Lessons from 25 Years of Marriage

joe and karen

When I first met my husband-to-be, I knew within two months of dating that I wanted to marry him.

It took him a bit longer. He realized it around six months in. We were only 19 and 20 at the time, but we waited five years to tie the knot. We had to get college out of the way first.

In 2015, we took off to California to celebrate our 25th anniversary. As we watched the sun set on the beach, we looked back at the years. How quickly they flew by. There were lots of good years, but some were peppered with “Divorce Moments.”  In fact, there was a year when our kids took bets as to when we would split. It was not a pretty time in our marriage, but going through the rough times has lead me to a different level of love and understanding in our marriage.

After 25 years together, I’ve learned a few things:

Perspective is Everything

In the early years, we actually fought over parking spaces. I kid you not. I would become incredibly irritated at my husband when he circled around and around finding parking spaces. He, in turn, would criticize my parking skills, insisting that I park perfectly in a space, requiring me to back out and pull in again.  Then I read something in a book (I wish I could remember what book it was, but hey, that was quite some years ago) about changing YOUR behavior so that it causes a shift in your marriage. So the next time we went out, I clamped my mouth shut about parking. I took extra care to park the way he liked it. It took several outings before my husband realized we were no longer fighting about parking spaces. He learned to keep quiet about the parking stuff as well.

Be careful what you pour your energy into. Put things in perspective–does the trivial stuff really matter in the bigger picture? If not, learn to let it go.

Our Needs Are Different

My spouse’s needs and my needs are different. We don’t have to do everything together, nor do we have to like the same things. It took me a long time to figure that one out. It took me a long time to respect it.  I used to drag him to events that bored the heck out of him. He used to sit me through movies that bored the heck out of me. Now we’re at this place where we have Yours, Mine, and Ours time. Compromise is the secret sauce that flavors a marriage.

Life Will Get in the Way Unless You Make a Plan

When our third child was born, we were outnumbered. We could no longer juggle things evenly. It was a struggle to get through each day and before we knew it, the week would fly by. The biggest problem? We were putting our marriage on the shelf during those times. You’ve probably heard this over and over: put yourselves on the calendar. Ink in that date night. Because if you don’t, you’ll find life getting in the way and the two of you drifting apart.

Shake up your routine. Do something new together. Do something different. But for crying out loud, carve out that sacred time for just the two of you.

Gratitude, the Divorce Antidote

My spouse drives me completely up the wall when we are late for an event. It’s so, so, so easy for me to fly off the handle and berate him to change. Here’s the thing, you can’t be mad and grateful at the same time. So choose gratitude.

When the two of us went to counseling years ago, the counselor listened to me fire off a list of things that I was disgruntled with in my spouse. She looked me in the eye and asked me what I was grateful for. What was working right? What did I like/love about my spouse? I was focusing so much on what was wrong, that I couldn’t see what was going right. So I thought about what I liked best in my spouse with gratitude and the feelings shifted. What a lesson to learn. Shift the focus to what is good in your marriage. After all, the two of you really liked the heck out of each other in the beginning. Focus with gratitude on what you have together that’s going well in your lives.

karen and joe

Love, Baby, Love

Remember that excited, hot, “oh-m-gosh-I-can’t-take-my-hands-off-of-you” feeling in the beginning? I can remember it, I just can’t recreate it physically after 25 years. BUT, it has been replaced with a different kind of love, one that is just as nice. It’s a love that sustains. It’s the “I’ve married my best friend and I want this to go on ’til the end of our lives” feeling.

 

This post first appeared on Ricky Martin’s Piccolo Universe.

Want some more lessons? Outside the Wake 

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