My recently engaged little sister is in the midst of planning her wedding. After celebrating 11 years of marriage to my husband over the weekend, I thought about what advice I might offer her as she prepares to marry a wonderful person.
So here they are, 11 tips for marriage after 11 years married:
- Be kind, not nice.
As women, we are pressured to be nice and we can do our best to stay small and keep things in…this is the recipe for resentment in a relationship. Society can tell us setting boundaries, expressing anger, being direct in our expectations isn’t “nice” sometimes—but the kindness of showing up fully treats our partner, self and the relationship with respect. This kindness keeps us together. We can ALWAYS be kind to another person, even when we disagree and even when we are mad. We don’t always have to be nice.
- Have your own interests.
Relationships grow through shared interests AND differences. Experiences away from our partner keep us connected with our inner self, builds self-esteem, and also helps increase excitement in the relationship—how boring it would be if we were the same.
- Protect time together like your life depends on it.
What comes so naturally in the beginning (just spending time together) becomes threatened by career responsibilities, family commitments, social engagements, parenting and home responsibilities, and other activities—SO EASILY. Almost every couple who comes into my office talks about how they don’t have the time to spend more time with each other. This is true for EVERYONE, but we need time together to bond in order to stay connected. Battle the FOMO, lower your expectations, say ‘no’ to things you really enjoy sometimes to protect your time together if you really value the relationship.
- If you become parents, prepare for the strain on your relationship.
I thought I knew, but I had no idea. Having a baby does bring you closer together…but not at first. If you choose to become parents, know that sometimes it’s really going to suck! A lot! You won’t like each other sometimes. You won’t like your kid sometimes. It’s really hard. But it’s okay! Talking with other parents, a therapist, and each other will help. Also, just accepting that it’s really shitty sometimes helps too. Like, it’s not your fault, okay? It’s temporary and you are doing a great job. I’m here for you.
- Don’t hit ‘em where it hurts. Don’t throw them under the bus.
When we know what can hurt our partners the most and we’re really hurt ourselves, we might want to say the thing that crosses the line. Or we might be tempted to complain to others in our life about our partner in a way that really throws them under the bus. RESIST THE URGE! Keep respect and trust active in the relationship. Open up about how you are feeling and commit to trying to understand their perspective as well.
- Your bodies will change.
You might hate your body changes and want to hide away from your partner. You might be uncomfortable with their body changes and feel less attraction. Be kind to your bodies. Be tender with each other. Our bodies are amazing AND also kind of gross and embarrassing sometimes. Let your partner love yours and practice loving theirs.
- Be willing to change your mind.
Did you know that there’s research that shows that in opposite sex relationships, good relationship satisfaction is correlated with how willing the male partner is to change their mind/take influence from their female partner? It’s really hard to see things from a different perspective, but it’s so worth it because it shows our partner respect, care, and vulnerability.
- Whenever you feel you’ve “figured it out” another change is around the corner.
I keep falling for this one. Thinking that we’re finally in a rhythm and have life figured out. But then something gets thrown in the mix and we’re adjusting again. That’s okay. That’s to be expected. Face these challenges together as a team instead of thinking that it’s the fault of the relationship for being less prepared. You got this!
- There will be loneliness.
Loneliness will be in our life whether we are partnered or single, whether we have kids are we do not, whether we work remotely or in an office. Share your loneliness when you can. Comfort each other even when you don’t understand the other person. Life can be isolating—you aren’t doing anything wrong. Don’t give up on reaching out for connection even when you are at your most lonely. The only way out is through.
- Take stock regularly.
Check in on the relationship weekly, monthly, annually. Be honest, don’t avoid. How can you support each other? Where are you letting each other down?
- Never stop showing appreciations for each other.
Do we take anyone for granted as much as we take our partner? I don’t know. Never stop showing gratitude, never stop praising. You are your partner’s witness in life—show them that you see them even chance you get.
Hi! I'm Megan Negendank, founder and executive director of Love Heal Grow Counseling.
I help hurting, worried couples & individuals heal from pain and create thriving lives & relationships.
You can read more about me or schedule an appointment here: About Megan