Ten lessons from ten years of marriage

My husband David and I have been married for ten years. I was 35 when we got married and even though I had worked in relationships education for several years at the time – it still came as a bit of a shock. Theory is one thing – practice is quite another!

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I have been asked to take part in a telesummit about how to get and keep the relationship you have always wanted (see below). Thinking about what I wanted to say made me stop and reflect on some of the things that I have discovered or am still discovering about my marriage and myself. Here are ten lessons I have learnt over the last decade.

1. I am more selfish than I thought.

This was perhaps the first and hardest lesson of all. Being married was like having a mirror held up to myself every day. I could suddenly see how selfish I was and that wasn’t a pretty sight.

Marriage I soon learnt is good for helping rub down some of my more selfish and less desirable edges!

2. Nagging rarely - if ever - works!

This is one I still have to remind myself about. Repeating a request again and again rarely has the desired effect. I’ve noticed that I tend to nag when I feel most stressed or out of control.

I hate it if and when my mother nags me – so why would I think it a good idea to try it on my husband?

Our latest approach is to create a list together at the start of the week or day. That way we both know what we are meant to be responsible for and don’t need to be constantly reminded.

3. Humour helps

I love it that we can laugh at ourselves and situations that we can find ourselves in. It is like unscrewing the pressure valve – it releases tension and stops us taking ourselves too seriously.

When we went through fertility treatment David had to give me daily hormone injections. Somehow he always managed to make me giggle which helped relax me and took my mind off what was going on.

4. Thinking isn’t always a good thing

I’ve noticed that if I can get stuck in my thinking especially when I am hormonal, hungry or tired. I have what can only be described as irrational or unhelpful thoughts and the more I stew on them the worse they become and the worse I feel.

It has taken me a while but I have now learnt that it is not a good idea to address big issues with David or try to make big decisions when I am overly emotional or stuck in my thoughts. I now know to wait until my mind and emotions have settled and I can once again experience clarity, wisdom and the ‘still small voice’ inside.

5. My husband doesn’t have super powers (well – he says that he DOES have super powers but I’m not sure that Lego super powers or football super powers really count)

I used to think that David should just get me and that he should know what I want and need. But I have come to the slow realisation that he can’t actually mind read.

If I want David to do something or if I need something from him – I am getting better at asking him for it.

6.There’s always an “us” solution if we keep on looking

Our arguments or disagreements often happen when we are pitting ‘me’ against ‘you’. Often when that happens it ends up with one of us giving in or having to compromise. I have found that that never feels very satisfactory even if I am the victor who has apparently ‘won.’

We now try wherever possible to look for the third way. It isn’t my way or your way but it is ‘our’ way. It often takes longer to discover what that way is but when we do it is so much better because it is a solution we have come to together and we both can own it.

7.Love is a choice

I know one thing – if I had to wait to always ‘feel in love’ to do loving things – we’d be in trouble. Feelings of love come and go. But what I do have is choice – I can choose to act in love.That isn’t always easy when I am not feeling it but what I find is that the feelings will eventually return if I make the choice to love anyway.

8.Hard times build resilience

We’ve hit a few bumps along the road in the last decade. I would never have asked for those times but looking back I can see how they have helped build up our resilience as a couple.

We have had to learn to look to each other and to friends for support in difficult times. It helps to look back and think – we got through that and toremind ourselves to keep holding onto hope if and when things get bad.

9.Our marriage is bigger than the two of us

For good or for bad our relationship impacts those around us. When we are vulnerable and authentic about our marriage – it gives others permission to talk about theirs.When we argue badly or deal with differences constructively – we model to our son different approaches to conflict.

Whether we like it or not we are having an impact and that is a challenge. The question we try to ask ourselves is what kind of impact do we want to have and how can we make that happen?

We’ve discovered that we can’t do it on our own. We need people around us who can support us, encourage us, pray for us and also challenge us when needed

10.Marriage is an adventure

I have found that my marriage is a bit like a three-legged race. It can be difficult and frustrating at times adjusting our strides to each other but it can be fun and exciting being in the race together.

I have learned so much from the last ten years of life with David. I am looking forward to learning even more this next decade, I have no idea what to expect but I am certain of one thing – it will be an adventure.

Sarah Abell is a regular columnist for Psychologies and an expert on authentic relationships. If you want to find out more about how you can have the relationships you have always wanted – join her and other experts on the Healthy Authentic Relationships Summit online on the 12th and 13th Feb. Go to http://healthyauthenticrelationships.splashthat.com/

Sarah Abell

How to live, love and lead authentically, www.nakedhedgehogs.com

My passion for authentic relationships came out of my own failure to relate well in my early twenties and what I’ve been learning about true connection ever since. What do I do? Good question and one I always find a bit tricky to answer. In a nutshell I help people to live, love and lead authentically. You can find out more at www.nakedhedgehogs.com I have written, coached and spoken on relationships and authentic living to thousands of people. I was the Agony Aunt for The Daily Telegraph and I'm the author of "Inside Out - How to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life" (Hodder 2011). I have given two TEDx talks on authentic relationships and I write the Life Lab experiment on Love for Psychologies. I have been married to David for twelve years and we have one son, who is six. We live in Bristol.


Go to the profile of Diane Priestley
almost 7 years ago
Absolutely excellent points born of real-life experience rather than theory! Very inspiring and encouraging from one who has read tons of relationship books in 35 years of marriage.
Go to the profile of Sarah Abell
almost 7 years ago
Thank you Diane for your kind comment. What would you say are the main lessons you have learned from your experiences?