My husband and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this year. While I’m aware this is a significant marriage milestone, I truly can’t believe how much time has elapsed since that beautiful summer day when I smiled so much my face literally ached. 

Our marriage has certainly had its shining moments as well as its moments we both hope to someday forget. We are two very different people who were very young when we met. I once saw a quote about marriage being a choice that you make every day. I’m not sure if it’s as obvious as that, but I think the sentiment is true. Some days it’s easier to make that choice than others, but we continue to start each new day staring our choice in the face (literally), so I guess we are doing something right.

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We have stumbled and we have made some mistakes. We have also figured out how to keep us moving along in a good mutual rhythm. I often reflect on our marriage, a practice I believe has helped keep this marriage intact, and as I roll through our 20th year married, I’ve been thinking these are the most important lessons we’ve learned so far. 

It’s OK to go to bed angry. 

It is almost impossible to be the best version of yourself when you are tired. It is definitely impossible when you are tired AND emotionally charged. When a child is throwing a tantrum or having a meltdown what do we always say? He needs a nap. It’s past her bedtime. So when we are tired and angry with each other, we have found that shutting it down and going to sleep is always the best option. Things look and feel much better in the morning.

It is not OK to be angry with each other in front of others.

I will never criticize or put down my husband in front of others. Sure, we’ve been known to joke around or tease each other for a laugh but never about anything that is important or sensitive. We know each other’s triggers, and we stay far away in front of others. When we are with friends, we work hard to appear as a united front and there is no mistaking we are a couple who loves and respects each other (even if we are not liking each other very much at that moment).

Spending time with each other is a priority. 

Family time is important for the children to see our commitment to this family and to each other. We also spend time without them. We find time to talk uninterrupted, laugh, and experience things as a couple. This has become much easier as our children have gotten older. With teenagers in the house, we can easily escape for a nice meal, a drive, or even just a quick drink. We try to get away overnight once or twice a year. If we go too long without some time together, we can start to feel disconnected and when we disconnect we tend to annoy each other. And that isn’t good.

Spending time on our own is important too. 

We have different interests and hobbies, and while we have many common friends, we have our own friends as well. I like to spend hours reading, he enjoys hours spent in front of Netflix. He enjoys an afternoon out and about. I love a good Sunday afternoon home doing nothing. We are extremely busy, tired, and often under lots of stress. We each need time to unwind and decompress. It doesn’t always have to be together.  

Romance cannot die.

For us, romance is not social media declarations of devotion or flowers delivered at work just because. For us, romance is simply letting the other one know he or she is loved and needed. Romance is knowing how we like our coffee and always making the other a cup, without asking, when we make our own. Romance is using our pet names for each other to punctuate the most mundane sentence (i.e. Where’s the Tylenol Babe?). Romance is talking to each other. My husband and I talk on the phone, for as much time as we can spare each day. We talk about the kids, work, and the news that day. We tell each other jokes, make each other laugh, and discuss dinner options for that night. We talk so we can stay connected. We talk because we need to hear each others’ voices to get through long, busy days. We are each other’s someone. If that isn’t romance, I don’t know what is.

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I know our marriage is an accomplishment and I am proud of us. Our relationship has weathered so much stress and pressure, and we keep figuring it out. I also know we can’t stop doing what we are doing. We cannot take each other for granted, and we can’t assume this marriage will last another 20 years without nourishment, love, and work. I love what we’ve created. It will always be worth it.  

Sara Orris

I am a certified speech-language pathologist working with teenagers by day, a writer sharing my thoughts, fears, wishes, and experiences any free moment I find. I love my children, my husband, and the ocean. See more of my loves and my thoughts on http://instagram.com/saraorriswrites