My husband Sean and I have reached many milestones together and recently we added one more: five years of marriage! While we’ve been together for 10 years, this anniversary feels like a major feat, mostly because it’s been a journey to get here. Neither Sean nor I are the same people we were when we met. Still, we’ve managed to evolve together and grow deeper in love, for better or for Worse. (The capital W on the worse intended).
In the picture-perfect world of social media, we tend to edit out the “for worse.” So many relationships we see online are carefully crafted and curated; even my own marriage might not be what you expect. For Sean and me, “for worse” has meant bitter fights, conflicting careers, and even thoughts of divorce. These things don’t fit neatly into an Instagram grid, but they’re our reality. And I feel like I don’t see REAL SHIT anymore so Sean and I sat down on the heels of our fifth anniversary to have a real talk about what we’ve been through and learned along the way. We are by no means “relationship goals” or the moral authorities on marriage. We just want to share our journey in hopes of painting a real picture of our love (as opposed to a perfect one) for other couples looking to find their way.
Here are 10 things we’ve learned in five years of marriage:
“Family is teamwork. You have to support your teammates for the common goal of winning. Winning for Shannae and I is a great life for Kensington and a long life of love and happiness together.” – Sean
1. PRACTICE PATIENCE
Shannae is a dreamer whereas I’m more realistic and grounded. This is a challenge for me, especially in areas like finance. Marriage has taught me to have patience and appreciate my wife’s perspective. Sometimes that means just learning to let stuff go. Being patient diffuses tension and creates space for me to listen and see her point.
2. GO TO BED MAD IF YOU MUST
“Don’t go to bed mad” is the worst advice. Sometimes you can’t resolve things quickly, and it’s best not to rush the process. Go to bed mad—sleep in another room if you have to. But getting that space gives time to clear your head, and we often wake up realizing it’s not even that big of a deal and we actually kind of miss each other.
Sidebar from Shannae: I was really nervous about sharing this anecdote because I didn’t want it to get misinterpreted, nor did we want people to think that we were encouraging couples to kick their partners out of bed and onto the couch. The goal here was to share that some disagreements aren’t resolvable on site (for us anyway). Time and space (in moderation) are necessary to let cooler heads prevail and to allow for rational and loving problem solving the next day.
3. ALWAYS COOK EXTRA FOOD
When Shannae says she isn’t hungry, she still somehow manages to eat all my food. Prepare enough for two or order that extra fry from McDonald’s—an easy hack to keep you both happy.
Sidebar from Shannae: No lies were told here. None at all. Lol
4. GIVE SPONTANEOUS GIFTS
One of my favorite movie quotes is from the 2000 film Finding Forrester when William Forrester (Sean Connery) says to Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), “the key to a woman’s heart is an unexpected gift at an unexpected time.” It doesn’t always have to be expensive or purchased, but a thoughtful gesture every once in a while does the trick.
Side note from Shannae: He surprises me almost every day. Whether it’s with breakfast a cute note or text or something as big as a trip to somewhere cool. He is always thinking of me and doing little things to show me that he loves me and cares. This, is by far the thing that I love the most about Sean and when I’m frustrated or upset with him I think about that part and my frustration goes away ❤️.
5. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
Make sure to have your own life and interests so you don’t lose yourself. Find a hobby and schedule some hang-out time with friends or even alone. That boost of me-time makes me better for Shannae and Kensie.
Sidebar from Shannae: this reminds me of Will Smith’s quote about happiness. He said “Her happiness is not my responsibility. She should be happy and I should be happy individually. Then we come together and share our happiness. Giving someone the responsibility to make you happy when you can’t do it yourself is selfish”. This is why my me time and his me time are important. We have to nurture ourselves and our happiness so that we can be the best version of ourselves for each other and for Kensie.
“When we plan things, we’re thinking in terms of the fun factor, but we also consider how it’s going to help us grow and connect better as a family. We both want the best for each other, and I think having that growth mindset in a partner is really, really important.” – Shannae
1. DO ONE ACTIVITY TOGETHER EVERY DAY
Between our careers and Kensington, it can be hard to stay in sync. Having a daily couple’s activity helps out a lot. Sean and I love to watch TMZ. It’s a fun guilty pleasure and a great way for us to snuggle up on the couch and talk about current affairs. It’s become a lighthearted ritual that I look forward to daily. If TV’s not your thing, try working out or walking the dog as a couple. It’s the togetherness that counts. Another add on to this is to have a date night without the baby at least once a month. We try to go out and have dinner or get a baby sitter and go to a concert and have drinks and make out and laugh your asses off like for a few hours. It brings us closer together and we look forward to it.
2. LEARN HOW TO FIGHT HEALTHILY
Sean’s the chill guy who will put a fight on pause to get some air. I’m the girl who will send him paragraphs of rage texts or try to always get in the last word. I had to realize that I couldn’t take back the things I said while upset. Instead, I’ve started sending my angry rants to myself. This way I get the cathartic release of letting my feelings out without escalating the fight or saying something I’ll regret.
Sidenote from Shannae: texting rants to yourself is a MAJOR KEY! I swear by it. I’ve sent myself some texts and read them the next day and was like “Thank God I didn’t send that”
3. VERBALIZE YOUR APPRECIATION
When Sean and I saw a marriage counselor, she taught us the importance of expressing gratitude for one another every single day. This is something we’ve actually gotten really good at, and it works! Whenever we can remember, a quick “You know you’re cute right?,” or “thank you for being you” really keeps the love and positive energy flowing between us. Voicing our appreciation reminds us why we love each other so much
Side note: this is a a great way to end a small argument. Right after we bicker about something I make sean Say something nice about me and I say something nice about him too. We both laugh about it and then all of a sudden we aren’t mad at each other anymore ❤️
4. KEEP GOING THROUGH HARD TIMES
Before Sean and I had Kensie, we rarely fought, and if we did it would be something dumb like “why did you watch Breaking Bad without me 😩😩”, or “You didn’t buy the ice cream I wanted 😩”, but me suddenly shifting career paths and returning to work from mat leave and then managing sleep deprivation and the stress that comes with first-time parenthood changed things drastically. Knowing that we were built on a solid core of love and friendship really helped us stick it out when things got tough. When crazy thoughts crept in we reminded each other to just keep going because this was not “us” and this tough time would pass. And thank God it did 🙏🏽❤️.
Side note: this does not apply if you are in an abusive situation or if things have always been shitty and you’re hoping your partner will change. Sean and I are not doctors or psychiatrists but if your situation is more serious or (God forbid) unsafe in any way, seek the help from family and or a professional to help you decide on how to move forward as that type of behaviour is unlikely to get better with time.
5. BE VULNERABLE
Perhaps the toughest lesson I’ve learned is the importance of vulnerability. I don’t know if it’s how I was raised but Ive always tried to hide my fears and weaknesses from others because I always thought that they could be used against me. It’s taken me decades to unlearn this and in doing so I’ve learned that sharing my vulnerabilities actually makes them less powerful. And talking to Sean about the things that scare me, things that have hurt me in the past and sharing things about myself that I need to work on has also been scary but it has also brought us closer. When I come to him with a challenge, he provides solutions. At the end of the day, Sean is my safe place and we do better when I let him in.
If there’s a code to marriage, Sean and I haven’t cracked it, but these lessons have helped a ton. Oftentimes the problem isn’t a lack of love, but a failure in communication. To better understand each other, Sean and I recently took a quiz to learn our primary love languages. Based off the New York Times bestselling book, The 5 Love Languages, the test is designed to provide couples with insight into how they best give and receive love and affection. As it turns out, Sean is big on quality time; me, not so much. Physical touch is my first language, but second to last for Sean. Being aware of these differences helps us better understand and navigate each other’s needs.
Are you trying to better understand your relationship? Take the love language test together! Sharing your results can be a great way to open the door to better communication. Whatever you do, remember that marriage is never one-size-fits-all. If you’ve got the right partner, you’ll find a way to make the journey beautiful!
All photos by @JessBaumung