My husband and I began dating in the summer of 2010 . That means we’ve been together for ten years now! While we’ve only been married for nine years, there’s still plenty we’ve learned over this decade together. Some lessons were harder than others, and we have so much more to learn!
Hopefully, though, you can take something away from what we’ve learned and enrich your own dating life. Here are ten lessons we’ve learned after our ten years together.
1. Take your time
No matter your age, no matter the circumstances you find yourself in, you can always take your time. You don’t have to get engaged after five or six months. Sometimes waiting can be a very good thing. Sometimes waiting can be a very good thing especially when you feel like jumping in headfirst.
There will be a lot of things in life and in marriage you’ll have to wait for or take your time with. This is especially true if you find yourself waiting to save for a house, waiting for the arrival of a baby, or waiting for the end of an illness.
Learning when it’s right to take it slow is a great lesson we’ve learned over these past years. Sometimes you need to build a foundation slowly. Slow is okay, it’s still time well spent together.
2. Be ready to act
On the other hand, we don’t get an unlimited amount of time. All of us have a time limit here on earth. You can’t just wait around for every aspect of a situation to be perfect before acting. This is where discernment comes into play.
We lived in Texas in the beginning of our marriage. However, we always knew we wanted to move somewhere else. We had a two year plan of staying in Texas and then we’d move to another state. A year into that plan, a job offer in another state came our way and we knew it was time to jump. We made the leap, even though it was a year earlier than we’d planned. We weren’t as prepared as we would have been, but it was clear that God was inviting us to move.
3. You don’t have to share everything in common
You’re still your own person when you’re married. It’s good to have your own interests or hobbies that your partner may not want to take part in with you.
For instance, my husband is a gamer and he and his friends like to get online together a couple times a week and play. I have absolutely zero interest in video games. Instead, I like to crochet and will spend hours by myself just hooking that yarn.
My husband does not care to learn to crochet at all, although he will help me decide on colors for different projects if I feel stuck. Often, when his friends can get on, we plan a night when he plays with his friends after the kids go to bed and I get hours alone to crochet. Win-win!
Separate hobbies are good because it reminds you that you’re still an individual. They also help you channel your personal interests for the good of your family. My husband and I are both introverts, so having these times to ourselves to do things we enjoy refreshes and recharges us. Good separate hobbies will do this for any couple.
4. Make sure you have some points of shared connection
You can’t not share anything in common, though! There has to be some commonalities to bond you. My husband and I (on a Catholic dating site!) initially bonded over playing Ultimate Frisbee and wanting to visit every MLB stadium. These were interests we had in common that helped us build a relationship. We still both love these things! It’s now our goal to visit every MLB stadium together. Over the years, we’ve also discovered other common interests such as visiting all of the National Parks, watching superhero movies, and playing board games.
Also, some of our individual interests have started sticking with the other, too. I wasn’t into science fiction movies or television shows much before my husband came on the scene. However, I watched some with him while we were dating and found out I really enjoy them!
Likewise, he didn’t care much about Disney movies or parks before he met me. Then, he went to Disneyland with me and found he really loves their storytelling and ingenuity. Now, we seek out sci-fi movies and shows to watch together and plan to visit every Disney park in the world together. We even went to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon, which he suggested!
Starting with some common ground and discovering more over the years enriches your life as a couple, as individuals, and as a family. You do become a unit, after all!
5. Cook together
It’s good to spend time together taking care of your home. My husband and I have found we enjoy cooking together. It’s a great two person activity, whereas many other chores can be a one person job.
What cooking together has taught us is twofold. First, we learned how to work together and enjoy each other’s company. But we also bond over meeting the basic needs of our family together. Together we provide, together we labor.
Maybe for you it would mean yard work or gardening together, or cleaning and organizing. Whatever it is, figure it out and do it together often. It’ll bring you closer together and it’ll give you more ownership over the care of your family.
6. Have a backup plan
Each of you needs to have a plan for income in the event that, God forbid, you experience divorce, illness, or death. I know this sounds morbid and cynical but it is absolutely critical. Part of building a family together and taking care of that family is having a contingency plan.
Have marketable skills that can get you a job, should you need one. Know how your savings account works and where you have money saved. Get life insurance policies and understand how to access them. Discuss where kids will go and how they will be provided for in the event you both die. Discuss money and careers and support systems.
Interestingly, talking these things out will give you both a better sense of the other person and your compatibility and a sense of security. It will also bring you closer together! The hard conversations have to happen and the earlier, the better.
As a teacher once told me, the best lie you can tell yourself is that it will never happen to me. Be prepared.
7. Communication will always (always!) be paramount
You have to communicate with each other to build a shared life. Remember that the life you’re building together really is meant to be shared. It’s not just about one person’s desires and wants catered to, but the whole of the family taken into account for every decision.
Learn how your partner communicates and learn to communicate that way well. Your partner should be doing the same for you (if not, that’s a major red flag). Arguments shouldn’t end with someone basically giving up or giving in. Instead, they should conclude with genuine resolution and compromise. Learn how to communicate together and how to communicate to the rest of your family.
When things seem off course or stagnant, don’t be afraid to seek counseling. Counseling is simply a tool to help you both learn to communicate better, resolve the unresolved issues, and get you moving forward together. It’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted nor be shameful or ridiculed.
8. Understand that everyone changes
The person you first met on Catholic Singles will change over time. Definitely in small ways (maybe she won’t like watching so much TV anymore or he’ll find he needs more downtime than before), but sometimes in big ways. One or both of you might decide to change careers and that will upend your family life. One of you might become more cynical as time goes on. One of you may end up suffering from depression or another mental health disorder.
Illness may strike earlier than you imagined. Maybe you both started off desiring a big family but find a few kids in that it actually takes a lot more of your physical and mental health than you thought and maybe you’ll need to slow down for a while. Maybe he’ll develop an allergy to your favorite food that he didn’t have before.
Whatever the change is, know that it will come. Embrace it! Growth is good. While you may change in different ways, it doesn’t make you any less compatible or able to continue building a life together.
The only exception to this is if the change is a bad or red flag behavior. In this case, you should seek professional help for your relationship to keep you both and any children safe.
9. Your relationship is never going to be perfect
No matter how well you prepare, no matter how well you communicate, no matter how on the same page you both are, your life together will never be perfect. Jobs will be lost, plans will fall through, goals won’t be met, children will be high energy, and dogs will pee on the carpet.
Don’t go into a marriage with the expectation of “it’ll be perfect if we just do exactly x y z.” That will never ever be the case. The reason is because we’re just not all-knowing beings. We should be in control of what we can be in control of and be prepared for a lot of things to be out of our control.
Unrealistic expectations will set you both up for fights, hurt, miscommunication, and missed intimacy. Don’t do that to yourself! You’ll enjoy life and each other a lot more when you realize this and embrace it.
The exception to this is if your partner is abusing you or your children in any way or if he or she begins engaging in high-risk or red flag behavior. If this is something you experience, get help. The baseline for everything is that you should always be safe physically, mentally, and emotionally in your relationship; if you’re not, either get help or get out.
10. Constantly re-evaluate your life goals as a couple
The goals we have for ourselves when we’re young and single sometimes turn out to be very different than those we find ourselves desiring when we’re older, married, and even parents. Sometimes the early goals are still good and in line with family life! Sometimes they need to be adjusted.
Life as a family is inherently communal but that doesn’t mean that someone’s dreams or goals have to be relegated to the dark corner all of the time or the other person’s indulged all of the time. Your goals should work together. This is sometimes difficult and sometimes you have to take turns.
But everyone should always be able to fulfill their goals and desires within the context of marriage and relationship unless life or God steps in. Family life itself should be a tool for everyone to reach their full potential and goals, not a detractor.
Similarly, though, over time, goals change. So being open about these things, communicating with your partner, and making a new road map when necessary will keep you all on chart.
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