My husband and I are celebrating three years of marriage this week so I’m reflecting on how much I have learned from our short time together. In the spirit of continued growth and learning I would love to hear your relationship advice too! Drop it in the comments.
THE QUALITY OF YOUR MARRIAGE IS DETERMINED BY YOUR SELF-WORTH
To put this simply I will quote the great Ru Paul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Being a present, supportive, and empathetic partner starts with loving you. Do we all have personal insecurities? Absolutely. Most people bring some kind of emotional baggage from past relationships to their marriage and I would encourage you to share it with your partner. Open communication helps build intimacy and, while your spouse may be a wonderful human being, I would bet they are not a mind-reader.
Should you find yourself in a losing battle with the internal bully telling you that you’re are not thin, pretty, or smart enough, I say take thee to therapy. If you can’t afford therapy, buy some self-help books and start putting in the work on yourself. The most important thing to remember is YOUR SPOUSE CAN’T FIX YOU. There is no amount of flowers, jewelry, fancy dinners, vacations, or compliments that will heal the internal struggle. All of the “fixing” comes from within, and it ain’t an easy road friends. It involves taking a hard look at how you are contributing to (or sabotaging) your life satisfaction and committing to make different choices than you have in the past. Sound like a big job? It is, but it is worth it. Otherwise the whisper of your unhappiness (wherever it may be rooted) will always be in the background of your marriage, hold you back from enjoying unconditional love and oftentimes will evolve into resentment, which can be a death sentence for any relationship.
Being the best version of yourself can improve relationships with your spouse, friends, family, and even random strangers you encounter on a daily basis. I’m willing to bet you are an amazing human who is worthy of love and respect, it’s ok to believe that too.
HAVE JOINT AND SEPARATE INTERESTS
My husband is my best friend and I genuinely love spending time with him. He has pushed me to be more spontaneous, leading to surprise day-trips to go wine tasting, hiking, or just to explore a new town we’ve never seen before. He shared with me once that one of his favorite memories of these adventures is we almost never turn on the radio for road trips. We talk, laugh, and enjoy the down-time to reconnect with each other. While I appreciate the fact that we are both pretty social and up for new experiences, I also have learned to appreciate the time we spend apart.
In the past 8-10 years I have made a conscious effort to cultivate quality friendships with women and it’s paying off in spades. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the value of having women friends. From honest life advice, to self-confidence boosts, to hilarious inside jokes (often inappropriate if you are in my circle) my lady gang enriches my life in a way my husband never could.
I really believe that to be a good spouse you need to keep growing as an individual through experiences outside of your marriage. This can be anything from taking a class to learn a new skill or hobby, to going on a retreat with your best friends for a weekend. Life is made up of more than just your marriage, embrace the experiences you have together and enjoy hearing about the experiences you have apart. Give yourselves the room to grow and your relationship will flourish.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE PERFECT MARRIAGE
In the end, marriage is the joining of two different individuals who come from two different upbringings. This means different ways of communicating, showing love, and fighting. At some point you will be be frustrated, disappointed, and/or angry with your spouse (sometimes all at the same time!) and you will still have to sleep in the same bed as them. You might dream about strangling them, but you still have to sleep next to them, knowing you chose to be bound to this person forever.
No marriage is perfect and committing to open communication, fair fighting (don’t name call your spouse, you are supposed to love them more than anyone else on the planet, remember?) and forgiveness is the way I have found works best for us. Both of us subscribe to the “I would rather be happy than right” philosophy when it comes to stupid arguments.
Remember to communicate the good as well as the bad. Sure, you know your spouse loves you but isn’t it nice to hear first thing in the morning or before you go to bed? A random compliment, a text message saying you miss them, or even a cute note. The work of marriage is staying in love, and that means thinking about your spouse’s emotional needs on a daily basis.
Last but not least, get comfortable being completely vulnerable with your spouse.
In the words of Brené Brown: “vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness”