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Marriage To The 8th Degree

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Yesterday I was moving some dates around in my calendar and I realized that next month is my wedding anniversary. Just as that date seems to slip up on me every year, so too did these last eight years. Where did the time go? It seems like we've lived a thousand lifetimes since our wedding day: we've bought and sold multiple homes and lived through those homes being remodeled. We've changed jobs and started companies. We've made babies and parented them, shakily at times, into good little boys. We've laughed, we've cried, we've screamed at each other. Out of our mouths have come things that are kind and beautiful and uplifting. We've also cut each other to the quick, and more than once, said things we both wish we could take back. What a ride it's been, what a long way we've come since that sunny afternoon in May not so long ago. Truth be told, we've both grown up so much and learned a lot about each other and ourselves along this path. For what it's worth, here are some of my favorite lessons from along the way, one for every year we've been together.

Free To Be You And Me: One of our biggest issues early on was that Dave and I had very different opinions on what it meant to be husband and wife. He was raised in a very traditional home and pretty soon after we got married it became apparent he expected me to handle the majority of the household chores... cooking, cleaning, etc. Since I was working 40+ hours a week just like he was, I expected us to be equal partners. There were a few blow-ups before we finally realized the issue was a miscommunication about what we both expected out of each other. We learned to accept each other for who were are, not who we imagined our spouse would be. We also learned that hiring a housekeeper is an untold secret to marital bliss.

Best Friends Forever: My husband and I have been best friends since we met each other 10 years ago. We still talk and text all day long like we're 16 years old, and no one makes me laugh like he does. I try and think of him as my friend first and my husband second. The idea is that we're often nicer, easier, more catering to our friends than we might be to our spouse. I can't imagine what my world would be like if he wasn't there to brighten my day, and since it's a friendship I value deeply, I work hard to be the kind of friend I'd like to have.

Kids are The Best/The Worst: Alright, don't go calling social services on me. I love my boys more than anything on this earth. That being said, nothing has ever been harder on our marriage then the first six months after our first baby was born. You're exhausted, and overwhelmed and you tend to take out your frustrations on each other. It's the toughest road we've walked but slowly sleep and sanity returned and I realized there really isn't anyone else I'd want to be in this foxhole with but him. Having a baby will put your marriage through the ringer, and if you're lucky, you'll come out the other end stronger for it.

Keep Dating: If there's one piece of advice I've heard Dave give other men over and over it's "keep dating your wife." I love hearing his reasoning and I love that it's a mantra he feels so passionately about. You will, without a doubt become overwhelmed with bills and kids and dogs and rent and keeping up with your job and keeping up with the laundry and it's easy to get to a place where you don't even remember why you liked this person in the first place. Dave and I have tried to be pretty strict with a weekly date, even if that's as simple as a trip to the local diner by ourselves. For that brief respite we stow our iPhones and enjoy each other's company and remember what it was like to be young and in love.

Make It a Priority: OK readers, I'm talking about sex, don't be appalled. I might offend some people when I say this but I believe sex is vital to a happy marriage. I know there are times in my life where it is literally the last thing I'd be interested in (those six months after our first baby come to mind) but connecting on that level is essential to everything else. Remember when you first met and you couldn't keep your hands off each other? Remember the way he used to kiss your neck and it made your toes curl? If you don't, ask him to remind you.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: You know that bumper sticker "don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff"? Cheesy yes, but accurate as well. I hate fighting, and I hate drama and so unless he's really done something to piss me off (or I'm really hormonal) I'm not going let it agitate me. I don't want the kind of marriage where we bicker over everything from chores, to who's tidier to who's turn it is to put the kids to bed so I'm forgiving of his little faults and he's forgiving of mine and we strive to enjoy each other rather than find reasons to pick each other apart.

I'm Not Perfect: I know, it comes as a shock, even to me. But if I've learned one thing on this journey it's that I mess up too. I can be pretty self righteous and it's extremely hard for me to admit that I'm wrong but I realized that if I expected Dave to fess up when he was in the wrong then I'd have to swallow my pride and learn how to do that as well.

You're Entitled to Your Feelings: It took me a long time to understand that just because I don't agree with Dave's feelings, it doesn't diminish his right to them and vice versa. This is an important lesson for any relationship you have. You might think it's ludicrous that your mom is hurt that you're spending this holiday with your in-laws (especially since you've spent the last three with her) but that doesn't change that she feels that way. Learn to accept your spouse's point of view, and allow them their emotions because you'd expect the same thing in return.

For better or worse, those are some of the lessons I've picked up along the way. Do you agree? Or disagree? Have I missed something vital?? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

Below, Rachel and her husband.
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