23 years....and Counting! 5 Marriage Lessons We Have Learned Over the Past 20 Years!

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On November 12, 1994, I went to my brother's best friend's wedding and had one thing on my mind...I was going out later and couldn't wait to go have some fun. Little did I know that the course of my life would change forever that night! I saw a cute blonde-haired guy across the room at the reception and immediately pointed out to my sister-in-law that he was super cute. I watched him most of the night and when the reception ended and the lights came on, he was leaving, with his coat across his arm, and I stopped him and introduced myself. Literally, the rest is history. We REALLY liked each other immediately and it wasn't long after that, that we were married.

We married on February 10, 1996, and it was the perfect day. We couldn't wait to get married and start our lives together. That feeling of pure hope and joy is one I will always remember and associate with that time. Today, we have been married 23 years, and I still have hope and joy, but it's different. People tell you, "Oh wait until you have bills and responsibilities; wait until you have a job, kids, and a house note; wait until you are trying to work, bathe kids, do homework, cook supper and still have time for each other." We have done all of that. And we have survived, thus far! And we plan on continuing to survive! Has it been easy, hell no! Would I want to do all of this with anyone else, no way!

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So, I thought I'd take this little minute to share some things that I have learned over the past 23 years. Is it written in stone? No. But, I have gotten some great advice from family and friends and it has really helped me, so why not pass it along?

*Always fight fair and watch your words

  It is very easy, in the heat of an argument, when you are mad and tired and just done, to lay                                              everything on the line. To say every little thing that has crossed your mind over the past week that                               has irritated you or aggravated you. DON'T DO IT! I promise you, that you will regret it! It's hard, but this is a time where you need to use restraint and patience and really think through what you say to your partner. Words cannot be taken back, and I promise you, what you say will not be forgotten. Think about what the issue at hand really is, and how you can discuss it with your partner in a calm and respectful manner. This will keep things calm and productive.

*Remind your partner that you appreciate them and thank them for the little things

     When you first start dating, those little things are noticed and you tend to say thank you and gush  and say how wonderful your partner is. But as time goes on, people tend to get lax. Either in doing nice things for each other or thanking each other. You have to remember how things started, and you need to try to keep them that way. If you truly appreciate your partner, this will be no problem. I know life gets busy, but you have to put your partner first. If Chad brings me a cup of coffee in the morning, I say thank you. I really do appreciate that. I didn't have to get up and get my own cup of coffee. And, he thought enough to think about me and fix me one while he was fixing his. It's sweet, and I like sweet 😃 

*You CANgo to bed angry

 No, I don't have fever....I know this is the opposite of everything everyone ever says. And, when we got married, I would have said "never go to bed angry". But, after 23 years of learning from my husband, sometimes going to bed angry saves us! I told my parents today that the first year of our marriage was the hardest. Sound crazy? Well, we didn't date for very long and we were still learning how to communicate with each other. So when we first got married, I wanted to talk everything out right then and lay it all on the line. Chad, not so much! It was so frustrating, because he would just shut down because he didn't want to get into some big fight and get all emotional and drag it out, and I did! One of his favorite things to still say is, “it takes two to tango”! But, he's right. Sometimes it's best to go to bed, sleep on it, get your thoughts together and re-visit it in the morning when it's not so fresh and volatile. I told my parents today that the first year of our marriage was the hardest. Sound crazy? Well, we didn't date for very long and we were still learning how to communicate with each other. And, sometimes, I realize how whatever we were going to fuss about was so stupid anyway! Which brings me to...

*Don't sweat the small stuff

 It took me a long time to come to this conclusion. A. REALLY. LONG. TIME. Somewhere around 10 years into marriage, I read something that said - what is the issue at hand? How will this issue affect you in 5 mins? How will this issue affect you in 5 months? How will this issue affect you in 5 years? When I say this was life-changing for me, I am not exaggerating. I told it to my girls instantly because some situations are blown out of proportion for no reason at all. If something is bothering me, I use these principals to evaluate is it worth addressing. If it's going to still be a problem in 5 years, you bet I'm going to say something. If I'm going to be mad in 5 minutes but forget about it in 5 months, why dwell on it right this second. Let me give you an example- if I am aggravated about maybe I want to do and Chad wants to do something else, how important is this going to be after 5 mins...probably not very. If it's something major and could still be affecting our relationship in 5 months or 5 years...I HAVE to say something!

*Always put your partner first

This is way easier said than done...I know. You have to take care of your kids. End of story. And hopefully, that's a common goal you and your partner have? Lot's of times I've had to say, "Chad, I'm sorry I've been tied up all night with the kids, but they've needed help with this, and this and this. But, I'm almost done and I'll be to bed." (Or whatever the case may be).  I think he appreciated the fact that I took the time to tell him, I realize I've ignored you all night, but this is why. We also agreed, very early on when we had kids, that we would make decisions together and always try to have a united front. Kids are so good at trying to play their parents against each other, and you just cannot let that happen You and your spouse are on the same team, not against each other. We may not always agree, and we may have to compromise, but come up with a solution we both agree on and can stand behind. Now that our kids are 21 and 17, they know we aren't going to go against each other!

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I am not a marriage counselor by any means, and we don't have some kind of fairy tale perfect marriage. But, I have to say that it's pretty darn good. There isn't anyone else I would rather hang out with. He ALWAYS makes me feel better and he tells me that everything is going to be okay. He cracks me up constantly, and we are there for each other. We are in this together and we aren't quitting. So, even though there are bumps in the road, we aren't going to let that slow us down!

I always love our anniversary because it is so close to Valentine's Day, so we almost celebrate for a week! So, take this time to show your "special someone" that you appreciate them and that everyday may not be perfect, but it will be worth it!

Happy Valentine's Day AND Anniversary to Us!

Jennifer - XO