Today marks six months of marriage with my sweet, Sergio. It feels like just last weekend we were walking through the beautiful, ocean-side cobble streets of Portland with butterflies in our stomach from all the love, pure bliss and excitement. In the midst of a conversation, calling him my husband still catches me off guard and I smile ear to ear thinking of how at ease the present puts me and how bright our future looks.
Over the past six months, I have learned so much about our relationship. Even after living together five years and dating for ten (on Monday!), marriage has brought our relationship to another level. Reflecting on the last few months and our relationship in general was so fun. Since this advice post and this post are two of the most read on my site, I thought it may be helpful to some to share what I’ve learned in the first six months of marriage. !
6 Things I’ve Learned from 6 Months of Marriage
1. Own it: During our marriage preparation course, we had an assignment where we openly discussed tasks within our household and who we pictured as the owner/driver of the task. For example, one task was paying the bills. S works in finance, so it felt natural to have him own this. Now this absolutely doesn’t mean I’m not involved. I know exactly where we are financially, our financial goals, our income and what bills we have, but this makes for one clear owner to ensure they are all paid when due and avoids the ball being dropped and any potential confusion.
Having a driver and ultimate owner of specific tasks allows us to stay aligned on important things like bills, but also for less heavy tasks that allow our day-to-day and week to function smoothly.
2. Make set time: While there is much more calmness to our marriage right now compared to engagement, schedules can still get very busy! With juggling all of life’s moving parts, making one another the #1 priority is always important for a healthy and thriving marriage. How do we make consistent time for one another? We have a weekly date night and keep Sunday’s 100% plan free. Another thing we prioritize, is that if I’m traveling for work one week, we keep the weekend prior to me leaving plan free.
3. Love the flaws: During our pre-marriage counseling (part of our PRECANNA program), S and I both took a quiz known as FOCCUS. We were separated into two rooms and answered a list of ~75 questions. The quiz focused on topics like, communication, parenting, finances, friends, life expectations, careers and more. Each of these topics were bucketed into five relevant categories. Depending on how each of us answered, we were rated in each five of the categories together as a couple. We then walked through the results and every single question together with a neutral moderator (our priest!). This allowed you to see where you were on the same page, where your relationship needed some additional attention and topics that will need further discussion that you hadn’t even thought about.
One question was: “There are certain behaviors or habits in my future spouse that sometimes annoy me”. S answered yes. I answered no. Our priest found my answer interesting and asked me to elaborate.
Here was my thinking: “Does S leave his hair gel out on the bathroom counter and I put it away every day?” Yes. “Does he also take out the trash, do the laundry, vacuum, photograph all my blog photos when he could be sleeping in on his day off, make the bed, do the dishes, bring me home flowers unexpectedly, play with Muenster when I’m tired, cook me dinner, push me to be my best self, lift me up when I’m down, listen to me vent for an hour about something he otherwise wouldn’t have interest in”. Yes.
When you think of the one annoying thing your partner does, then pivot your mind to the 100 things he does that’s nourishing, helpful, loving, selfless and giving.. the one “annoyance” doesn’t even exist in your head. It seriously turns into a cute little flaw. And flaws give us character. For every 100 things he does, he may have 1 “annoying” characteristic that in the large scheme of life doesn’t even matter.
Our priest was very intrigued with my answer and thought process because he sees 99% of people answer as S did. He was very intrigued because he actually advises couples on that question with exactly what my thought process.
PS – I also thought through, “WOW. If I were to list out what I’d assume other people think it annoying about me, my list would be way longer than one I could try to make about my precious, sweet husband”. And I’m sure he’d think the same. When you love someone, you love their flaws too.
4.Keep dating: Even after 10 years of being together, S and I still date. You know, those things you did a month into dating that made you fall into sweet, puppy love? This may sound cliche, but it’s a priority both of us make in our relationship and may be why we have been in the “honeymoon stage” for an entire decade.
Since everyone’s relationship is different, these gestures/priorities will look different. For us, we still go on our weekly date. We still surprise each other with little thoughtful things, like love notes in a lunchbox, a random sweet text during the work day or flowers after a long week of travel. We still plan trips to look forward to and experience different parts of the world together. We still prioritize sharing heartfelt cards and celebrating anniversaries and holiday all about love, like Valentines Day. We still go to bed at the same time together each night.
It’s easy to make excuses to not do these things because you get comfortable in a relationship, but continuing to treat one another like you just started dating, especially throughout marriage, keeps those butterflies alive. And the examples above are just what are important to us and our relationship; remember that they look different for everyone and would be unique to your own relationship and history!
5.Act without expectations: While I wasn’t raised with structured religion, one of the many things I have taken away from attending church with S is to love and give without expectations.
Give solely for the love of giving. Love solely to express your love.
Now it’s not that we weren’t doing this before marriage. It’s that hearing this laid out in church on Sunday made me more conscious of my mind set in more than just my marriage, but friendships and acquaintances too. Don’t perform an action with an expectation of getting something in return. Give to give.
6. TLC: Another takeaway from our marriage preparation course was something called TLC. Talk, listen, confirm. I have a blog post coming this month that dives into TLC in more depth, but at a high level it’s a way for you and your partner to communicate effectively.
I’m sure when you read talk, listen confirm and you thought “Yup – we do that” and moved on. But do you really? It’s much more structure than a typical conversation you maybe used to. It feels robotic at first, but then comes naturally and is a very effective communication tool,especially for heated topics.
While one person talks, the other stays silent and actively listens. Actively listening means you are giving your partner your complete attention with eye contact and no distractions. That means no phone in your face or TV on in the background. Once your partner is finished speaking, you then confirm what you think they are saying. Ex “So what I heard you say is… XYZ”. Your partner either says yes or you start over because you didn’t comprehend what they were trying to express. Once your’ve gone through the motions and your partner has given the green light on the confirmation, you switch turns.
I’m a talker. I can talk all day to anyone. S is a listener. He takes in his surroundings more. Using TLC allows me to listen better and him to express himself better. You’re both able to express yourself without interruption and you’re both conscious of listening. Ultimately, you both have an open, constructive conversation that results in a mutual understanding, rather than an argument or unproductive fight that’s brushed under the rug with the root of the issue never really addressed/solved, only to result again in the future.
I hope this post was fun and insightful insightful for you. Keep in mind, all relationships are a work in progress and they aren’t perfect. They are always a work in progress. Also, what works for us, may not work for you.
I’d love to hear what you learned early on in your marriage in the comments below! Xo Mindy