When I was younger, I remember sitting in my bedroom with my best friend on a rainy day and making a list together. The list was basically a checklist for the type of partner we hoped to have in our lives. We kept the lists in a box under my bed and promised ourselves to look back on the list once we met someone significant.
The next time I saw that list was on the day I was packing to move out to my husband’s house. I had forgotten we had ever made it and giggled to myself remembering that rainy afternoon when we thought we could plan and predict everything that would make us happy. Plot twist: my husband didn’t check all the boxes. Actually, he barely checked any at all!
I sat on my bed and went over the list a dozen times, realizing that the two of us are polar opposites and wondering who was right. Was it my younger self? Were things clearer for her to see? Or was it the new adult version who had just got hitched? I thought the answer was simple, but like marriage, it was anything but black and white.
A lot of people watch my social media accounts or hear my husband and I talk about our relationship and ask how we figured it out. In short – we haven’t. At least, not everything (who has?) But we realized early on that if we were going to be happy, that in this thing called marriage (or any relationship really), we had to make sure we were fighting on the same side.
Like any marriage, we’ve had our share of tough situations; some more challenging than most. There was a time when we sat across from each other and laughed thinking, ‘how are we even still together?’ and the answer was, we chose love. Whenever we had the choice to throw in the towel, we chose love instead. But that choice was never simple. It was never easy. It was some of the hardest work either of us ever had to put in. But together, we built something beautiful, something strong.
I was told during our early days of marriage by many people that the first couple of years are the hardest, and I guess they are. But between slamming doors and yelling over who’s turn it was to vacuum the living room, we found time to build or own foundation.
It worked for us and I hope it works for you too:
- When you’re angry, don’t speak straight away. You could say a lot of things you may regret and can’t ever take back.
- Don’t make a habit of storming out of a fight. I remember walking out and driving away only to circle the neighborhood and drive right back. There were times when he wanted to leave and I wouldn’t let him; distance would only make us bitter. What helped us was closing that door with both of us on the same side saying, ‘we’re doing this right now, we’re having this fight’ and I can’t tell you how healthy it is to work through things in your relationship head on instead of letting the bitterness pile up within you.
- Never, ever, go to sleep without talking to each other. Always find a way to say goodnight even if you are not ready to sort through what you’re feeling.
- When you’re ready to talk about why you’re angry or upset, always start with a hug or an ‘I love you’ first. I learnt this from my husband and at first I thought he was crazy! Why would you want to hug someone right at the moment when you’re considering ripping each other’s heads off? Because you love each other more than how angry you are, that’s why. And it does wonders. Your mind setting completely shifts from battle field to peaceful negotiations once you remind yourself and each other why you’re together in the first place.
- Start every morning with a good morning (and an emoji). It may be cheesy, but he swears it puts him in an infinitely better mood to be able to read my affection through a tiny icon.
- Don’t hesitate to apologize and admit to your mistakes. Again, it’s not a battle where you’re fighting against each other. Make sure you’re fighting on the same side and that you’re not keeping score.
- When you’re feeling distant, drop everything and schedule a date night and put away your phones. Never ever stop dating. Never forget to look each other in the eye when speaking; we miss out on so much by forgetting to look up and seeing what the other person is feeling through their expressions.
- Make a habit of encouraging your partner and complimenting them frequently. Remind each other of the things you value in each other. Leave a sticky note on the bathroom mirror or in their lunch bag from time to time.
- Lastly, but possibly most importantly, give each other space! Don’t suffocate your partner and keep tabs on them all the time. Give each other space to grow and unwind on your own sometimes. It will allow you to reflect and value your time together and will give you both something to talk about when you see each other. Being each other’s shadow all the time is unhealthy (toxic, I would say). No matter how much you love each other, there are bound to be some differences in your preferences and for your relationship to be healthy and grounded, you need to feel like at least a piece of you is still your own.
There are obviously many more healthy habits to follow (and toxic ones to avoid), but these are the most important to us personally, and that we feel made our marriage a solid one.
In this day and age, who isn’t scrolling through one social media platform or another for the better part of the day? Most of us do, and it becomes easy to forget that most of the images we see are pure fiction, or at least a very polished up lifestyle for the world to see. No-one is going to post the ugly stuff, so you assume the couple you see cozied up on instagram won the relationship lottery.
But it doesn’t work that way; like when you admire a famous painting, you saw what the artist decided to put out there, not his torn up sketches, his torched canvases or the callus on his fingers from practice.
If you want your relationship to last, jump together with both feet and make a conscious choice every single day to renew that commitment. There is no such thing as the flawless relationship! I know my love story has been anything but conventional, but it’s the rollercoaster ride that gives you the thrill, the excitement and the hysterical laughter in the end for pulling through. It may not be flawless, but in its own way, it is perfect.
The couples that are meant to be, are the ones who go through everything that is meant to tear them apart, and come out even stronger.