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source: Mandi Ehmn

9 Lessons I’ve Learned in 9 Years of Marriage

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I’m unsure if it’s because we got married so young or because my ears only heard the negatives. Still, I heard so many times that marriage is hard, that it takes so much work, and that love is a choice that sometimes the pitter-patter of my heart when my husband walks into the room, catches me by surprise.

Things are good. Better than I ever imagined they could be — which isn’t to say we haven’t been through hard times because we have — and I often find myself shaking my head, wondering why no one ever told me that marriage could be this great.

This fall, we’ll celebrate ten years of marriage. We’re planning to renew our vows on the hill behind our house, with just close friends and immediate family in attendance, and then spend a week in Charleston, South Carolina — our first week-long getaway just the two of us!

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We were just babies when we got married, but we’ve grown up together over the past ten years — through cross-country moves and building a home, babies, and miscarriages, and becoming an at-home family. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Here are 9 lessons we’ve learned about marriage through the years:

1. A rough patch doesn’t mean things are over.

It might sound funny, but I’m so thankful that our history includes a rough patch. I’m thankful that we can look back and know with certainty that our relationship can endure. Honestly, it puts the small tiffs and the bigger arguments into perspective, and I think it takes the pressure off of our marriage and wondering if this fight will be the one that breaks us.

We’ve been through some pretty tough times — and come out on the other side — and that has strengthened us.

2. Touch when you’re angry.

One thing that we’ve found to be true is that it helps to touch when we’re angry. It helps to look each other in the eye, to hug or to hold hands because it forms a tangible connection between us that’s hard to ignore. It reminds us what matters and gives us a chance to see, hear, and feel the other person’s position.

3. Date nights are overrated.

Although I love to spend time with Sean without the girls underfoot, I truly believe that date nights are overrated.

Getting a babysitter and going out on a regular basis just isn’t realistic for us — because of the number of kids we have, because we living in the boonies, and because it can be expensive — but we make spending time together a priority with movie nights at home, just hanging out together or even working together on chores. Date nights are really about connecting, and even if a real date night out isn’t possible, there are plenty of ways to build that connection.

4. Go to bed together.

The one thing I’m not willing to give up is going to bed together. We don’t go to bed at the same time every night, but we do go to bed together most of the time. When Sean had to leave for work at 4 a.m. each morning, that meant I was in bed with him at 8:30 p.m.

Going to bed together is important because it allows sex to be more spontaneous and unplanned and because we can lay in bed without any distractions and just talk. It’s a safe spot where we can reconnect and recalibrate our marriage almost daily.

5. Laughter binds your hearts.

We look for ways to have fun together when things get tough. We can often be found sparring or wrestling, with or without the kids in the midst of us, and we both enjoy sarcasm and humor. There’s just something about laughing together that makes us feel closer, and I love sharing an inside joke with Sean that no one else gets — the kind of joke that we can share just by looking at each other.

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6. It’s okay to fight in front of the kids.

While I don’t think screaming and yelling in front of the kids is okay — let’s face it, those things are probably not very healthy even when the kids aren’t around — I do think it’s okay for our girls to know when we’re upset, angry or disagreeing. I want my kids to see those things — and how we work through those feelings to resolve the issue — because I want them to have a realistic picture of marriage and relationships.

This does not, of course, mean that we air all of our dirty laundry in front of our kids, but I don’t want them to feel the tension during an argument and think we’re hiding a bigger issue from them because we’re trying to pretend it’s not there.

Marriage isn’t about always agreeing or getting along, and I hope they’ll see our marriage’s resiliency. It will bring security to their marriages in the future as well.

7. It takes two yeses.

I’m pretty sure I stole this one from Dr. Phil, but it’s a guideline that has served us well through the last decade. Whenever there’s a decision to be made about anything — parenting, financial, travel, etc — we agree that it takes two yeses (or just one no) to make a decision.

8. He who cares the most does it.

I often get asked whether Sean’s as organized as me (he’s not, although he’s type-A in his own ways) and how we handle conflicts around organizing and cleaning and managing a home. Our rule has always been that “he who cares the most does it,” which takes the pressure off trying to change the other person.

I like the closets organized and neat, while Sean couldn’t care less what the areas behind closed doors look like, so organizing those is my job. He likes the house to be spotless when we have guests, while I’d be happy with straight and neat, so he does the deep cleaning.

We share the essential chores — i.e. dishes, laundry, vacuuming, etc. — but when it comes to preferences, this rule works for us!

9. Dream together.

And finally, we focus on our future by dreaming together. We talk about places we’d like to go, things we want to do, what we’d do if we won the HGTV Dream House, what our girls will be like as adults, how we’ll spend our days as empty nesters, and more.

Is our marriage perfect? No, of course not. No one’s is. But it’s beautiful, and I’m thankful every day for the privilege of walking this road with Sean by my side!

What marriage lessons would you add to this list?