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Last month, Matt and I celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary. We had planned to celebrate with a fun trip, but we decided to save money this summer instead and put those plans on hold. Instead, we got a room at a local hotel and had dinner at one of our favorite, special occasion restaurants. My plan was to blog about the hotel as the place to stay when you’re visiting the Dallas Fort Worth area, and kill two birds with one stone… a fun night out with my husband and create content for a much needed, very overdue blog post. Unfortunately, the hotel did not live up to our expectations at all so I had to scrap that idea! I guess it put me in a bit of a funk because it took me forever to regroup and come up with something else to blog about in its place. Ugh!
The evening wasn’t a total loss, we still had fun together, without our kids (bonus, thanks to Mimi), but definitely not the relaxing retreat we were hoping for. The dinner at Bob’s Steakhouse in Grapevine was phenomenal! If you are ever in Grapevine, I would absolutely visit Bob’s for an amazing steak dinner.
So that begs the question, what are you going to write about instead? Well, I thought and thought and thought some more as I reflected on our 10 years of marriage, and realized that we have received a TON of unsolicited marriage advice over the years. Some great advice that has really impacted our marriage and helped to set us on the right path. Some, not so great that we, thankfully, didn’t listen to for long!
I thought, “That’s It! I’ll impart some of the best advice I’ve been given to my readers!” Who knows, maybe some of you are about to get married, or in your first year of it and will find some of it helpful, or maybe you’ll think I’m totally wrong and have found a better way!
My mom has been saying this to me for years! I’m pretty sure I first heard it while I was having roommate issues in college, but it is probably one of the best bits of advice I have ever received. It works in marriage, parenting, friendships, the office, PTA and beyond! The premise goes along with something Dr. Phil says a lot too…
You can choose to battle every issue out in the name of being right and making your point, or you can choose to let some things go for the sake of peace. I’ll admit, this one is really hard for me. There are times when I KNOW I’m right about something but my husband, or my kids, don’t see the situation the same way.
Do you know what I’ve learned? If I let it go and let them go about things their way, one of two things will happen: either they will work out the situation in a way completely different than you would and the result will be different but just fine, or they’ll create a mess and realize you were right all along and redirect themselves. Either way, the world won’t come to a crashing end if you let it go and let them do something their own way and you won’t be stressed out and fighting.
For most of our marriage, we worked opposite schedules. Matt was Mon-Fri and I worked Fri-Tue. We were own our own on our days off, and we both manage the household and parenting very differently! I like to get all of my work done on my days off early, get through chores and whatever else needs to be done so I can enjoy the end of my days off. Matt likes to do the exact opposite. He enjoys his time then slams everything in at the end. I can’t tell you how many Saturdays I’d come home and just be seething because nothing would be done and they’d all be sitting around in a mess playing. Guess what? Most of the time, he would get his work done before I got home Sunday, and I would have spent Saturday and all day Sunday pointlessly pissed off.
If you’ve done the math, you’ve figured out that we have an almost 11-year-old and we are only celebrating 10 years of marriage. That means we were together a lot longer than 10 years. In fact, we had quite the on again, off again history before Landry came along! We broke up more times than Ross & Rachael!
So when we got back together the last time, I didn’t even mention it to my friends or family because they were so sick of the on again off again drama! When I found out I was pregnant, we were ALL in for a shock! In one of my few moments of clarity in those first few weeks, I decided that Matt and I needed to seek counseling, (which we have done several times over the years) so that we could fix whatever it was that kept breaking us up. We learned that neither of us was very good at communicating with the other, and we both were expecting the other to be a mind reader! That expectation doesn’t really pan out. I was expecting Matt to behave a certain way as a boyfriend, he was expecting a certain amount of alone time, neither of us was sharing that expectation with the other and then we would get mad when the expectation wasn’t met.
Once we worked through us, I thought it all would be smooth sailing. BUT adulting isn’t so simple, is it? We have had our fair share of issues, and one of the hardest to handle were the issues that come from merging two polar opposite families. My family can be loud, opinionated, and a bit overbearing, and his family is very different. Once again, most of the issues stemmed from poor communication and unmet expectations, but caused a lot of hurt feelings, and finally sent us back into the counselor’s office not long after we had Luke.
There were just so many things happening that I could not wrap my head around. The counselor listened to me use up an entire hour of our time talking about 1000 different issues we had and at the very end she looked at me very plainly and said:
“You have to learn that you cannot make other people meet your expectations of them. You cannot control if they will meet your expectations or they will not. All you can do is change your expectations.”
Ok, so that advice was solicited! We paid the counselor and she gave me that game-changing tidbit. I was fully expecting her to look at my husband and say “You need to go deal with your family and tell them to do X, Y, and Z.” Nope! Wrong!
Now, in certain situations, I’ve let go of my expectations of other people. In dealing with our extended family, I’ve stopped expecting anything from them. If they show up, great; if they don’t, it’s their loss. I’ve stopped letting my feelings get all bent out of shape if something didn’t go as I had envisioned because other people didn’t play their parts.
This is the biggest line of bullshit that I think every newlywed buys into. No marriage is ever 50/50. In fact, the ones that I see struggling the most are the ones who try to make it 50/50. I see couples all the time even going so far as to split the bills 50/50, plan out the chores 50/50, parenting tasks, etc. Life just doesn’t work that way. If you’re truly in it for the long haul, you need to recognize that if you’re going to make your marriage work, you need to in it for 100/100. You have to give it your all.
We have to give 100% because we have to give each other room and grace to not be able to give their all from time to time. If you’re only focusing on your half of the relationship and your partner is down, then 50% of life is left falling through the cracks.
When I lost my job, I was at the lowest I think I have ever been. There were several weeks where I just felt completely lost and found myself going through the motions just to get from day to day. Matt had to pick up a lot of the slack for me with no questions asked. During that time we realized that I had been burning the candle on both ends for so long that I didn’t know which way was up anymore. I had been the main income earner, the one to go to all the parent meetings, on the PTA board, homeroom mom, the keeper of the schedules and the one who paid all our bills. It was too much for one person! We had just slid into it because I naturally take charge and he naturally lets me, but we realized that how we were living had needed to be reevaluated for a long time.
We had a TON of friends when we first got married, many of whom are no longer in our lives. They either weren’t married or in relationships set up very differently from ours. My best friend at the time, my maid-of-honor, used to get so frustrated with me after I became a mom and a wife that I wouldn’t just go out anymore. I think she fully expected everything to go back to how it was after I bounced back from the baby. She finally gave up on me after a couple of years and ghosted me. I was crushed!
I remember when she would ask me to do something she would always say, “don’t ask Matt. Just tell him you’re doing it!” It could be something as simple as just going out for happy hour to getting boudoir photos for her bachelorette party (something we really did not want to spend the money on). I think something has gotten lost in the meaning of being an in-charge, powerful woman, and that’s the validity of your partner’s opinions. It’s not that I needed permission to go out in the sense that my kids need permission to go to a friend’s house, but there are plenty of times when Matt had something going on that I didn’t know about when I made plans; just bulldozing him with the “I’m going to do this” statements would have really messed his plans up. Sometimes he’s planning a surprise for me, sometimes he has something planned with family we haven’t discussed or, and sometimes he’s just had a rough week and needs me around. Whatever it is, making plans with friends without a discussion about it, out of respect for your partner, is a really bad way to go about it!
I know that 99% of the time when I want to do something with my friends, Matt is totally cool with it. In fact, he gets kind of excited because that means he can play the Xbox for a little bit alone after the kids go to bed then take over most of our bed before I get home and really sprawl out! Haha! But that 1% of the time when something else is going on is what would cause the problem if I didn’t have enough respect to at least have a conversation. It’s simply a matter of respect for your partner.
Marriage is hard! When it’s easy, I take that as a blessing and roll with it. Taking two opposite personalities and putting them under one roof is bound to cause problems here and there. That’s why reality television is so successful! The only way for something to run perfectly smoothly is to marry your clone (maybe, but ew). There have been plenty of days over the last 10 years when I’ve spent all night will a pillow over my head from his snoring and I look over in the morning and think “UGH! He’s STILL there?!?!?!” Some days, I have to really work at that deliberate choice to love my husband.
Sometimes in the name of trying to make marriage easy, we push an issue to the side and pretend it doesn’t exist. We keep pushing it and pushing it until the issue has grown into this massive problem which then leads into an even more massive fight. Our problems are like dust bunnies, the more we sweep them under the rug, the bigger they get until there is no more rug to cover them up.
Most of our problems can be traced back to a lack of communication. Other friends that I know have real trust issues. But it seems to me that whether your issues stem from communication, trust, or something else entirely, that one main thing is the part that you continuously need to work through. When we get lazy in our communication, we start seeing more issues pop up that cause fights. When we WORK on our communication and set aside time to deliberately talk and work on our relationship, everything else runs smoothly.
For several years, while we were working opposite schedules and were two ships passing in the night, we scheduled time each week to communicate. Wednesdays we would put the kids down, turn off the tv and talk about what was going on. It helped us a great deal to be able to know that we both were going into that time ready to engage. Usually, if Matt is having a rough day, his tendency is to revert inwards and not want to talk. If I notice that, then I back way off and will put off bringing something up that may really need discussion. When I knew we had that time set, then I knew, “ok I can give him tonight to be introverted and we can discuss this tomorrow night.”
Have a budget, but also allow life to happen. Having an incredibly strict budget did not allow us to enjoy or live life. We know that each month $X goes out to bills, and we need to put $X into savings, but we allow some buffer space to go do that fun last minute outing with friends, or pick up that extra Chipolte night when neither of us has the energy to cook.
Separate finances do not work. People think it works, but when we tried it in our relationship, we found it lead to a lack of transparency. We tried splitting bills 50/50, then we tried one of us paying these 3 bills and one of us paying these other ones, but both options felt like we were roommates and not married. If one would come up short, it would feel like the other was being invasive by asking where the money went. By combining our accounts, we were able to have total transparency. If one of us seems to be eating out way too many work lunches one month, the other can bring it up before it becomes a real issue.
It’s ok to go to bed angry. I don’t know who these people are who NEVER go to bed angry, but I don’t believe they’re human. There are some issues that cannot be resolved in one night. Sometimes you need to spend some time in your own head to work through it on your own or just simply to calm down. But like my mom always said, “you get 24 hours on the pitty pot, then it is time to put on your big girl panties and deal.”
Marriage should not be used as a tool to fix someone. So many people walk down the aisle knowing there is something about their partner that they cannot deal with but think they will be able to change or fix them over time. Maybe it’s a drinking problem, maybe they’re really messy, maybe a personality disorder, maybe something worse. Sometimes people can change but they will not change because of the marriage. If you’re choosing to marry someone, you are marrying all of the best and worst traits.
Am I a marriage expert by any means? Nope, but I do like to think that if we can follow our own advice, then we are in for at least another 10 years together. Hopefully more! It hasn’t always been easy but I am grateful for where we have been and how far we have come. Going through life with someone is so much better than going alone, and it’s worth every bit of effort that comes with it.
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