28 Things I Learned During 28 Years of Marriage

My Dear Readers,

The annual list is here. For newbies, I’ve been writing a list like this for the past few years, and it’s the one thing I remember to blog about. I don’t look at the lists from prior years because that’s cheating. Not really. I don’t look because it really is an “off the top of my head” list.

Backstory: Peter and I were living in the same area and introduced by mutual friends Scott and Irene. They are Peter’s youth group friends and my college friends. They thought he would make a good “Oppa” or older brother because he is seven years older than I am. We met, fell in love, and got engaged… in six weeks. As in met and then had an official engagement party/ceremony with almost 100 people present for our engagement. And then we were married four months later with about 1,000 guests for a buffet of Korean food in the basement of Peter’s church.

  1. Marriage is hard work. There is a lot of joy and heartache, and it is A LOT OF WORK. It’s good work, but it’s work. That’s why we celebrate even if it’s dinner in a restaurant, which still feels weird because of COVID and feels small because it’s 28 years. Thanks, COVID. You can also put in all the work, and your marriage may still not work out with a fairytale ending. Do you know why? Because fairytales are lies. 
  2. The marriages in your family of origin are not a predictor of how your marriage will look or be. You are not by default your parents’ best and worst patterns of relating. You can choose to emulate the best and break the worst patterns. Again, it takes work.
  3. There are some things that will make you cry in the moment that over time will make you laugh…and maybe still cry. (Remember, I was 22-year-old Kathy up against my future mother-in-law during wedding planning. If you’re lucky enough to have seen our wedding video #3 makes perfect sense.)
  4. Spend money on amazing photographs of you and your spouse on your wedding day because video formats will change. VCR anyone? 
  5. “Married a long time” sex is better than honeymoon sex.
  6. Sometimes sitting in silence doesn’t mean you are comfortable with silence. Sometimes it means I’m really pissed off.
  7. Marriage and/or your spouse will not complete you. You are a full human.
  8. If you think marriage will complete you, go to therapy first. 
  9. Marriage therapy doesn’t have to be a crisis thing. It can be a normal thing. It should be a normal thing.
  10. Individual therapy doesn’t have to be a crisis thing. It should be a normal thing.
  11. You really do marry each other’s families whether or not you or your spouse is close to said family. Those family issues and ties show up EVERY DAY in big and small ways.
  12. The way you “fill-in-the-blank, i.e. did household chores” growing up doesn’t have to be the way you and your spouse do it in your marriage. 
  13. Having children doesn’t complete a marriage. It makes your family bigger.
  14. Having sex when your kids are babies, toddlers, etc. can be challenging because one or both of you are always tired.
  15. Having sex when your kids are teenagers or college-aged can be challenging because they keep weird hours. This does not apply if you don’t care if your kids know or hear you are having sex. I am still a bit prudish. Leave me alone.
  16. Buy a king bed as soon as you can afford it. It doesn’t mean you want to be far apart. It just means that you are prepared for when you want to be far apart because you’re mad, you have kids or fur babies who crawl into bed with you, or you need the space because of peri-menopausal night sweats.
  17. Talk honestly about money. I don’t know if money is the root of all evil but remember #9 and #10. There’s a lot to learn about each other when you talk about debt, spending, time, etc. Peter knows I have fun money stashed away because I have a really, really, really hard time spending money on myself. He doesn’t have to have a stash because he doesn’t have the same problem.
  18. It’s important to have common friends and your own separate friends.
  19. Same with hobbies and interests. He had bowling and I had book club.
  20. You do start picking up each other’s best and worse habits. Case in point? For me: flossing. For him: moisturizer.
  21. When he tells me I am beautiful he means it. He may want sex, but he still means it.
  22. When I tell him he is handsome, I mean it AND I want him to finish some project around the house.
  23. After 28 years he still can’t read my mind so I’ve told him that I really love it when he occasionally buys me flowers for no reason at Trader Joe’s. I have also circled things in catalogs.
  24. This is particularly important for women because it’s 2021 and the patriarchy: establish your own credit history.
  25. It’s never too late to apologize or to forgive one another, but you also can go to bed angry. Staying up late past your bedtime to argue doesn’t make for better arguments. It makes for cranky adults who have to go to work in the morning with unresolved feelings.
  26. You don’t have to make every decision together – big or small – but you have to know you’re on the same page about which decisions fall into that category. For example, I really don’t care about the exact make and model of our next car, which actually will be my car. He enjoys this much more than I do. 
  27. Over communicate because back to #23 none of us are perfect at mind reading.  
  28. Say “I love you” every day even when you don’t feel it. Love isn’t just an emotion. It’s a decision. An action. A choice of movement towards each other. Every damn day.

Happy anniversary, Peter! Here’s to another year of learning and loving!

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