My marriage is the true embodiment of the phrase, opposites attract. I am the ‘chalk’ while my husband, Esmond, is the ‘cheese’ — I like decisions to be made fast, while he needs time to make an informed decision (i.e. exploring ALL the options at least twice over); I’m a morning person while he is a ‘night owl’. You get the idea.
After 11 years, 3 kids and gaining several kilograms, many of our differences remain, with a handful more added to the list! We may disagree from time to time, but we see our marriage has improved significantly over the years. Our relationship feels so much better together now than when we first got married.
While 11 years may not seem very long in the grand scheme of a lifetime together, they have certainly taught us what works and what doesn’t work for our relationship.
Here are 5 lessons I have learnt from my marriage:
#1 Communication is key
We learnt pretty early on how easy it is to take communication for granted. When we were dating, we could talk for hours on end. We enjoyed such openness in conversation and felt like we really connected. When we got married, we thought things would remain status quo but soon found out how differently we approached communication, especially when conflict arose. Esmond likes tackling conflict straight-on while I prefer to process things internally. Over time, he’s learnt to give me space to think while I’ve learnt that it’s ok to speak out and not keep everything in.
Just because your spouse is your significant other, it doesn’t mean that they can read our minds. Taking a step to communicate my needs clearly and honestly meant putting my own pride aside. Once we were both able to do that, we experienced less miscommunication between us.
“Taking a step to communicate my needs clearly and honestly meant putting my own pride aside.”
#2 Love each other, filter-free
Being married in the digital age, we see more friends and strangers sharing their lives openly on social media. Most of the time, the posts are curated to feature only the best parts of a person’s life. Falling into the trap of comparing someone else’s edited life with ours can make us feel like our marriage or spouse is lacking. We need to differentiate reality from perceptions crafted online. I’ve learnt that valuing what we have together — without comparing ourselves with others — helps us appreciate each other more deeply.
#3 It takes time to make time
The arrival of children will change the dynamic of your relationship, whether you like it or not. It is easy to be consumed with the intensity of caring for our children’s needs and relegate the marriage to the sidelines.
With the birth of each child, it became increasingly difficult to take time out for each other. Long intervals between quality time together can easily make us feel emotionally distant from our spouse. It took effort on both our parts in the beginning, but making time to have a breakfast date, dinner date or learn a new hobby together has given us reprieve from the busyness of managing a growing family. This also means we get to enjoy each other’s company without interruption.
“Long intervals between quality time together can make us feel emotionally distant from our spouse.”
Having said that, Esmond and I have also found it important to respect each other’s need for space. He enjoys his time playing sports, while I enjoy catching up with friends. Giving each other the freedom to enjoy our own space without guilt has certainly helped keep us refreshed.
#4 Learn to give and take
Before we got married, we already knew that we were quite different from each other — we had different personality traits, interests, even ways of processing change. Marriage amplified our differences.
Now that we are in our 11th year of marriage, we see how our differences can work to our benefit. For example, Esmond is a visionary and tends to look at things in the big picture. On the other hand, I’m more detail-oriented. While this used to exasperate us, we see now how these differences complement each other perfectly. Understanding our differences and learning how to give and take has shown us what a good team we make together.
#5 Don’t be afraid to receive advice
One thing that has helped us build a strong and healthy union is that we receive good counsel from older, more experienced married couples. Being open to advice from such couples not only keeps us accountable and honest, but also helps us overcome challenges. When we were emotional and unable to see beyond our own perspectives, these couples have stood alongside us and helped us look at the bigger picture.
“Being open to receiving advice not only keeps us accountable and honest, it also helps us overcome challenges.”
If these last 11 years has taught us anything, it is this: given the proper attention and care, a marriage will age well like a fine wine — full, rich, vibrant and pleasing with time.
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