Growing up I was not exposed to the healthiest of relationships; it made things tricky when navigating our marriage. We were kids when we got hitched, it was not a whirlwind fairytale, we had to make a lot of practical choices and I hope I do better for my kids when the time comes. This being said we were lucky because we had found the right partner to marry and that is pretty much what matters the most because no matter what the wedding day you have, no matter how well or terribly your respective relatives and friends get along, your differences or similarities, if you are not the right fit and willing to grow together it just is unlikely to work. Looking back now on ten years, I would like to share some of what I have learnt and what has helped us along the way.
1-Accept each other.
We are all unique. It makes us all special in our own way but it can also make things difficult at times. A good foundation in marriage is acceptance, nobody is perfect, we all have qualities and flaws and it is important to accept your partner for who they are, they should not have to pretend, they should feel safe knowing that you can see them and love them for themselves and they should return that same acceptance.
2- Respect each other.
This is something that is key. You can never be in a happy, fulfilling relationship without respect. Respect in a relationship is what provides safety, you have the right to feel respected and safe at all times, there is no belittling or attacks, physical or emotional in a healthy relationship. Respect means you can bring difficult topics of conversation up when different opinions may arise but know that you can work through a resolution together without danger. Respect means your self esteem remains intact and your children if you have some will benefit from witnessing a respectful relationship by expecting to be treated similarly in the future.
3- Communicate with each other.
One of the hardest things I have witnessed in relationships is the expectation that a partner should magically know you so well they can read your mind or know what will make you happy. The truth is that everyone is different, some people are great at noticing details and making perfect gifts, others show their love through physical affection but are not so great at gift giving. We are all different so communication in a relationship matters a great deal, it allows you to make plans, tell each other what your expectations and needs are and stay in touch with each other as you grow, you cannot know each other and stay in touch with each other without honest communication and talks.
4- Make room to grow.
Sometimes people assume that married couples fuse into a new entity; that’s not true. Sure you’re a team but a team is made up of individuals who share a common goal and interest, they still remain individuals and as such they grow and change as life happens and in order to stay healthy a relationship needs to allow for individual growth. Make sure you have time for yourself and allow your partner time for themselves too, talk to keep in touch with each other’s hopes, plans and dreams and make time to make them happen. Some of the most difficult times we have had so far in life came from when we realised we had changed interests in life, career for instance but remained unhappy on course rather than talk and make a change. Change might seem daunting as it can come along financial set backs but in the future making sure you each have a chance to grow and be fulfilled means you can bring back that positive energy into the relationship. Cultivate yourself as an individual, it keeps things interesting and the relationship healthy and balanced.
5- Be honest with each other.
There cannot be trust in a relationship without honesty. You should always feel safe to be honest about your feelings or what is happening in your personal life with your partner. When we started our relationship we very early on decided on a few rules, some might not make sense but out of respect for each other we agreed that if there ever came a time when the relationship did not work anymore for either of us (whatever might have brought this on) we would be honest about it. No one should be trapped, knowingly or unknowingly in a one side relationship. There can never be honesty, self respect or happiness in a marriage without honesty. Making sure that we would always be honest with each other means we know we can safely rely on each other and trust each other with even the most difficult or embarrassing moments.
6- Take care of the house together.
It really does not matter what your specific arrangements are when it comes to work, whether it is one of you leading a career and one being a homemaker, both working careers, studying, thriving or striving to make ends meet and dreams happen, at the end of the day you both want to rest in your home. Keeping your nest homely should not be the job of only one of you, there is something special about both taking care of the space you share, if you want to be happy together it matters a great deal that you both are invested in home life, from tidying, cleaning to making meals for each other, the simple act of caring for the space you share shows your love and relieves a lot of underlying potential one sided stress in the relationship.
7- Create your own traditions.
When you create your marriage you bring together some of the traditions you each were brought up together. These traditions might complement each other but sometimes if they feel redundant it can be fun to either blend them together or maybe create some new tradition from scratch. Some of the most special memories we have created came from our new traditions such as the Christmas Eve Dinner and Christmas Morning breakfast, the St Nicholas tradition, the new family ornaments we purchase each year for Christmas. It is nice to add meaning to the fabric of your marriage by creating your embellishments. Your marriage is your own and not a replication of someone else’s relationship and as such it deserves its own manner of celebrating its special memories.
8- Dream together.
My husband and I are both introverts. We have an understanding over giving each other space when we are upset or overwhelmed. We know that in order to recharge ourselves we need time to self care alone. This being said we keep dreaming together, this helps us make new plans and work on projects together that keep us close. We still have time for our own personal projects but it is important to have dreams as a couple as well, short term and long term ones.
9- Care for each other.
Life is full of curve balls but knowing you have each other’s support makes it easier. This can be from taking care of the housework and making some hot tea or soup for your partner who is unwell to making sure you wake up a little extra early for your partner to also have time for a shower in the morning when you both have worked late the night before. Caring can be noticing the little details such as your partner’s favourite soap and purchasing it, it can be caring not just when you are unwell but also caring about the every day moments together. You deserve to be in a relationship where you care for each other.
10- Keep choosing each other.
I guess this last one could also be the most important one. A long happy marriage is never guaranteed by a big wedding or a beautiful ring. A marriage happens when you keep choosing to be together, when you have a disagreement, you choose to talk and work it through, when your families have issues you still choose each other first, when life becomes hectic you still choose to make it work together. It is not always easy but so long as you love each other, respect each other, trust each other and want it to work, being together can be the best choice you will keep on making.
Ten years on, there has been a lot of choices good and bad but we keep on improving and moving forward together. There has been a lot of compromises and sure life is not looking exactly as we each had pictured it would be but it is good and we love our time together. We work together as a couple and we love creating a lovely life for our children. we make sure they know happiness can be found at home and that there is plenty of it for whenever they need it.