This weekend marked a day that the courts in my state recognized my marriage as ‘dissolved.’ As of last March, my then-husband and have been going through a divorce. We had a beautiful decade-long relationship and five of those were in marriage.
During my time of separation, I’ve continued sharing marriage-related content because I still have the experience. I still have a passion and genuine desire to encourage and support those who are going through wedding planning and beyond. And I know that when the dust settles, I will be able to look back on my wedding day as one of the top 5 days of my life—so I’ll share these memories and pieces of advice with my readers. The end of my love story doesn’t take away from the beginning of it and I am still grateful for the chance to go through a marriage experience because I have learned so much.
Even though this chapter in my life is finished, I still believe in love. And I believe in lifelong fairytales. But while in a season of reflection, I have been thinking a lot about what could have gone differently. So I wanted to share tips that I think will be relevant regardless of where you’re at on your relationship journey. These are the things that I either tried to do or wished that I did to protect my marriage.
- Remember that the vows you made are active, living and breathing commitments made to the other person. Take this seriously. Look back on the words of your vows, display them in your home or watch your wedding video together to be reminded of the promises made.
- Recognize that there is so much that changes once you were married, outside of a dating situation. Even though you will jump right into the day-to-day, you have to find ways to keep things light, romantic and sweet. What did you both love about the season when you were dating? Try and carry some of those things through. Then come up with new ideas to keep things fun and creative. It’s never too late to reinvent your relationship.
- Realize that ‘the small things are the big things’. Notice that they got their haircut. Ask how the meeting when at work. Complement the new outfit. Show up with their favorite meal. Aim to do something at least once a week spoken in their love language.
- Find something that you can share at a meaningful level. There’s so much that is surface in life and you need some thing you believe in together that you can embed into your rituals. If you are faith-based, this could be a nightly prayer or joining a Bible study group. It could also be daily habits like coffee on the porch together or a meditation or exercise routine, no matter what is going on. These activities are important for your foundation and helping to keep you connected.
- Have continued dialogue, even when it’s not what you want to hear. Speak up about what you need. Ask them how you can support them and seek honest feedback. Get to know them, especially if who they are has changed over time.
- When you speak, make sure to also listen to one another. No matter how much chaos is around you, stay alert and pay attention to what they’re saying (and what they are not saying.) And when you are sitting together in silence, don’t pick up your phone or magazine or lean on other daily routines to distract you. Sit in these moments and cherish them.
- Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re individuals who bring your whole selves to a relationship. If you need to work on yourself through self care, counseling to deal with past hurts, or by joining a support group, then do it. You have to bring your best self to your relationship (but know that this will take effort).
- Work at making your relationship a priority and ask for help when you need it. You can rely on resources like friends with more marital experience, a counselor, podcast, book or seminar. (It’s likely that one person in the relationship will not be as willing. Do what you can with self-study and change your own behavior. Share your findings but then make it clear that it’s important to you…sometimes you just need to take the time and find the medium that works for both of you.’)
- Don’t take your relationship for granted. Enjoy the laughs at the inside jokes, having someone to go to a Christmas party with and knowing you have a built-in travel companion. If you appreciate these moments, then say it out loud and let them know. (Don’t assume they know how you feel.)
Girl with a diamond ring