We just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and want you to succeed in your relationship. So today I want to share 6 lessons learned from 20 years of marriage to help you reach those anniversaries too. There are people who have been married longer I have, but that seems to be less and less common. So, I would like to share with you the little bit I have learned from our experience so that you will be more likely to reach your 20th and beyond.
If you are more of a podcast person or a YouTube person, my wife and I recorded a show on this so I will add links for those as well. I really still enjoy reading, so for all you written word lovers like me, here it is.
1 . It’s All about Pre-Game
One of the most important things I can tell you is that you have to do the work BEFORE you get married. Long before the question “will you marry me” even crosses your mind you should have an intimate knowledge of that person. Not that kind of intimate, mind out of the gutter please.
You should know about things like:
· How do they celebrate holidays and which holidays are important to them?
· How do they feel about having children?
· What is their view on marriage? What is acceptable? Do they think divorce is an acceptable answer or not?
· How is their relationship with their family?
· What is their relationship to money? Do they budget, save, invest or spend wildly?
· What are their future goals?
· How do they feel about moving to a new place for opportunities?
The list can go on and on. I am often amazed at how little young couples know about each other before they say “I do.”
One of the greatest strengths my wife and I had going into our marriage was that our whole relationship was long distance. Before the world of cell phones, all we could do was talk and that was an investment. Quite literally it was an investment into us, long distance calling used to be expensive. We had to evolve into meaningful conversations because you can only dwell on surface level nonsense so long when all you do is talk.
2. You Can’t Change Them
If the thought “ I love her/him and I will get them to change this annoying little habit“ comes into your head, just STOP.
People factually are capable of change, however people will NOT change because you want them to or think they should. That is not how it works, get it out of your head.
If you think you need to change them to be happy and you can just work on that, run away now. I love my wife, more deeply than I can tell. I smoked on and off for 15 years; she hated it with a passion. She had lost people in her life to cancer associated with smoking and vehemently hates smoking. I didn’t quit for my wife; I wanted to, I tried to and failed many times. I quit after our first child was born. I had to quit for me, and because that is not the example I could live with setting for my child. One of my deepest goals in life is to be a good father, I could not impress on my children that smoking was an option when they got older and believe in my heart that I was being the best dad I could be.
Like any change, a person has to decide they want to change for themselves. If you try to change them they will resent you and it will break down your marriage. It will also just wedge in that thing more. If you can’t learn to love it, embrace it or accept it without it hurting your heart then don’t marry it. That cute little quirk will be what sends you toward divorce court.
3. Make Time for Purposeful Communication
Communication is a lifetime skill, you will spend your whole life constantly working on communication with everyone including your spouse. In fact here are 2 books I highly recommend that will help you improve that communication.
Communication gets difficult in marriage because life happens. The honeymoon ends and the real world awaits. Schedules, careers, friends, family, organizations, ambition, business, politics, finances, bills and so much more happens. You get thrown into the fast lane of life incredibly quickly and all of these things interfere with your communication as a couple.
When you add kids to that equation it blows up even more.
You have to make time for intentional and purposeful communication. Don’t leave it to accident or happenstance; schedule it in! FIGHT for it and guard it like it is the most important thing in the world, because it truly may be. If communication breaks down you are lost.
Make time to just discuss things with each other; don’t make it all about the bills, the kids, work or anything like that. Make time to talk about your dreams, goals, personal growth, struggles and mental/emotional wellbeing. Talk like you did when you were in the early phase of your relationship and you could hardly get through the day without hearing what they had to say. Don’t lose that, because life will try to steal it.
4. All In or Nothing
I am not going to go into depth on this, go watch the podcast if you really want to hear a detailed explanation. It is simple. I just introduced my kids to Empire Strikes Back, Yoda nailed it with “DO or do not, there is no try.”
If you aren’t all in on your marriage being your priority, you already have one foot out the door.
5. Together and Separate
One of the biggest misconceptions that young couples have is the need to be attached at the hip. It’s a stupid idea. As a married couple you have come together to form something new and amazing, however in becoming that you are adding something, not dissolving something.
You may love each other more than a bad romcom, but you are both still two separate people. You have not lost your identity nor replaced it, you have simply added something more to it.
I do obstacle course events, my wife cheers for me when she can be there. My wife runs, I cheer for her when I can be there, but if I am running it is because something is trying to kill me. I hate running and don’t understand why anyone does it for fun. I like to play computer games, my wife thinks they are dumb.
These are not problems for us, she will sit happily in the same room and read while I game. You don’t have to do all of the same things together or even like the same things. Maybe you are an NCIS person and your spouse is a Criminal Minds person. It is OK.
Find things you enjoy doing together and do those, but it is okay to have separate hobbies and interests as well.
6. Have a Laugh
Learn to not take yourself seriously. Learn to laugh with each other and a little bit at each other. Seriously, if your spouse can’t give you crap when you do something dumb, you will never be able to handle life in the real world. My wife and I pitch each other so much crap, when we were first married people thought we fought like an old married couple.
There was not fighting, we just had perspective. We all do silly, goofy, dumb, duh kind of things; we all have our moments. My wife and I just realized that it is part of who we are and that we love each other. If she can’t tease me, when I know she loves me and has my best interest always at heart, how are we ever supposed to get through the day. There is nothing wrong with good natured teasing when you know you are loved. It helps you keep from taking yourself too seriously and you can both laugh. Laughing together is scientifically proven to make your relationship stronger.
If you want a more detailed breakdown, be sure to check out our podcast on YouTube, my wife came out from behind the camera for this one. (Just Click the Image) I always have fun on the show when she joins me. It is also available on our podcast if you want to listen to it. https://thefallibleman.podbean.com/e/marriage-advice-secrets-to-a-20-year-marriage/
We wish you 20 years and much much more, I can’t wait for the next 20 with my amazing wife. Thanks for hanging out with me for a little while. Leave your comments below.
Did I miss anything? Tell me in the comments below!
The Fallible Man
Be better tomorrow because of what you do today!