My husband and I recently celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary and it has caused me to do a lot of reflecting on what I have learned in the past eight years. I am no marriage expert by any stretch of the imagination, but in eight years, we have had two kids, bought a house, had numerous career changes, and have grown in more ways than I can count. Here are eight surprising things I learned in eight years of marriage:
1. The first year of marriage is NOT the hardest.
I don’t know who came up with the lie that the first year of marriage is the hardest, but it makes me laugh every time I hear it. In my experience, the beginning is always the easiest because everything is still so new and exciting. Adding kids, a mortgage, careers, and other major life decisions only makes things more difficult.
2. Everyone has different expectations of marriage.
I didn’t know I had certain marriage expectations. My husband and I were raised in very different families with different ideas of what is “normal.” We had to talk about these expectations and find ways to compromise.
3. Managing our household, family and finances is a joint effort.
When I first got married I had very set ideas about what was “my job” and what was “his job.” What I have learned is that it is really unfair to expect one person to manage everything. Marriage has to be a team effort because one person can’t do it all by themselves.
4. Date nights are crucial.
It is so easy for me to fall into the trap of only talking to my husband about work and the kids. Sometimes my to-do list can begin to take over to the point where I’m focused more on getting things done than enjoying spending time with my husband. I have found that having scheduled time to only focus on being a couple is important.
5. Communication is key.
I know this advice is so common that it probably sounds like a cliché, but I was really surprised by just how hard communication can be. My tendency is to bottle everything up rather than “causing a scene.” I had to learn how to express myself to my husband in a way that didn’t just lay all the blame at his feet.
6. But sometimes he just doesn’t want to talk about it.
I am someone who loves to talk. I like to tell my husband about every single mundane detail of my day, preferably beginning the minute he walks in the door from work. However, my husband is not a talker. It took me years to realize that sometimes he just needs time to unwind in silence the same way I need time to talk.
7. Keeping score isn’t healthy.
“I made the bed this morning so you should unload the dishwasher.” There is no better way to build resentment than by keeping score. I have come to realize that if it is important to me to have the dishwasher unloaded immediately, I should do it myself rather than silently sulking about it.
8. I can’t make my husband happy.
It’s not my job to fix someone else, not even my own spouse. I will only drive myself insane trying. I have learned that the best thing I can do to help my marriage is to constantly work on being the best version of myself.