This summer, Chandler and I are celebrating nine years together and five years married! To the parents and grandparents of our generation five years is nothing, but for us, being with someone for nearly a decade and still (happily) married five years later is almost as rare as a unicorn! So, here are the five things I've realized must happen to have a successful marriage:
1. Don't Enter Into Marriage with Someone Who Isn't Your Best Friend! This sounds like such a cliché but it's so true! Think about it, a best friend is someone who you share your hopes and dreams with and they support and encourage you. You share your fears and deepest darkest secrets with. You take the time to nurture that relationship to keep it going with time. Wouldn't you want all of that in a spouse? You need all of that with a spouse. If you can't be 100% you, they aren't the person for you. If you share you want 3 kids, 5 dogs, 2 cats and a minivan, they should want that too (ok, well maybe not the minivan). If your future hopes and dreams don't align...that's a [HUGE] red flag!
2. Communication Is Hard, but You Gotta Do It. Confrontation sucks, but so does resentment which is what builds up when you keep your mouth shut. Communication hasn't always been our strong suit, and I've come to realize a lot of it comes with age and maturity. When we were young we were either on a high and everything was perfect, or it was a low and we had a screaming match. Now, we realize there will be highs and lows, but how we handle the lows makes an impact on the highs. We've learned that above all else, be honest and express your feelings. Respect one another enough to create an environment to have calm discussions. Once you can do that, your lows become more of a "pause" in the highs. And above all things, follow our golden rule: Never, EVER say the "D" word. The word divorce is strong, it should only ever be said if you are sincere, not mad. Otherwise, you are seriously only being spiteful. Chandler and I decided and made a pact before we were married, that we would never use that word lightly.
3. Never Go to Bed Angry. Seriously, it makes such a difference. Even when we aren't to a place of total resolution, we still get to a place where we can say, "I love you" and hold the disagreement over to the next day. You can't sleep when you're upset anyways, so make it a priority to resolve things.
4. Keep Dating and Stay Intimate...With or Without Kids! I'm not going to be the person telling you once you have kids to still go out on a date weekly, that's not practical. If you can and do, KUDOS! Before Camp came along we obviously had more date nights and did follow more of the "weekly" plan, but since Camp we're more like a one in a month or longer date night couple. And that's ok! Regardless of date nights, we set aside time each and every day for just us! For us, the most important piece of keeping our alone time has been a schedule for Camp and having him sleep in his OWN bed in his OWN room! It's hard to have alone time and definitely be intimate when your kid(s) is in your bed! Not only do they severely impede on your sleep (which effects all aspects of your life, especially MOOD!), it takes away time alone, time that before kids was all yours! Think about it, you married this person because you loved dating them, so don't stop!
5. Rely Only On Each Other During the First Year. One week after our wedding we moved to Joplin, MO, 9 hours away from any family. It was terrifying and exciting and the best thing we ever did. I realize not everyone has the opportunity to move away, but if you can I encourage it and if you can't I suggest distancing yourself a bit from your family and possibly even friends during the first year. Think I'm crazy? Hear me out. Going from dating to marriage is a big difference, you can't just "break up" (ok, well you can, but you have to get a judge involved), you have to learn how to take the good with the bad. During our time in Joplin, we only had each other, so no matter what came our way we had to figure it out together. This is when we really became a team and started learning how to effectively communicate. Our bond during those two years is what cemented us for life. We know now we're ok if it's just us, we know we can handle anything that comes our way because we have each other. When you 100% rely and commit to one another you see each other at your worst and best, that's what true love is, that is the building blocks to a stable marriage.
I'm certainly not a marriage expert and ours hasn't always been easy, but it's always been worth it. These days I see more and more people getting married just to say they are married and have a fun wedding party, then file for divorce before the ink is dry on the marriage certificate. Don't be that person, don't be that couple. Marriage is sacred and so special, it's beautiful and should be taken seriously. Wait until you are with the love of your life to walk down the aisle, trust me, you'll know when you have that person. Don't bail out when the going gets tough, stay committed, it'll get better. And most importantly, realize it's never going to be perfect but it will be beautiful.
One last tip, don't see each other before the wedding. When the doors opened and we saw each other for the first time....it was magical. I'll never forget that moment for the rest of my life.
I have found the one whom my soul loves ~ Song of Solomon 3:4