3 marriage lessons I have learned

By Emma Chapman

Today is our five-year anniversary!!!! Earlier this week, we went on a trip to Cancun and stayed at a resort, and it was great to spend time relaxing together. Since today is our actual anniversary, I thought it might be fun to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned in our marriage so far.

Ask for what you need.

This is really a lesson in both communication as well as focusing on your own actions as opposed to your partner’s. First, your partner is not a mind reader. They won’t magically know if you want help with the dishes, or how you want to celebrate your birthday this year. You should tell them. This is simple, but it took me longer than I care to admit to figure this out. And it’s not that you’re going to get everything you ask for from your partner. No doubt some things will be a discussion that you’ll have to work out together. But you will get 0% of the things you do not ask for. In my experience, it’s way better to over-communicate than under. And if you’re like me and you tend to not ask for things you want/need, try to get over that unless your partner is an X-Man and can read minds.

And then the second part of this is focusing on your own actions. Instead of thinking, “I wish my partner noticed the laundry is piling up,” or “Why didn’t my partner plan a fun date night for us this week,” you should turn the focus back to you. Here is a super simple truth of life that I find really freeing but also kind of a hard lesson (or it was for me anyway). The only person’s actions I can control are my own. If I need or want something from Trey, I should ask, and if he asks me for something he needs or wants, I can respond. It’s simple, but it’s work. Luckily a lot of the time marriage is the most fun work I’ve ever done. 🙂 But it’s still work.

As a side note, I think this lesson applies to a lot of areas in our lives. If you’re unhappy in your job, for example, instead of blaming your boss or your coworkers, first think about what actions YOU can take to change things. This kind of mindset isn’t going to solve all of your problems, but it’s powerful.

Your partner cannot make you happy.

I think I had this misconception in my head before I got married that Trey, or marriage in general, was going to make me happy. I was wrong. I actually see this in other’s lives fairly often, too. We think that once we have a certain career, or once we have children, or once we ______ (fill in the blank with the circumstances you fantasize about) then we’ll be happy. We think those circumstances, or the people involved, will make us happy. They won’t. The only person who can make you happy in life is YOU. Once I finally understood this and was able to wrap my head around it, I found it to be SO empowering!

And just to be clear, the vice versa is true, too. You are not in charge of making your partner happy. That is impossible. You can love them, support them, encourage them, and make them laugh. But you cannot make them happy, they can only do that for themselves. So don’t put that pressure on yourself, and don’t wait for them or for your marriage to make you happy. You can choose happiness every day—it’s a practice.

For me, this has not only been a marriage lesson, but also something I’ve thought a lot about as we think about having children (we plan to adopt, I promise I’ll share more one day when I’m ready). Once again I started off with a mindset that I just wouldn’t be happy, or wouldn’t have a complete life until I had children. And although I am still really looking forward to that stage of life someday, I now understand that having kids will not make me happy. For one, that’s way too much pressure to put on children (or your partner, in the case of thinking marriage will make you happy). And two, it’s just not true. My life is complete now, and I can choose happiness today. I am still 100% looking forward to having kids, but I don’t want to miss out on all the joy I can have right now. I love my life right now, including all the time and freedom Trey and I have to focus on our careers and each other. And I have peace that one day I will also be happy when that changes and welcome some kiddos into our lives.

Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint.

I’m an analogy person, so here’s one: Imagine you have a goal of getting great abs. You change how you eat, you start working out more, and over time you get those great abs you wanted. You’re so happy you have great abs, and then you stop working out and start eating cookies for dinner every night. How long do you think you’ll keep those great abs? I think you see my (intentionally silly) point here—great abs are like a good marriage in that you have keep working on it if you want to keep it. You can’t just expect a good marriage if you don’t TRY at it.

Marriage is a lifelong goal that you should be constantly working on. Read marriage books or listen to podcasts that may help with any aspect of your marriage you want to work on or improve. Always look for ways to love, support, and appreciate your partner more. Learn to apologize (I still kind of suck at apologizing when I’m wrong, even after five years of practice). Of course there will be seasons where you can’t focus on your marriage as much as other seasons. That’s OK. Even spending just a few minutes on this a day will make a huge difference over time. It should be your goal to never get complacent or lazy about making an effort in your relationship. It’s work to stay in love with someone, but it’s really fun work.

That’s it, three pretty simple lessons I’ve learned in marriage so far. Trey and I discussed the ideas in this post while we were on our trip this past week. But I did just want to say: Trey, thank you for five amazing years. I got so incredibly lucky when I married you! You support me in my goals and career. You teach and challenge me in so many ways and I know will continue to. You forgive me when I’m a total jerk to you during a fight. You are smart, hot, and the most fun person I know. No one makes me laugh like you do. I am so, so thankful I get to spend the rest of my life with you.

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