10 Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage

This week was a significant week in the Schatz home. Wednesday marked 10 years of marriage for Anna and me! My wife compliments me in so many ways. I couldn’t have been more lucky and blessed to find this woman.

We’ve been through some incredible experiences together and I’ve learned a lot about love and life together during our years together. Of all the lessons I’ve learned, here are my top ten:

#1: You don't get to know your spouse in a book.

I’m an avid reader. Whenever faced with a new challenge, my go-to is finding new books on the topic. So shortly after marrying my new bride, I devoured every book I could find on marriage. Most books I found tended to reword the same information and repackage the same stereotypes.

Before long, I was treating Anna like all the books said I was supposed to treat her. I assumed that she had the same needs, the same thoughts, the same habits, and the same desires as the women all those authors talked about. But she doesn’t! I’ll never forget the day Anna said, “I’m not those women! You have to get to know me, not them.”

Marriage books are helpful. But nothing replaces the need to get to know your spouse the old fashioned way: time together.

#2: Hardly anything good about marriage comes naturally; it requires a lot of time and effort.

Marriage is great. I love being married! But I have to work hard at it. If I always acted out what came naturally, I would be much more grumpy, short-tempered, and demanding. A good marriage requires a lot of sacrifice, service, and practice.

Whether it’s parenting together, balancing your budget, determining family values, or a good sex life, everthing about marriage requires practice and effort. It doesn’t happen “naturally.”

#3: Assume the best.

Every married couple has arguments and gets frustrated with one another. You don’t always see eye to eye and you have to live together even on your worst days.

When your partner is frustrating you, remember this: He/She is not a jerk. You probably are just misunderstanding each other. Try putting yourself in their shoes and ask “How do they see this from their perspective?”

#4: Just spend the money.

When things are tight I'm tempted to not invest money in my relationship - anniversary gifts, date nights, trips away - but every time I just book that hotel or click the “buy now” button I'm always glad I did.

Some of our favorite memories are from family trips to Great Wolf Lodge, overnight getaways to San Antonio, dining at the top of Reunion Tower in Dallas, or watching a broadway in Manhattan. All of these experiences made me cringe before handing over the bank card. But looking back at pictures, and laughing about the memories made it worth the expense.

Don’t act extravagantly, and live within your means (or even better - below your means!), but just spend the money every now and then.

#5: Share everything.

One key ingredient in good relationships is time. Talk about everything with your spouse. Share your frustrations, joys, memories, stories, fears, anticipations, and such with them.The more you get to know each other, the closer you’ll become.

#6: Nobody wins when you play communication games.

All of us on occasion play communication games. Instead of admitting when we are frustrated, or saying what we need to say, we try indirectly getting our point across. I’ve certainly been known to use sarcasm, verbal jabs, silent treatment, subtle hints, and avoidance when disappointed.

Stupid communication games like that never work. Even if you end up getting what you want, it’s because your partner feels guilty or pressured or just annoyed with your behavior. Indirect approaches always make matters worse; they never get your point across. Communicate plainly and fairly!

#7: Build up your spouse in front of others.

Whenever someone feels insecure or unsure of themselves, they tend to use their words to build themselves up… and tear others down in the process. One reaction is to talk negatively about other people to take the focus off of themselves. Tearing down other people in order to make yourself look better is ironically unattractive.

Build up your spouse in front of others. Few things can boost your partner’s self-esteem than speaking highly of them in public.

#8: Friendship > Romance.

Every marriage needs both romance and friendship. If you aren’t friends, your marriage will be pretty dull. If you aren’t attracted to each other, you’ll end up just being buddies who happen to share a bedroom.

While your relationship requires both, friendship has to be the priority. If you aren’t friends with your spouse, the romance will begin to fade. Being able to laugh with each other, joke around, share hobbies, and have fun hanging out is key to keeping romance alive.

There’s nothing quite like being in love with your best friend; and there’s nothing quite like being loved by your best friend.

#9: Let the little annoyances go; but never let the big stuff fester.

Every human on this planet has an annoying habit, quirk, or mannerism. Furthermore, each of us acts impulsively on occasion. Or says something insensitive. Or forgets something important. Or does something selfish. If your spouse commits a little annoyance, just let it go. It’s not worth your energy to make them feel guilty or apologize for something minor.

On the other hand, it is definitely worth your energy to bring up the big stuff. If your spouse does or says or ignore something that deeply hurts you, you had better speak up and confront the situation. Otherwise, all the little annoyances will become magnified and drive you nuts.

#10: Free your spouse to pursue his or her dreams.

Lots of things get in the way of pursuing dreams: money, time, obligations, skillset, lack of connections, etc.

You can’t run after everything you want to do. But if anyone is going to believe in you, it should be the person you’re married to. So whenever you can, do that for them. Remove as many barriers to your partner’s dreams as you can. Even if one of those barriers is their own self-esteem.