11 Relationship Lessons I Have Learned After 11 Years of Marriage

Even if you know you are perfect for each other and want to be with no one else.

Relationships are hard, especially long-term relationships.

Before I got married, one piece of advice I got was to always do the dishes after dinner together. While that has proven to be a very good piece of advice, you need a little more than that. If you want a relationship to last, you need to be able to get through the boring days, the hard days and the sad days because that is how life goes. Everyone has their own feelings, personality, love language and way of communicating.

After being with my other half for 11 years, I can share with you what has made our relationship better. What I wish someone would have shared with me a long time ago.

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1. Learn each other’s love language so you know how to show love

There is nothing worse than spending a lot of time and effort trying to do something nice for someone and them not appreciating it at all. I would usually think “I wish you do would this for me.” And that is the problem. We typically show love the same way we want to be loved. But there are so many different ways to show love and not everyone “speaks” the same love language.

When I came across Dr. Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, I finally realized that my other half and I speak completely different love languages. The five love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.

My love languages are acts of service and receiving gifts. My spouse doing the dishes speaks volumes to me. If he gets me a gift, then I feel loved because he had to take the time to think of something that I would like. However, he could not care less if he got a gift from me since that isn’t a love language for him.

There is now an app Love Nudge that can give you ideas and reminders. Learning love languages gives you a whole new perspective on how to show love and be intentional on appreciating each other.

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2. To lower bickering, learn HALT

I learned the phrase HALT when my first child became a toddler. It is funny how I needed to first have a toddler to really learn and understand emotions. HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. If you have a toddler, it is a great list to run through your head when you see your toddler heading for a meltdown. Just halt and think if any of these four things could be the reason for the meltdown. 9 out of 10 times, it is one of them.

What I found so interesting is that it doesn’t apply just to toddlers. It really is for all humans. Once my husband and I learned this phrase, we started realizing SO MUCH of our bickering or little fights were because one of us was one the “HALT scale”. If we could realize this right away, we could save ourselves an argument. For example, one of us might say “I think we are both a little hungry, lets discuss this after dinner.” And not shocking, the conversation after dinner was much more pleasant and not at all an argument.

And we seem to always be T (tired), since little children result in being in a constant phase of sleep deprivation.

3. Think and address issues as you and your other half vs. problem.

Your other half is not the problem.

There is a lot of advice out there on how to fight fair. I think one of the most important steps we took in changing how we fight is to change our mindset. We are a team. If a problem arises, it is us vs the problem. Always think of the problem being the behavior or the situation itself not the person. If you view the problem in that way, then you both need to find the solution. It’s not a who wins argument. It is a discussion for both to offer solutions.

Here is an example: My husband spends way too much time on his phone checking baseball scores and watching games. I could address it as he is the problem, or I can address the behavior itself so we can both offer solutions. When it’s the behavior that needs addressing, the other person can also be part of the solution.

My old way would be to say something like: “I hate how much baseball you watch and how you never put your phone down. You are wasting so much time and could be doing something better. You are ignoring me and I’m sick of putting up with you being on your phone instead of with me.”

Now I would try something like: “I know you love your baseball and half the fun is checking it constantly. However, I find that the constant on/off your phone is very distracting to me. Is there a way we can achieve you enjoying baseball without it annoying me? What can we do that will accomplish that?”

In the second situation, my husband would be much more willing to offer up solutions, so the behavior doesn’t annoy me. In the first situation, he would be much more likely to defend his actions because I attacked him instead of the behavior.

By the way, did you catch how I used “we” in the second instance? Remember you are a team! And that means to ask them what ideas they have too.

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4. Always offer solutions

It is important to always address an issue. Letting things fester is never a good idea. So, in addition to remembering to address the behavior or situation instead of the person, also always give solutions.

I like to think of a few solutions before I start the conversation. In the baseball example above, I could follow up with a few ideas. Such as:

Could you help me out by not checking your phone if we are in the middle of a conversation? Also, maybe it would be helpful if I could give you 20 minutes of uninterrupted time after you got home to catch up on all of your baseball? What do you think? Do you have any ideas on what we could do, so I am less frustrated, but you still get baseball?

When you are really really stuck and no one has a good solution, or one person isn’t offering any solutions, try this. Get a piece of paper, have one person start by writing down a proposed solution. Now, the other person is able to cross the solution off if they don’t like it as long as they write down a solution of their own. Depending on the type and nature of the argument/issue, set a time limit such as a day for each turn.

5. When fighting, always say the other person’s point of view first and then yours

When you say their point of view first, then it won’t feel like you are attacking them. It will actually result in a completely different mood and response. Here is an example. Last weekend, my other half had zero want to go to a toddler birthday party. I could explain why I wanted him to go or I could first relate to his point of view before saying mine.

Not saying his point of view first: I think it is important for you to go. They are family friends and your daughter is very excited for us all to go.

Saying his point of view first: I know you have zero desire to spend your afternoon at a toddler birthday party. I get it. I want you to go because they are family friends and your daughter is very excited for us all to go.

You could follow up with either: What can we do to make this better for you?

Or

What if we do something that you want to do either before or right after the birthday party? This way you won’t feel like your whole day was wasted. Thoughts?

6. It is not true: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.”

Sure, I get it, you want to avoid the initial fight but honestly, the grudge and the hurt feelings that the other person might hold onto is never worth it.

There is a level of respect that is needed in healthy relationships. It is the ability to trust the other person and know that they will always think of you before making decisions. It is important that each person feel they are part of a team and that neither would go behind each other’s backs.

Loyalty is a big part of a relationship. Once you start down the road of doing things without considering the other person’s feelings and thoughts, they won’t trust you. Even the simple little things.

7. Set rules on how to deal with each other’s families

In-laws are such a common point of contention and it makes sense. Each of you has years upon years of history with your family. Your other half doesn’t have that at all with your family. Additionally, your family can’t love your partner like they love you. You are their child.

And in a lot of ways, a significant other takes away some of their roles. You might reach out and rely on your parents less as your partner starts to play a bigger role in your life. And you should do this, this is 100% what should happen. I just think that the change in dynamics can be hard on parents. And truly, I think this is why there is usually tension between your parents and your other half.

And since you know your family best and you also know how to fight with your family best, it is best that it is always you who takes on your family. This is the rule in our house. No matter what the argument is, no matter if I think my partner is acting crazy, I always take his side and make the fight my own. I handle my parents on everything and then he does the same with his parents. If they don’t like the way I am parenting, he takes them up on it. He makes the argument go from me, to we.

Our relationship is in such a better state than it would be if we didn’t have this policy. At the end of the day, my parents and I will always work through it and vice versa. They will always forgive me since I am their child. My spouse is not their child and arguments between them are a lot harder to mend.

8. Always work on something such as a project or goal together

This was one thing that I recently realized added so much to our relationship. I was reading a book on how to have siblings that like each other, instead of becoming mortal enemies. One takeaway was that you should try to encourage as much fun between the two. Essentially as long as they have more good times together than bad, they will be friends.

I then realized the same was true for our relationship. We really struggled when we weren’t having fun together. Sometimes we would quit going on dates. We weren’t working on anything together. We were in our own little worlds. It was like we had nothing in common and our relationship would start to fall apart.

You need a reason to text each other throughout the day. You need to have something in common such as a goal, hobby or side hustle. Therefore, you are a team. You can feel happy about something together. Relate on something.

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9. Get on the same page for long term financial goals

I think the saying goes you must agree on money, kids and sex to have a successful long term relationship. However, I think on the money topic, it is more important to agree on long term financial goals.

You and your other half will probably like to spend money on different things. You also might think that how the other person likes to spend money is silly. I like to get my nails done every so often. My husband thinks that is a silly thing to spend money on. However, it makes me happy.

But it doesn’t really matter how each of us likes to spend money if our financial goals long term are the same. And we both understand how to get there. If we are both working toward the same financial long-term goal, then we both know what we need to do in order to make that happen. After that, we are free to spend our extra money on what we like.

10. You are different and that’s okay

Every person is unique. You know this, but what you probably don’t know is how to communicate and relate to someone different than you. That is what relationships are all about. You get to learn how to relate to someone different than you.

Something that has really helped me relate and understand my husband more is the book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. Sure, not everything in the book fit us perfectly but it was crazy how well it matched my husband and I. Reading this book was a great lesson for me in learning a lot of ways people communicate.

11. Learn when to reach out to others (aka not your other half)

Another important lesson I learned in communication was that I can’t have my significant other be my everything. For example, I love to talk. I need to talk a lot. I like to talk everything through in detail. My husband can not talk or listen as much as I need to talk.

Therefore, I know I need to rely on others (mainly my mom and best friend) so I don’t put too much on my husband. Knowing and understanding the other person’s limits is important. Let’s say you love to rock climb and wished your husband shared the same hobby. Instead of being upset that he doesn’t have the same interest, join a rock gym and drag your best friend.

Pursue your relationship Today

Being in a relationship is a choice you make every day. Pursue the relationship you want to have by actively making changes. Start by picking up the 5 Love Languages or Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.

Always HALT before starting an argument and see if it is truly the issue or if either of you are HALT (hungry, angry, lonely or tired). When you communicate, make sure to say the other person’s point of view and offer solutions.

Remember, you are a team. Find something that you to can do together to have something to bond over. As a team, know your partner’s limits and fill your life with friends and family who will help you.

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