I was 21 when my parents finally decided to call it quits. I had spent years watching my parents marriage slowly crumble and honestly, I wasn’t surprised when my dad announced he was finally done. In some ways, we were all a bit relieved. It was Summer 2013. I had just graduated with my business degree and had moved back home for the summer while I figured out my next step. This was also the summer where I fell head over heels in love with Zack.
It was a strange feeling to know that I was officially a “child” of divorce. You hear all the time that people with divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves which makes it a little more scary to get married no matter how old you are. According to statistics, our marriage is “bound to fail” for many reasons: there’s divorce on both sides of our family, we got married young, we got married after only a couple months of long distance dating, he’s in the military, and we currently have 7,000 miles of distance in our marriage. Depressing isn’t it? Gotta love those statistics. But I refuse to contribute to them.
Regardless of how quickly I chose to marry Zack, I’ve always taken marriage very seriously. Divorce has never been an option in my mind. I don’t want our children to have to choose which parent they want to spend the holidays with or who they want to live with or anything like that. It was important to me to be married to someone who felt the same way and luckily, Zack and I are on the same page there (here are seven other important topics to discuss before getting married). Watching my parents go through their divorce taught me so many important lessons on marriage that I hope to use in my own marriage.
Marriage is hard.
Surprise! I know you haven’t heard that one before, right? A marriage isn’t 50/50, it’s 100/100. Marriage is hard work and it requires effort from both people involved. It’s not going to work if one person is dong all the work and making changes and communicating while the other isn’t. It’s a team effort. So before you even get married, it’s important to be marrying someone who already understands this and gives your relationship all they have.
When Zack and I first started talking back in June 2013, we had determined just two weeks in that we wanted to see each other and to be in a relationship. And I remember him telling me that he wasn’t walking into a relationship with me expecting it to be temporary. He planned on staying long term. And he meant that. I’m more and more amazed every single day at how hard Zack tries and everything he does to make this year apart easier on us. It’s been a very tough year for us so far, but he truly shows that he wants this and that he’s dedicated to making it work.
Communication is everything.
Men do not like to play the guessing game. Period. If something is wrong, then it’s important to speak up and mention it. This goes for women too. Women also don’t like the guessing game. Your marriage shouldn’t be a constant battle of playing hard to get and leaving subtle clues, hoping your significant other will pick up on it. Chances are, they won’t. Nothing can be fixed unless you bring up the issue and talk about it and create a plan on how to get through it. And it’s not just issues that need to be communicated. Every couple needs to develop good communication skills in order to work together effectively in all aspects of life and marriage.
Sometimes, this requires you to know each other’s love language as well as your own. Zack and I are very different when it comes to our love languages. He shows love through doing nice things for me (acts of service) and setting aside time in his schedule to spend time with me, uninterrupted. I, on the other hand show love through words and affirmation and physical touch. It means a lot to me to actually hear that I’m loved and to hear that I’m appreciated and wanted. Our difference in love languages sometimes causes a disconnect, but it’s so important to know how to show your spouse you love and care about them. It’s made a world of a difference knowing and understanding that we show and interpret love differently.
It’s important to put your marriage first.
Your marriage is the foundation of your family and regardless of what some may say, I do not believe that children should always come first. You should always continue to date each other and find new ways to spice up your marriage. Go on a child-free vacation together, try something new, cook together, send the kids to grandma’s and have a date night out or even a date night in. A marriage is a living, breathing thing. If you don’t take care of it, then it’s going to fall apart.
Be silly together.
Speaking of putting your marriage first, I also think that it’s important to be silly together. Life and marriage shouldn’t be so serious all the time. That gets boring and no one likes boring. You should laugh together and be silly and flirt with one another. Zack has such an amazing sense of humor and never takes things too seriously which makes it so much easier for me to be more laid back and relaxed about life and everything in it. A simple trip to the grocery store can turn into him running away from me and me spending 20+ minutes trying to find him as he’s secretly behind me, watching my every move (this is actually a typical trip to any store for us). It’s so much fun to be around him and he really makes life so much more interesting.
Be on the same page financially.
This is a really important one for me. I’ve read so many articles that say that money is one of the leading causes of divorce in our country. So this one scares the crap out of me. I don’t want to jinx or anything, but when it comes to money, we pretty much rock right now. In short, we kept separate bank accounts for the first year of our marriage while I got credit cards paid off (I felt that those were my own responsibility and not his). Once my cards were paid off, we combined everything so now we pay for everything together. It’s our money rather than his and hers (we do have separate credit cards, though so that we’re able to buy each other gifts in secret!). Of course this doesn’t work for everyone, but couples should find a system that works for them.
Next, we are open and honest about every transaction. Most things aren’t a big deal like groceries and gas and things like that, but if there’s something I want and/or need that costs over x amount of dollars, then I run it by him first. Don’t get this confused with asking permission. It’s simply a heads up that x amount of dollars will be coming out of the bank account so that he’s not completely blindsided when he checks out our account. If it’s something that isn’t needed ASAP, then we’ll look ahead to our paychecks and bills and determine when would be the best time to purchase that item (like my new office furniture). I like being on the same page with him. We know what our income is, when the bills are due, how much the bills costs, etc. There are zero secrets here when it comes to money.
Last point I want to make on this one is on honesty. It’s so important to be honest about what you’re spending money on. I’m not saying you have to tell your spouse about every transaction and the details of your purchases, BUT if you spend x amount of dollars on makeup (or something worse like alcohol or cigarettes or something), and then tell your husband the money was spent on groceries then something’s wrong there. If you have to lie to your spouse about what you’re spending money on, then there’s clearly an issue that needs to be discussed ASAP.
You might think it’s a bit much that I tell him everything I spend money on, but I like having that honesty and open communication in our marriage.
Love is a choice.
I believe that wholeheartedly. I completely adore my husband, but there are days where it’s sometimes hard to like him. And that’s okay. I know there are times when I’m not his favorite person either. I know I’m hard to love sometimes. We’re going to fight and disagree. We’re going to say things we don’t mean and do things we’ll later regret. But I have aways and will always choose to love him regardless of how challenging our marriage gets. I wake up every morning and choose to be with him and choose to love him no matter what. It’s a choice.
Don’t lose your identity.
As much as I love spending time with Zack and doing everything with him, I know that it’s important to have our own identities. It can be so easy to get married, combine lives, and then kind of just merge into a single person rather than two separate individuals. I get that. But from personal experience, I know that that’s just not healthy. In 2013, I got out of a super bad relationship of two years that pretty much completely consumed me. I didn’t have anything that was my own so I was completely lost in those years. Since then, I’ve grown so much as a person and I’d hate to completely lose that again. I’m an established individual with my own dreams and my own goals and he supports me 110%. I never have to question who I am.
Appreciate the little things.
Rather than focusing on the things your spouse does wrong or the things they do that annoy you, take the time to focus on the good things they do. Maybe they put the kids to bed or picked up your favorite ice cream at the grocery store or straightened up the house while you were out with a friend. No matter how big or small the task may be, it’s important to take the time to appreciate those things and thank them for it. If your spouse feels appreciated, then they’re more likely to do those things again.
Did your parents divorce? What lessons have you learned from it?