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12 Things I've Learned From 12 Years of Marriage

As I celebrated a friend's upcoming nuptials at her bachelorette pool party, she jokingly asked for advice and wisdom before jumping the broom. To my defense, we had just done about 6 shots out of penis shaped shot glasses and I was not in shape to advise anybody about anything. Except on the dangers of mixing tequila and champagne. (Don't judge us, you don't know our lives) But now that I've had time to think about (and sober up) I decided to share with her and all y'all 12 Lessons I've Learned From 12 Years of Marriage.

1. Maintenance Matters- When you buy a new car or a new home, you expect to put time, effort and money into keeping it running well. Something breaks, you fix it, a pipe bursts and you replace it. You take your car for regular tune-ups to keep everything in working order. These aren't the most pleasant of chores, but we do them because we want the pleasure of living in a nice home and riding in a nice car. Guess what? Your marriage requires regular maintenance too. Maintenance could mean therapy, couples retreats, reading books on marriage and relationships or even just having regular conversations where you take the temperature of your relationship and "diagnose" any areas that need to be repaired.

2. You Gotta Bend So You Don't Break- You're gonna get hit with some shit storms. That's just the facts of life. Storms can be job loss, family sickness, financial crisis misunderstandings at home infertility, death, or just the pressures of juggling the everyday demands of life. Some these will be sun showers and some will be full blown category five hurricanes. If you want your marriage to survive you have to be strong and FLEXIBLE. Flexibility means you have a willingness to adapt to the changes you go through rather than fight them. Being flexible means letting go of trying to control the storm and leaving the outcome to the Universe. That kind of supple strength allows the winds to bend but not break you and when the storm clears, your marriage will still be standing.

3. No Day Like Today- One of the hardest things for me in a long term relationship is remembering to be present every day. In the last few year, I've been repeatedly reminded that tomorrow isn't promised. Taking time to truly enjoy time with your partner every day in just small ways. They may seem like simple gestures, but they mean a lot. A real kiss instead of a peck on the cheek. Holding hands while walking the dogs. Remembering to say I love you, how was your day, I've missed you, before launching into a litany of chores, complaints and what's for dinner talk, goes a long way towards staying connected.

4. Watch Your Mouth - It's super easy to complain about all the big and little things your spouse to aggravate you on a daily basis. Whether he forgot to take the garbage out or he forgot your anniversary, it's natural to want to vent about it to your friends or family. Let me tell you what I've learned. Repeatedly speaking out loud how careless, thoughtless annoying your mate is, not only causes your closest peeps to see him that way but causes you to keep seeing him that way. There is so much power in our thoughts and even more in the words, we speak out loud. The more I complained about how thoughtless he was, the more I started to see him that way. Conversely, when I am gushing over my man and talking about how romantic and affectionate he is, I start to see him that way more often and see his words and actions in that light. I also truly believe that it unconsciously causes him to raise his vibration to mine and match my his actions to my thoughts
about him. Because LAW OF ATTRACTION...and all that jazz.

5. It's All About The Benjamins Baby - The worse things couple can do before marriage is NOT talk about money. Money is one of the biggest mysteries in relationships. Couples aren't sure how to talk about it. They don't know how to handle it. Many people have expectations that they never bother to voice out loud in the dating stage. They don't want to seem too nosey or demanding. Money matters. Have the conversation not once but often.

6. The D Word -  When my husband and I were living together one of his biggest fears about getting married was getting a divorce. I 'll be honest the word has come up a few times (or more) in the last 12 years. But somewhere along the line, I realized it was the was cowards way out of an argument. When things get hard and they definitely do and I can't see an easy fix, just walking away from it. Or even threatening to, seems like the best way to end all the turmoil. But once we decided to take divorce off the table for good, it forced to find solutions to problems even when we previously thought there were none. If leaving your marriage is NOT an option, what choice do you have but to work through your issues and make it work?

7. Forgiveness is hard AF - Part of removing divorce from our vocabulary included learning to forgive. Forgiveness is hard. When we feel slighted, hurt or betrayed sometimes it's easier to hold on to that feeling, instead of opening yourself up, feeling the hurt and working through it. We don't want to be vulnerable again, so we hold onto the hurt as protection and a weapon against our spouses. Use it to keep them at arm's length. Forgiveness can be scary but it also is freeing. It frees up space in your heart to experience all the joys your marriage can offer.

8. Breakfast isn't the only thing you need to serve in the morning. - Mornings can be hectic when you have you are both rushing off to jobs, carpool lines and errands. Being short on time can lead to short tempers. Leftover resentments from last night argument over whose turn it was to do the dishes may still be lingering. You leave for the day with a half hearted goodbye or worse yet nothing but a slammed door. Don't begin your start your day on such a negative note, and don't send your mate off into the world with a negative feeling about his marriage and you! There are tons of distractions and temptations out in the world. Sending each other off for the day with kisses and I love yous can help shield you both from that. I'd rather have my husband walk out the door eager to get back to me at the end of the day.

9. Their grass ain't really greener, it's a just a filter. - I love social media, I really do. I stay out on these internet streets, BUT I am a realist. I love seeing images and videos of happy couples and families, but it can be tough not to compare your life and love to the pretty ones in your Instagram feed. You see a friend's wedding photos and compare it yours, You watch a viral engagement video and start giving your guy the side eye. You look at their #couplegoals photo complete with matching outfits and start to wonder "why can't we be like that?". I remind myself that they (everyone) puts their best moments out onto social media. That's what you are supposed to do! This doesn't mean they don't have the same or similar relationship struggles that you do. They just might be better editors.

10. Falling in Love Isn't Hard Part. - When we're younger we wonder if we will ever fall in love or whether anyone will ever be in love with us. It seemed like some mysterious chemistry experiment. That isn't the hard part at all. Staying in love is so much harder. Staying in love requires an abundance patience, no end of forgiveness, and a willingness and desire to keep learning the person your spouse will eventually evolve to. Falling in love with a 22-year-old and staying in love with a 42- year- old is going to require different skill sets. And maybe alcohol.

11. Keep Knocking Boots-  I tried not to be crass, but the truth is sex is IMPORTANT. Whoever tells you it's not a big deal is a LIAR. Yes, you want companionship, support, friendship and all that out of your marriage and yes, you have to cultivate and maintain these bonds. But there is no substitute for a healthy and REGULAR sexual relationship. The question I get asked most often about my marriage by women is "Doesn't sex get boring with the same guy for so long?" My answer...."Hell Nah" There is a sexiness in the security of long term monogamy that allows you to be free to experiment without fear of judgment. I mean what's sexier than being with someone who's down for whatever?

12. You Won't Live Happily Ever After. - But that doesn't mean you won't be happy. The truth is I don't always like my husband and lawd knows he doesn't always like me. I was shocked and disturbed to realize this. I thought we are in love, we've started a family and we are married, we should always be smiling happy and this should be easy. Ain't no fairy tales, BISH. Many times we make the mistake of thinking that it will always be easy and if it isn't there is something terribly wrong. I don't agree. I think there will be hard times, there may even be terrible times. However, fortifying your relationship with unwavering commitment, an abundance of love and forgiveness, flexibility, a sense of humor and a lot of sex will make it easier to get through the shitty times and back to happy.

What have I missed? What are some key elements of keeping a relationship going?
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