July 18, 2018
Today is my 20th wedding anniversary. Over the last 2 decades, my wife and I have traveled to nearly every state in the US. We have hiked in rain forests, climbed mountains, been lost in the wilderness, worried, laughed, cried, played, argued, and celebrated.
I’ve treasured the last 7300 days that we’ve spent together. I’ve also come to realize that for all the adventures we’ve embarked on together, the thing that makes them really memorable hasn’t been the experiences themselves.
It’s been sharing them with the woman who is my closest friend. I say that because, for every great memory we’ve shared, there’ve been dozens and dozens of ordinary days. As it turns out, most of marriage is built of ordinary days.
There are countless hours spent vacuuming, washing dishes, going to work, watching tv, and other very mundane things. To be honest, they’ve all been better because my wife has been a part of them.
That might come across as me overstating things or exaggerating, but it isn’t. I’m not saying that every day together has been a page torn from a romance novel. Rather, my point is that a huge part of marriage is making a choice to enjoy the life you share together.
There are lots of things that are decidedly not fun or romantic, like potty training kids or dealing with a flooded basement or recovering from the flu together.
What makes those experiences together special is a daily decision to enjoy life together. Specifically, we choose, everyday to enjoy each other’s company and put the necessary effort forward to building the relationship.
This might mean doing little things for each other to show we care. My wife does this regularly by finding little gifts for me, like buying bags of fancy coffee. I try to do the same by writing love notes or planning little surprises or cleaning the house on my day off. In the end, this is often about looking for ways to make each other happy.
It’s the sort of thing that couples do when they are dating or when they first get married. It’s easy to stop doing it, letting it fall to the wayside during times of stress or busyness.
I talk to lots of couples who passively choose to shift their focus away from pursuing their spouse, instead focusing on reasons to be dissatisfied. This leads to a cycle of unhappiness that causes us to look for more reasons to complain which makes us more unhappy and so forth.
Another common occurrence is that couples simply drift apart, rather than growing dissatisfied with each other. After years of marriage, they share the same home but live separate lives.
They find separate hobbies, friends, and interests, eventually living separate lives altogether. Neither is ideal for a marriage and can lead to misery in the long run.
The big trick to remaining happy in your marriage over the long term is to make the decision to pursue your partner daily. It’s not a grand gesture. Just a simple choice made thousands of times.