Marriage Reflections: 5 Years Later


Tomorrow marks my 5 year anniversary with TJ. When we started this new year, I had a hard time grasping the fact that we were rapidly approaching year 5. Where did all the time go?? The past few weeks we have been reflecting on the past 5 years… looking at old photos, reminiscing about good times, and cringing at those not so good times (oh you know, unexpected car repairs, health issues… the not so fun stuff!). We’ve also talked a lot about how marriage is simply different than “dating.” When we got married, I (TJ included here) simply assumed that we would smoothly transition from boyfriend/girlfriend to husband/wife. Wrong. You see, we didn’t live together before we got married, so there were A LOT of transitions that had to occur (like the fact that the duvet I bought for our bed prior to me moving into our condo was missing a button the first night….). It was sort of like having to date each other all over again, except this time it was legal (and I say that in the most positive of ways). So, as we approach the date that we said “I do” 5 years ago, I thought I would share how we navigated through our first 5 years of marriage.

1. Read “Love Languages:” This was a book that I heard about in graduate school and thought that it was really only for struggling couples. Quite the contrary. It’s for couples who don’t want to become struggling couples. I once heard the concept behind the book explained this way: When you pick out a gift for someone, you buy them a gift that they want. If you bought them a gif that you wanted, it likely wouldn’t have much significance for them. That rang a bell for me. I knew how I needed to be loved, and assumed that was the same way that TJ would want to be loved. Incorrect assumption. When we read the book together, identified our own “love language(s),” and put together a plan to love the other in a way that fills their bucket, we started to fall in sync with one another. We felt more fulfilled in our relationship. And, without sounding harsh, we stopped using our energy to show each other that we cared in the wrong way.

2. Know Your Hot Buttons: This goes for the individual and the couple. As an individual, I realized that I brought my own expectations, as did TJ. Knowing ourselves well enough to know what would trigger frustrations has helped us both know how to address sensitive topics more effectively. On the couple level, it was important for us to figure out what our “couple issue” would be. Having facilitated couples therapy in my early training, I was keenly aware that couples typically argued about the same topic every session. The actual issue was rarely the problem, but more or less, the underlying concern or fear, as well as the way the conversation centered around it (typically critical and invalidating of the other). Being aware of what our couple issue was empowered us to be proactive in hearing each other and helping the other to feel validated and heard. In case you’re wondering, the hot topics for all couples centers around money, religion, intimacy, time, and child rearing.

3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: I realize this sounds so cliche, but it is so true. In order to be able to address the first two points, we realized we needed to be able to effectively communicate with one another. We both tend to lean on the defensive side… you know, getting our point across in reaction to the other’s point. This was a recipe for disaster. We realized that we needed to employ two main strategies. The first? Listen before we speak and speak to understand the other’s perspective (it’s not always perfect, but it has certainly helped). The second? Take breaks. Sometimes conversations get frustrating (especially when you have two very passionate people like the two of us :)) and we realized that once we reached the point where defensiveness was taking over, it was time to take a break. Table the conversation for a little while. This didn’t mean we forgot the conversation, it simply meant that we took an adult time out, gained some individual perspective, and then approached the issue again. In a much different state. I also needed to learn to tell TJ exactly what I needed from him. Instead of being a crazy lady, expecting him to read my mind, and then getting mad when he didn’t (“What do you mean you didn’t go to the store to pick up more pineapple slices??) I learned to say what I wanted and what I needed. That certainly helped. A lot. Humor helps too…. TJ is typically good at injecting this at just the right moment.

4. Cultivate Shared Interests: When we got married, we promised one another that we would always work on maintaining and re-establishing our connection. As a couple we always enjoyed traveling and being active together. Moving through the past 5 years we have found that traveling is our “thing.” Something we save for, something we plan for, and something we know will always reconnect us. We have our own little traditions when we travel (champagne is always a must…), but the most important part is the time and commitment we are putting into each other. It’s not that we forget about it during the week, it’s just that life gets busy, the 9-5 can be a grind, and sometimes we just have to set aside a weekend for each other. On a smaller scale, we try to reserve Friday nights for each other as well. It’s our time to reconnect, unwind, and enjoy each other’s presence without having to be somewhere the next day.

5. Cultivate Separate Interests: Just as important as shared interests, separate interests help you maintain your sense of self. I have always loved running, shopping with my friends, and exploring new areas. While TJ enjoys a run here and there, the abnormal number of miles I enjoy running isn’t always in the cards for him. Sometimes he just wants to sleep in on a Saturday and do “nothing.” That IS NOT me and that’s okay. Several times a year we both try to set aside weekends where we can reconnect with our friends for an extended period of time. Happy hours with friends and a Saturday spent doing our own thing, helps us to reestablish ourself with ourself and makes us better together.

As we prepare to head down to San Diego to celebrate this weekend, I also can’t wait to see what the next 5 years holds for us. We have some fun trips planned, would love to welcome a little bundle of joy (or two), and continue to love on our little fur baby. That’s the exciting thing about life… I never thought this is where we would be when we got married (and I mean that in a good way!), so I can’t wait to see where these next 5 years take us!

{Wedding Photography via Mike Larson}


  1. Happy Anniversary!!

  2. Annette Roberts says:

    Well spoken, Shannon !!! Excellent reminders of what makes a marriage work and how to KEEP it working !!! Congratulations on your fifth anniversary !!! Much love, Gram

    • Shannon&Allison says:

      Thank you Gram! We learned from great models too, like you and grandpa 🙂

  3. Andrea Killian says:

    I LOVE this! They are great reminders and wonderful wisdom as we celebrate our 1 year wedding anniversary this Sunday as well! The time certainly does fly faster and faster each year! Happy Anniversary and thank you for sharing this!

    • Shannon&Allison says:

      Congratulations to you!! Thank you so much for your kind words! I hope you had a wonderful weekend celebrating!!