My husband and I celebrated our ten year anniversary this year. Originally, we’d planned on doing something extravagant to commemorate the occasion - an exotic vacation sans children or something similar.
Namely secondary to an inability to secure childcare and dedicate time to planning with everything else we had on our plates, our actual festivities were pretty low key. On Friday, we had a date night at an unassuming but fun ramen place in the city that reminded us of our years in NYC. We sat at a long table amongst young couples, overhearing conversations about plans and interests, and, of course, enjoying our food and our own conversation. The next morning, we piled our family into the car and drove to Asheville, one of our favorite getaways. There we went to a street fair, ate great food, strolled around town ice cream cones in hand, and enjoyed a summer concert with the mountains in the background and the kids running around the lawn. As we drove back home at midnight with the kids fast asleep, we planned the logistics of the week, discussed gossip we’d heard, and listened to a Podcast we had saved to hear together.
In retrospect, I can’t help but think it was the most appropriate celebration ever. It was fun, practical, and involved what are by far the most amazing results of our union, our two sons. There are so many things that I am thankful for as we hit this landmark, and I don’t want to underplay them with this post. Yes, I love my husband with all my heart, and feel so fortunate to have married my best friend and such an excellent father to my two boys. I love the life that we have created together, and am grateful to have survived the many challenges along the way. All of that said, I also want to share what these past ten years have taught us (and which will hopefully make our next few decades smoother!):
- Love is not constant or unconditional. It waxes and wanes, and yes, hopefully there is always a baseline level of love which you do not go below. But without an appropriate amount of attention to sustaining what you’ve built, it may. When things are insanely busy or stressful, it’s tempting to want to assume that what you have will weather everything. Don’t.
- Present a united front. Once you’ve said those vows, everything you do impacts each other. You can and should still have your individual friends and interests, but approach life as a team. Don’t disagree in public - save it for home. Face challenges together and offer each other (constructive) criticism in private. Stand up for each other, and ask each other’s opinions - and actually take them into consideration. Recognize that others will remember your disagreements and actions far past when you’ve gotten over them.
- Take interest in the things about each other you may think you don’t care about. As time goes on, you will start to feel like you know everything about each other and can predict every move. Talk about seemingly inconsequential things, tell that childhood story you randomly thought of, share that meme that make you laugh or that article you found intriguing, talk about what you actually do at your job. Yes, there’s a chance the other person will be bored at times - but the joy of finding out something new is worth it.
- Look back on your favorite memories and realize that a lot of them were unplanned. Yes, you have to build a life, and that involves schedules, budgeting, planning, calculated compromise, and a million other things. In a life where practicality almost always wins, the occasional splurge or the random night out will often provide the best experiences. Spontaneity is refreshing.
- Surround your family with people who value relationships. Choose friends that put their families above themselves, their jobs, or money. They will encourage you to bring out the best in your relationship, and time with them will allow you to focus on what you love about each other and being with each other. Together, go out of your way to help your friends and family, because there will come a time where you will need or rely on them as well. It’s impossible to survive the challenges that life will throw at you by yourselves.
- Pick your battles. Things about your spouse that annoyed you when you first got married will likely annoy you forever - and vice versa. Try to remember that you made the decision to overlook those things when you got married, and focus your energy on true dealbreakers. On the flip side, recognize that the same fights will come up over and over again, and instead of just waiting for the next time the same issue becomes a problem, try to address them in the moments of calm in between.
- Never stop being grateful for what you have. Part of this includes recognizing that everyone around you has more going on that meets the eye, and that nothing will ever be perfect. Focusing on that content feeling you had snuggled up next to your spouse on the concert lawn while watching your happy, healthy children running around - - that will get you through almost anything.