Five Things I've Learned from Five Years of Marriage

In our first few years of marriage we got asked all sorts of questions by friends and family. “So does he drive you crazy?” “Is the honeymoon over yet?” And when I would say no and no! They often would respond “Well you haven’t been married long enough- talk to me again in five years!”

While a lot of these questions were all in good fun, we’ve made it to five years alive and happy! While that’s a small milestone compared to some marriages - I’m still saying that our marriage gets better everyday. While not everyday is perfect I’m so thankful to reflect on these past few years and see how much closer we’ve grown to each other and as individuals.

I’ve known Chris since I was 16. I met him at a local church when I was a junior in high school and when he was a graduate student pursuing his masters. We were great friends for five years before we started dating and that gave me the opportunity to see who he really was before we dove into a relationship. Friendship has been the base of our relationship for a long time and I love that I’m married to my best friend.

Even being married, Chris has really encouraged me to pursue my own path - helping me to find a job when I first graduated college - he actually made me record myself on camera practicing for job interviews! I hated it at the time, but those practice runs were what helped me get a full time job only two months after a I graduated college. After getting my first job I remember telling that I never wanted to go back to school again, but when my interest in going back for my masters crept in a few years later - he encouraged me to go for it. And this May I’ll be graduating with my MBA!

Chris even helped me to start this blog and to move past the fears that prevented me from starting it. I was worried that my content wouldn’t be good enough and what others would think. Chris encouraged me to not let my fears stop me and has been helping me with the blog ever since (and also doing a lot of photography that you see on this blog!).

So today I’m sharing a look back at the five things I’ve learned in five years of marriage. Trust me - there’s a lot more than that but I thought I should narrow it down. And when we make it ten years, I’m sure we’ll get people still saying, “Well you haven’t been married long enough yet!”

1. Celebrate the Little Things

Because I didn’t get a chance to celebrate a lot of things when I was growing up - I’m a little bit of a celebration junkie. I love any chance to celebrate and Chris and I try to make the most of being happy and excited for the little things. One way we end our week each Friday is with a morning Starbucks date before either of us have to go to work. It’s just a little way to celebrate the weekend with each other and a fun thing to look forward to when Monday rolls around again.

Every few weeks, Chris and I will also have a date night in that we have dubbed “Fancy Friday.” Usually he does the cooking and follows a “fancy” recipe like Beef Bourguignon from Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking or Palange Naraw - an Afghan dish that he recreated from one of our favorite restaurants. Fancy Fridays make staying in on Friday night exciting and I love it since I get the night off from cooking!

2. Hard Times Will Come (and that’s okay)

Our first year of marriage was definitely the hardest and it wasn’t for the typical reasons people say. It wasn’t the toilet seat up or toothpaste left in the sink (Chris is pretty clean anyway, I’m the messy one - lol). Instead, it was life circumstances that came our way, that we had no control over. We had talked about this when we were dating, how would we handle hard times? What if bad things happened to us? And bad things did happen.

Our first year, we went through two difficult pregnancy losses - one in the Spring and the other a few weeks before Christmas. For the second one, I needed emergency surgery and I’ll never forget wondering if that would be our last night together and I could see it in Chris’s eyes too. But it wasn’t. And despite the heartbreak, we’ve come closer together through the tears and disappointment. I’ve learned to be vulnerable with Chris when I’m having low moments and to reach out to my church community when I need support and prayer.

That same year, Chris also lost his job. We had been married less than 8 months, when his whole department was let go. It made us thankful for things. Thankful that I had found a job straight out of college and thankful that he could come onto my health insurance. It gave Chris time to finish the master’s degree that he started and gave us more time together when we had our second pregnancy loss.

And as I look forward to more adventures with Chris this year - I know that we will still face hard times ahead. Sometimes I worry and get caught in moments of fear and doubt. But I’m glad I don’t know the future because I know that God does - and I know that He’s got great plans for us - and that’s what I’m trusting in. And I’m glad I have Chris because I wouldn’t want to face life with anyone else.

3. Be Part of a Community

But it’s not just Chris - these past five years have been shaped by many more people. I don’t think I could talk about our marriage without talking about community. Chris and I are fortunate to have some great people - friends and family in our lives. I’ll never forget the night after my surgery, a young couple from our church delivering a meal to us last minute, or my relatives who came to the hospital late at night to see me after surgery. Having those people and support in our lives has helped us stay sane through hard times.

And it’s not always easy to stay connected to community. It is tempting, when hard times come, to disconnect from people and to avoid being vulnerable about your struggles. It feels easier to just smile and say everything’s okay - when it’s actually not. But I know when I do that, I end up feeling so much worse afterwards. That’s why on the weekends when I’d rather sleep in or just avoid people, we make the effort to get up and out the door and into church. It’s not always easy to do and I don’t always do it perfectly - but when we do - we’re so much better for it.

4. Spend Time Apart

Chris and I have also benefited from having time apart. We try to give each other the freedom to pursue side projects and to visit family and friends even when the other one can’t come along. I’ve even had the opportunity to travel on my own to Arizona, Texas, and California. I’ve visited college friends in different corners of the country and most of the time I’ve driven or flown out on my own. Chris in return takes time to visit his grandparents in upstate New York and has to fly out for business trips every few months. Sometimes I use that time to be by myself and enjoy having the apartment to myself or I make it into a girls’ night with a friend with some red wine and cheese!

5. Go Away Together

Growing up my family didn’t really do vacations, so getting married and going away sounded so foreign to me. Chris really wasn’t big into traveling, so I didn’t have many expectations as far as vacations and going away. It was hard our first year to go away - aside from our honeymoon - and since Chris lost his job. But since our second year of marriage we’ve made going away with each other a priority. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy or far! Chris and I love driving a few hours north to Newport, RI every year, staying at a hotel with a kitchen so we can save a few bucks and make our own food. We also take some time to go out to eat and enjoy coffee at the Coffee Grinder on the pier each morning.

This ritual of going away changes us. It removes us from the everyday tasks and worries and helps us to refocus on each other and our needs. We also try not to overbook our vacations. We stick to a loose schedule and if we break it - that’s what vacations are for! This year we’re headed to Virginia Beach for my graduation and to Newport again in August. I can’t wait to see how these trips away will change us for the better!

I hope you were encouraged by this post and that you will share your own thoughts below about your own marriage or relationship. If you like what you see on the blog - be sure to subscribe so you never miss a post!

All photography by Lifting the Veil.

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