My husband and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary in July. While I wouldn’t say by any means that I’m an expert on the subject of marriage (I still consider ourselves newlyweds in many ways), we’ve had our fair share of bumps in the road that have taught me much about commitment, self-sacrifice, and how to make married life fun—even when all it seems like is grocery lists and dirty laundry.
1. Know Your Spouse’s Love Language
Have you ever searched high and low (let’s be real: searched for hours on Amazon) for the perfect anniversary gift, only for it to get a lackluster reception? The problem may not have been the gift itself; it may be that your husband just doesn’t value receiving gifts at all and would rather you have planned a romantic walk on the beach to celebrate instead.
A while back a book was published, “The Five Love Languages,” that establishes there are five different ways a person can receive and show love: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Whether or not you actually read the book, you should both take the multiple choice test to determine your love languages and know how each other feels most loved. This will give you the power to communicate better with them on a daily basis and make them feel like they’re loved by you.
For example, my husband’s love language is words of affirmation. To feel loved, he needs to hear me say it, so I make it a point to tell him multiple times a day that I love him and to periodically give him cards with heartfelt messages from me inside. (One year, we decided not to give each other gifts for a holiday, but he still gave me a card with a note written inside. I neglected to give him a card, and he felt hurt. Needless to say, I’m now a large financial supporter of the greeting card industry.)
2. It’s OK to Spend Time Apart
I’ve known newlywed couples who are attached at the hip. And I get it: the excitement of finding your forever love makes you want to cling onto him or her for dear life! But, when your husband finds his way into the evening you planned with your mom and sister watching chick flicks, it’s time to consider some boundaries of sorts.
Maybe it’s because my husband and I have known each other since we were 18 years old, but we’re not afraid to walk out the door and say “see ya later,” since we know the other person will be there with open arms when we return.
Even though you may share the same last name, you and your spouse are still separate people with interests and friends unique to yourselves. For this reason, I’ve learned that it’s OK if my husband spends Saturday mornings at the gym playing basketball with his friends. That’s my chance to watch makeup tutorials on YouTube (it’s totally a thing) without him judging me. This year I spent a week out-of-state visiting my niece, and I realized it’s true what they say: absence makes the heart grow fonder.
3. Make Your Spouse Look Good in Front of Your Family
If you have a close relationship with your parents, siblings, and even extended family as I do, you’re probably inclined to share everything with them about your marriage—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The problem comes with sharing the bad and the ugly. If you need to vent, divulge the problems and frustrations you have as a married couple to an outside party (a therapist, friend, your cat) who’s not invested in your married life and in your husband as a family member.
If you value your family’s opinion and love your husband, you want them to think the best about him—you don’t want your sister thinking in the back of her mind over family dinner that your husband should do the laundry once in a while if he knows what’s good for him! Bottom line: don’t share situations with your family where your husband was at his worst. Instead, tell them about times where he went above and beyond. Protect his reputation. He’s on your team, after all.
(Note: The exception to this rule is if your spouse is emotionally or physically abusing you. There’s never a reason why that should be kept secret. If something like that is going on, you should tell someone immediately.)
4. Establish a Balance of Housework
In the early months of our married life, I took it upon myself to do the majority of the housework. I was imitating the largest example of married life I know—my parents. My mom does most of the cooking, cleaning, and errands for their household, so I naively thought I should do the same. But, I eventually realized she does all this because she works far fewer hours than my dad does during the week, and he pulls a ton of weight himself maintaining the yard, keeping the cars running properly, and completing various repair projects around the house.
My husband and I both work full-time, and yet I created a stressful situation for myself mimicking someone else’s married life. What works for one couple won’t necessarily (actually, probably won’t at all) work for you. We’ve since established various household tasks that each of us is responsible for, and we’re much happier for it.
While I’ve lowered my standards around the house (who cares how the towels are folded anyway… well, I still secretly do…), I never have to set foot in a grocery store if I don’t want to, and my car and the litter box are always clean. Thanks, honey!