10 Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage

There’s a prevailing theory that children experience time at a slower rate simply because their total relative time on earth is far less.  A day for a child is a much bigger percentage of their life than it is for an adult.

But there’s another theory that looks beyond this principle.  It proposes that the reason time passes slower for children is because of how much they’re learning.  With so many new experiences, their brains are more directly engaged on a regular basis and the time they are experiencing is more “memorable”.  While time is actually passing at the same rate, this deeper engagement makes time seem denser, resulting in the perception that time is moving slower.

Compare this to spending hours scrolling on your phone, and the contrast becomes immediately apparent!

I’ve been with Michele for 18 years and we just celebrated 10 years of marriage.  I believe we’ve been as engaged as a couple can be during the past decade.  3 kids, a dog, a business, a home, many adventures, and countless memories to go with it.  We’ve crammed so much into our time together, and I can’t wait for the next decade.

When I think about how grateful I am to call her my wife, my mind wanders to some of the more important lessons I’ve learned in our time together.

I’m sharing them here with y’all because I believe lessons like these sit at the core of our happiness, health, and wellness.  

These lessons have directly contributed to my fitness and my quality of life.

Perhaps they’ll provide some clarity to achieve that for yours.

Lesson 1: Say I Love You 

Every time you look at your person and think “man, I LOVE them”, tell them!

And don’t just say it.

Fucking MEAN it.

There’s a huge difference when you mean it and it WILL be felt.

My kids might roll their eyes around us when they get older, but they will absolutely know what true love looks like.

Lesson 2: Communication is everything

Option 1: Get home and walk around in a shit mood because something that happened today has you pissed off.  Because you’re still pissed, you overreact and lash out at your family when they engage with you.

Option 2: Get home and say “This thing happened today and pissed me off.  I’m still stewing about it”.  Bring self-awareness to the situation and avoid any misdirected anger.

I get pissed like anyone, but when I made a point to communicate that rather than “deal with it” internally, I allowed my wife to understand where my head’s at.  More importantly, as soon as I verbalized the issue, it often diffused things because it’s never as big of a problem as we build it up to be.

Solid communication will diffuse so many issues for you.  This is the whole point of a relationship, you dummy!  You don’t need to carry your burdens alone.  Your partner, who loves you, wants you to communicate that stuff!

Lesson 3: Admit when you “lose”, Have grace when you “win”

You’re gonna get into arguments.  Big ones & small ones.  It’s part of the deal.  And sometimes, as the argument develops, it will become apparent that you were wrong – or right!  

When you have actual trust for one another, it allows one of you to admit when you’re wrong and/or apologize.  And what is that trust?  It’s the trust that the other person isn’t going to lay into you, double down, and lord it over you that they were “right”.  

It’s having grace and realizing that the goal is to gain understanding with one another, not to fucking “win”.

Lesson 4: Don’t keep score

On the topic of “winning” & “losing”, don’t keep score.  

There isn’t some master table that aggregates and scores all of the tasks in the home.  Trying to quantify that stuff will only lead to you being a miserable turd.

First off, you’re an adult, so don’t ask your partner to do something that you’re fully capable of doing yourself.  “Score” be damned.

Second, do your part as much as possible and if you found the right partner, they’re doing the same.

I do most of the cooking in our home.  

Michele does most of the cleaning.

I do the majority of transport for the kids during the week.

Michele runs bathtime.

And on and on…

Neither one of us gives enough of a fuck to keep score.

We’re both simply focused on doing everything we can for our family, and making sure to support the other person where and when they need it.

Lesson 5: Change is wild

Expecting your partner to change is foolish.

So is expecting them to stay the same.

Your partner may change.  That’s life.  But trying to manipulate that change won’t work.

You need to accept and embrace your partner exactly as they are.  

And equally, you need to be prepared for them to grow and change.

Core values, of course, shouldn’t change (Lesson 8).  Assuming those remain the same, any change and growth in your partner should be viewed as a beautiful thing.

Lesson 6: Support each others’ dreams

Part of a healthy relationship is having some skin in the game.  That means giving part of yourself up to support the pursuit of a dream that is not yours.

I am RCTF’s sole founder.  This place was created from my vision.  But RCTF would not exist today without Michele’s support and sacrifice.  Her commitment to my vision and dream made this all possible.

I’ve done the same for Michele, going back to her pursuit of higher education at the start of our marriage.

Through the years, as we have found and identified the challenges that most excite us, we continue to support each other’s dreams and passions.

Think about it: if the person you love is doing something hard, do you want to be a part of why it’s so hard?  I derive a great amount of meaning and significance from supporting Michele’s pursuit and achievement of her own goals.

Lesson 7: Date your partner

Perhaps this applies more to those with young kids, but you need to date your partner.  Make a point to create time for just the two of you.  Time that breaks you out of your day-to-day routine.  Time that allows you to pause and be fully present with the person you love most.

This doesn’t need to be some luxurious over-the-top date night.  Go for a walk and grab some burgers at the local joint!  The time spent fully present with each other is the magic ingredient.

I’ve found that because Michele and I truly love our day-to-day routines, it’s that much more important to make time for it.  We usually don’t feel like we ‘need’ it because we’re so happy together.  Still, it’s essential to a healthy relationship.  If you’re checking a lot of the boxes on this list, you may be in the same boat.  Do a quick audit to see if you’re overdue for a date night!

Lesson 8: Share Vision & Values

While you both need to be individuals in the relationship, you need to ensure that you share the same vision and values.  Michele and I share the same vision for our families and lives.  Not to the granular level, but for the big stuff.  Our decisions regarding the big stuff will honor not only what we both need for our personal lives, but also our family.

This ensures that as you age and go through the different seasons of life, your shared values will allow you to build a life together not just for now, but for the years to come.

You don’t rely on love to sustain your relationship.  

You rely on the commitment you have.  

Commitment to the shared vision, the shared values, and to each other.

Lesson 9: Jokes are funny

Couples that can find humor in situations and laugh together are the most resilient couples I know.

Think of any older beloved couple you know.  I can almost guarantee that they joke and laugh a lot. It’s one of those not-so-secret ingredients.  You need to laugh and smile.  And how can you not when you think about how slim the odds are that you exist right here, right now!?  Not to mention our time here is so fleeting, you’d better laugh a little and enjoy the ride!

Having a good sense of humor in your life and relationship is one of your greatest assets.  It allows you to not take yourself too seriously, and to take an optimistic approach to the bullshit you encounter each day.  A sense of humor and optimism is the foundation of resiliency.  

Being able to constantly laugh and smile with my wife is one of my favorite things about her.  Making humor a cornerstone of your relationship ensures it’s built to last through tough times.

Lesson 10: It’s all worth it

Seriously.  I know it’s cheesy, but my marriage is the best thing about my life.  I have so much to be grateful for, but building a life with Michele is number one.  If you’re part of the morning crew at RCTF and train with her, you get it.

Invest heavily in your relationship and you will reap levels of depth, meaning, and significance that you could only imagine previously.

Since I’ve written this list, I’ve had no less than five more REALLY GOOD lessons pop into my head that I want to add.  But if I open that door, I’ll never stop.  As I reflect on the lessons listed here, it seems that a combination of “seek understanding over winning” and “take your goals seriously, but not yourself” are the overlying themes.

As with all great relationships, there is plenty I take for granted.  So tell me, what did I miss here?  What are your top ten relationship lessons?


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