1. Putting your marriage before your kids IS making your kids a priority.
I love my children and cherish them more than my very own life. All I want in this entire world is for them to lead a life full of joy, happiness and success. For some time I thought that meant putting them first over every other thing. Every waking moment revolved around them and their needs. I cast aside everything else as secondary to THEIR immediate needs. I was certain that this was the best way to provide for them and make them my priority.
And then I realized that THE most important thing in THEIR life was US. The family. Their parents. And that had not been the priority. So, changes were made. And, now, the best gift I am giving them at this moment is investing in the marriage that is the foundation of their little worlds. I get comments about how we get a sitter just about every other week and how it "must be nice" and "you sure do a lot without your kids." Well..... Yes. It IS nice. And - no - we don't do it a lot. BUT we do make it enough of a priority that it is regular and consistent. And I can say with 100% confidence that a few hours of us being a married couple, alone or with other couples, regularly, is the best gift I could ever give my children AND myself.
2. There is no such thing as unconditional love in marriage.
There are conditions. Period.
You must be some semblance of the YOU your partner married.
You must be checked in.
You must be respectful.
You must be committed.
You must genuinely care about each other.
You must be dedicated to each other's needs.
3. "Where you invest your love, you invest your life." - Mumford and Sons
This line of the song, "Awake My Soul" spoke volumes to me the first time I heard it. And the reason is this: Your marriage is not an anecdote at a party or a regular topic of girls night. It is not a state of being that just is. It is not just something you do because you are supposed to. Your marriage is your LIFE. And, some religions withstanding, as far as I know - you only get one. And each day that passes is a day spent with the person you are weaving into the story that will have been your life. This person you have tied yourself to is where you have invested the rest of your life. And they have done the same with you. And that's about the biggest investment any human could make. I find that reminding myself that we have invested our life with one another is enough to give me perspective on what's important at times.
4. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Constant, persistent dedication to moving in the same direction is required from both people.
There is no comfort zone. There is security in marriage, but comfort zones are dangerous - they allow you to get lazy or assume the other person has everything they need just because you exist together without conflict. In fact, marriage needs constant attention and touch points. We age, we change, we evolve. We live and life happens TO us. Through all of that we have to be sure we are still in this together. We have to show each other that no matter what happens, we are still on this same road together. And this has to be a joint effort.
5. The goal is not to be perfect, but to be ENOUGH.
To say that Jeff and I are different, is an understatement. He will never do everything I want, just the way I want it. And I will never do everything he wants, just the way he wants it. But if at the end of the day we can live with our differences and see all of the things we DO do for each other as enough....Well, then we have it made.
6. You don't have to like the same things, but you do have to be willing to do things the other person likes.
You know how when you're dating you don't really want to do something, but you do it anyway because the other person wants to? There's stuff you don't really care about, but you feign excitement because you want the other person to see you being "into" what they're "into".
Yea.....that. Do it. Often.
7. Marriage is a private club with two members and a few private consultants.
No one else gets the details of what happens in your marriage. They don't get the squabble about the trash, they don't get the complaints, snide comments or jokes at the expense of your spouse. The moment you expose that to people outside of your marriage, you defile that which is your LIFE. You send signals, even if unintentionally, that you are unhappy. And no one in the world deserves to have that information. And, if you are truly having problems....you go to your private consultants, the close friends in your life who support your marriage. They are the friends who are not a threat, but can offer a hand when you both really need it. Speaking to people who are not in support of your marriage is a sure-fire way to get advice against your marriage. So choose carefully who your consultants will be. Which brings me to #8...
8. It takes a village.
During our wedding mass, the priest turned to the crowd and asked for them to commit to support us through our life. He stressed that there will be times that we will need to lean on those closest to us - and he asked them to promise to be there for us. At 25, I thought that was sweet. At 35, I think it's essential. You must lean on your consultants. Sometimes you need a helping hand and can't carry it on your own. You need close friends to celebrate successes with and seek guidance from through the difficult times. Not strangers, not co-workers, not friends who don't have a vested interest. You need your carefully selected consultants who support the fabric of your life - your marriage.
9. Sex and intimacy are the glue.
Unless you are two humans who truly do not need sex to feel intimate and bonded, then the above statement holds true. Without disclosing personal details, what I will say about this topic is the more intimacy you have and the more equal footing you have in this area, the more enriched you will feel. One person feeling slighted or ignored is a breeding ground for resentment and hostility. Again, the investment of your life is worth the time and attention it takes to prevent volatility in the market, so to speak.
10. Complaining about your marriage is like poking yourself in the eye and wondering why it hurts.
This is more of an observation than anything else. When I hear people complain about their marriage, I think to myself, "You married this person. This didn't happen to you." So, DO something. CHANGE something. Grab the other person and say - "This isn't working. I love you. But, we can't be this way." Complaining just sends words out into the great blue yonder. Action, and caring enough to tell the other person that this is not the way you want your collective lives to be, is the only right step. You have invested your life with this person. Care enough to try every way possible to make this life a happy one. It's the ONLY one you get.
So, that's what ten years has given me. That, and 2 beautiful kids and a life with a man who certainly thinks I'm 10% crazy, 15% messy, and 75% amazing (my word, not his).
The only thing I feel confident the next 10 years will bring is more messes, more lessons and a lot more LIFE.
Bring it on.