the nuances of your partner’s personality and love them for it. But also find a way to poke fun at them from time to time to keep things light! 

3. Have your own life and your own friends outside of marriage. Often, your friends become friends with your partner, but those friendships need to exist outside your marriage to make sure you are personally fulfilled. It's also nice to have those separate friends and have someone to lean on when things aren’t going perfectly in your marriage and you just need friends to talk to through it.  

4. Make the right things matter. For example, we decided a long time ago that gifts for birthdays and anniversaries aren’t important for us—it was the opportunity to spend time together to appreciate the day. So we celebrate these occasions with special dinners or small trips instead of gifts.

5. You can be equals, but not all parts of your marriage have to be equal. Maximize what each person is good at and divide the duties of marriage appropriately. And don't hold a grudge against your partner because they can’t do something as well as you with regards to this. Bob isn't usually home early enough to cook dinner, so I do most of the cooking during the week. But he tries to make breakfast and dinner on the weekends because has has more time then. Bob fixes everything around the house because he's better at it, but I'm much better at keeping things organized. I plan almost all of our date nights, nights out, and vacations because I'm better at managing and coordinating. And then he handles most of our household bills so that I can focus on managing my business' bills.  

6. You don’t have to be around your partner all the time to appreciate them. This especially goes for couples where one person travels for work a lot or even couples in long-distance relationships. We were long-distance for 9 years of our dating relationship and while it was hard at times, it actually helped us in the long run. In fact, I think you appreciate them more when your time is limited because you make the most of every moment you have with them.  

7. Your partner still cannot read your mind. No matter how much you get to know each other year after year and you know their true selves more and more, you will never know exactly what the other person is thinking/feeling/wanting at all points in time. Which is why communication is still (and always will be) key to a good relationship, especially when you're disagreeing about something.

8. Never underestimate the power of a date night. It’s an instant reset button when life and kids and work and responsibilities take over! Don't give the excuse of not having time (make time), it being too expensive (you can go out for pizza) or not having a baby sitter (ask friends who will gladly want to give you a night out). If all else fails, date nights can also involve Netflix and take-out dinner on the couch at home after the kids have gone to bed. It doesn't have to be fancy, it just needs to be dedicated time for you and your partner.

9. Don't go to bed angry. Sleeping before resolving an argument never feels good. While everyone's style of resolving an argument or disagreement is different, do your best to resolve it before the night is over. No one likes the feeling of going to bed angry so just don't do it.

10. If you have (or will have) kids, figure out your general parenting style. Before you have kids or while your kids are entering a new stage of their development, decide how you will jointly parent and how you will resolve conflict with your kids. You have to be on the same team so that kids have consistent responses from both parents and also so when discipline or rule-setting needs to take place immediately, you know where you both stand in quickly responding to the situation. You don't need every detail of your parenting to be exactly the same, but your overall style should be in sync. 

11. Favorite, least favorite, tomorrow. We do this at dinner every night with our kids every night during dinner, and I find it's actually so helpful for my marriage as well. By having everyone in the family go through what their favorite and least favorite things about the day were (and then telling what you're looking forward to tomorrow), it not only gives you a sense of something your partner might not have thought to tell you, but it allows an opportunity to vent about something when they might have forgotten to bring it up later in the evening.

12. Always be your partner's #1 fan. Whether they're interested in changing careers, taking up a new hobby, wanting to dye their hair pink, or just taking some sort of leap of faith or risk, be there to support them. It doesn't mean you have to agree with all decisions or that you can't speak up if you have differing opinions, it just means to support what they are aiming to do and you can give your honest feedback, if needed, at the same time.

If you have any other tips from your own experience, please share in the comments below! Stuff like this is helpful for everyone! Happy weekend!

{Photo by Morgan Pansing}

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