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What Ten Years of Marriage Taught Me About Myself



Image source: Evelina Friman

Marriage can teach you a lot about your partner. In addition, there are many things that people can learn about themselves from their marriage. Last week marked ten of marriage between my husband and I. We’ve come to understand ourselves as an individual within a partnership through all the ups and downs and bittersweet memories. Here are some things that my marriage taught me about who I am.


Sharing a home and similar values with a partner can feel safe. This all becomes muddled in a marriage when we suddenly become like two peas in a pod and forget who we are. Sometimes, who I am as an individual versus who my husband is as an individual became blurred. I think this is where my resentment stemmed; I felt like I couldn’t be me without his approval and I questioned myself all the time. For some people, they can become so codependent that they can’t be who they are without their partner. That leads me to ask the question: When you walk into a room full of people without your partner, who are you without that person?

Sharing similarities can be a great thing because it’s what bond people together. However, I had to remember that I have my own identity – my own career, dreams, and thoughts and feelings. It can be easy for someone to feel, think, or do something a certain way based on his or her partner’s perspective. My husband and I are very different so it’s great when we can be our own persons – doing the things we enjoy and pursuing our own passions – and still bond together in activities that we share like taking walks, enjoying family time, and trying new food. To me, this is healthy.


How often do live our lives feeling like our partner did something intentionally to ignite a fire in our engine? I’ve learned that there’s this thing we call grace that most of us probably don’t think often enough about. Grace is acting in a civil manner, showing your partner respect, and giving them the courtesy that what they said or did wasn’t done in malice.

For a long time, I had a hard time believing that my husband didn’t do things intentionally to irk me. For example, one time he bought boots that were three sizes too small. Then, there was the time when he told me that he had a surprise trip planned for my birthday (so sweet) just to say while we’re driving to our destination that he needed me to plan the details of the trip because the only thing he planned was driving me there (are you for real?). He thought he was being mindful in getting my input; I thought he was being an intentional jerk. If he explained himself, I’d turn to the next thing I did best and that was to tell myself that he didn’t care enough and that’s why he half-assed things.

Have you ever watch a child’s behavior when they know they’ve done something bad? They’re so scared to say anything knowing full well that there’s a chance mommy or daddy might be mad. But when mommy or daddy responds with, “It’s okay. I know it was an accident and you didn’t mean to,” they are surprised by such an understanding response. The same goes for our partners when we give them grace. It’s not giving them an excuse to not be mindful. It’s showing them that you are committed to loving them unconditionally and knowing for yourself that their heart is in the right place.


Do you have friends or know someone who brings their plus one with them everywhere? It’s so easy to want to do things together and I think my husband and I did that for most of our marriage. However, as our marriage progressed, it was apparent that I needed my own time even within my own home. I need my own space to think, write, and take in my surroundings without needing to have a conversation all the time. Sometimes I enjoyed going to museums alone or hanging out in the bedroom reading by myself.

As a child, I’ve always needed my own space. I liked to write so I enjoyed spending time alone writing in my notebook. During my first year of college, my friends would pry me from my dorm room, but they realized that there were times when I liked to be alone. Yet, it seemed so selfish to take me time in a partnership even though the person that I am – the one who liked to be alone sometimes – never changed. My marriage taught me that having my own space is key to my mental health.

So, tell me, what is it that your marital journey taught you about yourself?

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  1. Dennis Fernkes

    August 23rd, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Hi Shirly,

    I stumbled on your blog just by chance after you decided to purchase a painting from me. When you get back to Minnesota to pick up the painting, I would enjoy talking to you about this latest entry and your blog regarding marriage. My wife and I were married 26 years until cancer ended her life. I gave her all the space she needed, because she was a little bit obsessive compulsive and spent hours in her bathroom making notes of everything that she had done that day. I have often felt that we could have had a richer life together if we had spent that time in another way. But I also enjoyed my own space as well. I don’t want to go into it anymore at this time, but if you have the time when you come to pick up the painting, I would enjoy talking to you more.