Today is our SIXTEEN YEAR Anniversary! Here is a look back at the past sixteen years and what we’ve learned.
Today Philip and I are celebrating sixteen years of marriage! It feels like I blinked and here we are, sixteen years, five moves, three kids, two businesses, and lots of memories later.
Of course not everything has been perfect for the last sixteen years, but Philip and I work hard to build a happy relationship and a happy life together.
Today I wanted to share sixteen pieces of marriage advice that have helped us in the last sixteen years of marriage.
16 pieces of marriage advice that have helped us over the last 16 years.
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, especially because we don’t live near any family, 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. Text each other throughout the day
Philip and I both work from home, but we’re literally texting each other all day as we work, exercise, or do carpool, just as we would our best friends. We share articles, podcasts, memes, something that happened, just a “hi” or “you’re cute,” or a funny video. Having that constant communication keeps us connected and our relationship happy and fun.
4. Find things you like to do together.
Philip and I are really different from each other. He’s borderline 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.
Last year we’ve started playing pickleball together and it’s become such a fun thing we can do together! It’s a new sport for both of us, and Philip is definitely better than me cause he’s just much more athletic, but it’s a fun way to exercise for both of us. We try to sneak away from work during our lunch break once a week to play together.
5. 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.
6. “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, especially when we’re upset.
7. Support each other’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.
When I started taking my blog seriously and working on it (back when my oldest was one year old), I reached 500 followers on Instagram and Philip surprised me with a really sweet card and a gift card to go buy something new. I was totally surprised. I literally made zero dollars on my blog back then (actually maybe $8/month from my google ads), so this kind of support for something that wasn’t a money maker but was something I was passionate about, was really amazing. He has been that way ever since, supporting me 100% every step of the way.
8. Don’t even joke about divorce.
This is similar to #6, 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 16 years has either of us talked about divorce, even when joking. Words are powerful and I never want to say things that I don’t mean.
9. Learn your spouse’s love language, and speak it!
Have you guys read that book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman? It’s all about the different ways that people express and receive love, like through words of affirmation, gift giving, physical touch, 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.
I read it when we were engaged, and Philip and I have had many conversations about it over the years. If there’s ever tension in our relationship, speaking his love language is the fastest way to get things back on track. It’s like a marriage cheat sheet!
I also have been trying to figure out my boys’ love languages for the last few years. I’ve discovered my two older boy’s love languages, but my youngest is still a little too young for me to tell. But I promise, it works for my relationship with them too! If they’re upset or moody, speaking their love language is the fastest way to connect and calm them down.
10. 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.
In the last few years, my work has become much busier, and I’m just unable to manage everything that I used to. So Philip and I have had to have conversations about what I can do realistically, what things he needs to manage in our home (he took over all the laundry a few years ago!), and what we need to hire out (we hired a cleaning service to come twice a month and we signed up for Walmart+ so our groceries are always delivered and I don’t have to go to the grocery store anymore).
Rather than carrying the burden of everything I used to do and feeling guilty and stressed about it, or him expecting me to do certain things just because that’s how it has always been, we talked through and set expectations for our family and our kids and our life so we can manage things as stress free and smoothly as possible.
11. Be best friends with your spouse.
I listened to a podcast episode a few years ago from a couple and they talked about their “relationship core values” — 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.
When we were dating and engaged, he was the one I wanted to talk to and be with more than anyone else. After fifteen years, I still feel that way and I think the best way to continue to feel that way as we get older is to continue to treat him like my best friend.
12. Make time for other relationships
This might sound like counterintuitive marriage advice, but I think it’s so important to have relationships outside of your marriage and make time for those relationships. Go to lunch with friends, take a class and meet new people, join or set up a walking or running group, anything to have connection with other people in addition to your spouse.
Your marriage relationship should be number one, but I think it’s so important (especially as a woman) to have other female relationships. It’s a totally different kind of relationship that your marriage relationship, but it’s equally as important.
When we had our first baby, Philip was at work all day and had lots of male friendships at his office. He got his fill of those other relationships and I didn’t in the same way…I was stuck at home, inside, with a baby. It caused a lot of frustration for me because I wanted to have friends over after work but he was burned out for the day. After about a year, I realized I needed other friendships and I prioritized those for myself and had to take action to make friends and nurture other relationships.
I felt like our marriage was so much better when I had other people that I connected with and didn’t feel so lonely and isolated and like my marriage relationship was my ONLY relationship.
Also, prioritizing YOURSELF and making time for YOU is equally as important…probably more important. Take time to be by yourself, to take care of yourself, to treat yourself well. Exercise, eat good food, get outside, read a book for yourself. If you’ve taken care of yourself, you have more to give to your spouse and you’ll be happier to do it.
13. Listen to your spouse.
Guys, I confess that I’m not a great listener. I’m trying. I really am, and I’ve made it a new year goal every year for the past few years. I’m actually getting better!
Philip is a really good listener and I jabber 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.
We’ve all talked to someone who we know isn’t listening and doesn’t care what we’re saying. I’ve absolutely been that person before and I’m trying so hard not to be anymore.
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 fifteen 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.
You can’t improve your relationship if you don’t talk about what you like or don’t like…your partner can’t read your mind!
15. Set Boundaries
This is really hard in every relationship, but makes such a difference if you take time to set boundaries with family, friends, and even your kids. I struggled with this the first few years of our marriage. Philip and I would decide something as a couple, and then I’d talk to my mom or my sister or a friend and they would change my mind and I’d come back to Philip with a completely different expectation and mindset. It was so frustrating to him that I was putting their ideas and thoughts above what was right for us as a couple. I had to learn how to set boundaries so that I didn’t get swayed by everyone else and forget who was most important.
Also as we’ve had kids, we’ve had to learn how to set boundaries with them, to make sure we still prioritize each other and not let parenting dictate our lives.
It’s going to look different for everyone, but it’s worth the effort to set boundaries so you make sure that your relationship is number one and no one else sneaks in and overrides that.
16. Prioritize intimacy and make it fun
This is a little outside my comfort zone to talk about on my blog, but whenever I share things about this topic on my instagram, you guys go crazy for it. In my men’s gift guide the past few years, I’ve recommended a sex advent calendar (it was an idea submitted by one of you). Holy cow, you guys went CRAZY for that thing. It’s literally been one of my top sellers for three years and you guys have sold it out many times.
So this tells me you guys are looking for a little spice in your life too! This advent calendar is specifically for Christmas, but I promise no husbands will ever complain about a Christmas themed advent calendar anytime during the year. It’s only $15, and it’s a fantastic way to get things interesting and fun again (or keep them fun), if you know what I mean. This one has two versions so you can buy the one with their ideas OR do a DIY version where you write in what you want to do and cover it with the scratch off stickers.
Las year I also started taking a supplement called HerLove that helps increase libido, relieves stress, balances sex driven hormones and increases sensitivity, which helped me enjoy intimacy so much more. Take it daily, give it 1-2 weeks and magical things happen. You can use code MERRICK for 10% off anything on their site! I took it for about 6 months and it made a huge difference and then I felt like I didn’t need to take it anymore — woohoo!
And lastly, if you need something to make you feel gorgeous, I’ve shared my favorite lingerie brand, Mentionables, a million times, but I’ll share it again. They make stunning and affordable lingerie, and code MERRICK gets you 10% off!
I’d love to know your best advice for marriage! Leave a comment and let me know!