12 Things We’ve Learned in 12 Years of Marriage

a journal entry about our move to texas

Today is our twelve year wedding anniversary, so we’re sharing 12 things we’ve learned in 12 years of our marriage! 

Today Philip and I are celebrating twelve years of marriage! I know it’s totally cliche, but I’m serious when I say that the last 12 years have flown by. I cannot even believe it — twelve years is a long time and it feels like I blinked and here we are.

Anyway, today in celebration of our wedding anniversary, I wanted to share 12 things we’ve learned in 12 years of marriage!

Our marriage is far from perfect, and we’re definitely not proficient in all of these twelve things I’m listing below, but they’re things we’ve learned are important and make a big difference in having a happy and successful marriage.

12 things we've learned in twelve years of marriage

12 things we’ve learned in 12 years of marriage

1. Don’t take things so seriously

When we got married, I was so young and was trying to act so mature, and often it led to me being annoyed at Philip for being immature. After a few years, I loosened up and learned to laugh things off, but I wish I’d learned that earlier. It’s so good for a marriage to laugh and joke and just be silly sometimes, even if it means acting a little immature sometimes 😉

2. Take a kidless trip. Or at least do date night.

We make it a priority to take one child free trip together every year. It’s definitely not easy to arrange child care, but the time away from the boys for several days is so healthy for us as a couple.  I promise, it’s worth every effort.

But if you’re in a stage of your life when you just can’t get away overnight, do regular date night. Hire a babysitter or swap with a friend for free!

3. Find things you like to do together.

Philip and I are really different from each other. He’s OCD, I’m creative, he’s a business type, I’m a scatter brain. He’s a worrier and a planner, I’m an optimist. He needs 9 hours of sleep, I need 6 or 7. But despite our differences, we’ve worked hard to find things that we have in common and enjoy doing together.

There’s just a small window of our lives that we’re busy with kids at home, and I want to make sure we’re staying connected throughout those years so that when our kids are all gone one day we still like each other! 😉

4. Never talk badly about your spouse in front of other people.

In my mind, this is common sense. But honestly I hear people do it constantly and I hate it. Girls nights are notorious for husband bashing, and I try so hard to steer the conversation whenever it starts.

Many, many times over the years I’ve met Philip’s co-workers or employees and they always mention how highly Philip speaks about me, and it still gives me butterflies every time. I just feel really grateful for a husband who speaks kindly about his wife.

5. “Don’t even let those words come out of your mouth.”

This was my dad’s infamous phrase as I was growing up. He said it often, and it was a reminder that once you said something, you could never un-say it. We’re teaching our boys the same thing — be so careful with the words you say when you’re joking, or especially when you’re upset, because once it’s said, you can’t take it back. We never say, “I hate you” or “you’re stupid” or other phrases that could be damaging. We’re certainly not perfect at being kind all the time, but we are really careful with the words and phrases we use.

6. Support each other’s dreams.

Don’t be the spouse that squashes all your spouse’s dreams. My mom refers to this as the “wet blanket” that extinguishes the other person’s fire. Your dreams might be different from your spouse, and of course not every dream is worth chasing, but if there’s something that your spouse is really passionate about, do your best to be supportive.

7. Don’t even joke about divorce.

This is similar to #5, but this is a specific thing that we’ve decided in our marriage. When we were engaged, we made a pact to never even joke about divorce. We didn’t want that word to become commonplace or a running joke in our home or our marriage, and we’ve been very dedicated to that pact — not one time in 12 years has either of us talked about divorce, even when joking.

8. Learn your spouse’s love language, and speak it!

Have you guys read that book The 5 Love Languages? It’s all about the different ways that people express and receive love, like through words of affirmation, gift giving, etc. It’s a really great book, and I definitely recommend having a conversation with your spouse about your specific love languages so you’re better able to express love to them.

9. Set reasonable expectations

I read an article a few years ago about how unmet expectations are the biggest cause of divorce. We all have expectations about how often your husband should bring home flowers, or who should make dinner, or who pays the bills. But if you don’t talk through these expectations and set reasonable ones, it’s really easy to let frustration and anger sneak in because those expectations aren’t being met.

Also a lot of expectations from social media or tv are completely unrealistic and I’m constantly checking myself to make sure I’m not letting those false realities dictate my expectations of my family or my husband.

10. Be best friends with your spouse.

I started listening to the Rise Together podcast this year (if you haven’t listened to it, I definitely recommend it!) and they talked about their “relationship core values” in episode 2. It’s basically an outline of their marriage — the things that are the most important in their relationship and make up their relationship.

One of theirs was that they are best friends. I hadn’t ever thought of that as a “core value” of my relationship, but it really shifted my perspective. Philip is totally my best friend, and I love being with him more than anyone, but this was a good reminder to make sure I treat him as a best friend, and give him the time and the best attention I have over anything else.

11. Listen to your spouse.

Guys, I confess that I’m not a great listener. I’m trying. I really am. In fact, it’s one of my goals for the new year. Philip is a really good listener and I go on and on about things that he probably couldn’t care less about, but he still listens. That means so much to me, and I want to be better about reciprocating that.


When we first got married, I was totally the silent treatment type. If I got upset, I would go into quiet mode for a couple of hours until Philip apologized or I got over it. It was not particularly helpful for our relationship.

I’ve come a long way in twelve years and we’re much better at communicating when I’m upset, or he’s upset, or when something is wrong. It makes a world of difference to open up and take the time to hash through frustrations or hurt feelings so that things can be fixed and your relationship can get even stronger.


I’d love to know your best advice for marriage! Leave a comment and let me know!

photos by Victoria Redko


  1. Lori Hurley says:

    Wow – that is really helpful, thank you xx

  2. Jackie Wylie says:

    This is such a sweet post and so nice of you to share your Insights with us! I am not married, but my boyfriend and I try hard to “always assume positive intent” when it comes to each other. if you can try to look at a frustrating/annoying situation with that lens, i think it helps diffuse the SITUATION vs. igniting it further.

  3. Janet Fazio says:

    What a sweet post! I’m looking up the 5 love languages now. I think I need it

  4. Meri says:

    Love it. Thanks for sharing it’s really heLpful to hear from other couples about mariage advice

  5. Kristen says:

    this Is such a Great read. So simple, but these little remIndErs are just what i needed. I’ve been married for almost five years and It’s so easy to get caught up in Life and not remember these basics. Thank You for posting this.

  6. Larry G. says:

    As someone who is getting married soon, this is great advice. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Anum Mesia says:

    One year into the marriage and this is a great Piece of advice for us!
    Thank You

  8. Julie says:

    I love all these points – going to wRite them out and keep it by my bedside. Thank you for sharing such great advice – i love your blog so much!!!

  9. Clara says:

    Always say hello and goodbye! My hubby and I have been married for 13 years (14 this year in September) and i make it a point to always give him a hug and kiss goodbye and to do the same when we both get home at the end of the day.

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