14 Things That I'd Have Told Myself 14 Years Ago About Marriage

It was 14 years ago on this day that I married my beautiful, intelligent, witty, charming, hard-working wife, Emily (no, I was not told to write those descriptions, honest). I was blessed by having great role models in my parents who are the most loving and supportive married couple that I've ever known. Even with that powerful template, there was still a lot to learn about this thing called marriage. 

While we had pre-marriage counselling and I had great role models, I still went into my marriage naive and unprepared for the adventure that unfolds after the wedding day. To be fair to the 2008 version of me, unless they are prophet or owner of a magical working crystal ball, everyone has some big surprises in store for them as they live this thing called life.

After 14 years, I feel like I am learning a few things and may be a tad smarter and more aware, so these are 14 little tidbits that I would share with the Christopher in June 7, 2008, if I can ever find where I hid my DeLorean. Of course, it is pure coincidence that I came up with 14 bits of advice to coincide with my 14-year wedding anniversary -- okay, not really. I did it on purpose, but they are in no particular order.

1. Love is work. I thought, I realized this when I said, 'I do' and for the first few years of marriage I really thought I understood it. But what I don't think I fully grasped is that there isn't some magic moment of bliss where we then just coast on the rainbow tracks of deep love after we cracked the code. I must wake up every day and decide I'm going to deeply love my spouse. We need to commit every single to making the marriage stronger and better. Now, it is easy when we have a beautiful, smart, funny, kind spouse, but we're all independent people with our own thoughts and opinions, so magic fairy tale feelings are never enough. We just use our attraction, affection, fond-memories and feelings to help motivate us to keep the love thriving. More work, more love.

2. We can always be better. This applies to all aspects of life. I can always be a better writer. I can always be a better cook. I can always be a better father. I can always be a better husband. There isn't a moment in life that we reach perfection. We can always be better. I've learned to strive every day to improve and learn and grow, because that is one of the true wonders of life. We can always be better than we are right now.

3. Be grateful. It is crucial to strive to be better, but it is also even more important to be thankful, grateful, and appreciative for what we have now. I am blessed with an amazing family with a wife, children, and pets that I adore and love. I am grateful for the hard-work Emily puts into this family, the amazing meals she creates, the fun outings she plans, and the motivations she provides in various forms. It is crucial for us to live in the moment and really show gratitude for everything we have, and to be grateful for everything our partner brings to the relationship.

4. Show appreciation. We may think, 'Hold on! Isn't this the same thing as being grateful?' I see the previous point about having an attitude of gratitude throughout the day that will then create a more positive atmosphere in our family and relationship. This one is about really recognizing what our partner brings to the relationship. This is saying 'thank you' for simple things like our partner buying the groceries or cooking dinner that night or vacuuming the upstairs. It is letting them know that you recognize and appreciate everything they do for our family, even when it is just the mundane everyday tasks. We see them and we appreciate them. I don't say 'thank you' enough to everything Emily does for this family, and she is a real-life super-woman with her incredible skills and talents, but it is something I am trying to be much better at every day.

5. Passing blame never solves the problem. People are going to screw up. It is what we do. Sometimes that screw up is going to cause an issue in the family and house. Rather than spending precious time and energy on figuring out who is to blame, it makes a lot more sense focusing on solving the problem. In the end does it matter who caused the issue if they are willing to work to solve it? Blame is really good at making one person feel righteous and the other feeling horrible, which I feel isn't the golden key to a healthy relationship. Sometimes things need to be addressed, but most times, blame can be skipped and the working together to solve the problem can be the priority. If we ended up cleaning up the mess alone, then sometimes it is okay to just be relieved it is better now than assigning who is the culprit.

6. Don't keep score. This feels like a proper follow-up to not wasting time on finding blame. Sometimes our partner is going to do something surprising and wonderful, and other times, we are going to do something that makes their world more amazing. Other times, we are going to do something that upsets them, and then they will unknowingly return that favour at some point in life. But on the final day of our life, is it going to matter how often they forgot that important date or spoke to us in a way that upset us? Do we really need to know how often they kissed us on the cheek or said 'I love you' before they went to work? Nope. It is just all part of the journey of life, and we don't win a medal for being the 'better' spouse. So, appreciate all the incredible things they do for us and really forgive them when they make an honest mistake that they regret. 

7. 'I love you' is more than words. Emily does not say 'I love you' very often, and I even wrote about it, as I came to terms with our differences. There are times that I wish she said it more or that she would be a bit more affectionate, but one of the wonderful things about this world is it is full of people that are very different and offer different things. While it is easy to feel the partner isn't showing 'love', it is just as important to recognize that love comes in different forms. Emily shows her love by pushing me to be a better person, planning events so our family can spend time together, putting her heart into things like great meals, or buying personal gifts that I'd never thought about. This is also a reminder to me that I can say 'I love you' all I want every single day to her, but I need to devote time and energy to her, so that she really believes and feels it.

8. Love our kids, but love our partner too. It has got a lot harder avoiding Emily feeling like a roommate and co-caregiver once kids came bouncing into the picture. They take up a lot of time and energy. They are wonderful and they make me smile every day, but it can be really easy to forget to spread the love over to Emily too. This is something that I'll confess that I've really sucked at in the past few years. It is crucial that I take the time to plan dates and have some time just devoted to the love of my life, Emily. I didn't say 'I do' just to have kids, and that is paramount thing to remember.

9. Make sure to eat a few gummies on the day they are bought. Maybe this applies only to my relationship? But I've learned that if a bag of gummy candies arrive in our house, then if I don't eat a few that very day, then I'll never see them again. Insert 'thing my partner craves, that I like but will never see again if I don't act now' here.

10. Remember marriage is a team effort. This also falls under things I am still painfully learning and trying to have resonate for the rest of my life. I suffer often with anxiety, self-doubt, and depression. I have many dreams that I try to hustle my way towards achieving. I tend to internalize a lot of things, and feel like I can prove myself if I solve an issue on my own. This is not a strength, but a weakness. Especially, when I have such an intelligent, talented, thoughtful, and incredible person like Emily in my life. We must include our partners on our journey, and we may be amazed by what we can accomplish, and how much sweeter life can be.

11. Stop falling asleep in the kid's bed. Again, this might just be a 'me' thing. But 'I'll just lay here beside Everett for 10 minutes' are the famous last words and the final nail in any attempt to spend some time with Emily that evening.

12. Spend time changing self rather than our partner. Here is a little secret, every spouse has flaws. Every spouse has something that annoys their partner. But if we went into the marriage thinking we'd change them and many years later are still holing out hope we can do it, then we've doomed the marriage. They might change. My mom told me that after a decade, my dad finally figured out it would be nice for him to pick up his own dirty socks off the floor and put them in the hamper. But she also reminds me that it was a choice that he made rather than some Jedi mind trick that she mastered on him. Rather than spending time looking at all the flaws and issues with our partner that we need to correct, we must take the time to see how we can be a better and more loving and more enriching and a positive force to the family. I have discovered the more that I try to improve and try to work on my weaknesses, then the stronger it makes my marriage. Actively striving to be better can be contagious.

13. Don't compare our relationship to others. This has become a great challenge in the era of Instagram and the instant shares. Here is the thing, most couples aren't too motivated to share a video of their last fight or that time the partner baked plastic on top of the lasagna (maybe I could have shared that if I weren't so busy trying to save my creation). We will never know everything about other couples, and we mostly only see the great parts. But most happy couples are that way because they are working hard on improving and sparking that loving feeling every day. A loving couple is like a duck on a pond where what we see is the calm, but we don't see the legs frantically kicking underneath. No couple is perfect, but we can all work on making our marriage better and more loving.

14. Gender stereotypes are stupid. Emily is the handy person in our house that actually knows which way a screwdriver is supposed to face. I cook dinner most weekdays and often do the dishes (though a full laundry tub will sometimes contradict that). I also usually do the laundry, and Emily mows the lawn. Emily makes more money than me. I am the more emotional one that craves more affection. Our relationship does not fit some ridiculous conception of who is the husband and who is the wife. This is because those conceptions are societal constructs rather than an actual reality. We are all different. and that makes us wonderful. Partners just need to learn to embrace their roles. and communicate with each other, so each can contribute to crafting a loving family.

I could have listed at least another 14 things. I keep learning something new about marriage every single day. I am so blessed and grateful that I am learning it with someone as strong, compassionate, wise, beautiful, witty, and intelligent as my wife, Emily. Most amazing things in my life are due to uttering those genius words, 'I do.'

This is likely one of the few posts that my wife, Emily will read this year, So, this is my chance to take advantage of that.

Emily, I love you. You are my best friend. You are my muse. You are the incredible mother to our two amazing children, and our three 'fur babies'. I barely remember my life before I met you. Instead, I remember you taking me kicking and screaming on many adventures like our camping trips, our journey out east and west, and countless forays to various cities around Ontario. Even if I haven't always said it, I have so many positive and cherished memories of each of those trips, and I am so thankful I have been able to share them with you. I am eternally grateful I have been able to share this life with you. I love you so much, and it is my deepest goal to ensure that you feel and know how much I absolutely love you.

Happy 14th Wedding Anniversary Emily. I can't wait for countless more to celebrate.