My husband Marc and I recently celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. 💍
One week before that I had a vivid dream. An “It’s A Wonderful Life” style dream, but only the part where everything George Bailey knows to be true is stripped away from him.
In this dream I watched helplessly as Marc walked down the wedding aisle with some other woman - someone I didn’t recognize. I was in distress. My pleas for him to stop were unanswered. He glanced my way as I hurriedly reminded him of all of our inside jokes...and what about the children...and remember OUR wedding day? He looked my way, hesitated a bit, but then followed through with marrying this woman who didn’t even care to do her hair nicely for the ceremony. Geez.
I woke up very rattled, and just as the character George Bailey did, I rushed to my family to ensure everything was indeed intact. My husband was still there, our children were sitting on the couch, life was normal. I breathed a sigh of relief and asked for Marc to hug me.
It may seem silly that a dream rattled me like that, but honestly it was what I needed. We’ve been spending a loooooot of time together lately, as most of us have, and we’d been getting under each other’s skin.
Because I know this scenario is not unique to us alone, I wanted to write an honest post about marriage. For - behind each and every social post that says “Cheers to 17 years” 🥂 there is more to the story.
And for the record, I do 100% say cheers to 17 years. Marc has been constant in character, a fantastic father, kind and gracious to me when I don’t deserve it, my companion to bounce things off of, my hot date who doesn’t ever seem to age, an excellent provider for our family, my go-with-the-flow travel companion, the list could go on for the entirety of this article.
But he’s human and I’m human and that means we’re both imperfect. And annoy the heck out of each other at times.
But I think we're perfectly imperfect.
So I want to share some things we’ve learned. 17 to be exact. Take or leave the insights that follow, but here’s what we know this many years into our marriage:
1. Your spouse is never going to live up to all of your expectations. Even if you think you’re an easy personality who doesn’t have expectations, you do. We all do. Ones we don’t even realize - like how Christmas morning is to go down and whether or not date nights should include other people or whether or not exercising together is fun or NOT fun.
2. Before getting married, seek out an excellent marriage counselor. One who will walk you through the biggest matters of your heart. How many kids do you want to have? Is the expectation for two incomes to provide for the house or one? Are you on the same page with core matters of your faith? Who’s going to cook the meals...and manage other household tasks?
3. Have regular “couch times.” This has by far been the most impactful, helpful piece to our marriage. Setting aside one time/week to talk about our calendar, finances, and asking the question “What went well in our marriage this week?” And “What didn’t go well?” Knowing we have this time set aside helps us to mentally catalog it all - both the boring logistics and the heated emotions.
4. Seeking out a marriage counselor is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of wisdom, intentionally, and a commitment to work on things in your marriage. Make sure it’s the right one for BOTH of you. You should leave the session with neither of you feeling attacked. Called out? Yes, but not attacked. Then be ready to go to work on your marriage.
5. Have date moments. It doesn’t always have to be a full out night on the town. Buy him his fave 6 pack of beer. He buys you a People magazine that features the Friends cast. A continual pattern of little gestures does more than you’d think.
6. Fighting is ok. As long as it’s partnered with genuine conversation, a desire to get to the heart of the matter, and resolution. Marc and I quite honestly duke it out a lot. I will be honest. But we’ve gotten to the bottom of a looooot of problems this way.
7. Apologize. It’s important to then apologize and make a resolution regarding the matter, or an awful lot of stuff will get swept under the rug. And things will build and build and build. Trust me.
8. There will be disappointments that never gets resolved. For us, we’ve tried to reconcile my deep desire to adopt and Marc’s lack of comfort with the idea. In the end, a counselor advised us to come to a decision, but come to it together. If we decide to adopt there’s no blaming if things with the child are challenging. There’s no “I told you so.” And if we decide not to, then Marc needs to enter the grieving process with me.
9. For us, basing our first property purchase was based on one income alone. If you can swing it. Keep reading. This never meant I had no career ambitions. It freed us up to do what we felt would be best. And for us, that meant me remaining home with the children for a long spell and not feeling the financial pressure to provide. We lived in homes I wasn’t overly content in, but I believe we would have been more discontent had we locked ourselves into a lifestyle only to realize it would be best for me to remain at home, for reasons one can’t predict. You never know what child is coming your way and what his/ her needs will be. Or what HUGE house or health issues will come your way. I believe it’s a big mistake to assume everything with family life will be normal. In our case with children, it very much wasn’t, and I was thankful to be home for the first decade for a child who needed me.
10. Care a bit about your spouse’s opinion on your appearance. Before you judge, listen to what I’m saying. I feel it’s a sign of love when I ask Marc if he’s cool with me having short hair. I don’t want him going out into the world all attracted to women with long hair and being turned off by short-haired women (i.e. me). And vice versa. He loves to know that I like how he looks in his jeans. Also, I try not to be a slob all the time. I’m a slob some of the time, certainly, but most of the time, as I’ve either worked from home or been a stay-at-home mom, I try to be comfortable but in a decent looking way.
11. Acknowledge your spouse when he/ she walks in the door. It goes both ways. When the spouse that’s been gone for awhile walks in the door, STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING, go over to them, and give them a kiss to welcome them back. Yes, some of this is old school, but old school is often pretty awesome.
12. You won’t always feel like it. Women don’t always feel like getting intimate. Men don’t always feel like going out for a dinner date. Love is an act of the will at times.
13. Pay attention to the type of communication that’s occurring. The more kids you have, the more logistical conversation that needs to occur. But...if 80-90% of your conversations are about kids classes, doctor appointments, and finances, well, anticipate fizzle in the fire. Throw in a compliment when and where you can.
14. Ladies, your husband can’t read your mind. COMMUNICATE your thoughts, your feelings, that quick interaction with a friend that left you feeling sad.
15. Husbands, your wives can’t read your mind. We love you and genuinely want to know how your day was, which is why we ask. Sometimes to be met with an answer of “fine”...or silence...or turning on the TV. It’s helpful for us to know that you simply don’t want to rehash your day. Same goes for working moms. When either working spouse says, “The day was fine” that’s likely code for “I don’t want to get into it right now.” Honor that.
16. Say thank you a lot. Thanks for working for our family today. Thanks for preparing that dinner. Thanks for being “on it” with signing the kids up for sports. Thanks for decorating the outside of the house for Christmas.
17. In general, know that men are more simple and women are more complicated. He really might be ok with watching the game at the same restaurant again for your night out. And again. He likes their burgers, he likes the atmosphere, and that’s that. And men, get those listening ears ready because we women are complex characters and things are rarely black and white. They’re usually purple, blue, green, pink, yellow, gray, and orange with a few polka dots thrown in. And stripes and zig zags too. Maybe some swirlies also.
Just sharing what’s worked for us. You do you. Our marriage is far from perfect and happy all the time. But I can vouch for many of the practices that we’ve put in place that keep us together, committed, and definitely in love. ❤️
-Kim (and Marc)
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