One of the questions we get asked the most often is “when did you know he/she was the one?” Usually people are either super moved or pretty let down with our answer, which is “we didn’t.” Both of us agree that life is a risk, love is a risk and marriage is a risk. There was no gleaming moment when we looked at each other and just knew that it would all work out. We both really loved each other and could see successfully doing life together. Five years later and we still love life together!
When we went out for dinner on our anniversary, we talked about our highs, our lows, our life changing decisions, and all of the craziness that we’ve walked through. We’ve been through a lot and while I recognize that I’m no pro in this whole marriage thing, I thought I would share some of my takeaways from the past few years.
1) Marriage is designed to make you grow.
Marriage is designed to be a blast, and being married to someone just like me would be a total snore! Over time, we’ve learned that it’s way more common than we expected to see “complete opposite couples.” I remember when Kyle and I announced we were dating; we were met with multiple “is this a joke” responses (talk about encouraging, right?). Kyle’s mind works in ways mine doesn’t (and wont ever) and because of that, he challenges me to see things differently on a daily basis. A few years ago, I remember him looking at me out of nowhere and asking, “do you ever wonder how calendars were created?” – uh no. Like, never. That thought had never entered my mind and almost immediately jumped right back out. I love to use that example because, if you are around Kyle, you’re probably familiar with these kind of random thoughts that just pop into his head. He thinks about things I don’t give a second glance to, he questions things I don’t, and wants to learn things I’ve never even considered an option. It’s these differences that challenge me to become not only a better person, but also a better version myself, and I try to do the same for him. That’s essentially marriage in a nutshell. (PSA: if you’re looking for a partner and you’ve got a list of their ideal interests, quirks and possibly an entire personality, you may want to consider scrapping that list and keeping your eyes peeled for the opposite.) When people say something along the lines of their partner needing to be their best friend first, I roll my eyes so hard. My best friend is my cheerleader; she’s always in my corner, tells me pretty much everything I do is awesome, she’ll back me up no matter what and she'll let me rant/cry for as long as I need. My husband tells me when I’m wrong, he tells me how to make it better and is impressed with me only when I’ve done something worthy of being impressive. He sees my potential and will tell me when I’m shrugging it off. He constantly calls out the best in me and challenges me to grow in ways I never expected.
2) “Outserve One Another”
This is one of our favorite little sayings that actually help us out a lot, no matter how cliché it might seem. You really don’t realize how selfish you are until you’re in a serious relationship. Learning how to do things for each other is hard. Not the big things where you’re clearly supporting your spouse, but the mundane, day-to-day things. Things like getting a refill without a “are your legs broken,” or giving your spouse the last piece of cake (or at least splitting it) can sometimes go a long way. Marriage is really all about learning how to put someone before you and building that relationship. Starting each day with the mindset that you’re going to do everything in your power to help make life a little more enjoyable, easier and more fun, not only allows you to practice selflessness, but also helps you build an important level of trust. When Kyle makes a big decision, I wholeheartedly trust that he has my best interest at heart. Likewise, if I make a decision, he can trust that I am thinking of him. “Outserving one another” isn’t easy, and there are definitely days where we don’t get it right. Learning how to serve anyone other than yourself is a process, and sometimes it’s a messy one, but when you get it right, it’s incredibly rewarding.
3) Conflict is hard. Hyperbolic language makes it harder.
Just steer clear! Absolutes like “all, never, always, ever” are trouble and usually derail the conversation and likely turn what was a simple chat into a heated argument. Examples include “you never listen,” “you always do this,” and “dumbest thing ever.” If you’re talking to your spouse about anything remotely serious, drop any exaggerated words from your vocabulary. Tensions are high, and all it takes is one casual drop of “this always happens” to snowball it into an all night brawl.
It should also be noted that you can’t shirttail this one by throwing in “you make me feel like ________ “ and then inserting one of these key snowball phrases/words. Just because you say it makes you feel like that doesn’t make it any less hurtful.
Here is a quick list of words to stay away from:
4) Finding your Identity is Important
This goes for both you as an individual and you as a couple. About a year after we moved to Vancouver, suddenly, we were forced to think about who we really were. What were our interests outside of school, outside of a job and outside of our marriage? We were forced to take a step back to analyze who we were and found ourselves questioning political beliefs, spiritual beliefs and essentially our outlooks on life. We also had to think about what our passions were as well as what we just weren’t into. For example, Kyle learned that he likes coffee . . . as in, really likes coffee. He enjoys learning about the brewing techniques, how the country of origin affects its flavor and other details that many people tend to gloss over. I was able to find myself as well and became so confident in my individuality that I started rocking the pink hair I had been talking about for (no joke) three years. We had taken all of the personality tests and knew what they all had to say about us, but to dive deep within ourselves and find out what dreams, beliefs, interests and passions we both had was a totally different process. For us, it took us going to a place where we knew no one and becoming accustomed to a lifestyle we had never known. It’s a different process for everyone but when you know who you are and you’re able to confidentially embrace it, you’ll find yourself freer and more secure in yourself and consequently, your marriage.
5) Communication is Key
Ok, this sounds crazy cliché but it’s the truth. Sure, you definitely need to be communicating about big decisions like where to live, whether or not to take or quit a job, and children, but I am really talking more about the day-to-day stuff. I heard once that a healthy relationship has 3 little “tufts” every week and 1 bigger argument a month. Seems about right. But how do you make it through the couple little “conversations” as we call them without them blowing up? Over-communicate. It sometimes feels super awkward to bring up something small, but that’s just part of building a life with someone. You're no longer living with just a roommate where you can just passively interact for who knows how long. We’ve been shown in tv/film that something as small as maybe taking tone, some snark that was taken a little too far, or even just an unfortunate phrasing is something that will usually result in a big blowup. That’s just not true. Bringing up small things that annoy you when you’re calm (emphasis on being calm) has been super important for us. It allows you both to air out something in a mature way. Plus, you don’t have to worry about it all building up and then jumping into a “you always do this” mindset. Most of the time, the other person didn’t even realize that they were even doing something that could be considered offensive. Just as important and definitely worth noting is being open to these conversations and not shutting them or your partner down. Choosing not to talk is still communicating; it’s just not what you want to be saying.
So there it is. It may not be flashy, it may not be fun and heck, it may not even be useful to you, but those are the top tips I’ve learned in the past 5 years. Now that we have a baby, who knows what’s to come!