People change over time, and so do our relationships. I was recently reflecting on how I would have answered questions in my first year of marriage, compared to what I would say now. It’s important to talk about this stuff because some changes can be hard, and if we don’t talk about it, no one will feel comfortable asking for help.  

My wife and I recently celebrated our 5th year wedding anniversary. We booked a boat ride lunch on the River Thames, which was great fun. It was a bit tamer than usual. We have done quad biking and zip wiring along one of the longest courses in Europe to celebrate in the past!

Now, for those of you who like to read my posts regularly, you know I don’t often go into great detail about myself, or how I dated or my own relationship. Mainly because I’m not perfect, and I don’t want people to think this ministry is about me saying: 

‘Just date the way I dated, and follow my behaviours in marriage and you’ll be fine’. 

There is no simple seven-step rule for dating or marriage. We all have different personalities, experiences, and hopes. I always think discussing principles, and enabling people to apply it to their unique situation is much more helpful. 

Real, tangible and helpful advice needs to go beyond ‘look at me’. 

Questions I Always Ask

However, as I was searching for inspiration on what to write, I was thinking about my anniversary. My mind wondered to the questions I always ask other married couples, which are:

  • ‘What is the best thing about marriage?’
  • ‘What is the hardest thing about marriage?’
  • ‘What is the best piece of advice?’ 

As I was thinking about this, I was wondering ‘What I would say now?’ I started to ask myself ‘Would it be the same answer I gave in my first year of marriage?’ 

So after some reflection, here is what I used to say when people asked me these questions, and what I would say now after 5 years.

‘What Is The Best Thing About Marriage?’

In my first year of marriage, I would have said that just being with each other all the time was the best bit. 

I would definitely say that over the 5 years our love and relationship has changed

We didn’t live together before we were married, so being able to just be together, sleep in the same bed, etc., was great. We could actually spend lots of time together and not worry about going back to separate houses. 

Now, if you asked me this same question, I would definitely say that over the 5 years our love and relationship has changed, but it’s got better. In a society that says the newer the better, and old relationships get boring and stale, I can honestly say that is not the case. 

We have been through so much, made sure we kept committing to making it work and had fun. Being with someone who values you, really knows you, still sticks around, puts you first, and builds a strong foundation of trust with you over time, is priceless. This longevity of shared experience is the best thing.

‘What Is The Hardest Thing About Marriage?’

In the first year, I would have said making the big sacrifices is the hardest. Like realising that my wife, who is the extrovert, wants lots of people round all day every day. Whereas the introvert in me wanted to see next to no one if possible.

Adapting and sacrificing my time and space to allow her to feel fulfilled, and us both making sacrifices in other areas too, like how we spend ‘our’ money, rather than what I do with ‘my’ money’, was hard. It took work and caused arguments. (Read Why The Royals Invested In Marriage Prep, And So Should You)

It’s the little sacrifices

Now if someone asked me, ironically, I would say it’s the little sacrifices. 

Thankfully, we have worked through the ‘big’ stuff and adapted well. But actually, doing the little things after 5 years, when it would be easier to just revert to type, is actually where the marriage is strengthened or weakened. 

Remembering to clean up instead of just leaving it for the other person, not making the joke you know they will not like, sacrificing your ‘precious’ evening to do something they enjoy but you don’t, is hard to do day after day. It’s the little things that make a difference now. 

‘What Is The Best Piece Of Advice?’

I think after I got married, I would have said communication is key. Not assuming that my wife would agree with me, not letting our little annoyances grow into big arguments, being prepared for the reality of life together to not be exactly as expected, can all be dealt with through good communication. 

People who are ‘well suited’ can have big problems when they stop communicating. And couples who are ‘unsuited’ can get through it if they keep talking and listening to each other. (Read Disagreement Doesn’t Equal Divorce’, Why Successful Couples Remember This)

Now after 5 years, I would still emphasise communication, it is still key. However, I would add in that trying to see the issue/problem from my wife’s perspective is so important. It’s something I have come to appreciate more and more. 

It is a trap I see many people slipping into after a few years together

This is obvious in some ways, but really putting yourself in their shoes. So not just thinking ‘this is how she reacted, but if it happened to me I would react differently’. But really appreciating that she reacts in a certain way, and why, and that I need to take that on board.  

Just thinking it would be easier if they had ‘changed’ by now instead of building more empathy, is a trap I see many people slipping into after a few years together.  

Imagine If… 

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not perfect at all. But doing the work I do, and having personally navigated marriage for a while, I really believe these bits of advice are something we can hopefully all get something from. 

Imagine if we remembered that marriage is meant to be fun, but it takes hard work too. Remembering this at every stage of marriage can help us navigate the lows and get back to the highs. (Read What 35 Years of Marriage Really Looks Like)

Thinking of a couple you respect, how do you think they would answer these questions? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 3/12/2018