On this date in 2012, Scott and I strolled into the office of Tennessee’s Davidson County Clerk to obtain a marriage license for our dreamy Nashville wedding. On Saturday, we’ll celebrate ten years as a married couple, and we’ve learned a lot – and grown a lot – along the way. When I first launched my virtual group coaching show during the early months of the pandemic, Scott joined me for an hour of Relationship Real Talk. Over the course of that episode we dispelled some common relationship myths, revealed our recipe for relationship bliss (in honor of the recipe cards we asked guests to complete at our reception), and shared some favorite date night ideas.
We and our audience had a lot of fun during that show, but its content surfaced from ups and downs, lessons sometimes learned the hard way, and – most importantly – an ongoing commitment to being the best we can be as individuals and for each other. In the time since that show aired, we’ve evolved even more as what we call “Team Us” and in our own personal and professional ways. Ten years is a significant milestone, and in reflecting on what those years have taught me about what a happy, healthy relationship feels and looks like, I’ve identified ten fundamental truths - and I believe they're important and universal enough to share.
Only marry someone you’d want to be quarantined in the same house with – every single day, for months on end – during a global pandemic. No one saw that coming in 2012. We knew we were meant to be when, after a strategic two-cart, stock-up grocery run, we looked breathlessly into each other’s eyes, high-fived with. both. hands. and shouted “QuaranTEAM!”
Shared values, integrity, and compatible growth are sexier than they sound. These are the pillars of relationship stability and longevity. They minimize dumb fights, and they maximize the return on investment in yourself and your relationship.
You will feel more understood and fulfilled in the relationship when your partner’s “love language” is a good match for yours. Quality Time and Receiving Gifts people have very different needs.
Comfortable silence is as crucial as scintillating conversation. And I don’t mean with heads down staring at phones. Just being able to be, quietly and comfortably, in the presence of another human feels like a luxury in today’s world.
Relationships require (and deserve) work. The work looks different day to day. It shouldn't feel forced or joyless. This is the nurturing, creativity, thoughtfulness, short-term and long-term planning, and resources you contribute to making the relationship meaningful, fulfilling, fun, and enduring.
Which leads me to: The work will not be 50/50 all the time, but the big picture should be a mutual give and take that feels like an equitable 100. When Scott is in Nashville or touring, I do all the things at home. When I’m juggling multiple projects and stretched thin, he does more. It’s about pitching in when and where and how you’re needed - and the trust that your partner will always do the same for you.
At some point you will get caught in the rain. Literally and figuratively. Do you dance, get damp, get drenched, or drown? The way you handle challenges as a couple makes all the difference.
A routine and a rut are very different things. For Scott and me, the first hour of our mornings together looks mostly the same whether it’s Tuesday or Saturday. Feed the kitties. Coffee and Icelandic Skyr for me. Homemade smoothie for him. Conversation that includes our "to accomplish" priorities for the day. A little reading. A little journaling. A lot of redirecting of the kitties away from my skyr and his smoothie. A little stretching. It works for us. We feel connected, refreshed, and intentional about how we start each day. Kitties feel robbed of Skyr and smoothies, but we make up for it with snuggles and Greenies. That’s a routine. If date night looks the same (or doesn’t even happen) for months because no one is bringing ideas to the table, or every night ends with one or both people snoring on the sofa by 8pm, that’s a rut. Routines infuse energy. Ruts drain it.
Collaboration > competition. I love a good game night. Pub trivia. Escape room. Mini golf. I also love to win. I’m Type A and competitive by nature. So, when the pandemic hit and Scott and I suddenly found ourselves homebound every evening, I suggested game night happy hours. We played Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Uno, Monopoly, Croquet, Hallmark Christmas Movie Bingo, all. the. games. We even started Scrabble themes – like, we earned bonus points when a word was on-theme, say cooking or sports. And then one evening Scott said something so sweet and meaningful, and it changed how we do at-home happy hours. He shared that he didn’t find games as enjoyable when we were competing against each other. On the same team, yes. Bring it. High five, Team Us! But, he said, when it’s just the two of us, he’d rather do activities that feel collaborative and not competitive. So. We started doing jigsaw puzzles, and it has become one of our favorite activities and something we build together. Don’t you dare say we’re old. Old school, yes. But, we’re still teenagers at heart.
Which leads me to: Playfulness matters. Adulting is hard. Paying bills, doing what feels like endless amounts of laundry, cleaning up hairballs – none of that makes my fave things list. Trust me, couples with animals (and also those with tiny humans I imagine) spend
inordinate amounts of time engaged in conversation about vomit, poo, and vacuums. Starts to make compatible growth sound downright steamy, amiright? You know what balances all that out? Laughter. Someone who not just tolerates your silly side, but actually loves to bring it out. Do things you enjoyed when you were 10. Watch your favorite childhood cartoons on Saturday mornings. Cue up a song and have a spontaneous dance party. Go to an arcade. Camp out in the backyard. As part of our Christmas decorations, we keep a basket of white felted balls by the tree in our entryway. Why? Indoor snowball fights, naturally.