3 Marriage Lessons I’ve Learned

Today is our five-year anniversary!!!! Earlier this week, we went on a trip to Cancun and stayed at a resort, and it was great to spend time relaxing together. Since today is our actual anniversary, I thought it might be fun to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned in our marriage so far.

Ask for what you need.

This is really a lesson in both communication as well as focusing on your own actions as opposed to your partner’s. First, your partner is not a mind reader. They won’t magically know if you want help with the dishes, or how you want to celebrate your birthday this year. You should tell them. This is simple, but it took me longer than I care to admit to figure this out. And it’s not that you’re going to get everything you ask for from your partner. No doubt some things will be a discussion that you’ll have to work out together. But you will get 0% of the things you do not ask for. In my experience, it’s way better to over-communicate than under. And if you’re like me and you tend to not ask for things you want/need, try to get over that unless your partner is an X-Man and can read minds.

And then the second part of this is focusing on your own actions. Instead of thinking, “I wish my partner noticed the laundry is piling up,” or “Why didn’t my partner plan a fun date night for us this week,” you should turn the focus back to you. Here is a super simple truth of life that I find really freeing but also kind of a hard lesson (or it was for me anyway). The only person’s actions I can control are my own. If I need or want something from Trey, I should ask, and if he asks me for something he needs or wants, I can respond. It’s simple, but it’s work. Luckily a lot of the time marriage is the most fun work I’ve ever done. 🙂 But it’s still work.

As a side note, I think this lesson applies to a lot of areas in our lives. If you’re unhappy in your job, for example, instead of blaming your boss or your coworkers, first think about what actions YOU can take to change things. This kind of mindset isn’t going to solve all of your problems, but it’s powerful.

Your partner cannot make you happy.

I think I had this misconception in my head before I got married that Trey, or marriage in general, was going to make me happy. I was wrong. I actually see this in other’s lives fairly often, too. We think that once we have a certain career, or once we have children, or once we ______ (fill in the blank with the circumstances you fantasize about) then we’ll be happy. We think those circumstances, or the people involved, will make us happy. They won’t. The only person who can make you happy in life is YOU. Once I finally understood this and was able to wrap my head around it, I found it to be SO empowering!

And just to be clear, the vice versa is true, too. You are not in charge of making your partner happy. That is impossible. You can love them, support them, encourage them, and make them laugh. But you cannot make them happy, they can only do that for themselves. So don’t put that pressure on yourself, and don’t wait for them or for your marriage to make you happy. You can choose happiness every day—it’s a practice.

For me, this has not only been a marriage lesson, but also something I’ve thought a lot about as we think about having children (we plan to adopt, I promise I’ll share more one day when I’m ready). Once again I started off with a mindset that I just wouldn’t be happy, or wouldn’t have a complete life until I had children. And although I am still really looking forward to that stage of life someday, I now understand that having kids will not make me happy. For one, that’s way too much pressure to put on children (or your partner, in the case of thinking marriage will make you happy). And two, it’s just not true. My life is complete now, and I can choose happiness today. I am still 100% looking forward to having kids, but I don’t want to miss out on all the joy I can have right now. I love my life right now, including all the time and freedom Trey and I have to focus on our careers and each other. And I have peace that one day I will also be happy when that changes and welcome some kiddos into our lives.

Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint.

I’m an analogy person, so here’s one: Imagine you have a goal of getting great abs. You change how you eat, you start working out more, and over time you get those great abs you wanted. You’re so happy you have great abs, and then you stop working out and start eating cookies for dinner every night. How long do you think you’ll keep those great abs? I think you see my (intentionally silly) point here—great abs are like a good marriage in that you have keep working on it if you want to keep it. You can’t just expect a good marriage if you don’t TRY at it.

Marriage is a lifelong goal that you should be constantly working on. Read marriage books or listen to podcasts that may help with any aspect of your marriage you want to work on or improve. Always look for ways to love, support, and appreciate your partner more. Learn to apologize (I still kind of suck at apologizing when I’m wrong, even after five years of practice). Of course there will be seasons where you can’t focus on your marriage as much as other seasons. That’s OK. Even spending just a few minutes on this a day will make a huge difference over time. It should be your goal to never get complacent or lazy about making an effort in your relationship. It’s work to stay in love with someone, but it’s really fun work.

That’s it, three pretty simple lessons I’ve learned in marriage so far. Trey and I discussed the ideas in this post while we were on our trip this past week. But I did just want to say: Trey, thank you for five amazing years. I got so incredibly lucky when I married you! You support me in my goals and career. You teach and challenge me in so many ways and I know will continue to. You forgive me when I’m a total jerk to you during a fight. You are smart, hot, and the most fun person I know. No one makes me laugh like you do. I am so, so thankful I get to spend the rest of my life with you. xoxoxoxox. Wifey

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman. Photo by Sarah Rhodes.
  • Thank you for sharing! I totally needed This Today. I love how you simplify and make this personal – feel like i somehow know you a little bit better. 💕

  • I almost never comment on blogs (although I read yours often!), but I just wanted to say – bravo! This is so well written, heart-felt and 100% accurate.

  • Love this!! You’re approach to your marriage is realistic (that it takes work), but empowering and encouraging at the same time. Happy Anniversary!

  • Happy Anniversary!

    Those are definitely some great lessons which can be applied outside of marriage. You could think in this way about family relations and friendship too. The second lesson feels the closest to me because I tend to expect that my relationships will make me happy. However, I am slowly realising the most important and influential relationship in my life is the one I have with myself.

    Thanks for the post!

    A.

  • i LOVE this advice. it is always good to hear what other people are learning and/or have learned AND how they learned it. this is such great advice. thank you for sharing!

  • I agree with everything you said. It also took me ages to realize that my husband is not a mind reader and that desires/needs need to be *clearly* expressed. But it’s so true that things are waaaay easier once that’s established. We just celebrated 5 years of marriage too. Happy anniversary!

  • Emma, this is beautiful! Thank you. I particularly love your advice about asking for what you need – it sounds obvious, but it took me some time to work out, too. Happy anniversary and thank you for sharing xx

  • Happy five years to you and Trey!

    I totally agree on these three! I’ll be celebrating my two year anniversary this September and the lessons above are ones that I have been learning. I love being married and there is a degree of relaxation that comes with being out of the dating pool, but there is this new level of working at keeping the relationship a great one that I didn’t even think about, until I said “I do”.

    You’re right that marriage work can be fun work to do, but it is still conscious work to do and we don’t want to take it our partners and marriage for granted and let those abs slip away 🙂

  • Do you seek out marriage books much, ever?
    I am not married yet, but still want to work on my relationship – would be interested in any books you’ve come across. It’s a little hard to know where to begin some days.

    • I would love to know what books you recommend and podcasts you listen to as well! I know what a couple needs help with in a relationship is personal and different, but if you have some stuff that has helped you or been suggested by others I’d love to know!

  • Great lessons! And can be applied in every type of relationship.. loved this post! 💗Happy anniversary and many many more to come 💕

  • Congratulations on your 5 year anniversary, such an honest look at marriage. I have been married for 26 years and been with my man for 31 years. Comprise, trust and honest communication with repsect, we have have had hard times and amazing times times we have always been faithful to each other and at the end on the day regardless of our day we always kiss each other goodnight 💖 and yes it is a slow steady sprint🎀

  • I am bookmarking this post! I think we girls are programmed from a very early age to expect Prince Charming to come and sweep all our cares and worries away. We needed to see Cinderella and the prince in the laundry room 🙂

  • So sweet Emma. It’s taken me about the same amount of time to learn the same lessons. And I’m sure I’ll be continuing to fine tune those skills 😉

  • Bravo! It’s taken me 20 years to learn these, so you’re much wiser than I was at five years. Happy Anniversary!

  • Even though I’m not married, I really appreciated these points. I feel like they can be applied in all relationships.
    Happy Anniversary!

  • K, I feel a little freaked out because not only do I usually feel like we’re the same person, Emma, but this post makes it feel like you’ve officially read my mind. 1000 times yes to the first point. I always say that the lesson I learned in the first year of my marriage was that my husband can’t read my mind. I, too, felt stupid for not figuring this out sooner (we lived together 4 years before getting married) but it was like a lightbulb went off when I finally did. The lesson of my second year of marriage was that my husband is now my family and my relationship with him should take precedence over my friends. Another lightbulb moment…bittersweet in that my friends don’t get as much from me now but I’m sad to say I unintentionally placed more importance on my friends than him for a long time. It’s just what I was used to and it took some time to adjust. And the lesson from the third year of marriage is that happiness is a choice, exactly as you have said. We have gone through some major fertility struggles in the last two years including 4 losses and 4 surgeries. So many people fall apart because of infertility and conflicts of interest but we decided that no matter what, we won’t lose sight of why we are together over the potential of not having kids. Our relationship is here and now and stronger than ever because of our experience and that is so much more important than losing it to a relationship with an unborn child that may never be.

    Happy five years to you two!! May you continue to grow more in love over the years and learn from each other continuously.

  • This is such a sweet post with such good advice. Happy anniversary to you and Trey, and wishing you continued health and happiness for the next 5 years and beyond!

    After going out with my now husband for over 6 years before we got married, I thought there would be minimal lessons to be learnt from marriage that I didn’t already know from our relationship…but sadly 10 months after we got married, my father in law passed away very suddenly and I learnt some lessons that I hadn’t anticipated for quite so soon: how to provide strength enough to shore both of you up when one doesn’t have it, to take care of someone when they are at their most vulnerable and to realize that the most important things are usually the first things we take for granted so try to be mindful that the little things are the best kind of gifts.

    We will be married for 3 years this year, and I’m pregnant with our first baby so I’m sure we have some more lessons to learn pretty soon, but that’s what marriage is all about – accepting that it’s always evolving, and making sure you are both open to those changes as and when they come.

    Here’s to many more years of happiness to you and Trey 🙂

  • Love this advice. Thank you for not trying to correct others relationships and for sharing your experiences! I’m getting married this year and I’m excited to share this post with my fiance. Much love! Happy anniversary!!

  • Happy five years!!! So happy for ya’ll! Dave and I are going on five years this August and I totally related to what you said! Those are definitely some lessons I learned too! Thanks for the honesty and cute post! Glad you got to get away and celebrate!

  • My husband and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary in August (I’m not sure how this is possible, since I’m only 27, but whatever :-). Anyway, I would like to say that I wish I had been so mindful of the (good) work marriage takes, and my part in it, only five years in. What an amazing thing you have learned, and you will reap the benefits of this wisdom as you go on in your journey together. We have had a great marriage, but man, there were some TOUGH times. But SO worth it. And time flies, so enjoy each day (I know, it’s what all the old ladies say, but it’s TRUE!!). All the best!

  • These are some really nice tips.
    Especially the part about the only person that can make you happy is you. I think so many people think that marriage and kids will make everything perfect. And really they’re very challenging things.
    Debs @ https://tiger-mint.com

  • These are super insightful, Emma! I’ve been married for 4 years but been with my husband for 15 years and I only just figured out #2 this year. It’s something I’ve been working on this year and it’s really changed my perspective, and improved our relationship for the better. It’s not fair to give him the burden and responsibility of making me happy all of the time. He is usually a reason for my happiness, but he can’t be the provider of it–only I can do that.

    #1 is another hard lesson that I’ve known but still suck at sometimes, ha. It’s so true, though. No matter how hard I want it to be the case, my husband is never going to be a mind reader. I can’t get mad at him for that, either. It’s a process, but I keep getting better.

    Wishing you many more years of happiness in your marriage!

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