Ten honest things I’ve learned in my first year of marriage.

I’ve read many articles, as well as many books. I’ve heard many people talk about the beauty of their marriage, or the lack there of in it. Most people feel that if the first few years aren’t enjoyable, your entire marriage won’t be. Most people are quitters. Most people are cynical and narcissistic. Most people don’t realize that in order for anything to grow, it must endure struggle. I don’t claim to have everything figured out. In fact, in my relationship with my husband, he is actually the more knowledgeable of the two of us; I’m just nicer. Relationships are incredibly difficult – every. single. one. of. them.

And the greatest lesson I think I’ve ever learned, and continue to keep learning is this: Love isn’t something you ever figure out. It’s a process. It’s growth. It’s learning, it’s knowing, and then it’s choosing. Every day. Every situation. Every life event. Every small moment. Some days will be easier than others; some things may change. What can’t change is the importance of it. That’s what changes every. single. thing. about it.

Here’s what I learned over the last 365 days:

1. Men do not understand women. Shocker, I know. However true, this cannot be a way out of an argument. I think all situations, when talked through and thought through, you can come to an agreement – when BOTH parties are willing. If you aren’t willing to compromise, you’re selfish. Which I am, 100% of the time during the first five minutes of an argument. Give me a few minutes to cool down, and I will quickly realize that the only way to move forward IS to compromise. If it matters to you, you’ll compromise – which I have to preach to myself anytime I disagree about anything. Also – women, myself included, it’s not fair, under any circumstance, to become upset, disappointed, or annoyed that your significant other doesn’t “get” why your eyes water when you see a man at Lowe’s that looks like your daddy, and everything about him is precious (real story). Your husband will never understand that. Actually, most humans wouldn’t understand that. That doesn’t mean they don’t care. It means you were created and wired differently. End. of. story.

2. What seems necessary to do/finish now, will not register in the mind of a male the same way. Women can think about fourteen billion things at one time and keep them all organized. Men process things one at a time. When they tell you to come sit down and worry about the dishes later, don’t get frustrated with them. There are many people in the world that WISH their significant other would beg them to come sit on the couch with them. Men, the next time you see her busying herself, take her by the hand, pull her next to you on the couch, and tell her all the reasons why you love her. And when she fights you to let her go, so she can go clean some more, simply remind her that sweet nothings are heard better when you’re face to face. I just helped you out big time. You better use that one.

3. Some things do gross them out too. Men aren’t all disgusting. Seeing their hair on the sink after they shave is just as gross as them seeing our hair in the shower drain and on the shower walls. Again, compromise. More often than not, a jab at someone else can be thrown right back at you. It’s not even worth complaining about, unless you’re bald. Then I suppose you can complain about hair all you want. Or take all of the hair you’re complaining about and make yourself a wig and get over the fact that girls shed and guys pass gas way more often that a human should… like just now. Seriously.

4. Expectations are relationship killers. If there is any number on this list that hits home with me the most, THIS. IS. IT. Somewhere along the line, I have made the habit of expecting how people should respond/react/love/talk/act/clean/fold clothes/treat books/you name it. I have a problem. Even if my list is longer than yours, I’m sure at some point you had an expectation, often times without you realizing it, and when he/she didn’t meet it, you were disappointed. One thing I love/hate about my husband is that he always points out the truth that I don’t want to admit, because I’m perfect, duh. But really, he has me all figured out, WHICH I LOVE, but I hate when he uses it as a tranquilizer when I come in swinging with words of anger/disappointment. I expect things of him all the time. Most of these are behind the scenes details – like making the bed, putting his dishes away, putting his clean, folded clothes from his wife maid away instead of living out of the hamper of clean clothes like it is a suitcase for the week until all said clothes are dirty again. Very rarely do I say, “I’m going to do this, and I expect that you respond and act accordingly.” I just expect. And then I’m disappointed, and I think to myself, “How dare he?” when I never actually made it a point to communicate my expectation. Just as much – when I expect, it doesn’t matter if he comes SO close to the line of expectation. Instead of me responding with, “You were so close! One step closer to meeting my needs!” – I respond with the silent treatment, doing it myself, or bottled up anger, because some how that makes sense. And five years down the road, when my little boy swings at his first T-ball game and misses, that bottled up anger I’ve been practicing with my husband will result in me running out onto the field, yelling, “forget it, let me do it myself!” You see the problem. But really – it IS a problem to set expectations. Even if Jesse met every single one, every single time, do you think that I would throw him an expectation party and never again let one surface? Wrong. Once he meets an expectation in a specific area, I’ll expect more. I’ll always expect more, until I STOP expecting. Relationships aren’t a bartering system. Relationships aren’t standards and check lists and medals for accomplishments. They’re communication. They’re understanding. They’re accepting that people mess up, and the only way to move forward is to talk them through, and work through every single problem TOGETHER, regardless if the other person messes up. I’ll have you know that everything I just wrote about in number four I have heard from my own Professor Erickson, aka my husband. I think I get an A+ after that essay.

5. Your husband more than likely won’t care about your decorations, flowers, or the way your home smells as much as you. It isn’t the end of the world. What he always reminds me of is: “Wouldn’t it be a little weird if I cared about those things like you do?” Which the me in the moment thinks, “NO, DUDE. IT WOULD BE AWESOME AND WE COULD BOND OVER CUTE THINGS AND CUTE SMELLS.” And then the me ten minutes later would realize that I married a DUDE. And smile that I didn’t marry myself.

6.Your husband needs love just as much as you do – and that doesn’t mean just physical. Most people, me being one of them, think that guys don’t care about the different ways of loving. But I promise you that he does. Remind him that he’s your hero. Remind him that he’s your provider. Remind him that he makes you feel safe and protected. Remind him that he is indeed GOOD at what he does – EVEN IF HE DOESN’T THINK HIS JOB IS IMPORTANT. Guys may portray that they don’t need any more help with their pride and ego, but I promise you, as their wife, he needs your tender, affectionate reminder that you chose HIM for a reason. And that no matter how “picture perfect” media creates a husband/daddy to be — no one compares to the man you have by your side. They need to hear that. They need to know that. Even if they never admit to it, your opinion matters to them more than anyone else. The way your opinion and words of affirmation STOP mattering to them, is when we stop giving it to them. Don’t give them a reason to search for affirmation outside of you and God. Give it to them as if that’s what you were put on this earth to do. Make them feel like the gift of God they really are to you.

7. Watch the weird movies with them. They’ve watched their fair share of chick-flicks and reality TV, and they hear you talk about it enough — watch one of their eight billion marvel movies with them. They want to bond with you over their interests just as much as you want them to with yours.

8. Don’t ever talk bad about them. The whole part of trust in a relationship, is that no matter who you’re talking to – you never say anything that you wouldn’t say to your significant other’s face. And even if you’re reading this and thinking, “shoot, I would say it to their face anyway” refer back to number six. The problem with speaking negatively about the person you love is this: the more you do it, the more you will bottle up when you go home. At some point, it will come out, and even though it will feel good to say everything you’ve been thinking/feeling over the last however many days, months, years… it WON’T be good for their heart, soul, or your relationship. You want your relationship to end quickly? Stop being honest.

9. Never go to bed angry. My daddy used to say that to me all the time. And we all know it’s true. It doesn’t feel good to put your head on the pillow at night, with a burden the size of a golf ball in the middle of your throat and stomach. Talk it out. Even if your husband wants to talk about a disagreement for two hours straight, just to work it out once and for all, talk it out. If you don’t, it’ll just come up again, in a different way, at a different time, and cause a different problem. Always talk it out.

10. Never give up. Seems obvious I know, but it’s the truth. I have a very happy, joyful, playful, loving, and connected relationship with my husband. I’m grateful for that. BUT IF I DIDN’T… ALL I would have to do is sit on netflix for a day, go to Barnes and Noble and find a love story to drown myself in, call a friend who isn’t in a healthy relationship, confide in a friend who doesn’t believe that marriage is a COVENANT, not a fickle promise to be broken when things become tough, to realize how tempting it would be to throw in the towel. There are many reasons for why marriage doesn’t work, some destructive that we can’t control or avoid, due to the other person. BUT, the second that we start filling our mind with worldly gossip and banter about relationships and love, we step into a war zone, where your significant other is the enemy, and just about everyone will remind you of that. Don’t talk about your marriage problems with someone who tells you to do what makes you happy. That’s crap. That’s selfish. And you’ll set yourself up on a narcissistic road of destruction the second that you nod your head and say, “you know what? you’re right!” I understand that often times, someone in the relationship doesn’t treat you, love you, appreciate you the way that you wish they did. But let me remind you, LOVE isn’t an expectation. LOVE isn’t an “I’ll stay, if you __________________.” Love isn’t looking at your neighbors, church friends, family, and thinking “why can’t I have that?” It doesn’t matter what anyone else has, or does, or did. You’re not in that relationship. You’re in yours, and if you want to stay in yours, never. give. up.

People are watching. Children are watching. Show them that marriage can work. Show them that marriage is worth it. Show them the beauty in something that will last; something that is WORTH IT. Show them the beauty in love, even if it didn’t work out with the first marriage or relationship. Even if your parents didn’t make it. Even if your significant other walked away. You aren’t defined by the past, or the hurt, or the rejection. You’re the you that you are now FOR A REASON. Make it count. Make it worth it. Make sure that if you’re loving someone now, you’re loving that someone well. Call them up. Text them. LOOK THEM IN THE FACE. Tell them in some way, shape, or form: “I’m not walking away.”

Here’s to more 365’s with you, J. Erickson. I’m not walking away.

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