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It’s kind of hard to believe we’ve been married over a year now! I was actually going to post this on our year + one month anniversary, but I got sidetracked and didn’t. Oh well, here I am now! We’re officially keeping the “newlywed” moniker for at least another year because we weren’t able to celebrate our anniversary together on our actual anniversary. We’d always known we probably wouldn’t be spending the day together, so it’s okay – we made our peace with it a year ago and moved on with our lives. Besides, if we’d been physically together I might not have made him a super silly card:
I’ve noticed that a lot of people say your first year of marriage is a very difficult adjustment period and that, even if it’s overall very “good,” it’s still also quite “hard.” Honestly, it has been a difficult year in many ways, but none of those difficulties have stemmed from our marriage. I’m not trying to sound cheesy, but I know and understand myself better now than I did last year and we believe that our love and relationship are deeper and stronger now than ever before. I am convinced that this is because we consciously decided that activley maintaining and strengthening our relationship is important to us.
He’s pretty incredible and, I think, in many ways a naturally more calm, relaxed, and accepting person than I am. For example, three years ago I accidentally dropped the very high-end point and shot camera he had at the time (it was stolen a year later) in a parking lot. He wasn’t angry and didn’t yell – he just asked that I acknowledged why it had happened (I’d left the camera bag unzipped, forgot it was unzipped, and took it off over my head when we reached the car). In many ways these five lessons I’ve learned are mostly things I’ve learned from my husband and his frequently almost zen-like way of approaching the world.
Show respect for yourself and your partner. We believe that respect for ourselves and each other is key to everything. When you respect your partner, you listen to him/her, aren’t sarcastic, don’t belittle their choices, and can disagree without fighting or demeaning the other person. Papi Chulo and definitely do not agree on everything! Not at all. But we’ve never once yelled at each other and have very, very rarely said something hurtful that we regretted. Respecting yourself involves many things, including being bold enough to say, in a reasonable way, if you’re unhappy with something or disagree.
Recognize that you’re not the same person and that you have different needs. This is really just going a bit deeper with the respect idea! Two people are just that – two people. You and your partner and not the same person, no matter how much you share and have in common. It is important to recognize and respect the ways in which you’re different in order to avoid hurt feelings, disappointment, and even resentment. For example, Papi Chulo really likes a few minutes of quiet each morning to sip his coffee and mentally prepare for the day. I’m kind of a chatterbox and will happily start talking at him first thing in the morning! When he didn’t want to talk, I felt sort of rejected, but then we discussed it and he explained how important it is to him to have the time to order his thoughts before heading off to a (stressful) day at work; the morning is his calm before the storm. Now we make sure to spend a few minutes quietly sipping our coffee and watching the sky grow lighter through the living room window. I’ve come to really enjoy our quit minutes of togetherness in the morning, and once he’s had some time to think he’s ready to have a conversation.
Say thank you and show your appreciation. Let your partner know when you notice the things they do for you, even the little things! This also ties back into respect. I am so very lucky that Papi Chulo always voices appreciation for what I do. He’s the one with the “real” job and, realistically, his income is what pays our rent and buys the groceries. We are both very happy with my decision to focus on my blog and Etsy store instead of working outside the home for many reasons, but I am definitely not the main income earner. He makes it clear he appreciates everything I do at home and acknowledges he doesn’t have time to keep the apartment clean, pack his lunch, have dinner ready, go shopping, etc. I know he actually likes to clean and cook (how lucky am I?!), but that he doesn’t usually have the time, so I make sure to say thank you whenever he does the dishes, cleans up, or takes care of something else around the house. He constantly tells me that I’m the one who makes home “home” and knows just how much work it takes, and I’m very thankful for that.
Cultivate a team mentality. We actively seek a sort of “us versus them” attitude. It’s not that we’re antagonistic towards other people, but we work to view ourselves as a team. For example, one day he was late to work because they’d changed the time everyone needed to be there and no one notified him. He didn’t get in any major trouble, but he hates being late to anything and he did get fussed at a little. I could have responded by saying “Well, they were right to get upset at you. You’re an officer and it’s your responsibility to know what time to be there and arrive on time.” That does not foster a team mentality! Instead, I sympathized with him and said it was pretty lame that they’d changed the time and no one told him. He shouldn’t have to call back to work after supper to make sure nothing has changed! Little, everyday situations like this can be used to strengthen your bond by promoting a team mentality or can weaken your bond by setting you against one another. One of our favorite (relationship) books, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, has a lot of great information on this subject.
Stay humble. Staying humble is, I believe, one of the most important things in life. False modesty is obnoxious and, in my opinion, actually a form of extreme pride, but remaining humble is so important. When you remain humble, you can acknowledge your mistakes and handle differences with grace instead of frustration and resentment. Being humble allows you to listen to your partner’s thoughts and ideas without steadfastly believing that you already have all the answers, and it allows you to both apologize for mistakes and accept apologies from your counterpart. Perhaps most importantly, humility allows you to acknowledge when you’ve changed your mind without worrying that your partner will think they’ve “won” and you’ve “lost.”
This year certainly has been hard, but it has nothing to do with which way to hang the toilet paper roll. Having your husband on deployment is difficult and loosing a parent is even more difficult. Having both happen simultaneously? Well, some days I’m pretty darn proud of myself for accomplishing anything productive. Also, I’ve developed a pretty loose definition of “productive”…
But in spite of these things, this year has also been good in many ways. Additionally, we have chosen to use these difficulties to strengthen our marriage instead of drive a wedge between us. Together, we are working together through these obstacles and trying to take the lessons they offer to heart. As Papi Chulo wrote in a recent email to me, together “we are going to accomplish amazing things, have do doubt.”
What do you think the most important element in a relationship is? Is it respect? Communication? Separate bathrooms? Or something else entirely?