I remember the first moment I laid eyes on my now husband. I had just arrived in Nice, France, on my solo backpacking adventure through Europe. I wasn't even meant to be there. After having one too many siestas (and sunset beers) in the cultural beachside town of Barcelona in Spain, I finally packed my bag and continued my train ride down to Greece to meet a friend. But I didn't want to venture that far and not stop at all the beautiful destinations along the way.
The only problem with that plan is I hadn't booked anywhere to stay. It was the peak of European summer, which meant everywhere was booked solid, but that didn't stop me. I got off the train in Nice anyway and hit up the tourism information booth outside the station. At the looks of the long queue to get inside, it was clear I wasn't the only insane person who went to Nice without a plan. The difference is, I was alone.
Thankfully, I hit it off with two Swedish girls in line who were on their way back from Greece. As we chatted, a van of friendly backpackers was on their way up the hill to check out a new hostel that still had openings. We clambered in the small white bus and proceeded up the winding road. As soon as we arrived, I stepped out of the sliding door and I saw him standing at the end of the driveway. It was like a lightning bolt struck me down, and I couldn't move my Birkenstock-strapped feet from the ground (don't judge me; they were comfortable).
Troy was the epitome of cool (in my eyes, at least) with distressed denim jeans, a cowboy buckle belt, long wavy hair that handsomely flopped over one eye, and a vintage Molly Hatchet band tee with the words "Flirtin' with disaster" emblazoned across the front. It was love at first sight—kismet if you will. From the moment we met, time has flown by, and while the rest of this story truly deserves its own book (and perhaps I'll get the courage to sit down and write it one day), I'm going to fast-forward 10 years to today where I am one week shy of celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary (with a 9-year-old son in tow). So you want to know how we've made it this far? Ahead, I share some of the 10 key things I've learned in those 10 years, and let me tell you, it takes a lot more than love.
We Have Separate Lives
While we both have similar interests and taste across art, movies, music, and fashion (very important), it was crucial to the both of us that we have our own lives outside of each other. That meant nurturing friendships and other interests that the other might not bond with or appreciate as much. This time apart to pursue individual creative interests and ideas only fuels our love for each other when we're together. We have interesting conversations about what we discovered or experienced, and even if we don't always agree or have the same degree of passion, it certainly opens our eyes to another side of that person we might not normally see on a day-to-day basis.
It makes things interesting too. There's never a dull moment. I love nothing more than seeing my husband return home looking all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed from having spent the evening with fellow denim heads talking about their blue gold obsession. Don't get me wrong, I love denim too, but when they start talking about the rivets and stitch details my eyes start to glaze over. I'm sure he feels the same way when I start talking about skincare with my dermal therapist friend. But these unique differences keep us together and are what we most admire in one another.
We Don't Play to Gender Stereotypes
My husband may be a man and I a woman in the biological sense, but we certainly don't live by those traditional roles. Not as a couple or as parents—especially as parents. I grew up in a family that sent the boys outside to do yard work while the girls cleaned the house, but my husband and I don't think in those old-school terms. When we first met, Troy had no idea how to cook, but he was keen, so we got in the kitchen together, and over time he learned, enthusiastically. Now, 10 years on, he cooks every night after he collects our son from school, and (dare I say it?) he's almost a better cook than I am!
He also spent a year as a stay-at-home dad to take care of our then 1-year-old after I went back to work—here's how we manage it. I'm still working on the handywoman part though. I can change a lightbulb and patch a hole in the wall, but I'm not very good at mowing the lawn. I've always wanted to learn though, and I'm sure Troy would happily teach me how (when we finally own a lawn worthy of mowing, that is).
We Are Honest With Each other
It's amazing how many couples I've met who happily admit (not to each other of course) how much they lie to their better half, especially about money (that's my next tip). It might seem like a simple white lie or blurring of the truth now, but this can quickly snowball and over time turn a happy relationship into an unhappy one. Having honesty in a marriage builds a foundation of trust, and you can't have a partnership without trust. We tell each other everything. Okay, so maybe he doesn't find out about some of my online shopping until I'm wearing it, but we're 100% truthful and open about everything else. That way, we both know where the other one stands. It's like a really warm and cozy security blanket. And it feels so good.
We Talk Openly About Money
If you want a stress-free marriage or relationship, don't avoid talking about money. According to a survey published by SunTrust Bank, finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship. In fact, 35% of survey respondents identified money as the primary cause of friction. When Troy and I met, we didn't have much of anything, let alone money, but we've never shied away from talking about it and sharing it too. Even before we said our "I dos," we pooled our money together. With what little we had, it made sense to combine the two. Now we have shared bank accounts, and we still see our earnings as one income. We save together, budget together, and allow each other to spend on luxuries too (because we all need those).
We Don't Go to Bed Angry
After we met in Nice, Troy and I embarked on a two-year long-distance relationship. It was full of many highs and many, many lows (I swear we could fill a river with our tears). So now that we're finally in the same country, we don't ever take our time together for granted. But as you know, there are moments in any relationship where you disagree and argue (usually over something stupid). It happens, and in the heat of the moment, it can feel like the worst fight you've ever had. It doesn't help that I'm also very stubborn and don't like to back down in an argument, especially if I think I'm right. But my mother-in-law gave us some great advice the night we got married: "Never go to bed angry with each other."
Those simple words stuck with me, and even when I really don't want to say it or kiss him goodnight after a heated row, I will hear her voice in my head (either that or my husband is repeating it to me waiting for his kiss).
We Plan Regular Date Nights
This is so crucial to making any marriage, especially one with children, a happy one. We know when it's been a while between dinner dates because we start feeling distant or robotic in our daily routines. Oh, and our son will remind us too. He loves having the house to himself with a babysitter who spoils him with one-on-one attention, junk food, and movies. And it doesn't need to be expensive. Sometimes we just walk down the road to enjoy a simple dinner for two at a local restaurant. Trust me, with a child wedged between us most of the time, being able to sit next to each other and have adult conversations is a luxury all its own.
This is a special time for the two of us to get dressed up (my favorite part) and enjoy the simple pleasure of being in each other's company over good wine and delicious food. We make sure we schedule one of these in at least once a month (if we can).
We kiss each other goodbye every day
It's so simple, but you know what they say about the simplest things in life. We make a concerted effort every day to kiss each other goodbye. Even if I'm in a rush and he's still in the shower, I'll race in and give him a quick kiss or vice versa, he'll come into the bathroom as I'm doing my makeup and kiss me on the cheek (sometimes even wrangle a cuddle). Since we spend so much time apart from each other during the day (from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. some days), it's important that we have that parting moment each morning.
We agree to disagree
Troy and I hardly ever argue. Not to say that we never do, but it's rare for us to get heated. On the occasion that we do have a difference of opinion, we usually find a middle ground, and if we can't resolve it, agree to disagree. We respect each other's opinion even if we don't comply with it because we fundamentally respect each other. I understand how hard that can be though, especially when you really disagree with them and you just can't fathom why they think that way. But it's important to stand back and take their viewpoint into consideration because sometimes you might surprise yourself and learn something new. Just remember, it takes all types to make the world, and that's why it's so beautiful.
We Make Each Other Laugh
Troy is hands down the most hilarious human not just because he's comedically funny (although he'd like to think that his jokes are stage-worthy) but sometimes he's a total goofball and doesn't have any qualms about making fun of himself for a laugh. I love that about him—no, I adore that about him. He knows how to turn my frown upside down and shake me out of my serious self. As a driven, professional woman, I often get caught up with the thoughts in my head, but Troy knows how to take me out of that headspace and make me laugh hysterically. I try to do the same for him too.
But it's not just me, he makes our son laugh uncontrollably. One of my favorite sounds is hearing Troy mimic the Beavis and Butt-Head characters while our son, Neon, is brushing his teeth. Sure, little teeth brushing is actually done with all the belly laughing from Neon, but it makes me so happy that I don't even care.
We Have Sex, Often
Even when I don't feel like it (and believe me, there are nights when I pull the too-tired card), having sex is what brings us closer together, seals the bond, and helps to reignite the passion that can quickly simmer down when you're busy. I'm not the only one who feels this way. I recently read an honest interview with actress Tammin Sursok on HeyMama, who has also been with her husband for over 10 years, and one of the things she does to maintain that connection is have sex.
"Without sex, you are just friends," she explained. "The amount of conversations I've had with women who say that after they've had their children they go three weeks to months without having sex is shocking. Sex connects you in a different way than anything else can. It's a chemical connection that makes you keep falling in love." I couldn't agree more. As soon as we have sex, it's like we're back to being the people we were when we first met; that intimacy is raw, real, and so delicious. I'm so thankful I have someone to share that very personal part of myself with.
What do you do to maintain a happy marriage? Share it with us in the comments. Up next, why having a fulfilling career makes me a better mother.