It happened like clockwork—a red truck would appear, and I felt instant butterflies.
I was 16 the first time I ever saw him.
You can call it a cliche, but we met at the coffee shop. (And, yes, I walked down the aisle at our wedding to “falling in love at a coffee shop.” Our romance was a slow romance. It took five years—and three months of free coffee—until we finally went on our first date.
The man of my dreams finally asked me out. We both knew there was a significant age gap (11 years), but we didn’t let that hold us back. We also didn’t let the side-eye from friends or the “are you sure about this?” comments from our family hold us back too.
In fact, even after learning that we grew up in polar opposite ways, it convinced us more that we wanted to grow old together in our own way.
For the past 12 years, I have been in love with Nigel... And it has been a totally chaotic sh*t show. Many people said we would fail, and, honestly, they had good reason to believe it. We are unconventional to the core—but here we are approaching one decade of marriage.
The last ten years have been the toughest (and most fulfilling) work I’ve ever done. And I want to let you in on how we did it.
So here are my top 10 tips in honor of our ten years of marriage!
Happily engage in trade-offs. Do things you don't want to do because you know it makes them happy—and do it with a smile! (Don’t track it to use against them later.)
Use your words wisely. Always speak to your partner like you would want them to talk to you.
Confront confrontation. Don't shy away or sweep things under the rug. Face them head-on—within 24 hours. You can't bring up an issue from a week ago! And if it isn’t noteworthy, move on.
Pick your battles. If you’re unsure whether to bring something up or start an argument, ask yourself whether you will remember it in 5 days, five weeks, or 5 months, or even five years. Chances are, you’ll forget in 5 minutes.
DATE, DATE, DATE! Do you know what is exciting about dating? Surprises, gifts, trying new things, stepping outside your box, and the newness of it all!
Speaking of which...KEEP newness part of your relationship! It is EASY to drop into a mundane routine. What is FUN is keeping things new and exciting. So don't get lazy; get motivated! Happy couples are happy couples because they continue to explore.
Hug and kiss...ALWAYS! No matter how modest you are, touch can heal and speak volumes. Don’t believe me? Here’s an exercise I learned from Collin Kartchner (a fantastic human who passed too soon). Whenever you feel your next argument coming, ask for a hug and count to eight. I bet your shoulders drop, and you forget why you were yelling.
Have fun riding the highest highs and the lowest lows. Marriage isn't cut and dry. And life isn’t either. Both of you will see highs and lows, and the universe is bound to throw you curveballs—all at different times. My advice? Make finding your balance together fun.
Don’t forget to be human. Marriage is a commitment to a flawed human—and you, my love, are equally flawed. (Sorry, that's just the truth, and you know how much I love a good truth bomb!) So remember to be human when life, or your marriage, gets hard and give each other, and yourself, a break.
Think past the wedding. Marriage isn't about saying "I do" or having a photo-worthy "wedding." If you aren't married yet, I encourage you to get clear on whether you want a wedding or marriage. (Because these two things are totally different!)
And my advice for those still searching, ask yourself constantly how you would like to be loved—and then don’t settle for any less.
My marriage works, and it will continue to because one of us never gave up on the other. We have been through many things most humans will never endure. Foreclosure, miscarriages, death, audits, lawsuits, no money, no laughter, no love, no time, and the list goes on.
But I'll be damned if it isn't "always an adventure with Nigel." And that adventure has been worth it, every day for the last ten years because we choose to love each other, "every way, always, and forever."
After all, marriage is the biggest commitment and the most demanding work you'll ever do. So if you are married, congratulations on the toughest, most beautiful work of your life. I hope these tips serve you and your love well. Because true love? It’s worth working on.