8 Small Things That Made My 10-Year Marriage A HELL Of A Lot Happier

Photo: Jen Legra

It's cliché to say but it really is the little things.

My husband and I are coming up on our nine-year first date anniversary and our five-year wedding anniversary. Coming anything close to 10 years together is mind-blowing, and a major accomplishment in patience, compromise, and learning to yell at the precise right volume between "but you don't hear me when I talk like this" and "Girls Gone Buck Wild."

As all couples do, we've had a good dose of disagreements and issues that weighed on us, but it's nothing we couldn't handle. We are a couple that has grown stronger through the years, a couple less easily divided — which is, in my opinion, an important indicator of a solid couple.

So how did we get here? Small things.

Small things matter. They add up. A beach is made up of billions and billions grains of sand and a marriage is no different. Some things about our specific couplehood are impossible to replicate because they are specific to us (like our life abroad or Husband's laid back personality balancing out my endless energy).

Some things (like not taking the words "thank you" for granted) seem obvious, yet you'd be surprised how easily forgotten they are. We have our moments of discord but we have a happier marriage than not, and here are eight things we do to add happiness to our marriage.

1. We only own one computer.

Before we were married and still lived in the States, we each had a laptop. We were both teachers and, like most teachers, we continued working well after school hours, which would then give way to personal online use, too.

He watched sports stuff, I checked Facebook. We sat together on the couch, worlds apart. When we moved abroad we downsized to one computer. It wasn't a conscious choice; at the time, it was as simple as not being able to afford buying two computers but having only one has been invaluable.

I'm not going to check my emails and surf the web while he sits on the other couch staring at me, so our evenings are way less plugged in than they used to be.


2. We removed television from our home.

While we're on the topic of technology, we have also removed TVs from our house. I know that seems drastic (and slightly diabolical) and in the beginning I didn't know how it would play out, but it really hasn't been that difficult to get along without a TV.

We have a projector we use on Friday nights for pizza movie night and the occasional midweek show, but not having a TV makes it more likely that we'll sit and chat after dinner instead of lounging on the couch, zoned out from one another.


3. We always say, "We are a happy family." 

It seems really corny but we actually say these exact words. The phrase evolved from an inside joke in our camp counselor days when one of Husband's first grade campers hugged his friends by the pool and sang "we are a happy fa-mi-ly."

Now, we say it with our kids. Sometimes they even start the song. Other times we all put our hands in the center and chant it together like a team cheer. But no matter how it's said, it always serves as a reminder that we are.


4. We make time to go on dates.

Before kids we were just two people that liked hanging out. We liked going to movies, taking day trips to pumpkin patches, walking around New York City, and eating. A lot of eating. We spent lazy days at the lake and vibrant weekends on walking food tours.

And now we make it a point to still date. We go out with friends and often go out alone. And on weeks that we don't go out, we schedule the aforementioned pizza movie night.

Once the kids are asleep, the projector turns on, the pizza is ordered, and sometimes a bottle of wine is uncorked. But no matter what your date looks like, it's all about scheduling the time to spend together, showing that time is a priority.


5. We write each other romantic post-it notes.

I once read an article about a husband and wife that would hide a silly carnival prize in different places they knew their spouse would find it as a way to let them know they were thinking about them. It reminded me of when we had our first child.

I was in the beginning stages of carving out my writing schedule and Husband started leaving post-it-notes on my computer screen before he left for work. Every morning, I'd open my computer to get started and there'd be a little note of loving or encouraging words. You're a great mom. We love you. Or I love that you're following your dreams. 

I took a cue from his book and started hiding notes where I knew he'd find themCan't wait to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie with you. It doesn't happen daily. Heck, sometimes we go months without writing a note, but little reminders that show you're thinking of the other person can make a huge impact.


6. We discuss the future.

Our overseas lifestyle lends itself on the regular to talking about the future. We talk often about where we'd like to live next, about what other countries we'd like to raise our kids. We also talk about our summer plans or Christmas break pretty regularly.

Sometimes we talk about the next summer in the middle of our current summer. While I know people say living in the present is important, I also think visualizing the future has some major benefits. 


7. We keep things HOT.

In college I worked for a couple that ran a business together. I was very close with the wife who was majorly still in love with her husband. She loved to dispense advice, and one of the things she told me on several occasions was that she still took care of herself for him.

She went to the salon and got her hair done or wore the perfume he liked. Before you tie me up on a feminist pole, I'd like to add that she simply continued doing all of the things she did when they first started dating. She didn't show up to their first date in yoga pants or with dirty hair, so she was just continuing what she had always done into their marriage.

I know Husband didn't fall in love with me because I got pedicures, and I don't think he'd mind sleeping with my dragon claw feet if I didn't get pedicures. But if I was willing to doll myself up for my boyfriend, why wouldn't I do that for my husband? 

Besides, taking care of myself makes me feel more confident which makes me naturally exude sexiness. And it should be noted that the same should go for him, too. I prefer kissing a clean-shaven face over one that gives me rug burn. Shouldn't we still be trying to impress each other? 


8. We put our marriage first.

It's all too easy to have kids and focus on that relationship, leaving all other relationships like a bony chicken flapping its wings in a storm: helpless and fending for itself. Yes, your children are important. Yes, your children should be your everything. No, they shouldn't come first.

In my humble opinion, your spouse should. I really believe that there's no better thing you could do for your kids than to love each other fiercely. You're much better to them if your relationship isn't horribly falling apart. And what good are you to each other when your kids leave the house and you've spent the last 18 years urgently nourishing that relationship and not your marriage? 





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