It was a cloudless, blue sky day in Chicago 20 years ago this month. The weather held at 83° at 5:30 pm as Hubs and I exchanged vows in the Lakeview neighborhood where I lived. We celebrated with friends and family until late in the night. I still get a dreamy smile on my face and tilt my head as I recall the blissed out joy of that day.
Fast forward 20 years. While the blissed out joy still makes appearances every now and then, there are a LOT of other emotions present, felt and experienced. Some pretty. Many, not so much. Here are some lessons I’ve learned by feeling, literally, all the feels of marriage in a 20 year time span.
Connectedness is just as important as communication Everyone talks about the importance of communication in a marriage. And I agree, it’s critical to learn to speak and listen so your partner hears you and feels heard. Just as important though is maintaining a connection. When I feel disconnected from Hubs, communication becomes more difficult because I’ve lost the desire to talk at all. We lose connection when we stop paying attention.
Being honest means more than ‘don’t cheat’ Being honest means being honest with yourself about what you need, what you hope for, what you don’t like. And it means being honest with your partner about all of it. How can we share our lives with someone if we are not honest? I know from experience how easy it is to avoid topics instead of being honest about them.
Your partner can’t be all things How can he be? If we expect our partner to be our life long companion, lover, parent to our kiddos, best friend, financial advisor, confidant, playmate, exercise buddy, drinking companion – it can be way too much. Hubs is many of these things to me – but I’m blessed to have friends, family and community that fill the roles too. I need outside influences to help me grow, cope and live a full life.
For better or for worse is a real thing After 20 years, we’ve seen our share of better and worse. And man the worse really tests a marriage. You either grow together or you grow apart. The worse – family deaths, financial struggle, parenting challenges – all of these downers really do happen. Sometimes we’ve risen from the ashes and sometimes we’ve crashed and burned. We are blessed to have plenty of better times to allow us to put ourselves back together again.
Sex is really important. And so is desire. And so is affection. Passion ebbs and flows during the course of a 20 year marriage. The ebbs are the perfect time to remember that whole ‘be honest’ thing I mentioned.
Putting each other first is hard to do but critical Especially when you have kiddos. Our wonderful little offspring take up a lot of time and energy in the early years. In the teen years they take up a lot of mental energy. And yet. We need to put our partners first. We have gotten better at this as the years have gone on – which means there were years when the kids were first – which means we lost connection – which means there were ebbs – which means, which means…. See the pattern here?
Laughter is critical Laughing with Hubs, laughing at Hubs, Hubs laughing at me? It is the best medicine for much that ails me. One of my favorite quotes, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people,” is oh so true. No matter what we are dealing with, when Hubs and I give each other that certain look, you know the one you have with your partner? When the look comes out, the laughter spills and all feels right with the world.
Marriage counseling is a really good thing Therapy doesn’t have to mean everything is falling apart. Hubs and I have gone to therapy for specific issues and at times to get what I like to call ‘tune-ups.’ Little tweaks of help when we just can’t seem to get there on our own.
Kisses hello and goodbye make life a little lighter Oh those kisses hello! I do love when Hubs kisses me hello when he comes home from work. He is so good about it. It makes me feel like he’s happy to be back with me, back home. And the kiss goodbye, for the last 20 years has been like a little promise every day. A promise to both of us that ‘we got this,’ even though sometimes we don’t.
Like and love are equally important After 20 years, I can easily say I still love my husband. He is a generous, kind, smart and courageous man. I love that about him. Sometimes, well, a lot of times, he irritates me beyond words. Some days, I don’t want to even look his way. Some days, some days…Sigh. Most days? I really like the way his smile lights up a room. I like his patience and quiet nature. I like his innate goodness. I like his steadfast compassion. I like that he has deep integrity. I like the way he drives. I like the way he cooks. I LIKE HUBS. It’s great to like who you love.
At the end of the day, marriage, for me, has been the journey of a lifetime. Filled with good and rotten and everything in between. I am lucky to like and love the man I married. While not every moment (or year!) has been blissed out and joyful, I would say the ride so far has been one of wonder, learning and love.
What lessons have you learned from your own marriage? Please share them in the comments below! I’d love to learn some new tricks!
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