Emily is the best thing that ever happened to me. She is so much more than I ever thought I would ever have in a wife.
And far more than I’ll ever deserve.
It’s hard to believe that today marks six years of marriage for us. I feel like it was just yesterday that we were meeting and falling in love.
Here are a few of the many life lessons we’ve learned in our six years of marriage.
1. Go to bed angry
I don’t know who started the idea of “never go to bed angry,” but they were dead wrong.
When you’re mad, you are not in a good place mentally. You say and do things you don’t mean. It’s challenging to resolve anything when neither of you is thinking straight.
I’ve also learned that willpower decreases throughout the day. This can have an especially detrimental effect on marriage because most of the time we have with our spouses is at the very end of the day when our willpower is the smallest.
Makes you think twice about why your marriage may feel strained at times. You may need that quality time together at a time of day that isn’t the evening.
Whenever Emily and I get in an argument, especially at night, we go to separate rooms for a time. Sometimes that even means going to sleep at different times, but still in the same bed, so that we don’t end up continuing to fight all night but can wake up happier and refreshed together.
This practice has worked wonders on our marriage. Our arguments are so much less likely to escalate.
I especially love those mornings after an argument when we’ve realized how dumb whatever we were arguing about was. Being at odds the previous night has an odd way of bringing us closer when we wake up happy together.
Because we have a plan for how to handle anger and disagreement, it has the power to actually deepen our connection to each other.
2. When things go wrong, don’t fix, have compassion
This one I’ve learned in my head and heart over and over again. My habits, on the other hand, are still lagging.
Each time something bad happens, whether it’s a kid falling off the piano bench or Emily forgetting something, I know that I want to be compassionate first. But I am human and still struggle to put this principle into practice.
I am getting better though. Every time I do make the mistake of trying to fix the problems we encounter I apologize with love.
Which brings me to my next point.
3. Be quick to apologize and to forgive
We always talk about this strength of our relationship, which is the next life lesson I’ll share. But first, let me tell you how great this has been for us.
I am quick to say sorry. I make a lot of mistakes and am often far too good at being self-aware. This sometimes interrupts my good mental hygiene, but I’m grateful for this trait.
Now here’s where I get really lucky. Emily is a world-class champion at forgiveness. Every time I apologize it takes her matter of minutes to forgive and forget.
If I’ve really messed up bad it might take a little longer, but I never fail to be in awe at how fast she forgives me.
Because of this, we hardly ever hold grudges against each other. If we do, they don’t last very long at all. The baggage that brings down most marriages doesn’t often hold us down. We’re not perfect, er, well, I’m not perfect, but we do have a lot of really great strengths.
4. Learn and play to the strengths of your relationship
When I was a missionary, I spent all day every day with another missionary. My “companion,” as we would say. Every few weeks I would get a different one. I learned a lot from the dozen or so companions I had during my 24 months of missionary service in England.
One weekly routine we practiced during our planning session was called “companionship inventory.” It sounds awkward when you think about it in terms of two young men talking about their strengths, but I knew why I was really doing this.
It was just preparation for when I would get married and have a more important companion one day.
Each week my companion and I would review the strengths and weaknesses of our companionship. We tried to focus on strengths, which helped me learn to look for the good in people.
While my wife and I don’t have a formal companionship inventory, we often talk about the strengths of our relationship. Just last weekend, on a long car ride to a Family party, we reviewed a few of them.
Our biggest strength is that we compliment each other. I mean, we do often try to tell each other what we like about each other, but we are complementary as well.
She keeps us having fun, and I make sure the bills get paid. That’s the surface level that most people see of our relationship. But it goes much deeper.
At the core, Emily is fun, and I am responsible. That’s not to say that she’s not responsible and I’m not fun, we just got perfectly matched to compliment each other’s strengths. Whenever I am getting too focused on the business of family life, she pulls me back and helps me have fun. She is excellent at planning vacations and is always up for any adventure.
I couldn’t have married better.
We know and talk about this often. It could be dangerous to be different, but we’re careful to stay in the perspective of learning from each other.
5. When you think your marriage is safest is when it’s in the most danger
Complacency sucks. It can kill careers, health, and especially marriage.
Early on we talked about divorce, not from the perspective of wanting one, but instead about how to guard against it. We didn’t beleaguer the point, just took careful attention to be aware of it.
I used to say things like “divorce is not an option.” While I still feel strongly that I’m never going to consider divorce, it’s important to remember that it can happen to the best of marriages.
When you think your marriage is the safest from divorce is when it’s in the most danger.
When you protect and nurture your marriage is when it’s the safest.
6. Have fun together!
Not long after Emily and I met, we started spending a lot of time together. I was always impressed with how naturally we could carry on a conversation. We were interested in so many of the same fun things and ideas.
We can just talk for hours, and when we first met, we did. I remember the cool summer nights right outside her dorm. We would sit on the grass and just talk.
One night, before we realized, it was 5 AM. We had just talked for 6 hours straight.
On second thought, I think that happened multiple times. I can’t really remember though because it didn’t ever feel like 6 hours. It always felt like not enough time.
Talking is just one thing that we enjoy doing together though. You can often find us hiking, camping, traveling, biking, running, swimming, and doing so many other things together.
About a year or so ago we started a tradition of watching YouTube videos every Thursday to celebrate “Friday Eve.” Sunday night is game night. After the kids go to bed we play games together.
We’re even learning what kind of work we want to do together and often talk about business ideas that we could do together.
My wife and I love spending so much time together because we know how to say sorry, play to our strengths, and remember that to keep a marriage strong; you have to nurture it.
Being married to Emily is the very best thing about my life. I love her with all my heart, and she is my very best friend and closest companion.
We plan on being married forever and hope that our love and connection will continue to grow as it has in these last six years together.