You’ve heard it hundreds of times, “Life moves quickly,” and unfortunately, it is true. You really get a sense for how fast time goes by when you celebrate a wedding anniversary or your child’s birthday–when they are a teenager already!
Last week, my husband and I celebrated 16 years of marriage. I can barely remember that little spoiled girl that I was when I said “I do.” I know that she was selfish, self-centered, and full of insecurities. She had anxiety and a whole head full of hopes and dreams. My husband must have known that she would change. No one told me what I was really saying “I do” to. I was saying I do to unlimited possibilities. I was saying I do to times and tragedies that would test us to our very core. I was saying I do to joy that can compare to nothing else and an adventure of a lifetime. I had no idea what “I do” meant 16 years ago, but I do now.
These are the things I have learned in 16 Years of Marriage
1. Being selfless really hurts. It hurts to serve others. Honestly. Your ego is messing with you when you think you deserve to be served. True love is serving others, giving of yourself when you don’t feel like it and not getting your way. It stings a bit.
2. True love is really ugly. Everyone that knows my husband and I always say to us, “You guys are so lucky. You have each other. You’re a great team, and you just got so lucky.” Both my husband and I always look at each other a laugh cause luck had nothing to do with it, honey. We worked our butts off to be here. We overcame obstacles you can’t imagine, we cried through dark times and laughed at the face of failure. We fought to be here, so make no mistake, we aren’t lucky.
3. It’s temporary, the good and the bad so learn to live in the now. That one is simple. Painfully so. All those good times, they will fade. Just like those good times, the bad ones, where you doubt yourself and your love, where you wonder if you can make it, yep… those fade, too. Learn to live in the now, good or bad, knowing that it will all just be a memory soon.
4. Forgiveness takes time. Don’t lie to yourself and say it’s instant. It isn’t always instant. Understand the process might take months or years, but work towards the time when it won’t hurt any more or you no longer feel that resentment. It must be said that in 16 years of marriage, you will be forgiving a lot.
5. Close your mouth, speak fewer words in anger. When I was younger, I had a temper and a mouth on me. Pair that up with my husband who was born and raised in South Boston, and you better believe we said quite a few things out of anger. It never solves anything. Learn how to close your mouth and walk away.
6. Laughter can heal the darkest parts. Sometimes that laughter will be all you have. When we lost our daughter Kiley Grace in 2011, laughter is what allowed us to heal and move past the deep pain. It was what solidified our bond and allowed us to know that we were on the same team, fighting the same fight. Laughter was indeed medicine then and it still is today.
7. You will go through some tragic times. Lean on each other instead of blaming and pushing away. When we first married, both of us had a tendency to blame the other when we were in bad situations and push the other away. It was a coping mechanism that had gotten us both through some hard times when we were younger. In a marriage, however, it doesn’t really work. Learn to lean on each other instead.
8. Your kids will be the very best of you and the very worst of you, so be careful which version of you you’re feeding. I really can’t say it any better than that. We are beyond blessed with three amazing and unique kids. Each a part of us. I have seen the very best of me and my husband in each of them and I have seen our worst parts come out too. Be so careful to foster the good versions of yourself.
9. Grow together. Sounds like a no-brainer to me, but instead of doing so much by yourself or with friends, do it with your spouse. Of course, you need your own time and interests, but it sure doesn’t hurt to do things together. Over the years my husband and I have done everything together, from starting businesses to making friends and traveling the country. We are together almost all the time, and I love it.
10. Be friends. Grow your friendship to the point it hurts to not be with them. Currently, as I write this, we are both is separate states working on two different projects. I have been away from him for four weeks, and it will be another week before I get to see him again for a day, then another few weeks apart. I miss him terribly. I think about him when I make a joke and realize my best friend isn’t there to add to the joke and make us both laugh uncontrollably. Grow your friendship, make that a priority.
11. Give them room to fail. Yes, it hurts to watch but they need to learn, too. Just like all those times you learned from your mistakes, yep, you’re spouse had to learn, too. Give them that room to spread out, and if they fail, let them. Let them find their lessons.
12. Back them up wholeheartedly when they do fail. In fact they never really failed–they learned. Some people will say that they learned more from their failures than they did from their successes. I believe this is true. Failure is a great teacher and we all need lessons. Back them up and don’t ever say, “I told you so.”
13. Be their biggest cheerleader. You should always hear that your spouse says the best things about you. Nothing makes me feel greater than when I meet someone that knows my husband and they say all the great things he said about me. I feel invincible knowing that he is my biggest supporter and proudest cheerleader. I am happy to do the same.
14. Know that it will change so many times; your relationship, your job, your hopes, and your dreams… learn to change and embrace the unknown. The unknown was so hard for me to embrace when I was younger. I needed to plan everything because it gave me a sense of control. I learned through several tragedies that I was never really in control, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. Besides, you have your best friend along for it with you.
15. Forget about trying to change them. You’ll have a hard enough time changing and bettering yourself. I used to think I could change all the things I hated about my husband and I would wait around for it to happen. Listen, I learned real quick that I was better off focusing on changing myself and making myself a better person and let him worry about his own things. It’s hard enough to change yourself, near impossible to change someone else.
16. Be grateful and strive to inspire them. When you do better yourself, you will inspire them to reach higher and be better as well. Every morning I wake up with an immense amount of gratitude. I am grateful that we made it through times that test us, times that changed us and times that created more for us. I am grateful for 16 years with my best friend and hopeful for many more.
Also by Ange: How I Became Organic Vegan, Lost 40lbs & Changed My Life
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Photo: Pexels, Ange Alex