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After eleven years of togetherness and nine years of marriage I have found that unequivocally, my marriage and relationship with my spouse is the best it has ever been. As I searched for a deep and profound understanding or explanation I was disturbed to find the reason to be quite simple.

ME.

I have changed, I have matured, and I have developed a deeper appreciation for my spouse. The change is not in him, it is in me. This realization was both humbling and disturbing. Did I have the answers all along?

While I’m not purporting to have a perfect or problem-free marriage, I think it’s pretty darn good. Not only do I love Greg, very much, but I also like him a lot too. In fact, Greg is easily my favorite person to do just about anything or nothing with – and I think that’s awesome.

Below are the nine lessons I have learned after nine years of marriage:

9. A Mowed Lawn Is Love  My relationship isn’t a Harlequin romance novel…and that’s okay. Marriage is about appreciation for all the sacrifices we make for each other, even those that seem small or inconsequential. When Greg takes out the trash, mows the lawn or walks the dog, it’s a sacrifice and done to make my life easier. I choose to measure the value of my relationship in shared experiences and daily sacrifices and I urge you to do the same.

8. The “D Word” is Off Limits
Throwing around the idea of divorce should never be taken lightly. This word shouldn’t be used as a threat or weapon. There are plenty of reasons why divorce may be a perfectly reasonable or a necessary option but barring these extraordinary circumstances the word is dangerous and hurtful…and remember, once you say it, it can’t be unsaid.

7. These Are The Best of Times, These Are The Worst of Times
Like any relationship, marriage is a continuous evolution. Most of the time, I can’t imagine my life without my husband. I want to share every experience with him and I sincerely enjoy having him as my partner.
Now let’s talk about those few times (and I’m talking a very slim percentage of the time) when we have our worst moments. I have learned that the best thing to do in these moments is keep perspective. This one moment does not define my marriage. Nothing that we argue about is a non-negotiable or violation of trust and that is a testament to our relationship. Fight responsibly, be cautious of feelings and egos, and know that this too shall pass.

6. Patience is a Virtue…so is Tenacity
Marriage is an exercise of patience and tenacity. We are both committed to continually improving our relationship and sticking it out for the long haul. This promise to each other has made our relationship significantly more meaningful and secure.

5. Share Your Feelings
While I know that my husband loves me, I still need to hear it and he needs the same. Tell your spouse how you feel, let them know how proud you are of their accomplishments, and express gratitude for their sacrifices. This is but a simple gesture with monumental impact.

4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Did he leave the toilet seat up again? Did his laundry magically end up on the floor when the basket was only a few steps away? Has he still failed to tackle that honey-do list? How terribly frustrating, but so what? Focus your efforts on the big things, gently continue to nudge him in the right direction and choose your battles wisely. Marriage is hard enough without constant nit-picking over things that, quite frankly, don’t matter.

3. Love Conquers Most
How many marriages could be saved by amutualpractice of unconditional love? By exercising this level of love, though difficult at times, it’s nearly impossible for betrayal and jealousy to creep into the relationship.

2. Trust Conquers All
Without trust, every item on this list is worthless. Be trusting and trustworthy and when that trust is broken, take every step necessary to remedy it.

1. Change Starts With Me
What more need I say?

Kristin Streff Barnett

Hi, I'm Kristin. I am a feisty and frugal 30-something with a love for travel and adventure. My younger self pursued a career as an attorney, hated the practice of law and found myself unemployed during the Great Recession. Just bloody awesome. So I decided to take control and follow my true passions: traveling, writing (aka I’m not a millionaire), and making the world just a little bit smaller by encouraging other non-millionaires to travel to their heart’s content. My website www.abroadawakening.com/ and books (available on amazon.com under “abroad awakening) are dedicated to this cause. In my spare time, wait….what spare time? Let me try that again….I spend all my time working my day job, enhancing and growing Abroad Awakening, traveling (obviously), and spending time with my husband and two four legged children: Scout and Mose (don’t ask). We live a simple life, explore the world, and always seek new experiences and challenges. I have been truly blessed.

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