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12 things we’ve learned from 12 years of marriage…

Oh Joy / 12 Things I've Learned in 12 Years of Marriage

Oh Joy / 12 Things I've Learned in 12 Years of Marriage

This weekend, my husband, Bob, and I are celebrating 12 years of marriage and 22 years together in total. So, I thought it would be fun (with input from Bob) to share some things we've learned in our last 12 years with you. These things aren't only important for marriage but serious relationships in general. Here we go…

1. You don’t have to agree about everything, but you need to agree about some important things. Specifically: 1) Number of kids (and what happens if you don’t get the gender mix you are hoping for—do you stop or have more?).  We agreed on two kids, no matter the gender mix. 2) Who handles the money (joint bank accounts vs. separate vs. mostly joint bank accounts with small separate personal ones). We do the latter. 3) What religion will you practice?  What religion will your kids be raised in? 4) How will you handle your respective parents? Will you support them financially? How will holidays be separated and when family visits occur?

2. Don’t expect your partner to change any of those annoying habits. Embrace them or make peace with them as they will likely continue to persist forever. Appreciate the nuances of your partner’s personality and love them for it. But also find a way to poke fun at them from time to time to keep things light! 

3. Have your own life and your own friends outside of marriage. Often, your friends become friends with your partner, but those friendships need to exist outside your marriage to make sure you are personally fulfilled. It's also nice to have those separate friends and have someone to lean on when things aren’t going perfectly in your marriage and you just need friends to talk to through it.  

4. Make the right things matter. For example, we decided a long time ago that gifts for birthdays and anniversaries aren’t important for us—it was the opportunity to spend time together to appreciate the day. So we celebrate these occasions with special dinners or small trips instead of gifts.

5. You can be equals, but not all parts of your marriage have to be equal. Maximize what each person is good at and divide the duties of marriage appropriately. And don't hold a grudge against your partner because they can’t do something as well as you with regards to this. Bob isn't usually home early enough to cook dinner, so I do most of the cooking during the week. But he tries to make breakfast and dinner on the weekends because has has more time then. Bob fixes everything around the house because he's better at it, but I'm much better at keeping things organized. I plan almost all of our date nights, nights out, and vacations because I'm better at managing and coordinating. And then he handles most of our household bills so that I can focus on managing my business' bills.  

6. You don’t have to be around your partner all the time to appreciate them. This especially goes for couples where one person travels for work a lot or even couples in long-distance relationships. We were long-distance for 9 years of our dating relationship and while it was hard at times, it actually helped us in the long run. In fact, I think you appreciate them more when your time is limited because you make the most of every moment you have with them.  

7. Your partner still cannot read your mind. No matter how much you get to know each other year after year and you know their true selves more and more, you will never know exactly what the other person is thinking/feeling/wanting at all points in time. Which is why communication is still (and always will be) key to a good relationship, especially when you're disagreeing about something.

8. Never underestimate the power of a date night. It’s an instant reset button when life and kids and work and responsibilities take over! Don't give the excuse of not having time (make time), it being too expensive (you can go out for pizza) or not having a baby sitter (ask friends who will gladly want to give you a night out). If all else fails, date nights can also involve Netflix and take-out dinner on the couch at home after the kids have gone to bed. It doesn't have to be fancy, it just needs to be dedicated time for you and your partner.

9. Don't go to bed angry. Sleeping before resolving an argument never feels good. While everyone's style of resolving an argument or disagreement is different, do your best to resolve it before the night is over. No one likes the feeling of going to bed angry so just don't do it.

10. If you have (or will have) kids, figure out your general parenting style. Before you have kids or while your kids are entering a new stage of their development, decide how you will jointly parent and how you will resolve conflict with your kids. You have to be on the same team so that kids have consistent responses from both parents and also so when discipline or rule-setting needs to take place immediately, you know where you both stand in quickly responding to the situation. You don't need every detail of your parenting to be exactly the same, but your overall style should be in sync. 

11. Favorite, least favorite, tomorrow. We do this at dinner every night with our kids every night during dinner, and I find it's actually so helpful for my marriage as well. By having everyone in the family go through what their favorite and least favorite things about the day were (and then telling what you're looking forward to tomorrow), it not only gives you a sense of something your partner might not have thought to tell you, but it allows an opportunity to vent about something when they might have forgotten to bring it up later in the evening.

12. Always be your partner's #1 fan. Whether they're interested in changing careers, taking up a new hobby, wanting to dye their hair pink, or just taking some sort of leap of faith or risk, be there to support them. It doesn't mean you have to agree with all decisions or that you can't speak up if you have differing opinions, it just means to support what they are aiming to do and you can give your honest feedback, if needed, at the same time.

If you have any other tips from your own experience, please share in the comments below! Stuff like this is helpful for everyone! Happy weekend!

{Photo by Morgan Pansing}


  1. Married 16yrs and I think our saving grace is communication, we are both upfront communicators. It’s ok to be confrontational, doesn’t mean a fight or huge argument but if something is bothering you it’s ok to speak up no matter how trivial. I have witness so many friends divorce from years of resentment and piled frustration because of lack of communication. Most assume the other can read their mind and put expectations on the spouse that their Partner is unaware of.

  2. Great advice! As someone who is going on her 4th year of marriage with her partner, I found all of these tips insightful. We don’t have kids yet but I really liked the tip about determining your parenting styles together.

  3. Love this! Definitely going to borrow your dinnertime prompts — we usually do favorites after a trip but I like this daily debrief and the opportunity to give space to venting as well to round out and process the day for kids/as a fam. Happy 12 years!! We just celebrated 8 by going out to see a movie for the first time in 3yrs (yup our son is 3!) <3

  4. happy anniversary joy! we share the same anniversary-September 23rd marks our 12 years married and 20 years together ? love this post and especially love number 11!

  5. I want to create a conversation here! I loved this post ands as always
    it was so helpful!
    I want to know if anyone has problems with your partners parents! Sometime for me they are like a shadow… trying to be in the middle of some aspects of
    our life .
    For me that has been a big issue in my marriage , how do you
    handle that ?
    Greetings from Chile!

  6. We are about to celebrate our second year wedding anniversary (6th together) and are in a tough spot right now. Reading this made me sad because it is what I want. Only I’m not sure my partner is willing or able to do them. We might have irreconcilable differences after all which in the past I thought was a bs response that I can now truly empathize with. Anyway, I appreciated you sharing your truths xx

  7. Hi Joy,
    This is a terrific post.
    I’m forwarding it to friends, in fact
    – it’s so good!
    Thank you for sharing Bob’s and your
    insightful, helpful tidbits.

  8. Happy Anniversary! Such great tips Joy! Being each other’s #1fan is kind of the best part. I love all of this advice. I also love seeing you two shine together, hope it was the best day.

  9. Happy Anniversary! This post is wonderful, I’m sharing it with my two sons and the delightful women in their lives (one wife, one girlfriend). Hubby and I became a “yours, mine, and eventually ours” family 35 years ago … Tuesday was our date night for years. It was our time for us and we’d switch to another night if needed but never skipped. Your dinner discussions are my favorite … embracing the positive, letting go of the negative, and enthusiastically looking towards the future … a wonderful lesson!

  10. This was so great to read! You guys are too cute, thank you for always sharing bits of your sweet family! Just got married on our 5th dating anniversary this past Saturday (9/22/18) and loved that this echoes what we’ve thought about before the big day!
    We talked about how our relationship will always be a partnership so instead of saying ‘I love you too’, we could only say ‘I love you’ back to make sure it’s always even and that it doesn’t sound like a response but just a statement 😉 not sure if that makes much sense when I write it out, but we make sure to always say I love you!
    Congratulations! Happy 12!

  11. Happy Anniversary! I appreciate the thoughts and reflection of what marriage is about. And #9 is sound advice anda rule in our household. Yay!

  12. I love these tips. My husband and I have been married 27 years and I think you have great insight that you have shared. I would add one: that your partner is not responsible for your happiness. I see people get divorced because they don’t feel like they are happy and they blame their spouse for that. Life will have ups and downs whether you are single or married. Studies have shown that people who decide to stay together are happier in 5 years than people who divorce. There are going to be rough times, and times when you may not “feel” in love, but if you commit and stay together it makes the relationship so much sweeter when you come through the other side. Share life together but take personal responsibility for your happiness.

  13. Congratulations on your 12 years of marriage & your 22 years of togetherness! My husband & I have been married for 43 years, we have 4 adult children and 4 grandchildren. We met the summer after I graduated high school in June, he asked me to marry him in July and we got married a year later in August. One of the best pieces of advices I give is your #9 and it does make a difference! Also I always told my kids that ‘no one makes you do anything, you are responsible for your own actions’ and to own up to them. Another piece of advice I would like to add is; to always laugh with your partner, not at them.


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