They say the first two years of marriage are the hardest (so they say). I won't say these have been the hardest two years of my life or anything, but if they're the hardest two years of marriage, I'd say we're looking pretty good from here on out.
Needless to say, these two years have been eventful. They've been full of sleepless nights, dirty dishes, stressful days at work, and our fair share of miscommunications. We've also taken countless road trips, had plenty of family bonding moments, and lots and lots of silliness. We love being in a home of our own and the girls fill our hearts with SO. MUCH. JOY.
I don't by any means claim to be an expert on marriage, but here's some of the ways we managed to pull it off...
1. Talk about everything. - "Communication is key." (Joel's input for this post.) We made it a point right off the bat to talk about anything and everything. We figured out fast it's better to over communicate than to guess. If we're not communicating well, everything else will be off. There's no way a 2-part unit can function properly if the two parts are not working together.
2. Fight fair. - It doesn't happen very often, but we do argue. We learned the hard way that when things get heated, it's really hard not to get caught up in the moment and say things we don't really mean, or say things just to push buttons. Once we had a chance to wind down, we made ourselves a couple of guidelines for heated battles:
- Abolish absolutes: No using "always," "never," "every time," etc.
- If you're going to assume, assume it's a misunderstanding. A lack of clarity and understanding on either side makes a world of difference. Talk it out in different words and see what happens.
- Listen before you speak. There are 2 sides to every story and you won't make any headway if you can only hear your own.
- Try and stick to the facts and "feeling" language. "When xyz happens, I feel like..." Conflict resolution 101.
- If things get heated, take a breather. We both tend to tidy when we get frustrated and hit a wall (figuratively), so we each passive aggressively clean until we've had a chance to calm down. We've spared a lot of hurt feeling slaying dust bunnies instead.
3. Make time to be married. - Of course we're always married, but 97% of the time we're also wearing the hats of parent, volunteer, employee, counselor, babysitter, parishioner, secretary, maid, and so on. If we didn't take time to step back from the crazy and give each other undivided attention, we'd be ships passing in the night. Let me break this down a little better:
- Flirt! Always and often.
- Ask get to know you questions. Because we're constantly changing (and forgetting!), there may be some things you'd ask your boyfriend/girlfriend of a few weeks that you might have forgotten about already (Since when can my husband juggle??).
- Date like you're still dating. Ask yourself over that candlelit dinner: would I talk about my kid's popping habit change on a first/second/third date? Probably not. Let's save the parent talk for later. Need date ideas? Pinterest has a billion-ish. Here are some ideas of mine if you're stuck. ;)
4. It's ok to be separate. - We each have our own sets of friends, along with the ones we share. We have separate hobbies, different ways to wind down, and different things we do to work towards our respective dreams. And that's ok. If we shared every waking moment together, I'm pretty sure we'd get sick of each other--fast. We're different people, and embracing that helps keep us as individuals that compliment each other instead of some creepy dumbed down combo person... you get what I'm saying (hopefully).
5. God comes first. - Pray without ceasing. Frequent the sacraments. It's powerful stuff and without Christ at the center, relationships crumble. Don't neglect your duties to your spouse and family, but a real relationship with Christ should always be a priority.
BONUS: Our "marriage handbook" has been By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice von Hildebrand. It's helped in our prayer life, conflict resolution, and understanding of each other's differences as man & woman. I highly recommend everyone ever should check it out.
P.S. Joel: I love you. You are awesome. Thanks for being the best person ever. I am all yours.