Whole Parenting Family

8 Lessons from 8 Years of Marriage

Eight years ago we were wedding in Holy Matrimony and it was such a great day. I still remember trotting around my front yard at 10pm telling everyone I just don’t want this party to ever end. ALL MY FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE SAME PLACE! It was over 300 of our nearest and dearest, spanning my horse back riding days to his running days, law school friends, family from all over the country, and more.

Looking at our photos, my first thought is wow I look so young! Followed quickly by I didn’t know so much. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know. What I did know was that I was crazy in love with this man, that I wanted to be with him always and forever, and that we would figure it out.

Marriage starts to simplify, in a way, over the years. I no longer have hissy fits (is that even still a term?) over inane details. I actually know what kind of gifts he likes and doesn’t like. I actually understand his facial expressions and different intonations of grunts. I know what to expect from both of us when we go through pregnancy together, and that first year of a new baby.

Marriage also becomes more thick. The disagreements now have years to fall back on for examples of how *she always does X* or *he never does Y.* We’ve learned and accepted each other’s flaws and failings, but the emotional response to those still shifts like the aftershocks of an earthquake. Children upon children are blessings indeed, but evenings are spent getting them to go to sleep and leave little room for talking or tidying or even <<going WAY OUT THERE HERE>> doing house projects.

In eight years, I have learned at least eight things. Maybe some of these resonate for you, too. Last year I wrote about seven years of marriage, the year before six, then five, then four. Nothing like reading old blog posts.

And here are a few out-takes from the wedding or unedited action shots that made me smile!

01) you can be right or you can be married

Oh, I think I’m right. Like, almost always definitive about things in our lives. How to do something with the kids (always wear more layers and start bedtime earlier, for example). How to do something around the house. How to show love.

I’ve learned that I can either be right, or I can be married. I can’t right all the time and expect my marriage to survive. If it’s only my way or the highway, at some point, we will crumble. I try to pick my battles and let the rest go. I also respect that he can be right AND I can be right and come to different conclusions. We can actually both be right and neither of us think the other is.

02) nagging never works

Oh, maybe it gets that one task completed. But at the cost of driving my husband into the ground with my train-wrecking enthusiasm for completion? I look around our house and think about the pots that need to be moved in the backyard, the tape residue that needs to be removed from the stair handle, the blankets that need to be put away. I can gently remind him that I need help with these things, but accusing him of not doing it, when in fact, he’s busy caring for the kids in the evening, is just unkind.

When I hear my voice nagging and my tone snapping, I know I’m being unkind. Unkindness is a surefire way to build up long-term grudges. Don’t nag, Nell.

03) don’t make plans without consulting him

I’m infamous for this one. It’s Thursday evening and I remark casually (faux-casually), Oh, we’re actually going to do such and such on Saturday. Did I forget to tell you? It won’t take that long but I really wanted to see so and so and then the kids . . . . It’s a faux-casual because the reason I didn’t consult him is that I didn’t want him to say no. I wanted to commit us to  doing something before he had a say so it would be hard to get out of.

Ouch! That is a horrible control tactic! I know I’m more extroverted and that we sometimes differ on how to pace our socializing. I’d prefer to do it all the time, and he’d prefer to do it at a more normal, steady pace. Preferably when we aren’t all sleep deprived and sick, for example. Now I know that if he isn’t up for it that weekend, we can agree on a time that is better to do.

04) don’t react in anger

Easier said than done. But I know that if I just lash out? It’s usually not about him or what he said or did. It’s usually because I’m hungry or tired. If I find myself in a hot headed place, I do a mental check: when was the last time I ate something of substance? When did I last drink some water?

05) make time to laugh

For us, this usually involves SNL on our hand-me-down-half-cracked-screen iPad late at night. Say the kids are actually all sleeping and it’s 10pm. We can squeeze in a few short sketches or even a short amazon prime or netflix show. I’m not a huge drama fan (too much in my day-to-day between the kids?) but something light and fluffy that I can actually laugh at with him? Sign me up. Parks & Rec. 30 Rock. The Office.

Laugh. Laugh. It’s the best medicine. I also don’t know any jokes so I can’t do it organically. Gotta find something common to laugh about that’s not just my ratty hair.

06) enjoy at least one meal together per week

It doesn’t have to be a fancy foodie date. Ours isn’t. It just means we sit together at least once a week while one of us is eating. Usually I feed the kids around 5 and he isn’t home until 6 or after. I usually eat with the kids, but on Pizza Fridays, I’ll eat while cooking them and save a little appetite for when he gets home. Just sitting across from each other and talking while eating does the heart good.

07) let him love me

Let him love me! Let him see me in my most vulnerable and miserable of places and let him love me even then. Accept love! Don’t be defensive all the time, Nell. Don’t be ready to critique and criticize. Just receive my husband’s kind heart and love him as openly in return.

I really loved reading my old ones. This is a good tradition!


  1. Bildo on May 30, 2017 at 4:49 am

    Congratulations on eight years of marriage! Sounds like a long time, but I bet it went by quickly… I’ve been married for two years and we’re one kid in… so we’re only at the beginning of our journey. And I agree with all your advice! Great read 🙂 And you guys looked beautiful on your wedding day!

    ~Find me at the blogofbildo.com~

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 9, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      I love it. It’s a beautiful journey to be on!

  2. Emily on May 30, 2017 at 7:17 am

    Thank you for a lovely post, Nell. Food for thought! And thanks too for sharing those gorgeous wedding photos x

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 9, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      Thanks, friend!!

  3. Rachel on May 30, 2017 at 8:31 am

    #1 and #3- so SO guilty :/ thank you for the reminders!! (And your veil btw – breathtaking!)

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 9, 2017 at 9:43 pm

      haaaha aren’t we all!? Thanks, friend!

  4. Katie on May 30, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Happy anniversary! And I love reading these posts each year! We are celebrating our third anniversary today – a great day! 🙂 http://ourmilkandhoney.com/2017/05/30/three-years/

    God bless!

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 9, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      I love it!

  5. Anonymous on May 30, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Love it! But aren’t there only 7 there?

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 9, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      hahah yes!

  6. Patty on May 30, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Wishing you both the bets and happiest today and into the future <3

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 9, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      Thanks, love!

  7. Mary on May 30, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Number 3, this is exactly what I do, and I know it, and he knows it (even when I try to make it sound so innocent, “faux-casual” as you say). I find it hard to balance letting him have a say in some social plans when I know his default is to say No, and mine is probably to say Yes. Need to remember what you wrote here. We just had our 7 year anniversary, and I really resonate with this post. Especially what you say about marriage becoming thick, years of examples of how “she always does x”. Happy anniversary to you both.

    • Natural Mama Nell on June 9, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      Thanks, friend. So glad I’m not alone!!

  8. Martha on January 15, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    Thank you for this! We just had our 7th anniversary in fall, and this March will be our 16th as a couple…wow. Anyway, it’s helpful to see we all struggle with the same things, and helpful to see your thoughtful solutions. Sometimes just putting it on paper (or a blog) grounds it more 😉

    • Natural Mama Nell on February 18, 2018 at 11:38 am

      Love this!

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