What I’ve Learned After 10 Years of Marriage
Ten Years!?! Holy moly, when did we get here? Looking back, I feel like Ben and I were infants when we said our vows. Now don’t get me wrong, we have ZERO regrets or second thoughts about our marital timing. We’ve just had so much happen since then, the couple in our wedding photos just seems so young and unassuming. But here we are! Ten years in the books, and we are looking forward to many more decades.
Here are a few things we’ve learned in our first 10 years.
1. Time together must be a priority.
Life doesn’t get any simpler the longer you’re married, and time together (not in front of the TV and without iPhones) is a must. When we don’t have face time, we fight more over dumb things, our parenting stinks, and we miss important calendar or budgetary details. And let’s be real: You can’t expect to rock it in the bedroom if you haven’t logged some quality couple time before hopping beneath the sheets.
2. Speak your spouse’s language.
Ben has learned, over time, that if I’ve had a long day with the boys that picking on me will definitely not be received as flirtation or affection. Instead, I feel like I have just another child to wrangle. On the flip side, I have to remember that Ben is still a boy at heart, and when he metaphorically pulls my pig tails, to him I’m just a cute girl on the playground.
3. There’s nothing wrong with a good, healthy fight.
Conflict is going to happen in marriage, so don’t avoid it. You’ll just be waiting for the volcano to erupt much bigger than necessary. However, a finger-pointing session is also unproductive and destructive. Ben and I are both firstborns, so we both think we’re right most of the time. But we’ve learned (and often have to re-learn) that you can say what needs to be said in a healthy, constructive way. Differing opinions are great because they help us change our perspectives and grow as humans.
4. Always be on each other’s team.
Spouse bashing happens way too often. We have learned that if we are frustrated with each other, we shouldn’t be talking to anyone outside the marriage. Being on “Team Westfall” means protecting each other in public, even when we’re upset with one another.
5. Laugh together often.
Having a good sense of humor, even in the worst of situations, is essential to keeping life light. Ben and I have mastered our own brand of inappropriate and sarcastic humor. Most of the time, we’re the only ones laughing, but we’re okay with that.
6. Learn something new.
I’m the nerd in the marriage. Ben hates reading. However, finding things we can discover together keeps us growing individually and together. Plus, new ideas or perspectives gives us conversational fodder other than our kids’ daily antics. So whether it’s digesting the latest church sermon, researching current events, or watching that documentary on killer whales together, find ways to grow intellectually together.
7. Keep talking, even when you don’t want to do it.
While growing up, my mom always said “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” While I probably rolled my eyes at the time, her advice was wise and can be applied to more than just conflict. Replace “anger” with “fear,” “jealousy,” “shame,” or any other descriptor that’s putting a wedge in between you and your spouse. In difficult seasons, I’ve had what I considered some pretty horrific thoughts that brought me internal guilt and shame. What set me free was speaking those thoughts out loud to Ben.
8. Never say never.
After I graduated from college, we said we’d never move back to Marion, Indiana. We did. After Ben stepped away from a church sound engineer role, he said he’d never be employed by a church again. He ended up working for College Wesleyan Church for six years. In both of those situations, what was on our “never” list ended up being really, really good. So we’re trying to take the word “never” out of our vocabulary permanently.
I’m sure these discoveries aren’t the only ones we’ve made in 10 years of marriage. We’ve had much learning to do along the way, and we aren’t done yet.
(WARNING: Sentiment ahead.)
Ben, I would not change anything about the last decade with you. Thanks for loving me unconditionally, even the part of me you affectionately call my “bag o’ crazy.” Thank you for challenging me, listening to me, and reminding me what’s important in life. You rock. Happy anniversary!