This year marks my ten year wedding anniversary. I think back to the day we said “I do” and I remember being excited/terrified/elated/overwhelmed with how those vows were forever going to change my life. Since then, we’ve gone through a decade of growing up together, of changing, learning and loving one another even more than we did those ten years ago.
I got married when I was 24 years old and my husband was 27, ages that seem decidedly young for our ‘generation’. We got married quickly, too. After three short months of dating, my husband proposed and we were married within the year. We celebrated our one-year dating anniversary a few short weeks before getting married.
There is always what we refer to as “relationship mythology” because over time “your story” becomes romanticized, simplified. Do we have a romantic story? You bet we do. My husband’s proposal was something out of a romantic movie. It’s the kind of proposal that women dream of, and a story that I’ve been asked to tell more times than I can count. And to be honest, I never mind telling it because it still makes my heart flutter a little when I think about it. But let’s save that for another editorial (you can read that here).
I’m not trying to brag, but something I hear from a lot of people (and more often than you’d realize) is “Oh my gawd, I love you guys – you’re my relationship goals!” or “You guys are so great together – you’re so lucky.”
The truth is – yes, we are really f*cking lucky. Out of the how many bazillion people on this earth, we found one another, and at a young age, too, which means we get to spend even more of our lives together than others. But we also remember that every single day and we never take it for granted. Do we get along? Yes. Do we have a ton in common? Yes. Does our relationship feel like work? No. Do we work at our relationship? In a way, yes, but not in a way that feels like work. Keep these things in mind as you read on.
My husband is my best friend, my confidant, my life and business partner. He’s the one person that really “gets” me in the truest sense of the word. We do almost everything together and we like it that way. We got married to spend the rest of our lives together. We share hobbies and take an interest in each other’s interests – that doesn’t mean we have to like all of the same things because we’re normal people!
Relationships need to be nurtured and cared for and consideration and communication go a really long way. You’re going to notice that a lot of the things I mention tend to repeat themselves in different instances. This should tell you that it’s not hard if you’re doing it right…that’s what she said! haha, sorry, not sorry. Laughter is important, too, so don’t get all serious on me.
So with all of this in mind, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned in ten years of marriage – the things that keep us together and all #couplegoals (and a few photographs to keep it interesting). Fair warning: this post is a longer read.
Communication is #1
Yes, this sounds cliché and overplayed, but it is the absolute truth.
I’m fortunate enough that my husband is someone that values accountability and communication as much as I do. We’re the couple that you don’t need to group-text because we tell each other everything anyways, so it just feels redundant on our end.
We’re busy. We lead busy lives with friends, family, hockey schedules and client meetings, consulting work and all sorts of other things to juggle but we always make time to communicate with one another. Sending a quick text to ask “how’s your morning going?” or “hey, how did that meeting go?” can connect you more than you realize. More on checking in later.
Strategy: My husband has a job where he attends a lot of meetings. I feel like more than half of his entire job is just meetings. With that in mind, every morning (or previous evening) I’ll ask “What does your day look like?” to which he will respond with meeting times. This does a few things: I know when he’s available if I need to shoot him a quick question and I’m not making his phone buzz incessantly while he’s in a meeting. It also lets me know when he has time for me and when he isn’t ignoring me – he’s actually busy doing his job, at his office, where he is paid to do so.
Communication is something that trickles into most aspects of our relationship (as you’ll see as you read on). Clear communication keeps us from fighting, it keeps us sane and on the same page. Some parts of communicating are about managing expectations and accountability, other parts are being clear about what you need from the other person. If you’re clear about what you want/need, things are simpler. Trust me.
Want a man to listen to you vent without trying to fix it? Try starting with “I don’t need you to do anything with this, I just need to vent and get it out.” The conversation will go better than you think.
Honesty, Trust & Respect
Again with the “advice” that should be common sense, but these things are worth mentioning. Honesty, trust and respect are key foundations for any relationship and without them, I don’t see the point.
Let’s start with honesty. Now this comes back to the communication piece again. Be honest about what you need and want from the other person. No one is a mind reader. This is part of being an adult and being in an adult relationship. Sometimes it means telling someone something or hearing something that you don’t want to. It isn’t always pretty, but honesty is the best policy. We don’t keep secrets (except surprises!) and we are willing to call the other out when we think they’ve misstepped.
Honesty also includes some introspection – being honest with yourself is key in a relationship, too. It’s not just about being honest with the other person. For me, sometimes it’s about discussing my introspective thoughts with my husband – for another perspective for my self-improvement. Confirmation bias can be a dangerous thing here, so be cautious of that.
Trust. If you don’t have trust in a relationship, you can’t have one. I trust my husband fully and completely, and he trusts me just as deeply. It isn’t about things like trusting that he won’t leave me or cheat on me or hurt me or anything, although I do trust that he wouldn’t do any of that. He makes me feel safe and secure and some of that does come back to trust (all of these things are important…I’m not trying to gloss over them, I’m just digging a little deeper here). We trust each other’s judgement, we trust each other’s word and we trust each other to be honest. I know that when my husband says he’s going to do something that he’s going to do it.
Side note here – if he says he’s going to do it, give him time to do it. Don’t nag. Please, please, please.
Respect. I believe that respect is earned and it’s something that needs to be maintained between husband and wife. If I didn’t respect my husband, I wouldn’t have married him (and vice versa) or stayed married to him either. I think that honesty, trust and respect go hand in hand, too. I respect my husband because he’s honest and I can trust him. I respect him for being honest with me, especially when I need it the most, and I trust that it comes from a place of love and not malice.
These three pillars also have to do with privacy – from one another. I trust that my husband isn’t doing anything shady, so I don’t feel the need to geo-track his phone or read his texts or emails and vice versa. If I want to know where he is, I’ll ask him. If he’s curious about something, he’ll ask me. It’s not to say that we aren’t completely open with one another, but we’re not paranoid bananas, either.
Enjoy The Everyday + Spend Time Together
I enjoy the time I spend with my husband. I don’t care if we’re at Costco, a hockey game, watching Netflix or staining the fence, I value the time spent together. People like to tease us that we do everything together but we got married to spend our lives together. Is running errands annoying or tedious? Heck yes. Are renovation projects only sometimes fun? Also yes. But when we do things together, it inspires a teammate mentality that I think is missing from a lot of relationships. We’re in this thing together.
We’re genuinely best friends. We like each other and actually enjoy one another’s company. If we didn’t feel that way, we would have married other people.
Life’s too short.
We check in with each other, we check in with our “family calendar” of scheduled items regularly throughout the week so that we’re always on the same page. It’s also about managing expectations and our time. For example: We know that he has hockey on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, we’re having dinner with family on Friday, Saturday we are doing client work…so on Thursday let’s make it just about us. Hmm…sounds like communication again!
I also cannot stress this enough: make time for each other.
My husband and I are busy. We both have full-time jobs and a boutique consulting business. We play recreational sports, we have a dog, we enjoy the outdoors, we value time spent with family, we have NHL season tickets. We also have to take time to feed ourselves and do housework. But in that time, we always always always make time for one another.
This means putting down our phones and talking to one another. This one can be tricky because we’re small business owners and so we always feel attached, but we make a point that when we go out for dinner or on a “date” that the phones stay off the table and we engage with each other – not devices.
You might be thinking “yeah, just wait until you have kids” to which I reply “so, you’re saying that your marriage is no longer a priority after you have kids?” Make time. Put the kids to bed early, order takeout and talk to each other. It’s not that hard. You can use your kids as an excuse for a lot of things, but not this one.
I think one of the ways that my husband and I show love to one another is through supporting one another – and this takes a variety of forms and love languages. I’m a blogger and an entrepreneur, but I’m a creative. Would you believe it if I told you that Styled to Sparkle was actually his idea? This entire website was something my husband thought I’d be great at and encouraged me to start. “I’ll build you a website and handle the technical stuff – you focus on writing content.” And here we are. Note that this is also the same tone that we took when we created Styled Brands.
But it’s more than that – in both life and blogging. Yes, he does all of my photography (+ edits all my photos and videos). He taught me how to use the Adobe Creative Suite, how to create a Podcast, all of those things. He’s my biggest cheerleader and wants me to succeed for me. But again, it’s more than that. It’s not just about cheering someone on (although that helps), or about doing things for them. It’s about supporting the big picture of what they’re trying to do in as many ways possible. Sometimes it’s just the being there that counts. He believes that I can do this and wants to help me succeed in whatever way he can – whether that be giving me the tools I need or helping me with the things that he’s much better at than me.
One other thing. I attend almost 100% of my husband’s rec hockey games. I hear a lot of “You’re such a good wife” or “I would do that if we didn’t have the kids” or “Why do you go? Don’t you get bored? Ugh, the games are so late!” Why do I do it? Well, I do like hockey, but I also like to watch my husband play. It means a lot to him to see me in the stands and know that I’m there supporting him, even in this instance.
Can’t make it to games but want to be supportive? When your partner leaves, try saying “Have fun tonight!” or “I hope your game goes well” and then ask them about it when they come home or the next morning. Show interest. You don’t have to be in the stands every game or even any game, but at least care about what they’re doing when they leave the house for a couple of hours at 10pm on a snowy Wednesday night.
It’s the Little Things…
If I’m being honest, I’ve really been listing the day-to-day stuff so far, and that’s not what it is that keeps us happy. I truly believe it’s the little things. We have inside jokes and we laugh together often. Our love for our dog, Hattie and how she’s enriched our lives is another little thing. We have little traditions and silly habits with each other that are ours and just ours.
Some of these “little” things might come from knowing one another really well, too. We can be in a crowd and look at each other and know what the other is thinking in an instant. My husband can tell if something is on my mind by the way I exhale when I’m trying to fall asleep. Sometimes it’s just about being present with each other.
Don’t Go To Bed Angry
Isn’t this the one piece of advice our elders try to pass on to us when we get married? Well, it’s probably because it’s important. We never go to bed angry – we just don’t. What if that means we’re up until 3am trying to solve something? Well, then I guess that means we’re up until 3am to solve something. I hate when people fight over the course of days. I hate the silent treatment, I hate grudges, I hate anything that is unresolved. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is important. It’s also important to ask yourself this question: Is it a matter or principle or a matter of taste? (this was relationship advice my Dad gave me years ago and I think it stands today).
If something is a matter of moral principle, don’t waiver. If it is a matter of taste or preference, learn to compromise.
It’s always easier to marry someone with whom you share the same values and principles…it kind of helps you avoid these disagreements. I’m not saying that you should search for confirmation bias in a partner – it’s important to disagree and challenge each other, but being on the same page and having a similar perspective is helpful. If you feel like your whole life is a compromise, see a marriage counsellor. This is outside of my pay grade.
Learn to Fight Fair
This has been a harder one for me than for my husband. When I fight, I give it everything I’ve got, so much so that I can cross lines. You can’t put toothpaste back into the tube so to speak. Once things are said, it doesn’t matter if they were in a fit of anger or not, they can’t be unsaid. If you’re married to someone you should know them completely – and that includes how to push their buttons. My husband does not anger easily but if we’re disagreeing over something, I know exactly what to say and how to say it to push him over the edge, and vice versa.
Don’t push those buttons! You only stand to make whatever (likely) useless argument even worse…plus you lose the high ground, which if you fight fair, you should both have. When I say “fight fair” what I really mean is this:
- Don’t play the “blame game”.
- Don’t use absolutes (examples include “you always do this” or “you never do that”).
- Don’t use hurtful language, don’t name call, don’t bring family into it, don’t hit below the belt.
- Don’t bring up things that were decidedly resolved from six arguments ago. If you agreed to let it go, then there in-lies the statute of limitations.
- Don’t fight in front of other people! First of all, it makes them insanely uncomfortable, but also your disagreement is no one else’s business and no one needs to feel like they should be taking sides or weighing in.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all said things we’ve regretted the moment the words left our mouths. If this happens, make sure you sincerely apologize and don’t make it a habit. These little things can do bigger damage than we realize.
Have Each Other’s Backs
& Don’t Let Anything Come Between You
Maybe this is another part of the trust component, but I always have my husband’s back and he always has mine. Always. Without question. If you don’t feel like that every damn day, then something is off. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re on your own all while standing next to who is supposed to be your partner in everything.
I’m sure you read that little heading and thought “but who would ever try to come between you?” You’d be surprised. People have tried to pit us against each other and you know what? It’s never worked. Probably because we’ve discussed it and we know that we’re the only two people that matter in our relationship. People will try to start sh*t, they’ll try to sh*t on your happiness or make you as miserable as they are and as long as you’re strong together, it won’t work.
Sometimes issues with family can come between a couple. This is where discussing things calmly, rationally, politely and without hyperbole is some of the most important in a relationship. For example, don’t call anyone’s Mom a B even if she’s being one. Don’t let passive aggressive comments from friends or family members cause rifts in your relationship – those comments are more about them than they are about you.
It’s also good to remember that someone’s opinion of you or your relationship is none of your business.
Something else: we seldom disagree, but even more seldom is disagreeing in public. In those instances, I assure you it is over something playful – never anything of moral consequence (see how I just keep tying it all together?!). And when we do disagree publicly, it’s not a thing. We don’t try to get bystanders to take sides or involve anyone else in our relationship…unless it is something inconsequential like what color a jacket really is (black or blue…I swear to you it is black! sorry, this is an inside joke). We either save it for later (when we’re alone) or we both realize that it’s just not worth it.
Don’t Talk Smack About Your Partner
Something my mother taught me long ago, when I entered the dating game, was never to talk smack about my boyfriend/husband to others. It’s one thing to vent, but it is another to talk smack. She taught me that if I had a problem with my husband, the only person that should hear about that problem is my husband, not my Facebook friends, not my girlfriends, not anyone. Note: this is not to say that if you are in an abusive relationship that you should not tell anyone – that is obviously different.
I hate when I hear other men and women bashing their partners to other people. They might think it’s funny or just normal behaviour and something that we all do, but it makes me super uncomfortable. I can’t imagine if my husband complained about me to anyone – I’d be so embarrassed and I would feel betrayed and hurt and like some form of inherent trust had been broken. This is one of those situations where it’s important to think about how you’d feel if you were the one being complained about. I get that we all need to vent, but just be careful.
I’ve made a lot of my friends uncomfortable when I won’t tear my husband down or join in the “man-bashing” they have going on. I don’t think it’s constructive or healthy and to be honest, I really don’t have anything to complain about. I’ll hear remarks like “well, it’s because your relationship is perfect” or again, “you’re so lucky”.
Some Things Are Meant To Be Private
I can’t believe I have to say this, but some things shouldn’t leave certain circles of trust or ‘zones of privacy’. Some people and some couples are more open than others, but at the end of the day, there are some things that should inherently be kept private. These are things for you and your partner to decide and I don’t intend to pass judgement here or tread on your “but I tell my girlfriends everything” mentality. All I’m saying is that there are certain things that remain between husband and wife and it’s important to be respectful of that.
This comes back to trust and respect again. There are certain things that are more on the private side that we discuss with close friends, BUT before we do, we’ve always had a discussion ahead of time about what we’re both comfortable disclosing as to not betray the trust of the other. Boundaries are important and they’re important to establish together. This ties back in to the “united front” conversation earlier.
Sex & Intimacy
You didn’t think I’d go there, did you? Don’t get too excited, dirty birds – this might not be what you think (see comments in previous paragraph!). Why I mention sex is because I believe that physical intimacy is important in a marriage and that it is something that extends past the bedroom. What I mean by this is that things like hand holding, when he puts his hand on the small of my back in a crowd, sharing a loving glance, hugs…those kinds of things; they make you feel closer than you’d realize.
I feel like I need to say this because it’s important. You must be attracted to your partner. You don’t have to think they’re the hottest thing walking, but you must be attracted to them or this isn’t going to work. It’s also helpful to feel good about yourself.
Sex is important to a marriage. And enjoying sex with one another is also important. If you’re not that into it, then maybe it’s time to have a chat about it – it might be awkward or embarrassing, but you’ll just have to get over yourself because this is important and after all, isn’t it worth it? I’m not going to dive too deep into this one (pun not intended) but what I will say is this:
Clear your mind and focus only on the present when you’re “doing it”. Make eye contact. You don’t have to maintain it the entire time, but really try to connect with the other person. Really be present and focussed on connecting with your partner.
It’s called “making love” for a reason, people!
I hate when people tell me they don’t have time for sex. Make time! We all make time for meaningless things in our lives, so why not make time to connect with your partner in a deeper way. Maybe you feel weird about your body after having a baby, maybe you need something to make you feel more desired – I don’t know your situation. Maybe you’re out of sync and it will take a conscious effort here to try and “get back into the groove” so to speak…that’s what she said! ha! (sorry, I couldn’t help myself…see, you can still laugh in these situations!).
One more thing – if you’re one of those couples in the TTC stage of your marriage, I caution you with this: DO NOT think about “making babies” while you’re doing it. Yes, this is where babies come from, but this is about connecting with your partner…and fingers crossed, conceiving a child as a happy result. Is it difficult to focus on each other and having good sex when the OPK says “today is the day”? Sure. But you can make a conscious effort to make it more than that because once that TTC time period is over, you still want to connect with each other on that level. You’ll have babies, but you’ll still have a marriage. Your babies will leave the nest, but you’ll still have a marriage. So why not make it a good one?
Learn How To Learn
From Other Couples
My husband and I discuss everything – literally everything. And one thing we often discuss is other people’s relationships. Now before you get all “that’s none of your business, oh-my-gawd she’s judging my marriage what the hell does she even know, you guys are a-holes” on me here, let me explain.
We’re a couple and as a result we have many friends who are couples. We all have different styles, different kinds of relationships, different dynamics, different everything. What might surprise you is that we’ve learned a lot about these couples not as much from observation but more from their over-sharing with us, which we in turn discuss with one another. This isn’t all negative – in fact, the majority of it is positive.
We’ll talk about how another couple stuck together and supported one another through hardship (perhaps miscarriage, a time apart for work, the loss of a family member, financial instability, etc.), how they’ve kept their marriage and relationship with one another strong through having children, how we admire their particular parenting style (either as a whole or in particular instances). Body language, how they interact with each other in public, how they talk about their partner when their partner isn’t listening…
We take what we like and consider implementing it into our own relationship. We also look at the bad and have said things like “Please don’t ever let me be like that towards you” or “Wow, that conversation was meant to be had in front of a marriage councillor, not us! Yikes!” When we see things that we don’t like, we’ll often comment to one another about how we prefer the way that we do things. Again, not in judgement of others, but more in a manor of being pleased that we have something that works for us.
Say ‘I Love You’ Every Day
Always Kiss Me Hello, Goodbye,
Good Morning & Goodnight
We all have different love languages, but I think these simple rules belong in every marriage.
- We never hang up the phone without saying I love you.
- We always kiss hello, goodbye, good morning and good night. Why not make a point to connect when you meet and leave one another? It’s more powerful than you might realize.
- Before every hockey game, I always kiss my husband and say “play good” before he enters the dressing room. I’ve done that since the first game of his I went to and now it’s one of “our things”.
These rules can be helpful if you’re feeling disconnected or out of sync. They can be the start of getting back on the same page or they can just help to keep you there.
I bet you’ve read through some of this and thought “well, that seems pretty simple…” and I absolutely hope that’s what you thought. These things aren’t difficult, which is why in some regards I’m surprised I get asked about my marriage as often as I do. But in your defence, sometimes it’s harder when you’re in it. You get caught up in the day-to-day and some of these things fall by the wayside. I encourage you to make your marriage a priority because in the end, you’re in this thing together!