“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” ~Dave Meurer
My husband and I will soon be celebrating our eleventh anniversary. By no means do we have the perfect marriage or are we the perfect couple. Over our eleven years of marriage, I’ve recognized a few critical areas needed to build a solid and lasting union as a couple.
Here are eleven things I’ve learned in eleven years of marriage.
In the early days of my marriage, I was terrible at communicating my feelings with my husband. Rather than sharing what was bothering me, I suppressed my feelings, hoping he would read my mind.
Over the years, I’ve learned that my spouse is not a mind reader, and if something is bothering me, I need to talk to him about it so change can occur.
Both parties must be willing to communicate openly for a marriage to succeed.
Admit when you both are not aligned with each other. You don’t always have to compromise or give in, as doing this will make only one of you happy. Instead, find common ground by communicating your feelings honestly and looking at things from each other’s perspectives.
2. Support each other.
As a couple, we’ve always supported each other’s dreams—big or small.
Last year, my husband needed to move across three provinces for work.
While I didn’t see that in our future and wasn’t a fan of moving, I knew what it meant for him.
He’s always been an enormous support and constantly encourages my growth in business and my personal life. Without a shadow of a doubt, I knew I needed to stand by him and make a move, so we did!
Even when difficult, we must give each other support to grow.
3. Apologize to each other.
I’m not always the best at apologizing, but I’ve improved over the years. I’m mature enough today to say, “I’m sorry” or “I apologize for XYZ.”
In the past, I was way too proud to say I was sorry or even acknowledge I was wrong, but over the years, I’ve learned to apologize rather than start a small conversation and carry on as usual without owning or acknowledging the argument.
Saying I’m sorry shows that we validate each other’s feeling and are willing to work through our disagreements.
Saying I’m sorry also promotes that we are a mistake-making couple, willing to improve ourselves while lifting each other up.
4. Set boundaries with relatives.
Relatives love giving their two cents in relationships.
We had a lot of comments from relatives regarding when we should start a family. The choice to exclusively breastfeed both of our kids also got a lot of criticism (especially with the first one).
The most recent was when my spouse had to move across the country due to work, his parents suggested he shouldn’t.
We learned the importance of setting boundaries with family members early as a couple—being brave and bold enough to say, “Thanks for the advice; however, we will make a decision best suited for our season of life and our family.”
5. Have common goals.
My spouse and I are total opposites. But I believe that our differences complement each other.
Not all of our goals are the same. My husband has his personal goals, and so do I. But we, as a couple, have common goals and key areas we agree upon. For example: how we raise our kids, invest our money, spend our time, plan vacations, give gifts, and so forth.
6. Make time for each other.
As a couple with two young kids, we are constantly interrupted. That’s the season of life we are in, and we openly embrace that.
In fact, we enjoy incorporating our kids into almost everything we do, spending as much time as possible with them.
However, once the kids are asleep, we spend an hour or so every night intentionally chatting and catching up before heading to bed.
7. Don’t judge or criticize each other.
After eleven years of marriage, I’ve realized there’s always going to be something he does that irritates me. Likewise, some of my actions will annoy him. It’s an inevitable part of being married.
I no longer get frustrated when he changes and leaves his PJs on the bed. Instead, I put them in the hamper for him.
Paying attention to all your spouse’s quirks and quickly getting annoyed will only hinder you from seeing their endless good qualities.
8. Show interest in learning more about each other.
When you’ve been with someone a long time, it’s easy to assume you know everything about them, but there’s always more to learn and understand, and curiosity can keep a relationship fresh and exciting.
Even though we’ve been married for over a decade, there’s still so much to be known.
I’m always interested in learning more about my spouse, listening attentively to him, and noticing what triggers him when he’s looking at the news, or what is of interest to him when he’s playing a game, watching a movie, or playing with the kids.
9. Choose not to keep score.
Tit for tat never works well and is quite unhealthy for any relationship.
Of course, both people should have time and the ability to nurture their own interests. But if you think you need to find a new adventure as some sort of payback for your partner golfing all afternoon, you’re probably breeding resentment.
10. Avoid running to your parents or best friend to complain about trivial matters.
Arguments in marriage are inevitable, and disagreements can be healthy. I believe they provide an opportunity to learn something new about each other.
The more people you involve in your affairs, the more complicated things get because it’s tempting to let them influence you instead of making the choice that’s right for you and your relationship.
When spouses sit together and have an honest, open, thoughtful conversation, they can understand each other better.
11. Be playful.
Over eleven years of marriage, I’ve recognized the importance of not always talking about mundane activities and things happening worldwide. Our hearts can easily become heavy when we focus on everything that’s going on in the world.
As a couple, you must take a moment and indulge in life’s light-hearted, playful side. Sometimes, for us, this involves looking at funny TikTok videos together or sending funny text messages to one another.
This allows us to add joy and bring a much-needed sparkle into our life.
Marriages are not always easy. We’ve got stats to prove it, right?!
Today, I feel blessed and thankful to be entering another year of marriage with my husband.
I’m ready to learn, grow, and aspire to be the best version of myself while supporting him to be the best version of himself.
About Anna K.
Anna K. is an online entrepreneur and the founder and content creator of What Mommy Wants—a blog dedicated to supporting "do-it-all" mamas so they can go from burnout and sacrificing their priorities to feeling at peace with themselves. You can find her free daily wellness planner and journal prompts here.