By Anne Roderique-Jones– Self
I married Nate when I was just 24 years old. We were fresh out of college and—if I’m being completely honest—we were totally unprepared for life. We assumed that ours would be a house with the white picket fence and 2.5 kids. None of that happened. What did was something better—with some work and maybe luck.
From going to bed mad to having your own popcorn, here are 15 marriage lessons I’ve learned in 15 years of marriage, in my completely unprofessional, very subjective opinion and in no particular order.
- Marry a person who makes a great wedding guest.
The first time I attended a wedding with Nate, I knew that I wanted to marry him. An otherwise casual person who wears scrubs to work, Nate looked smoking hot in a suit, complimented my outfit, was gracious to the newlyweds and their family, fetched drinks for my friends, and even spun a grandma around the dance floor.
- You don’t have to pee with the door open.
Being married for a decade-plus does not mean that romance should be flushed down the toilet. Otherwise known as, “I don’t want to see your junk when I open the bathroom door,” I look at the bathroom as a privilege of romance preservation and always-needed alone time.
- It’s okay to go to bed mad.
There is no more beloved marriage advice than “Don’t go to bed mad.” But we’re big believers in going to bed in a tiff. Most of our arguments are insignificant, and we’ve forgotten about them after a good night’s sleep. If not, it’s on.
- Some years will just suck.
There’s loads of unprofessional opinions about the difficult years in marriage: Some say it’s the first; others find the second year is rough, shortly after the first year of marital bliss has worn off. I have a friend who swears that all odd years of marriage are terrible. No matter what, though, one thing’s certain: Some years are just going to suck. In our marriage, it’s usually not the person, but the circumstance. The year that we moved to NYC and had zero friends or family nearby sucked. The year my dad died sucked. But the good news is that once we waded through the hard times, we liked each other more in the end.
- Don’t have kids if you don’t want them.
I am almost tired of writing about this, but I’ve received so many emails and messages from women who don’t want kids but feel they must have them because they’re married. We also feared regretting this decision, but after 15 years as a twosome, we’re happier than ever. Your marriage, your choice.
- Traveling together helps you bond.
Traveling is one of our favorite hobbies, and our marriage is better for it. We’ve spent a lot of time visiting places where we don’t speak the language, trying unique food, and driving a car on the opposite side (Nate) while navigating a foreign country (me). Traveling has taught us to trust each other and rely on each other’s strengths. Plus, when there’s no one else to talk with in a foreign city, it’s easier if you like your spouse’s company.
- Figuring out how to fight is key.
I was a terrible fighter in the beginning of our marriage. I was a yeller and a door-slammer, and Nate was calm and communicative. Over the years, I’ve learned to be a fair fighter, which often happens over email—my argument platform of choice. It’s here that we can easily air our grievances with well thought out intentions. By the time we’re home from work, it’s been settled—no door slamming necessary.
- Having your own hobbies is much needed.
Nate and I spend a great deal of time together—mostly because we really enjoy each other’s company and hate being apart for long. But after this many years of marriage, we’ve learned that it’s perfectly okay for me to skip a snoozy baseball game or if my husband has zero interest in a yoga retreat.
- But doing something challenging together can be amazing for your marriage.
Nate and I ran our first-ever marathon together after being married for nearly 15 years, and the whole experience was (almost) as exciting as our wedding. We trained together for three months and cheered each other on until the very last step. Over the years, we’ve found that attempting any physical challenge together, like climbing Machu Picchu or jogging a 10K, has been great for our marriage.
- Being each other’s cheerleader is essential.
I went through an unfortunate stage where I decided to start a boozy jam-making business. Nate had a short-lived passion with beer making. Even when our apartment wasn’t filled with bad beer and jam splatters, we’ve supported each other’s passions. More realistic aspirations like major career changes, advancing our education, and moving across the country would have never worked if we weren’t each other’s biggest cheerleader.
- Always get separate popcorn at the movies.
Some people like separate checking accounts; others prefer separate bedrooms. I will share almost anything with Nate except for popcorn. For years, we ordered a giant tub at the movies and would argue over whether to add butter (him) or not (me). For me, getting my own tub to eat at my own pace is the epitome of marriage luxury.
- We may not always be equal, and that’s okay.
My grandma always told me that no marriage is 50/50. And while I am thankful to be married to a spouse who works hard and helps take care of our home, we aren’t always exact equals when it comes to housework, income, or responsibility. And as long as this fluctuates fairly over time—it’s okay.
- Combining family and friends makes life so much easier.
The beginning of our marriage was spent traipsing to three different Thanksgivings and Christmas dinners because our families didn’t have common interests. Today, my mom and grandma are welcomed into Nate’s home and his family is welcomed into mine. It makes family time so much happier and easier for everyone. Additionally, we’ve had the good fortune of combining friends over the years. His best friend from grammar school is now one of my besties, and my BFFs are his.
- Treat your partner like a coworker.
The simplest action I’ve learned in 15 years is to be kind to one other. Sometimes this is hard—like when I forget to lock the door for the 10th time in a month or when Nate takes an hour-plus to get ready. But we try to think of how you’d react to a coworker if they made a mistake or forgot a task, and it’s easier to treat the person you actually love with kindness.
- Comfortable silence is golden.
Nate has a morning ritual called QCOC: it means quiet cup of coffee; it’s his time to read the news and sports in total silence. I’m a voracious reader who values a book and quiet time. With so much time together, a comfortable silence is a marriage miracle.
Anne Roderique-Jones is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in Vogue, Marie Claire, Southern Living, Town & Country, and Condé Nast Traveler. Twitter: @AnnieMarie_ Instagram: @AnnieMarie_