10 Life-Altering Lessons I Learned After 10 Years Of Being A Millennial Wife
Supposedly every 7 years we enter into a new life cycle. 7 years ago I was 21 and ending my life cycle with my first husband. I got divorced at 21 and shortly after, I met Jeff and got pregnant with Liam which marked the beginning of a completely different life cycle than the one I previously had. Today marks the commencement of a new life cycle as well as the culmination of a decade's worth of marriage knowledge.
For 10 years I've been someone's wife. For 10 years I've been folding another man's laundry alongside my own and for 10 years I've been learning what makes a marriage work and what doesn't. After one failed marriage and one that is currently thriving, I want to share with you 10 marriage lessons I've learned throughout the 10 years I've been someone's wife.
I've never publicly shared photos from my first wedding but since today marks the beginning of a new life cycle for me I want to take this opportunity to bring closure to a life cycle that was difficult and painful, yet wonderful and enlightening at the same time.
I'm going to use this an opportunity to acknowledge my first husband and the lessons I learned from him because the lessons I learned in my first marriage have allowed me to become the better wife that I am today for Jeff. So with that being said, I would like to publicly thank my first husband Rafael for helping me become the woman and wife I am today. It would be wrong of me not to acknowledge him as part of my story. For 7 years he was part of my story. For 7 years he was a part of my life and I am thankful for all the lessons I learned from him.
Everyone has a story to tell and everyone has valuable lessons to share.
This is my story and these are my lessons.
In the summer of 2007 while all of my peers were getting ready for their first year of college, I was getting ready for my first year of marriage. I went from being someone's daughter to someone's wife literally overnight.
Two months after my 18th birthday I moved to Mexico to live with and marry my boyfriend of two years, Rafael.
Within a matter of 48 hours I moved to a new country, lost my virginity and washed someone else's underwear for the first time. He was 10 years older than me and no one understood why I was getting married--not even me. In 2007 I signed a marriage license in Boca Del Rio, Veracruz and married my first husband in front of my closest relatives--including my parents. There was a sharp heaviness in the room and a thick cloud of confusion veiled the looks on everyone's faces.
Although my family smiled and appeared supportive on the outside, the truth behind their eyes was undeniably grim. For the first 3 years of my first marriage I felt completely sub-par and inadequate. While everyone around me was accumulating accolades, career success and exciting travel experiences I was at home learning how to be someone's wife. In our popular American culture, our 20's are reserved for a culturally approved decade of selfishness. If you want to spend 10 years or more of your life studying, traveling, climbing the corporate ladder and delaying childhood and marriage until your late 30's or even your early 40's your decision will be met with praise, admiration and support. So when someone like me disrupts this culturally engrained model, my decisions are met with raised brows and scoff.
But today I turned 28.
I am officially in my late 20's and my marriage today suddenly isn't as taboo as it once was when I was 18. Most of peers today are engaged or recently married with tiny babies and tots running around their homes. Today my life looks like everyone else's life and I am suddenly not the odd duck anymore. However, despite my sudden blending and normalcy, I still have something profoundly unique that no else I know has: I have an entire decade of marriage behind me and an entire decade of invaluable life lessons that I credit directly to my role as a young wife. Today, I want to take a moment to share these lessons with you. My intention is to not only share my hard-earned marriage lessons, but to inspire you to find your own hidden lessons in all of the inevitable challenges and difficulties you will face throughout the course of your life. There are hidden gems in every hardship we face. These are mine. And they're yours to keep and use for your benefit whenever you need to. God gifted me another year of life which allowed me to gift you a decade's worth of lessons.
They are my birthday gift to you.
Marriage Lesson #1
Marriage is a crash course on sexuality, spirituality and finances.
If you don't know anything about your sexuality, your sprituality or your money you will learn once you get married. You literally don't have the option not to (I mean, unless you want your marriage to fail). Sex, religion and money are perhaps thee most taboo topics in our society which is exactly why I'm going to address these topics first.
When I first got married I knew nothing about my sexuality and I certainly knew nothing about my pleasure. The fact that we rarely have open dialogues about these topics is extremely troubling since they are topics that DOMINATE our lives as adults. Today I can say with absolute pride that I am confident with my sexuality as a woman and I am extremely satisfied with my sexuality as a wife. I know what feels good to me and I know what doesn't. I'm not ashamed to ask for what I want and I'm proud of my pleasure and my ability to own it. After ten years of marriage I've learned that there is absolutely nothing shameful or wrong about sex and that feeling pleasure and making love is literally just as normal as taking dumps. We all do it. We all need to do it and there is nothing wrong with doing it. Once you become comfortable with your sexuality and even more so, with your pleasure, the quality of your life and definitely the quality of your marriage will increase dramatically. The faster you become comfortable and confident with your sexuality and feeling pleasure, the happier you and your partner will be.
The darkest moments I've experienced in my life have been as a married woman. It has been through these nights of solitude, tears and depression that I've learned how to communicate, and create a relationship with, The Divine. Out of sheer desperation for guidance during my experience as a wife my spiritual skills have become heightened and attuned to the love and wisdom of an undeniable existence that is far, far greater than my own. The moment I became aware of my capacity to connect with this Divine Energy I instantly became a better wife. When you have a higher force guiding you to become the best version of yourself, inevitably, you will become a better human being and thus you will become a better spouse to your beloved.
Money and marriage is such a mammoth topic that I literally don't even know where to begin with this one. Let me first start off by saying that if you know nothing about your partner's spending habits, saving habits (or lack thereof), credit history, credit score, investments and retirement plans then you're off to a pretty shitty start. But as the saying goes and the saying is true, late is better than never and this definitely holds true when it comes to mastering your money in a marriage. Learning about my spending habits, my relationship with money and my beliefs about money, my thoughts about abundance, my fear of scarcity and my beliefs about wealth was just as important as learning how to communicate effectively with my spouse. Money is intrinsically tied to EVERYTHING you do as a married couple. Money is the foundation upon which major marriage decisions are made. Some of these decisions will include: what type of home you will buy, what type of neighborhood you live in, how many children you will have, what types of schools they will attend, why types of cars you will drive, what kind of vacations you will have, what type of household appliances you will own, whether or not you will buy organic produce or non-organic produce, whether or not one parent will be able to stay home with the kids or both parents will have to work and figure out daycare, what type of car, life and home insurance you're going to own, how much money you commit to putting in your nest egg, what type of 401K you will have, what type of investments you're willing to make, what kind of assets you want to own and the list goes infinitely on. If you don't think that money will dominate 98% of your marriage conversations then you are under some massive delusions. One thing Disney failed to address in all of their happily ever after movies is how "the rest of us" are going to afford a life with our sweetheart. Not everyone marries a rich prince who lives in a castle full of servants and maids. In fact, most of us don't. Most of us can comfortably afford our lives as singletons but the second a spouse and kids are introduced into the picture our finances are thrown out of whack and we have to figure out our financial lives from scratch. My sincere and very humble advice to you is this: If you are considering marrying someone or if you are already married and are struggling with your finances, meet with a financial advisor and immerse yourself in the world of personal finance as soon as you possibly can. Learn everything there is to know about how money works. Commit to learning how to grow your money, how to keep your money, how to invest your money, how to save your money and how to manage your money. Preferably, do all of this learning WITH your spouse. Some books I've read on the topic of personal finance include:
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
Couple's Money by Marlow and Chris Felton
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Money Master The Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins and
Money: A Love Story by Kate Northrup
Also, the sooner you and your partner meet with a Financial Advisor the better. If you are NOT married but are thinking of marrying someone, meet with a financial advisor BEFORE you tie the knot. The dress, the photos and the honeymoon will be a complete waste of money and time if you end up divorced over fights about money. If you're already married or in a committed relationship with someone take responsibility over your financial marriage. If you have not yet met with a financial advisor make an appointment today! Seriously, there is no point of waiting to take action on something that is so critically important. Set up a plan with your partner to create a nest egg, pay off your debt and create investments that will generate cash-flow or equity. The more streams of income you and your spouse can create the better off both of you will be.
Marriage Lesson #2
"Till death do you part" basically means a lifetime of learning how to communicate effectively with another human being.
If you choose to get married, marriage will be the hardest endeavor you will willingly consent to during your lifetime. I can confidently say without a moment of hesitation or doubt that marriage is infinitely harder than child-rearing. Your children will eventually leave your home and go on to live and make their own lives but your spouse will still be there long after your children are not. Marriage is a life-long learning lesson about interpersonal skills and communication skills with another human being. If you are willing to make a daily commitment to learn and refine your ability to communicate with your spouse until one or both of you dies, then you are ready for marriage. If you are not willing to commit an entire lifetime of learning how to communicate effectively with another human being, then spare yourself the expensive wedding and the lawyer fees and don't get married. It's cheaper to date and break up.
Marriage Lesson #3
If you and your spouse are not growing together, there is literally no reason for you to stay together.
Don't waste another person's life. Time is the most precious un-renewable resource we all have. If you are no longer growing with your spouse then move on and allow them to move on as well. If you are not happy in your marriage and are no longer in love then don't waste your time but definitely don't waste your partner's time. Always be respectful of your partner's life but be especially respectful of their time since their time is something they will never ever get back and neither will you. If your growth and evolution as a couple has come to a halt and you can't seem to sprout new growth together, then it is definitely time to grow apart. By definition, if something isn't growing it is dying. This same principle applies to marriage. We are meant to grow, evolve and thrive in our marriages. When we decide to get married, we commit to serving a cause which is far greater than our own: the success of a team as opposed to the success of an individual. If we are not growing as individuals and we're not growing as romantic partners then we are not serving ourselves and we are definitely not serving our partners. If you are not serving then you are taking and anyone who's been married knows that a marriage cannot survive let alone thrive when one or both people are taking. Commit to growth in all areas of your life, but especially commit to growth in your marriage. Work on the areas where your marriage is weak and continue nurturing all the areas where your marriage is strong. Support the goals, ambitions and dreams of your partner and ask your partner to support yours. Grow together or leave the relationship. It's literally that simple.
Marriage Lesson #4
Personal development is no longer an option. When you are married, personal development is mandatory if you want your marriage to succeed.
When you choose to join lives with someone else the best and worst of you comes out. When you are single, you have no frame of reference for all the shit that you do. No one says anything to you when you leave your socks and shoes on the floor. No one calls you out when you leave rotting food in the fridge for days or weeks at a time. No one holds you accountable for your excessive smoking, your binge drinking or your unhealthy addiction to fast food and energy drinks. No one says anything to you about all your dirty little habits and as far as you know, you are God's gift to the planet. But the second you marry someone, you realize you have a massive amount of rotting shit that's been festering in your life throughout the years and you've deliberately chosen to ignore the stench. Marriage, like parenthood, is a crash course in personal development. Both of these roles force you to plunge head-first into becoming the absolute best version of yourself you can possibly be because you suddenly have a massive reason to give a fuck. If you want your marriage to succeed you HAVE to become the version of yourself you know your partner deserves to have. If you're truly committed to having an amazing marriage you will commit to changing your unhealthy habits, your self-sabotaging thoughts, your destructive behaviors, your limiting beliefs and your harmful patterns. Personal development is all about becoming the best version of YOU and if you want a happy, healthy marriage you can't give your spouse anything less than your best. A sub-par, mediocre version of you will never allow your marriage to thrive.
Marriage Lesson #5
The faster you learn how to happily live for someone other than yourself (i.e. your spouse) the more value you will add to your relationship over the course of your marriage
If you are not serving then you are taking and anyone who's been married knows that a marriage cannot survive when one or both people are taking. Marriage is about learning how to receive with love and grace but more importantly, marriage is about learning how to feel intense pleasure when you give. There is something incredibly spiritual about living your life for someone other than yourself. Marriage, just like parenthood, epitomizes selfless living and loving more than anything else I know. When you live for something greater than your own gain, you not only discover how much love you have to offer, you realize how much value you can add to someone's life! One of the greatest lessons marriage taught me was how NOT to become self-absorbed and how becoming self-absorbed is one of the most dangerous things you can become. There is a profound difference between being confident and being vain and marriage taught me that confidence is bold, necessary and sexy whereas vanity is destructive, self-objectifing and detrimental to your mental health. After a decade of living the entire duration of my 20's for someone other than me, I learned that the quicker I got over my big 20-something ego, the more significant and fulfilling my life became.
Marriage Lesson #6
The faster you learn how to forgive, the happier your marriage will be
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Learning to forgive is one of the most difficult yet empowering skills you can master. You have to learn how to do this and you have to learn how to do it well because there is simply no other way to survive. If you don't learn how to forgive and you don't learn how to do it from the depths of your heart, you will perish. I believe resentment is just as strong as cancer, if you don't discover it on time it will kill you. It will contaminate you emotionally, spiritually and even physically if you let it. When it comes to marriage, learning how to forgive and learning how to do it quickly is just as important as learning how to manage your finances. In my first marriage I will admit that I was extremely quick to anger and extremely slow to forgive. I was a prideful 18 year old girl and I held on to grudges like a toddler holds on to a sucker at the bank. It was almost impossible for me to let my anger go. But eventually I had to learn how to loosen the grip on my grudges because the only person I was damaging the most was me. After 10 years of marriage I've become damn good at forgiveness. It was practically impossible for me not to. Fights, arguments and disagreements are extremely common in a marriage which gives you lots and lots of opportunities to practice your ability to forgive. Forgive fast. Forgive with love. And let it go. This has been one of the greatest lessons I've learned in both of my marriages.
Marriage Lesson #7
The quickest path to divorce is your EGO
Want to know the way any relationship you have will fail 100% of the time? Having an EGO that you love more than your relationship. There is absolutely no way in hell you will ever have a successful marriage if you are more in love with yourself than you are with your spouse. Now please don't misconstrue my words by thinking I'm suggesting you becoming a self-sacrificing martyr who puts the needs of everyone and everything ahead of their own. No. This is not what I believe and I would never give this advice out to anyone because it doesn't work and it is unhealthy and a complete waste of time to be a martyr. What I am saying is this: If you are still in a phase of your life where you feel the need to be selfish and get certain life experiences out of your system, then you are not relationship material. It doesn't mean you can never be, it just means you definitely aren't right now. What I am about to confess I've never admitted on such a public scale before but I think its necessary to say this and I think its time for me to release the burden of this painful memory in a constructive way. Eight years ago I had a traumatizing phone conversation with my first husband and it went something like this:
Rafael: "Do you still want me? Are you still even in love with me?"
Me: "I don't know..."
Rafael: "What do you mean you don't know?! Of course you know. You just don't want to tell me. Please, be honest with me. Our entire future is at stake."
Rafael: "Hello? Can you please talk to me?"
Me (crying): "Rafael, I am more in love with my freedom than I am with you. Ok? That is the truth!"
I was 19 years old and this was by far one of the hardest things I had ever admitted to anyone in my life. But I had to tell him. I owed him my truth. He deserved to know. I was young, I was selfish, I wanted to live my life, I wanted to have experiences, I wanted to finish college, I wanted to travel, I wanted to find an amazing job, I wanted to date freely, I wanted to fuck freely but more than anything I wanted my freedom! Did you see how many "I's" I used in that last sentence? I used 10. When you are married and you can only think about yourself and what you want, your marriage is absolutely doomed to fail. Marriage is a team effort and if you don't want to cross the finish line with your marathon partner, then you need to un-tie the knot as quickly and gently as possible and cross that finish line by yourself.
Marriage Lesson #8
Empathy is one of the most important skills you will ever learn in your lifetime and marriage will teach you this skill almost overnight
When I moved in with my first husband he taught me one of the most important lessons I have ever learned in my life. We were fighting over something and I was being a total bitch. I was chucking things at him and screaming and being completely hysterical. When my rant was over he lovingly looked at me and calmly asked, "If I just did and said to you, everything you just did and said to me, how would that make you feel?"
I stared at him wide-eyed and speechless and immediately broke down crying and sobbed at his feet like a baby. That was one of the most profound and powerful lessons of my life. In a marriage you always want to treat your spouse how you would like your spouse to treat you. Mutual respect is everything and having the ability to feel empathy and compassion for someone is one of the most powerful skills you will ever master. Next time you have an argument with your spouse stop and ask yourself, "Am I speaking to my spouse the way I want my spouse to speak to me?" Be honest. This won't work if you're too attached to your ego. If your answer is no, change your tone. Change your demeanor. Change your approach and definitely change your words. Empathy is powerful and marriage gives you an infinite amount of opportunities to practice and master it!
Marriage Lesson #9
When you marry someone, you will have 4 types of marriages within your marriage: Your sexual marriage, your friendship marriage, your financial marriage and your parenthood marriage (if you have children)
Who Jeff and I are as lovers is totally different than who we are as friends vs. financial partners vs. parents. In a marriage, it is extremely important to recognize all of the different "hats" you wear with your spouse and to acknowledge that you will interact differently with your spouse depending on which "hat" you're wearing with them at any given time. Your goal here is to figure out which hats don't fit so well so you can make all the necessary adjustments until they become a better fit. In other words, become acutely aware of the various roles you play within your marriage and pay particular attention to all the roles you're struggling with. For example, Jeff and I have always been absolute rockstar lovers but we've always sucked at communicating effectively when it comes to our finances. Our sexual marriage was always an A+ whereas our financial marriage was always an F-. This was extremely important for us to recognize because it allowed us to shift out attention to the area where we were the weakest. We've done a lot to improve our financial condition and we are still very much actively working on improving this area of our marriage. As of now, I would give our financial marriage a C-. There's still lots and lots of room for improvement, but we have made some notable strides in this area.
Marriage Lesson #10
Nothing will teach you the art of commitment and perseverance like a marriage will
I learned that marriage, just like success in life, is a marathon not a sprint. The day you exchange your vows in that gorgeous dress or that dapper suit, you are committing yourself to a relationship that will require a daily stream of consistent discipline and conscious effort. Just like the violinist must play her violin every day to keep her fingers strong and nimble, the husband or wife must water his or her marriage on a daily basis to keep the marriage soil fertile and alive. If you stop tending to a garden, what happens? The plants and flowers die. If the violinist stops playing her violin what happens? Her fingers become stiff and weak. Likewise, if you stop tending to the garden of your marriage, your relationship will perish. When you are truly in love with someone, you will never stop trying to improve the quality of your relationship with them and you will do so happily for the rest of your life. When you truly love someone, investing time into making your relationship better isn't a chore, it becomes a skill you actually want to master! The thing is, mastering skills takes time. Lots and lots of time. Mastering a skill takes patience and only the truly committed will succeed mastering their chosen skill. My chosen skill has become mastering my marriage with Jeff. The time it will take for us to do this is irrelevant because I am committed to getting it done. No matter how long it takes and no matter how hard it gets, I know it will be worth it because WE ARE WORTH IT.
And for this reason, I know we will never stop trying to take our marriage to the next level.
I've written a lot today because there was a lot that needed to be written. Trying to condense a decade's worth of marriage lessons into one quick blog post took quite some time but I'm happy its done. I believe that if I have something of value to offer, it is not only my responsibility to share it with the world, it's my moral obligation to do so. I hope my story and my lessons inspire you to share your own stories and lessons because both you and I know you have them. Share your truth. Someone somewhere needs to hear it. And once they do, they will feel relieved to know they are not alone in their emotions. And you my friend, will feel empowered to know that your life and your struggles have not been in vain.
If there's just one thing you need to remember about having a successful marriage remember this:
A successful marriage is a team sport and the trophy of your success will require 2 sets of hands to lift it.