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Then… she was the woman of my dreams. She walked through the double doors from the back of the church and slowly made her way down the aisle. I took her hand and she took my name and we said I do and we meant it with every beat of our newlywed hearts. We kissed and felt the new metal around our fingers grow warm and we smiled until our faces hurt and although everyone whispered congratulations to our new beginning we had a limited understanding of what that really meant.

Now… six years later, she’s the woman I share my dreams with. She’s the one I laugh with and cry with and laugh until I’m crying with and she still has my name, I still have her hand. Of course, there’s also a little person in our lives that altered our roles of husband and wife into father and mother yet the love we share created her and she reminds us every day just how good we are together.

This journey of life, of marriage, hasn’t come without its share of lessons though. In the past six years I’ve loved more than I ever thought I could and, consequently, learned more than I ever knew I would. She’s constantly encouraging me to be the best man I can be and the vows we wrote and shared several seasons ago have presented themselves for a game of truth or dare on several occasions… and while I’m sure this list will continue to grow, these are six lessons I’ve learned after six years of marriage.

  1  
SHARE RESPONSIBILITIES

While every task or chore doesn’t have to be split evenly down the middle, adult responsibilities should somewhat even out. Whether she handles the cleaning of the home and he handles the yard work or she cooks and he takes care of the dishes, there should be some sort of divide and conquer, give and take from both. Otherwise, one will come to resent the free time their partner has while they play catch up with a never-ending to do list.

That being said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with offering to carry the weight on your shoulders once in a while so the other can have a break. Surprises like these go far on the appreciation scale and paying them forward is never a bad thing. One should not be waiting on the other all the time though; the pendulum should constantly swing back and forth.

  2  
DON’T KEEP SCORE

While it’s encouraged to take over periodically, it’s never okay to keep track of how much you do compared to how much they seemingly don’t do. By keeping a mental tally sheet of failed attempts in turn camouflages the true accomplishments under layers of hostility. It’s also a slippery slope which will ultimately let the little annoyances find their way to the surface such as the way he holds his fork when cutting a steak or the way she pronounces certain words when she’s trying to remain polite… those things should be approached lightheartedly and not as bullet points under an angry scorecard.

  3  
IT’S OKAY TO GO TO BED MAD, JUST GO TO BED TOGETHER

Everyone has heard the saying never go to bed angry, to stay up and fight, to find resolution before heads hit pillows and while it’s sound advice, I don’t think going to bed upset will destroy a marriage. In fact, I think sometimes it might be the better option so one doesn’t say something out of anger they would later regret. However, going to bed together at the same time is important (unless there are limits beyond control such as a career where one works odd hours). Both partners should make every attempt to have the same bedtime and above all else kiss each other goodnight. Chances are whatever disagreement had the night before will still be there in the morning yet both parties will have had a chance to sleep on it and able to revisit it with a clear head the next day.

  4  
THE LITTLE THINGS

Make a point to keep the romance alive, to keep the fun and spontaneity present by leaving little notes or sending random texts or giving unsolicited and unprompted compliments. Respect each other and try hard not to take them for granted. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the day to day operations of running a home and making a life together that a simple “thank you” and “I love you” can occasionally get lost in the shuffle.

  5  
THE NOT SO LITTLE THINGS

As obvious as this seems and as much as it should go without saying, it’s worth stressing… maintain intimacy. Additionally, never use it as a bartering tool. As soon as it becomes leverage, it’s viewed through the lenses of reward and punishment and loses all sentimental meaning. The passion and desire gets buried under the heavy hand of someone who rations it out instead of encouraging it to happen organically or when the mood strikes. It’s the greatest benefit of being married and should be explored and treated as the perk of saying “I do” that it is.

  6  
TWO BECOME ONE

While I think one should maintain a sense of self within a relationship, I’ve also found it’s crucial to share dreams and goals and desires with each other to ensure we’re reading from the same page, that we’re following the same directions to reach the destination we’ve agreed upon.  If we’re working towards something different, eventually our paths will part so constantly checking in and finding focus seems to be an important part of staying on track. 

It’s also smart to keep the business of married folks as just that… business between married folks. The moment when someone else is allowed to see the flaws of your union is the exact moment when you’ve exposed a crack in the foundation of everything you’ve built (and continue to build) together. In the end, its better not to invite them or at least not give them an open invitation as the opinions of others will be nothing if not saturated in their own experiences and mistakes and, well, lessons learned.

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original photo by Bobby Davis Photography


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