Ten years goes by in the blink of an eye, and yet it feels as if we’ve been married forever. I can’t imagine life without Laura, and I love the life we’ve built together. Ten years ago, this month she made me the happiest man in the world by saying “I do.” I wanted to share four things that I’ve learned in ten years that you might find helpful.
- Set realistic expectations. When we got married, the only marriage I knew up close was my parents. Naturally, my vision of marriage was theirs. While they have an incredible marriage that stands as a testament to their love and maturity, I didn’t see all of it. I never saw them fight, so I didn’t think they did. Now, years later, I realize that they do, and I just didn’t see it. I didn’t know how often it was okay to argue and what it was okay to argue about. You’re probably thinking, “That’s silly Howell, do what feels right,” but I was genuinely worried when we even had the most minor spat. Now, years into this and having talked to many couples, I know that my expectations were ridiculous. Don’t set crazy expectations. I wouldn’t even set expectations for your spouse and how they will act until you know them in the intimate setting of marriage. We all have to find what fits us and what we are willing to give to put this life together. High expectations only make that harder.
- Listen first, talk later. My mouth has done far more damage in our marriage than I would’ve believed possible. I’m a pretty quiet guy, but I’ve learned that I’m much quicker to draw conclusions than I thought. I’m also not a mind reader, and neither are you. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to listen first about a dozen times.
- Don’t hold it in. Be open. Laura and I have found so much freedom in sharing everything. When there are no secrets, life is much simpler. So, if you are upset and keeping that from your spouse to protect them, you are only making things worse. I know this from experience.
- Never walk away in anger. It seems like everyone says this, but it is so true. Laura often jokes about how I want to deal with things right now and not later. That comes from experience. Walking away to “cool down” or “catch your breath” usually just gives you time to think about why you are right and your spouse more time to be hurt. Storming off never helped a marriage.