A few days ago I celebrated my five-year wedding anniversary. It was pretty surreal to look back on five years of marriage. In some ways it seems like it has just flown by. In others, it seems like we’ve been together forever. We’ve been together for ten years but still… In celebrating this anniversary, I reflected on the last five years.
We got married young, she was 25 and I was 24 (she loves how often I remind her she’s older than me), but I wouldn’t do anything differently. When you know, you know. Articles about why you shouldn’t get married until you’re 30, 40, 105 always annoy me. I think no matter what age you get married, entering with the mindset that it’s going to be work but totally worth it is important. Regardless, here are three things what I learned over the past five years.
During your twenties, and probably every period of your life for that matter, you change and grow. When my wife and I got married, I had only just begun my “career” so there was a lot of change happening. I learned a lot in the second half of my twenties and sometimes I look back and I’m like who were you? Who was she? My wife and I are best friends so it was easy to communicate and grow together. But it was also important for us to recognize that there will be times it won’t be as easy. To me, marriage is like those mountain climbers that climb attached by a nylon rope. The rope needs to keep you from drifting too far. There are times when one of you leads and the other follows, and vice versa. But you’re always within arms reach if need be. If one of you slips, you’re still attached. As long as you make sure your climbing rope is intact, you’ll be good. No man left behind!
I’m an argumentative person. It’s my nature. I feel like I need people to see my side of a given situation at all times. In some cases, that can be a positive. Like if I was a lawyer. But I’m not. My wife and I both thought that the first year or two of marriage was difficult at times to navigate. We hadn’t lived together before so just living together and always being around each other was new. And it’s not like there’s a manual or any right way to do it. We argued our fair share. Life was throwing all sorts of stuff at us. We had been in pre-marital counseling to prepare us for this and we definitely put what we’d learned to the test.
In our first year or two of marriage, we really learned how to argue smarter. For a while I think we both just tried to argue harder. If we were louder or more forceful the other would back down. But now it’s more about listening and trying to get at the feelings behind what the person is saying. And that’s helped us in our relationships in general, not just with each other. It takes a lot of work and a lot of pride swallowing. And sometimes it takes knowing when to take a breather and tap out temporarily. Going to bed angry is definitely okay. But that leads me to my next point…
Marriage really does give you perspective on support. For me the thing that makes me the happiest is always having someone on your side. That’s not to say that my wife and I agree on everything, in fact we disagree on a lot of things. But true support doesn’t have conditions. It’s about loving someone even though they think differently, do things differently, etc. Once you find that true support, you can do anything. My wife and I have become such stronger people after getting married. So when you argue or are tested, either individually or as a couple, you know you’ll figure it out together. That alone makes life so much less stressful. You’re no longer facing things on your own.
And so when you argue. Or disagree. Or face a challenge. It’s all less scary because you know you have that person there with you. Even when my wife and I argue, I always know that we’ll figure it out. That makes working through the argument so much more relaxed. And if we need to take time to figure our feelings, that’s okay because your person isn’t going anywhere. I hate the saying “Never go to bed angry” because for us, it’s a load of crap. It’s okay for us to go to bed angry. Usually when we wake up we realize whatever we’re arguing about isn’t as serious as it had seemed the night before. And then we just communicate it without our tempers or heightened emotions and it’s over and done with.
If All Else Fails…
One random piece of advice I’d really recommend following is finding something to help break the ice. For us, it’s this image. Whenever we’re arguing, one of us sends this to the other and it really helps break the ice. Sort of like a white flag. A signal that we’re ready to make nice. And the image is great for times when you’re both stubborn and don’t want to verbalize a truce for fear of being perceived as weak. I know, it’s crazy but I’m telling you, this image has changed the way we argue.
Don’t believe what those cheesy Instagram quotes say. Marriage has its set of difficulties. Marriage is amazing, but it can be hard. And you have to work at it every single day. Anyone that tells you otherwise is a liar. But, damn if you can make it work, there’s nothing better.