5 Marriage Hacks We Live By

As I write this, we are celebrating 19 years of pure, wedded bliss (do you hear the sarcasm?) NINETEEN YEARS. Our marriage is a freshman in college. Our marriage probably has a fake ID and makes bad decisions in bars. But on the balance, I will say I feel incredibly lucky. We have a really great marriage. 

There was a video circulating on social media a few months ago: A well-meaning woman asked (summarizing here) this question: “Everyone says marriage takes work, but what about it makes it so hard?” WHEW. I sat (for far too long) trying to put into words why even the happiest marriages can be so hard. 

A Gut Punch

Lola went to her prom a couple of weeks ago. As I looked at her in her lovely blue dress, it took my breath away to take in this stunning, smart, accomplished young woman. In the same moment, it hit me just how fast time was passing. Where was my baby girl? Gut punch. 

As I caught my breath, I suddenly had this serene feeling. We had done something right. Looking at my firstborn standing there happy and laughing with all of her friends, I had a moment of truly appreciating this incredible life I had built with my husband. 

With a hell of a lot of work.

The 5 Things We’ve Learned

The answer to the question of why marriage is so hard has to be different for everyone. For us, it was fully merging the lives and habits of two very different humans. Even with a foundation of deep, honest love: there’s no rage like seeing how he loads the dishwasher. We have learned so much about ourselves and each other in these almost two decades together. 

Here’s a list of things we do that have helped us make the most of the last 19 years of marriage:  

1. Name the emotion

Most of our fights are diffused if we can get real and name where the emotions are coming from. For example, recently things were getting tense in a conversation about finances. We were both getting very defensive and voices started to raise. Then I said, “Listen, I feel very insecure about money. I feel scared when we start having these conversations so please see that I’m trying.” He gave me a hug and we continued the conversation from a place of understanding.

2. Get curious

Penn isn’t a fan of swimming or cycling or even running. But there was a time when I was competing in triathlons. He took up the sport just to understand why I liked it. That’s an extreme level of commitment, for sure.  But he’s now really into tennis, sci-fi books and movies. None of these were on my radar (and I have yet to pick up tennis) but I try to understand the latest results or books to understand what keeps him so captivated. 

3. Look in the mirror before criticizing

I’m really guilty of snapping at the mess my family makes…then I take a look at my bathroom counter (Hint: It looks like an actual bomb went off). I’m not perfect so I’ve developed a “stop, take a breath, look at myself first” approach before I snap.

4. Kiss, hug, or at least touch in some way, every day

We were like most newlyweds and could not peel our hands off each other. Now, nineteen years later, my 29-year-old self would have been HORRIFIED to learn there would be days so busy we wouldn’t even have time for a high-five. But it’s true, I’m embarrassed to admit. We are in this era of parenting and work that keeps us running from the first ring of the alarm clock until we fall into bed at night. My husband is a physical-touch kind of guy. His entire body chemistry and mood changes when I snuggle in for a hug. So, we make it a point to TOUCH every day. Hilariously, we were falling asleep last week and I realized I hadn’t even really seen him that day. We were laughing while negotiating which one of us would do the work of rolling over to offer the hug. We were both so deeply tired and the energy required to roll onto our sides was a bridge too far. So we settled for kicking our legs out and having our legs “hug”. We fell asleep feeling so much more relaxed simply because we couldn’t stop laughing about the ridiculousness of the entire situation.

5. Show up in small ways

There are very big ways we need to show up for our person, but it’s those little tiny things that melt my icy heart. For example, when we travel I always (always) forget a contact case. Now, Penn simply packs one for me and when we arrive at our destination he places it on my side of the sink with a travel-sized bottle of contact solution. There are a thousand little things he does, without thinking, that show he loves me. A good friend told me, her husband sets his alarm to deliver her coffee in bed every single morning.  Little acts of love can really add up. 

We are far from perfect over here. But one thing is for sure, we will never stop trying to make this marriage work. We talk about this and more in this week’s podcast. What is the most important thing you’ve learned from a relationship? I’d love to hear and happy listening. 

Xo, Kim