This winter my sweetheart and I celebrated six years of marriage. SIX years! Where did the time go? Just yesterday we were moving into our first apartment, I was smuggling home a kitten he said I probably shouldn’t adopt but I couldn’t help myself, and we were enjoying the honeymoon stage of our brand new romance. Time flies.
As we sat down to our anniversary dinner, toasted our love, laughed at inside jokes and shared stories about our day I realized just how much has changed since we first met. As people, as a couple, we’re completely different. He’s not the boy I fell for, but he is the man I’m completely and totally in love with. A different person in some ways, but never changing in others. I started thinking about all the ways he’s made me a better person, all the times we’ve made changes and compromises to be where we are today, all the plans we make, all the problems we have faced, and how thankful I am that we have done everything possible to be the strongest couple we can be.
Being a wedding photographer I often see things in my couples that remind me of how wonderful a wedding day really is, and how exciting the prospect of marriage can be. We were both so ready to be married, so in love, so committed. So while we sat there on our anniversary in wedded bliss, I decided to make this list and show a side of me never seen before. The after-wedding side, the wife, the partner, the believer in marriage. Maybe it will sound preachy, maybe I’ll ramble, maybe it will give someone a moment of clarity and help make a bond even stronger. Either way, this is by far the most personal thing I have ever written, and I hope you enjoy it.
MY PATH TO A STRONG & HAPPY MARRIAGE
One: Married life isn’t (always) glamorous. Romance movies and fairy tales got it wrong. People don’t wake up with perfect hair and smokey makeup and minty breath. We get sick, frustrated, angry, sad (and let me tell you I’m an ugly crier), jealous, careless. We have moments of weakness and insecurity, bad habits and annoying tendencies. Getting married doesn’t create a magical transition to candlelit dinners and love notes and bubble baths and roses every week, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful. Over the years you will continually learn more about this amazing, complex, intense person and they will constantly give you new reasons to love them even more. You will never know another person as completely as the one you marry. Get ready for what marriage really is: the strongest, most intimate and honest connection you will ever have. If you let it be.
Two: Compromise isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. I say this for multiple reasons. First: you just went from a me to a we and that means you’re part of a team. Technically, when one of you wins – you both win! You can’t lose when you come to an agreement together even if it wasn’t what you originally had in mind. The most successful outcome of any decision is one you both want. Second: when you take the time to really listen to your partner and discuss something in depth you may learn something about them, you show them you respect them, and they may improve upon your original idea. Compromise isn’t losing, it’s creating an outcome together.
Three: Words are very powerful. My hubby and I disagree, it happens, and it’s completely okay to disagree. Most of the time we just talk it through and compromise. But when the circumstances are just not in your favour and a fight breaks out remember that this is still the person you love! Don’t put them down, don’t call names, don’t compare, don’t veer off topic, don’t be afraid to take a break and cool off, and most importantly – if you wouldn’t say it outside of fighting then don’t say it at all. Letting a fight get the best of you is always bad. Watch what you say, and fight fair.
Four: Respect for your spouse is one of those things that will make or break a marriage. It can be as simple as accepting their point of view and asking their opinion or as vital as how you talk to them in public. Turning down their ideas without discussion, making fun of them, arguing in public – these are all things that will make it evident you have no respect for them. If you ever hope to make progress as a couple, giving them the respect they deserve isn’t negotiable.
Five: Communication is so important to a healthy relationship no matter what the stage. Making time to talk about everything from money to insecurities to hopes and dreams means you will always be taking the time to be on the same page, to learn about each other, to mature together and eliminate unwritten expectations. Also, it helps you keep focus. Never lose sight of your sweetheart, never lose interest in them. Truly listen, respond, and care. The more you talk, the less chance there is for a simple miscommunication to become an issue.
Six: Even though you’ve heard it a million times, the little things really are the big things. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you stop trying. If she loves flowers, don’t wait for an occasion. If he works long days, pack him a lunch. Did they have a hard day? Order takeout from their favourite place, rent a movie you know they love, take on extra chores. Or do some before they realize it. Remember that you know them best and have all the information you need to make a moment special for them.
Seven: You went from a “me” to a “we” and that can be scary, but this doesn’t mean you’re losing any part of who you are. Maintaining your own identity is very important. You don’t need to sacrifice your hobbies, interests, friends, etc, just because you’re married. My husband cultivates bonsai trees and goes for back country solo trips, I love cooking and take time to get together with my girls. Keeping these parts of you will keep you true to who you are – which is who your partner loves. Losing your independence for the sake of a marriage causes resentment, a problem we manifest all on our own. Don’t get me wrong: I love being part of a couple, I love spending time with my husband. I also love that we give one another the freedom to be ourselves and grow as people while we grow as a couple.
My marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s strong. We have built our relationship on a foundation of honesty, trust, respect, compromise, communication and love. We’ve survived moving across the country, renovations, debt, changing careers, loss, and more. I know in my heart that with this mindset he and I can overcome anything, and I look forward to growing more with him each and every day.