15 Lessons from 15 Years of Marriage
I’m not sure why but I desperately wanted to visit Australia during my early teens. At 16 yrs old, I borrowed a book from the library with offers for ‘jobs abroad’. Sat in my bedroom clutching the book, I carefully hand wrote letters to various fruit picking farms all over Australia.
Amazingly I got a letter back from somewhere in Western Australia offering me a job! I remember the excitement, although there was one big problem. I needed permission from my horrified mum, plus the airfare, which 35yrs ago was way out of reach.
The whole thing became a pipe dream and sadly didn’t happen. I got on with it, found a job as a welder, then became a dancer and did get to live all over the world, everywhere it seemed, except Australia. Speed dial 20 years and I’m finally here, getting married in the Blue Mountains. We hired a cave, a cape and a bushwalking celebrant. There was an opera singer, candles, black cockatoos and close friends. Considering we only met a few months before the wedding, no-one is more surprised than us to still be married 15 years later.
It was our 15-year Wedding anniversary last week. Timing in with a powerful Solar Eclipse and the invitation for change and healing, which begins with acknowledgement and celebration of where we’re at now.
Here are 15 lessons from 15 years of marriage.
Communication and trust are key, sometimes we need solitude to grow, other times we need to be in relationships. Marriage isn’t always easy, for me though, it’s been worth it.
- Be kind, criticism kills love. It shrinks the other person and usually isn’t about the other person. It’s worth looking at ourselves first if we feel the urge to criticize or nitpick. Look at what’s really playing out here and ask “where has this pattern played out before in life?” Some things aren’t our ‘ideal behaviour or habit’ we’d prefer in the other person. It might be something that changes if the partner wants to or we can accept it. Trying to force change through criticism on someone who doesn’t want to can feel very controlling. Blame and resentment eat away at a relationship, only you know what is non-negotiable for your life, honour that, and accept that not everyone else has the same perspective.
- Follow your dreams, and share them with each other, keep those dreams alive. Create a ritual to mark those dreams coming to fruition. Adapt them if life has changed and if your dreams have changed. There, maybe times when both partners dreams align and other times when one of you is supporting the other more. Keep the internal balance inside and make sure your dreams aren’t forgotten if you’re being the support person for a time! It does need to swing around and balance out for both people to feel fulfilled.
- Try to be fair, to yourself and your partner. Sometimes emotion can get the better of us, sometimes space is needed either on our own or to talk to someone else who can give us a fair and reasonable perspective. Sometimes counselling might be a good option. Do what you need to reach an understanding that feels good mutually, so that disagreements or misunderstandings don’t drag on, sometimes you both just have to let it go and move on.
- Cherish your fellow traveller, look after them in a way that they appreciate. If you’ve read anything about love languages then people feel appreciated, seen and heard in different ways. Find out what works for you, let your partner know, and ask or experiment with what works for your partner. We think the other person can read our minds and sometimes they can but often that’s not the case and misunderstandings can easily happen, it’s always worth checking in on every now and then, things change.
- We’re influenced and affected by the people we spend the most time with. You have to look after your own energy and there are many practices to help with this. Sometimes we might need stronger boundaries, energetically and mentally, or we might need to drop some boundaries that block our vulnerability. Sometimes we might need to gather in other support or even remove ourselves from the situation. And of course, if a situation becomes abusive in any way then it doesn’t matter how much you love or loved the person, seek support to care for yourself, no relationship or person can heal properly in an abusive environment.
- Lead your own life too, have your own friends and connections that help you to grow and evolve in the way you want. At the same time, nurture joint friends and community, as they can lead to feeling greater happiness and connection together.
- The little things matter. Tiny notes, a few fresh flowers picked from the garden, a phone call or message in the day, a lit wood fire in the morning, the little thoughtful things matter and build love over time.
- Hug every day as often as you want, sometimes there are days with lots of hugs and sometimes it might be one or two. Often you might not be able to speak after a hard day or know what to say or feel tired and grumpy. A simple hug can trigger all those feel-good hormones and both people feel better. Maybe it’s begrudged at first, even if it is, try hugging for at least 5 seconds and breathe together in those moments.
- Listen to each other, give your partner space to talk and be heard, at the same time, honour yourself, express how you feel and ask for the space to be heard too. Simply doing this without the other person interrupting can be very healing. If we’re holding onto past resentments and hurts and can’t change them then try to find a way to process and let go. It might take time, years even, however, these resentments block the relationship from moving forward too. Without forcing the process find a way to let your resentment, blame or anger go. Focus more on what brings you both peace.
- Align your values, depending on when you met your values maybe evolving or quite secure, all I know is that aligned values are intrinsic to being in any partnership and over time aligned values will help both people grow together and lessen conflict.
- Have fun, laugh – like belly laugh together, be ‘naughty’ in whatever way that means to you both! Have a little adventure, go on a midnight full moon walk looking for wombats or owls. It can be easy to get stuck in ‘societal’ conditions for what a marriage or partnership ‘should’ look like. Find out what works for each other, stay curious and playful.
- Commit, as in don’t give up at the first few hurdles. Relationships do evolve and people can change, if they want to and feel supported too. At the same time, there may be circumstances when you outgrow each other, or it feels right to leave. If you’re banging your head continually against a brick wall, and nothing is working, then it may be time to find the door instead. It might not be forever, sometimes things just need space to breathe.
- Find what lights you up and do more of that. What lights you up will also light up someone who truly loves you. Then the relationship will have more spaciousness to make room for how each of you evolves. Celebrate together you both become stronger in that energy.
- Say thank you, show appreciation when the other person does something for you or fulfils a need you have. These little moments of gratitude mean a lot over time and help to avoid resentment and insecurity.
- Instead of looking to your partner to give you security, love and connection. Be responsible for cultivating these qualities within yourself and share this with your partner. Of course, there are times when we are all more vulnerable or in need of support. In a long-term relationship, we’ll likely experience both, that’s why you’re there for each other, and this is healthy. By cultivating self-reliance then you both grow strong roots, whose branches can intertwine. Roots and branches that can weather all seasons and grow stronger together.
That’s my 15 lessons from 15 years of marriage. At least the ones that jump out for me today. I’m sure there are more!
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