10 Things I Have Learned In Ten Years Of Marriage

rp_jenn-m-jackson-wedding-day.jpgMy life partner (husband) and I are coming up on our first decade of marriage this Friday. And, while it has been getting me all up in the feels over the past few weeks, it has also brought forward so many of the memories and lessons I have learned along the way.

Here are just a few critical things I have learned (in no particular order) after being a married human for a third of my life.

1. “Happy” is fluid.

On our wedding day, we were elated. Literally, it was like the world stopped, like we had carved out a special place reserved for us. We were genuinely, unbridled-ly happy. Since then, we have never had another day like it. The three days when our children were born closely rival that day but they still aren’t quite the same (partly because those days involved my body feeling like it was going to rip in two).

Happy changes. It won’t always look the same. The trick to staying happy in a marriage is realizing the beauty in even the mundane: in the quiet evening at home, in the silly work story, in the random glance. We don’t try to remake an old happy. We just look forward to the new ones.

2. The person you love won’t change unless they choose to.

My partner loves to make piles. He relies on them. They are part of how his brain operates. I, on the other hand, am a highly organized neat freak. I have Ziploc bags in my purse which hold gum, dental floss and personal items separate from my bag holding pens and highlighters. These are in addition to the many bags, compartments, folders, journals, and other tools I use to organize my life. Yet, again, my spouse makes piles.

For years, I attempted to tame the piles. However, I am too old and too tired to burden myself or him with the task of eradicating this habit. Instead, we manage them. He makes fewer at times and more at others. I have similar habits which ebb and flow depending on the day.

The key here is: I don’t expect anything he did when I fell in love with him to disappear now. I’m too smart for that.

3. Sex is important. VERY important

I get so tired of people who use the phrase, “sex isn’t everything” whenever the topic comes up. Yes. We all know that sex isn’t *everything* but that doesn’t mean it isn’t vitally important to a healthy and thriving intimate relationship.

What I mean here is this: sex needs to meet the needs of both people (or however many persons) in the relationship. It can’t just be on one person’s terms. The quality, quantity, and contents of sexual intimacy should always be a team conversation. I can’t emphasize this enough.

4. Unmarried people should shut the hell up about married people shit.

I am tired of single people with opinions about marriage. Likewise, I am tired of people with no children offering parenting advice (more to come below).

Shut the fuck up please single people (and by single people, I mean unmarried). Thanksbai.

5. Getting married is easy. Staying married is also easy, if you picked right.

Getting married is not super difficult if you pick the right person. This is literally the product of dating someone and planning a legal ceremony. The same goes for staying married. You just have to not get divorced. But, I do believe that staying married will make you miserable if that is your only reason for sticking with it.

I have heard so many horror stories of people who got married because they thought they had to, or because they families pressured them, or whatever. Then, they stay in it just hoping to one day fall in love with the person and overcome their resentment. I imagine that this would be even harder for folks who have children.

I am all about realizing you made a mistake and repairing the mistake. Divorce is a thing. And sometimes, it needs to happen. If you aren’t with the right person, it might be the best route for you.

6. Children make marriage better (harder dinnamug but better).

We have three wonderful children. We had our first child before our second anniversary. While it has been incredibly tough learning to be a life partner while learning to be a mother, it has offered me some of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

I would like to think that having children early in our marriage forced us to confront a range of issues that we might not have had to deal with (like health concerns, debilitating exhaustion, and financial strain). While these things can break a marriage, I also think they provide unique opportunities to strengthen the bond between two people.

7. Being best friends is vital to a marriage.

I have seen tons of stories recently about how marrying your best friend is a mistake. Some have claimed that it can make your relationship boring and sexless, uneventful and mundane, and even predictable. The weird thing to me is that those things can happen to any and every relationship. Wouldn’t it be better to go through all of that with someone who you know will hold you down no matter what?

My partner and I laugh together constantly. We still communicate without saying words. We finish each other’s sentences. We just click. We have been this way since the day we met. I couldn’t imagine our marriage without our friendship at the center of it.

8. Sex is hella important. It really is.

See number 3 above but just add “!!!” at the end of each sentence.

9. Being able to be unhappy together is crucial.

I remember the first time my partner and I had our first real argument. It was after hours of moving into our new campus apartments. We were hungry and probably slightly dehydrated. I was being bitchy and needy and he was being forgetful. In essence, we were not happy. That trite argument taught us how to speak to each other when we were mad. It showed us how to forgive the small things quickly and to not stay mad.

Relationships are full of highs but there are lows too. We have had a lot of emergencies, a lot of tears, a lot of stress, bad jobs, surgeries, health scares, all kinds of stuff. A critical part of our relationship has rested on our ability to push through these “unhappy” times together.

10. You’ll never be good at marriage until you are good at loving yourself.

It took me a while to get this one. I don’t think I entirely loved myself when we met. I was 17 years old, homeless, and full of teen angst. He was a dreamer stepping out on faith for the first time. I know it took me years to love all of me and to unlearn so much of the self-hatred I had been socialized with.

There was a time in my relationship that I worried about not being totally accepted, not being loved because of my flaws and insecurities. It wasn’t until after I set out to truly know and love myself that these worries melted away. It made my platonic relationships better too.

Me loving me and living my truth has made it easier for my husband (and friends) to love me. And, I’m grateful that he was patient with me while I figured that out.

I’m sure there are many more lessons I have learned. But, these seem to come up the most frequently. Now, I am not giving relationship advice here. Just sharing my experience. I’m looking forward to everything I will learn in the next decade.

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Jenn M. Jackson

Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.

5 Responses

  1. John Henry says:


    Also, great advice on marriage.

  2. Shawna says:

    Sweet list! Congratulations on 10 years!

  3. truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com says:

    Congratulations on your marriage.

  4. kristenej says:

    Congrats to you both! And good thoughts, especially the last one as I struggle to become more self-loving and caring.

  5. Transbutter says:

    Awww I love this! When I get married I will consider all of this.