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7 Lessons I've Learned From My Marriage

On May 07th, 2016 my boyfriend of 7 years and I officially dedicated our lives to one another surrounded by family, friends, and the natural beauty of Arkansas. You would think that after a decade together, getting married wouldn't be that different for Devin and I, or at least that's what I naively thought. You see, after our marriage, I felt a deeper connection with Devin. Our relationship had reached a level I didn't expect, and now on our second anniversary and 8 weeks shy of welcoming our first child in the world, I'm reflecting on the 7 lessons I've learned during our time as husband and wife. This is our story, but maybe you'll resonate with some of these lessons too, friend.

1. I'm learning to be OK with vunerability.

2016 was a gigantic year of growth for me. Beyond getting married, I had to learn to face some of the stories I had shielded myself with for years as an emotional protective barrier. Devin has helped me break down those barriers, and I’d like to think I’ve done the same for him. It’s been a messy journey and we still have our moments where those walls are up, but I can say we have come so far as individuals and a couple thanks to plenty of long talks, listening to audiobooks together (thank you Brene Brown) and more. For me, it’s a step forward just to say, ‘I love you’ spontaneously. The truth is I like who I’m becoming more, and in turn, our relationship has become more tender and meaningful.

2. Your partner will change.

Change can have a negative connotation attached to it, but that doesn’t always have to be the case! The partner you have today will not be the same person 5, 10, or 20 years from now. Obviously, physical changes are bound to happen to any couple, but I have also come to understand that there are smaller changes that you’ll notice. These changes, from what I can tell, happen because of a newfound curiosity from your partner or a life change. For Devin and I, that has been under the spectrum of everything from him taking a curiosity to woodworking to him leaning into his upcoming role as a father.

When Devin and I danced on our wedding day to “We Never Change” by Coldplay, to us, that signified the core of our relationship. Through all our changes, the core of our story and the love we have for each other will not change. Instead, I’d like to think it will only get deeper in time.

3. Spontaneity is the spice of our marriage, but routine keeps us grounded.

Devin and I, being the Game of Thrones nerds that we are, have house words: Spontaneity Within Reason. These words have always been true in our relationship, but I think marriage has only amplified our introvert way of doing things. We lean on each other for planning everything from weeknights to hanging out with our own friends, not out of obligation but out of a respect and love.

Getting a “wild hair” for us looks like foregoing our weekend to-do list to go out to the movies and dinner. We feel most spontaneous while traveling to new places together, but in the end, we both prefer knowing what to expect each day. There’s something about knowing that when I come home we’ll have a meal together, watch The Office and cuddle up to our dogs that suits us just fine.

4. Do things you both enjoy doing together, but make space for your own passions.

Some couples don’t necessarily have to have a “best friend” in a partner, but this was never the case for Devin and I. We genuinely enjoy the time we get to spend together, whether that looks like visiting flea markets, watching a movie together, or getting some time outside with our dogs. All this being said though, we still find it necessary to recharge alone and have our side interests and hobbies. Devin, for instance, has a passion for creating his own craft beer and making homemade pizza. Yes, this tends to leave our kitchen in a warzone of flour, yeast, or sometimes spilled bottles, but I’ve learned to just let him do his thing because it’s what he enjoys.

Devin has never questioned my passion for photography, although he does think I could slow down on my growing plant obsession. Sometimes the best way to show your support for your partner, I’ve noticed, is to give them their space to experiment and ask questions about their process. You may not love your partner’s hobbies, but I think it’s best to encourage those moments of curiosity and growth.

5. Reflect on the sources of your feelings

This is a big one that I know not everyone would agree with and it takes plenty of self-reflection and work that doesn’t happen naturally. Something I’ve been more intentional about since my marriage is figuring out why I may be feeling a certain way towards him—specifically anger and/or disappointment. Am I angry at a habit that he keeps doing? Why does it make me feel this way? Have I addressed this to him before? Am I being unrealistic in my expectations of him, or is this something I feel this goes against the core of our relationship? In the end the question I’m most interested in is: What is the core story of this feeling?

These are the sorts of questions I will start to trail down and I never let them go unanswered. These questions can take time to answer and I find talking it out with a friend, writing it down in a note that I may bring up to Devin or not seems to help me. I’m here to tell you friend that you may not always like the conclusion that you come to as it can lead to a vulnerability or unhealed wound of your past. In the end though, I would rather grow and talk things out with Devin then let these negative feelings metastasize in the form of blame, detachment, or anger. I believe life is too short for these feelings to hold hostage a deeper fulfillment for you and your partner. It’ll take work, but it’s worth it for your person.

6. Marriage is not a magic pill for your relationship.

I know what you’re probably thinking for this one, well yeah, of course! But I think it’s something that not everyone takes the time to really understand. Marriage is a life-long commitment. It’s not for everyone, and that’s OK. It’s important to remember that once you’re married to your partner, you will both get more comfortable and set in your ways about a few things.

Chances are whatever annoyances you have with your partner before you’re married will be amplified now that you’ve said the ‘I-do’s.’ On the reverse side though, those things that made you fall in love with your partner will also be amplified as well. Do not give yourself unrealistic expectations about how you and your partner will be after marriage because you will only be disappointed. Instead, I’ve found the best thing you can do is be the kind of partner you would want for yourself. Do you want your partner to be more thoughtful, supportive or reliable? Make sure you reflect those values through your words and actions before you expect to receive them, friend.

7. Do what works for you both. You don't have to be traditional.

Devin and I aren’t always traditional in how we show affection to one another or celebrate. For instance, I’d much rather a cheese and cracker meat tray than a bouquet of flowers. We don’t make a big deal of Valentine’s Day and prefer to spend our money on experiences over gifts. Do not compare your relationship to someone else’s. Be grateful for the story you’ve created with your partner, and if you feel like something is missing, have the courage to bring up these untold stories with your partner. It's the stories of your past, present and future that I feel add a richness to life.

Devin and I are not a mold for anyone to fit their relationship into. In the end, we’re just two imperfect humans creating stories together with the same future in mind. Today is our anniversary, and while I do enjoy reflecting and acknowledging this momentous day, it’s not the pinnacle of our relationship for this day is always on the horizon. In the end, I believe it’s the moments and days in between that make a true marriage.

Thank you for reading more about our story, friend.

Wedding Photography by Layers

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