20 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years of Marriage.

I’m a child of divorce, several times over.
Well, technically twice, but since my mother and step-father split up and got back together a time or two unofficially before making it official, I think I can safely call it ‘several’.
You might say I grew up without a very positive example of what a successful marriage or relationship looked like.
You might be right (unless you count the Bradys or the Keatons, of course).

I met my husband the first week of my freshman year of college, and other than a platonic date here and there in high school (meaning two) had never before had a real boyfriend.
Frankly, the thought scared me to death.
So I came into the relationship cold; without any kind of a map that might help me navigate the path and progression it ultimately took.

That was in 1987.
26 years ago.
Yesterday was our 20th wedding anniversary, so you might say I figured it out and did okay.
You might, once again, be right.

Over the past 24 years (20 married and 5 dating but let’s call it 4 since it was at least a year before I decided he was a keeper) I’ve learned a few things. Some things that, looking back — and ahead — are vitally important not only for a successful marriage, but for sanity and survival as well.
Some things that you should know right out of the gate, and some things that it can take years to figure out.
Things that it takes two people to learn and to know and to live.
Because if one is a giant ass-hat, good luck.

20 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years

  1. Let the little things go. Seriously. Let. Them. Go.
  2. The most important thing you can give each other, other than a kick-ass back rub, of course, is R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And that respect you show each other? It’s also the most important thing you can give your children.
  3. It’s important to share and talk, but don’t forget to listen. Or act like you’re listening.
  4. You don’t always have to shave.
  5. Silence can be as comfortable as that robe you’ve also had for 20 years. A lot can be said by words unspoken.
  6. Telepathy is real, and as the years go on will freak you out every time it happens, which is often.
  7. There’s always a bigger picture. Find it.
  8. Candlelight and wine doesn’t stand a romance chance in hell against a man who will clean the kitchen and handle the bedtime routines while you take a bath.
  9. A Friday evening trip together — without kids — to Target or Home Depot can be as wonderful and relaxing as a night at a fancy restaurant.
  10. Staying on the same team can make all the difference in winning the game.
  11. If you don’t act like a maid, you won’t get treated like one.
  12. Gray hair is surprisingly sexy. As is no hair.
  13. Don’t be a bitch unless absolutely necessary.
  14. It’s not about fixing each other’s problems; it’s about facing them together.
  15. Showering together isn’t nearly as much fun as you might think and can actually cause injury (or so I’ve heard).
  16. The tough times, while at the time may seem unbearable, are the times that bind you even closer.
  17. Finding humor in the mundane and laughing together every day is the very best foreplay.
  18. I’m still always right, but I don’t always need to let that be known.
  19. Keep liking each other.
  20. It’s not about how much you’ve created, but about what you’ve created.

Somehow, all those years ago, some lucky stars fell my way and I found a guy who not only makes me laugh every day, but who has never, in all these years, treated me with anything other than the utmost respect and made me feel safe and loved and supported. And who gives me a kick-ass back rub anytime I ask.
And that’s helped make navigation pretty damn easy, even without the map.


Related posts:
My Other Half
The Father I Never Had


  1. Jessica Who? on June 20, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    thanks so much for sharing this!

    • Michelle on June 24, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      You’re welcome, my dear! Print it out.
      j/k….but maybe not.

      🙂 Thanks for the RT, too!

  2. Laura on June 21, 2013 at 1:40 am

    I disagree with #15, only because we have 15 years experience showering together. It’s like learning how to dance with each other, and it is a lot of fun, believe me.

    • Michelle on June 24, 2013 at 3:36 pm

      Well, since watching us dance is like watching the spaz at the middle school dance, that explains it.

  3. Jeneral Insanity on June 21, 2013 at 11:54 am

    #’s 13 and 15 had me laughing so hard that I almost peed my pajama pants. As far as the kick-ass back rub is concerned? My recent ex bought me a crappy massager when I was pregnant with his child because he didn’t want to be bothered. I picked wrong…

    Amazing list! I love this from head to toe, and next time around, will be more selective. #1 is the most important, I think. It really IS the little things, and some of “those” can make or break a relationship. Kudos, lady love.

    Congrats on your 20th anniversary, by the way! That’s awesome! <3

    • Michelle on June 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      Ohhh, honey — you DID get a rotten one. Next time, the “back-rub” test will be the make-it or break-it, ‘kay?? 🙂
      Thanks for all your kind words!! xo

  4. Teri Biebel on June 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    #17 is the truest among all of them. But they all are awesome. As are you! Here’s to many more happy anniversaries!!

    • Michelle on June 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks, my sweet!!

  5. Amy FunnyIsFamily on June 24, 2013 at 2:54 am

    I love your perspective. I’m going to ask for more backrubs in my next ten years of marriage. Congratulations on 20 years!

    • Michelle on June 24, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      DO IT.
      After awhile, they’ll even get the message that there is to be NO HIDDEN AGENDA involved.
      Well…not really, but enough years have gone by that you lose a little bit of the guilt. 😉


  6. Helen Handley on June 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Happy Anniversary!

  7. Jessica, Science of Parenthood on June 24, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Nice … wise words!

  8. mompson.com on June 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Love this! Our 4th wedding anniversary is this week and it’s SO IMPORTANT for us to remember all of these things in the midst of our hectic (dominated by an 17 month old) life! Thanks for sharing!

  9. mompson.com on June 24, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Love this! Our 4th wedding anniversary is this week and it’s SO IMPORTANT for us to remember all of these things in the midst of our hectic (dominated by a 17 month old) life! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Kathy Radigan on June 24, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Great list!! My husband and I celebrated our 20th this March. It goes fast doesn’t it?!! I think liking each other is so important, and I completely agree that being on the same team is really vital!! Congratulations!!

  11. Kathy Glow on June 25, 2013 at 1:29 am

    Happy anniversary. I love that you say that it’s not how much you create but what you create. And the tough times…if you can get through those you’re golden. Thanks so much for sharing.

  12. Dani Ryan on July 6, 2013 at 1:52 am

    Congrats on 20 years!! We’ll be celebrating our 6th anniversary next month, and all of these speak to me.

    I love that you found your one-and-only so early on in life. It took my husband and me a lot longer to get there, but it was so worth the wait. When you know, you know, right?!


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