On August 9th of this year, Nabil and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary. In many ways it seems like we have been together so long that we know each other better than any one else, and to be fair, that's true. We were together for 6 years before we got married. We grew up together. We became the people that we are today, together. And then on the other hand, I feel like our wedding was just last year. Time has flown this last couple of years, and I really don't see it slowing down any time soon.
Over the years though, we have learned a thing or two about being married and how to basically rock the whole thing. So in honor of 7 years of marriage, and 13 1/2 years together, I'm bestowing 7 gems of wisdom onto the interwebs.
7. Every thing is the hardest thing
This is a weird one, and sometimes I'm still on shock about how much people project their own struggles in a relationship onto someone else's life. But it happens, a lot. Every single year we hear something different about how we are about to embark on the hardest part of marriage. "Being engaged is the real test", "The first couple of years are the hardest", "Year three is always when you start fighting", "This year is when the real work starts", "Marriage has years of difficulties. It takes lots of hard work", "the 7 year itch...", "Don't have kids, they ruin a marriage", "Hurry and have kids to save your marriage", etc.
To be frank, we have learned that everyone is full of shit. You make your own relationship. You have your own ups and downs, your own twists and turns. Your journey is your own. Make it what you want. Tune out the crap as much as you can and focus on the person across the table. Nabil and I take the time to focus on one another and our relationship, but it no way would I consider it "hard work". In fact, when we put in the time, it comes pretty easy.
6. Communication, blah, blah, blah...
This one is cliche. Sorry, but it's for real. We talk a lot. We talk about family, career, politics, our house, and the future. We talk and make each other laugh. We talk about how to communicate better, about finances, about sex, about kids (or no kids). We talk about where we want to live, our hopes and dreams, and social issues. We have inside jokes and movie quotes from way too long ago that we've already forgotten where they originated, but it still makes us laugh. We talk without talking.
Here's the thing. We talk because we want to be on the same page. We check in with each other and want to be there for one another. He's usually the first person I tell when I'm upset or frustrated or stumped or excited. We talk so we know each other and so we change together.
5. THIS IS IT
I would put this not just as advice for marriage, but also advice for life. You have one life. One chance with limited time on earth. You're the one who has to live with your choices. Take it and make it the best you can! Don't waste your time being where that doesn't make you happy or being with someone who isn't good for you.
I don't want to look back at my life in 15 years and say "why did I spend so much time in that job?", or "...with that person?", or "...letting that happen?" Live the life you want to live. You only get one. This is it. Make it a goal to look back at your life in 15, 20, and 40 years and say "ya, I'm pretty damn good at this whole living thing". When you pick a partner, find a person who also has that same goal.
4. Be your own person
Nabil and and I have made this a priority for our entire relationship. We started dating in high school, and we knew that if we were going to survive college and keep our relationship afloat, we needed to make sure we were able to grow on our own. To be our own person. We make sure to have our own interests, our own groups, and our own goals.
Don't get me wrong, we both actively participate in one another's interests, but we are also both very independent. I want to be the person to hold his hand as he finds his best self. I want to support and cheer for him, but I don't want Nabil to ever feel like he needs me or depends on me to be himself. I think he's pretty great on his own. I love that we are both sifting through life trying to find our way, and that the other person is there to hold one another's hands, to maybe give one another a boost when necessary, but not to hover or be a crutch.
3. Supporting one another is different than setting expectations
I'll be the first to say, I started our marriage with all of the wrong expectations. I had this idea in my head what it meant to be a wife, to be an adult, and to be a professional. Spoiler alert, adults are just as confused as teenagers about life and marriage isn't meant to be any one thing.
I think I started with this idea of the white picket fence and a wrinkle-free, Pleasantville marriage. What I didn't realize was that my unrealistic expectations were putting so much unneeded pressure on our relationship and on my life. Life isn't perfect. I am not perfect. Nabil is not perfect. And once I let go of that idea of perfect, life and our relationship became a lot easier. Instead of setting expectations for each other, we try to support one another to become the person that we want to be. Allowing one another to grow at their own pace in their own way has ended up blowing both of us away by what the other is capable of doing. Every single person in this world is just trying to find their own path, to be their own person, and by working as a team instead of as a coach (or another parent), we've been able to find a balance of being happy with ourselves and as a couple.
2. be nice to each other
It sounds simple enough, but often I think that people get so busy with life and get caught up in the chaos that we take out our stress and frustrations on the people closest to us. I know that I'm guilty of this sometimes, but really when I take a step back, I think I should be the nicest to Nabil. If I'm a complete ass to everyone else, I should be nice to my husband. He's my person. He's the guy I come home to at the end of a long day. The world is hard enough on all of us as it is, why would I want to add to that for Nabil? Why would I want to pick someone to spend my days with who may add more anger, or resentment, or frustration onto me? I don't.
Be nice to one another. Simple.
1. Liking each other is more important that loving each other
This is my number one for a reason. It seems like all couples go through the same kind of path. First you are attracted to one another and form this kind of "liking" for the other. Then over time and shared experiences, you grow to love one another. If you're like us, you may even have some sappy story about the first time you said the L word. It was nerve racking and left you vulnerable, but felt so good when the other person said it back. And then you get married and make a family and live happily ever after, right?
Well, kind of. What I have found is that love starts the real parts of the relationship, but continuing to like one another keeps it going. I like that Nabil is funny. He makes me laugh and makes our friends laugh. I like that he is caring and loyal. I like that he works hard and is motivated to always be better. Basically, I like who he is as a person. I want to hang out with him everyday and to hear about his day. I want him to tell me about the people that he works with and all the hot office gossip. In my mind, he's still the coolest dude in the room.
So that's it. Those are my gems. Stick around for another 7 years, and maybe I'll have 7 more pearls to give you.
Until next time...