My husband and I recently celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary, and it got me thinking about our relationship and how far we’ve come over the years. From high school sweethearts to college newlyweds, to first-time parents—these last 18 years have been full of adventure.

Looking back, we didn’t always have the best of things. But we always made the best of everything that came our way. Here’s a list of 10 things my marriage has taught me!

1. It gets better with time. Nothing flourishes overnight. Great relationships need time to blossom and mature. After being married for almost two decades, my husband is not just my partner, but also my best friend. That’s because time has a way of bringing people closer.

In marriage—and in life in general—time helps us appreciate others on a deeper level. It teaches us patience, compassion, and acceptance, and opens our eyes to see what’s truly valuable in life.

2. Date nights are essential. If I had to give marital advice in only three words, it would be, “Never stop dating.” Having regular date nights with my husband has really kept the spark in our marriage over the years. For couples, date nights give you time to communicate, have fun, show affection, and switch up your usual routine, which helps increase happiness and relieve marital stress.

RELATED: I Really Love Date Night

3. Spending time apart is important. Yes, couples should spend quality time together to strengthen their relationship. But spending time apart is equally important. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and is absolutely necessary for self-care, reflecting, and prioritizing individuality.

4. Every day won’t be a good day. You will have bad days in your marriage—but don’t let them define you. Instead of dwelling on your frustrations, be mindful of the bad days. Notice when things aren’t going smoothly and focus your energy elsewhere. Who’s at fault isn’t as important as giving each other a little space during difficult moments. When the time is right, you can talk things over in a healthy manner.

5. Communication is key. Sometimes we become frustrated from feeling misunderstood in our relationships. But in many instances, we only feel misunderstood because we’re not effectively communicating.

To avoid confusion, and maintain a peaceful marriage, we must learn how to communicate our feelings, opinions, and expectations. Good communication builds trust and understanding, strengthens respect, and is an important part of any relationship.

6. Prayer is powerful. To remain happily married, you must have more than just a physical connection. Prayer moves us beyond the physical realm and connects us on a spiritual level. The more I pray with my spouse, the greater things happen in our lives. Prayer is a key component of a healthy marriage. It brings you and your partner closer together and gives you the strength to face life’s toughest challenges.

7. Boundaries are essential. It’s perfectly okay to set limits with your partner. Boundaries allow you to respect and protect your own wants, needs, feelings, and desires. Learning when to say yes and when to say no teaches you how to honor your time, space, peace, and energy, which is essential for maintaining your marriage and your sanity.

RELATED: Dear Husband, I Am With You Even When It’s Hard

8. You’re responsible for your happiness. The beautiful thing about marriage is having someone to bond and share life experiences with. But when it comes down to it, we’re each responsible for our own happiness.

In 18 years of marriage, I’ve learned that happiness, love, health, and wholeness must all start within. To be happily married, we must take ownership of our own moods, needs, worth, and desires. Your happiness will inevitably increase when you share it with the right person, but it is always your responsibility.

9. Children are a gift. Having children definitely changes things in a relationship. Routines, sleep, and life as you know it may never be the same. However, change can be a good thing.

Having a child has made my marriage even stronger, and it has added happiness and enjoyment to my life. I also think I’m a better person since becoming a mom. Children teach us that we can do hard things. Having a child has made me braver, stronger, wiser, and much more patient than I used to be.

10. Marriage is what you make it. Marriage is a daily commitment. You must wake up each day and consciously decide to love your spouse to the best of your ability—over and over again. But the truth is, love alone is not enough. A good marriage will require time, effort, hard work, and constant forgiveness.

As with most things in life, marriage is what you make it. Relationships don’t just flourish because we want them to; they flourish when we tend to them properly and work toward making them better!

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Sheenia Denae

Sheenia is a wife, mom, teacher turned homemaker, and freelance writer based in Texas. In her spare time, she enjoys sharing inspirational content on her lifestyle blog at witheredblooms.com

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