We celebrated our thirteenth wedding anniversary on Monday with dinner out with the kids in tow, and it was actually my most favourite anniversary ever. I blearily cupped his face in my hands as I walked past him in the kitchen at 5am, as he ate his porridge. “Happy anniversary” I whispered.
When he got home from work, an hour before the kids got home from school we exchanged cards, and his contained the letter I’d requested (more on that below). We snuck out for a coffee and shared a big slice of strawberry roulade at our favourite cafe.
Then Indian for dinner and even after we ate we lingered, catching eyes across the table as the kids shared their hearts and talked about the biggest issues they’re facing right now: bullies, friends who use swear words at school, and being kind to the kid that’s annoying. If anything makes me happy its that. Quality time with my people.
And then, as on all anniversaries, I pondered the beginning, thought about the growth and marvelled at where we’d ended up.
And I’m a rookie, really, when it comes to marriage - there are many who’ve made it work for much longer - but there are a few things I think I’ve learned so far:
1. Don’t be scared to ask for what you need.
We can’t read each other’s minds. I spent too many years wishing he’d express his love in ways that were different than how he did. Now, I sneak a reminder in every now and then, “love me with your words please?”. And when he mentioned getting me flowers for our anniversary I told him: you know what I’d love even more? A letter. He’s not wired with an endless supply of words of affirmation like I am, it doesn’t come naturally but he knows that’s the way to my heart and a letter was delivered - full of words of love and gratitude. Those words don’t mean any less because I asked for them.
Sometimes, we just have to express what it is we need. Most times, our partners had no idea but are more than happy to oblige.
2. You’re not their parent.
Self explanatory. You are both grown adults. You’re both responsible for your own stuff. Just like you, they have to deal with the consequences of their own decisions - whether they’re the consequences of a late night, or too much junk food, or lack of preparation for something that needed more, don’t own that.
Don’t nag them like their mother. It’ll stress you both out.
3. Lower your expectations.
You’re both going to let each other down. A lot. But it happens less, and it feels less painful when your expectations aren’t ridiculous.
4. You don’t have to like the same things.
We are totally opposite in so many ways. I’m bookish, he’s sports-mad. I’ve given up fighting against the time he spends playing cricket over the summer (he’s compromised so it’s not the entire summer!) and he doesn’t complain when dinner is eggs on toast because I can’t stop reading. We celebrate the things we love together - good movies, cafes, camping trips, board games - and don’t try too hard to feign interest in stuff that just doesn’t interest us!
5. Don’t rely on each other for happiness.
It’s too much pressure. Way too much. And your soul needs so much more: friendships, solitary time, exercise, prayer - whatever it is that fills you, you need that too. Making you happy is too heavy a burden to bear for your favourite person.
6. Stay in a posture of gratitude.
I find when I’m intentionally seeking out the traits and actions that I’m grateful for, it’s easier to shake off little annoyances like the socks on the floor or the times he doesn’t answer my phone calls.
7. Dream together, always.
Sometimes life kicks your butt. Finances aren’t working, or someone gets sick, you don’t get that job, or you just get lost in the mundane and loose the joy. Dreaming together is what’s kept us on the same page. We often snuggle up and whisper into the dark, before we sleep, or chat excitedly on long car rides with the music up loud. We dream about when the kids get big, we get excited about the next holiday, the plans for the next 5 years or dream and scheme ways to smash the credit card debt. Whatever it is you’re dreaming, do it together. It’s fun.
8. Prioritise sexy time.
Life gets busy and it’s easy to collapse into bed, too late, too tired.
Honestly, sometimes you just gotta schedule it in. Set a minimum for the week. Aim for more. Send eggplant emojis. Whatever makes it work, make it work. It’s important. And good for both of you.
9. Learn compromise.
It really is all about laying down your own life for someone else. Constantly.
And sometimes that’s about as fun as it sounds.
10. It’s daily.
Every day. The little things - either good or not - can make or break a marriage over a long period. Choose every day to love and keep choosing. Choose love in your speech and your actions and your thoughts. Every. damn. day.