5 Lessons We’ve Learned in Our 5 Years of Marriage
Two years ago I wrote my own love story and titled it “A Giant Leap of Faith.” There were two reasons for that. First, Greg and I first became friends because we are both New York Giants fans and would watch Sunday football together. And second, because we had been friends for eight months before we decided to date and the decision to go from friends to lovers was definitely a leap of faith on both of our parts.
Even if you didn’t have to cross the friend zone with your partner, I think most people take a leap of faith when they say yes to marriage. You don’t know with 100% confidence the outcome of any relationship. All you can feel assured of is the commitment that you will put in and hope that the other person is as committed as you are. Love is more than an emotion, it’s an action.
Thankfully, my leap of faith paid off and after five years of marriage I know that I chose the very best person to be my husband. That doesn’t mean that we don’t work hard on our marriage or encounter stumbling blocks along the way because we sure do. And it’s good thing we do (even though it doesn’t feel like it in the moment) because once we get over the hurdles we have 20/20 hindsight and learn how to be better partners and lovers.
Recently we reflected on our journey in marriage and these are the things we know for sure:
Clashing over the finances never ends but it does get better.
Just this past weekend we had another clashing of the minds over money. You would think after five years of marriage we would have this down by now. But the reality is that money is one of the subjects that will challenge you as a couple time and time again. There’s a reason money is always in the top three reasons for divorce. I would venture to guess that of all the married couples, only a small fraction are on exact same page about money. We bring different money mentalities into our relationships. Our money mentalities are formed from our past experiences with money and that history, developed over decades, becomes ingrained in who you are.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The more aware you are about each other’s differences, the better chance you have at finding financial strategies that you each can buy into and work on together. This is exactly how we have approached our finances. Greg has his money strengths and I have mine. We delegate accordingly. Once we encounter a new clash, we go through the rumble and then talk about it to set up a strategy so we can minimize the impact if it ever happens again. A real tangible example of this for us was allocating fun money every month, a designated amount of money we could spend any way we wanted without question (like 10 pairs of shoes!).
Compromise for a more peaceful relationship.
We all have this thing called an ego and man is it powerful. I don’t mean to say that ego is bad, only to say that it’s natural we act in our own best interest first. And most of us have done that for decades. It’s really hard to go from a “what-do-I-want” mentality to a “for-the-sake-of-the-relationship” mentality. But research shows that when you put your relationship ahead of either of your individual preferences, you’re more likely to experience relationship satisfaction. That’s where compromise comes in.
When I think about how I’ve compromised over the years what’s most prominent is our move from NYC to Atlanta. Greg was a little ahead of me on moving to Atlanta and over two years ,we had a lot of discussions about it. He compromised with me for about a year while we continued to live in New York and then I compromised with him on finally pulling the trigger on the move. When I think about it that way I realize compromising is like a dance. He steps that way and she follows or they fall out of sync and then she moves the next direction and he follows. In the end, we both had our needs met individually and as a couple through compromise.
Supporting your partner’s goals makes your relationship stronger.
When we moved back to Atlanta, part of the compromise was that I could dive head first into Love Notery and not get a job in the corporate world right away. What a risk that was for so many reasons. The biggest, of course, was financial. We would have we live off of one salary as I grew my business. Fortunately for me Greg has always supported me and my dreams even if they are a little crazy at times.
Supporting your partner’s goals is important because you as a couple can only reach your highest potential when each partner is at their best. It’s the same concept as “you’re only as strong as the weakest link.” If either partner feels their not playing their best game, that void can and will sink into your relationship like a dark gray cloud and affect you both. This article gives some great ideas on what it means to support your partner. In essence, be an encourager, don’t be controlling, and don’t interfere unnecessarily.
Have your own hobbies and interests.
This gets talked about a lot for one simple reason. Your partner can’t be your everything. Having your own interests and hobbies helps you maintain your individuality, which is important for the success of your relationship. “You complete me” only works in the movies. I used to do PR for a divorce therapist and she had a framework that said there’s three people in a relationship: I, You and We. That’s a powerful way to say that for a relationship to thrive both partners need to nurture themselves individually as well as the relationship.
I’ve moved through a variety of hobbies and interests over the years but the one I get the most pleasure from is salsa dancing. I started dancing salsa many years before I met Greg and with his two left feet (sorry Greg), he had no chance of catching up to my level. And that’s quite alright with me.
This is my favorite of these five lessons! Life gets so busy and the days really can just fly so it’s important to plan fun things in your relationship. These can be simple like a weekly ice cream dates to more extravagant like taking a European vacation together.
In the moment, these relationship-boosting activities bring a lot of joy to your daily life, but you also get so much benefit down the road when you think back and reflect on your experiences. For example, the other day Greg asked if I remembered when we would go get ice cream after dinner in NYC. I smiled and answered, "of course!" I even visualized the walk and imagined the wind in my face as the sunset over the water.
Research shows that novelty brings a deeper level of intimacy between two partners so mix it up every now and again and do something different. You'll be sure to be talking about it years later. Greg and I still talk about our trip to Italy, that one time we took a cocktail-making class and snowshoeing in the Colorado mountains.
The more memories you create, the more fulfilled you will feel in your relationship. That's a true gift.
In honor of our 5th anniversary, here are a few favs from over the years...