5 Lessons From a Decade of Marriage

A letter written to a newlywed couple.

The truth is, marriage is extremely rewarding. It is also extremely difficult. We’ve learned many hard lessons about building a good marriage over the last decade, and we’re sharing the ones that have helped us the most below. (We’re hopeful that what took us eleven years to learn will only take you five!)

Lesson 1: It can never be about winning or losing.

If either of you notices winning or losing in your conversations or conflicts, go immediately to therapy. Marriage requires mutual care, not winning and losing.

Lesson 2: Resentment is the relationship-killer.

Notice when the seeds of resentment begin to take root. Learn to say it out loud. “I feel resentment building when _____.” Then work together to do something about it.

Lesson 3: 50 / 50 won’t cut it.

Some responsibilities you can split. Others you can assign to one of you. But so, so many responsibilities require BOTH of you to show up and put in 100% effort, every single time. For every responsibility, it’s a choice to make and re-make as time passes: Split, Assign, or Both Show Up.

Lesson 4. No mind-reading.

If you don’t share your quiet assumptions, your needs will go unmet. The problem is, you often won’t know what assumptions you were making until you’re already hurt or confused. Find out what they are and call them out, even after the damage is done. “I think I was assuming that _____. Now that we both know, what should we do?”

Lesson 5. Love requires respect.

We grew up hearing lots of things about the roles of men and women in marriage. Above all that, love requires respect. Subordination isn’t respect. It requires winning and losing (back to #1). Instead, the most powerful thing you can do is cultivate a deep curiosity about each other’s inner lives. Stay curious, always in a state of wonder about what the other person is thinking and experiencing. Ask them about everything. Mutual curiosity builds mutual respect, and love requires respect.

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