Today is our five year wedding anniversary. As I reflect over the last five years of our marriage and it’s many ups and downs, I find myself crediting our seven month honeymoon for a lot of the success of our marriage so far.
From the moment we met, like literally the first date, we planned to take a long trip together through South America. I thought we might go before we got married, but my husband had other ideas. He proposed and said let’s make it our honeymoon.
We married each other on a beautiful 75 degree day at Silverfalls State Park in Oregon in front of everyone we love on July 15th, 2017. Then on Labor Day 2017, we hopped on a very long flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
We spent the next 7+ months backpacking from the tip of the continent in Ushuaia, Argentina to the jagged spires of Patagonia in Chile to the desert and salt flats in Bolivia to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru and its Amazonian Rainforest to the mountains, cloud forest and coastline of Ecuador to the coffee producing hills and Caribbean coast of Columbia to the San Blas Islands of Panama and the rainforests of Costa Rica to the volcanic lakes and choppy surf of Nicaragua to the Caribbean island of Roatan off of Honduras to the Mayan ruins on the border of Guatemala and the shores of Lake Atitlan before flying back to Miami.
During those months, we newlyweds got a unique preview of married life on steroids. We got the beautiful, spectacular moments as well as the exhausting, stressful, and sickness-filled days of a life spent on the road in a foreign country. We were challenged mentally, physically, and emotionally both on a personal level and together.
This was far from a vacation. We rarely woke up in a luxurious king bed, sat by a pool with a cocktail, and indulged in all -inclusive meal service. Instead, we woke up in bed bug-riddled dorm beds, ate street food, got traveler’s diarrhea on more than one occasion, and wore the same dirty underwear and clothes for sometimes two weeks straight before we found a laundry spot.
We were tested constantly with lack of sleep, navigating brand new places every three to four days, lugging backpacks that kept getting heavier, and long bus rides. This taught us some very important things about how to make our marriage last beyond the trip and for long into the future. Here are some of the things we learned:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate! When you are traveling like we were, there is no time for resentment, giving the silent treatment because you are mad (learned that the hard way), or miscommunication. You have needs. Your partner has needs. You are both stressed and tired at times. There’s no time for getting upset about something and then holding it in. It’s better to just communicate how you feel, what you need to be happy in the moment, and if something bothered you. You’re all you’ve got and you need to chat to get to where you’re going. So it is okay to fight a little and let each other know how you feel so you can move on. This has translated into our married life so that we rarely let something just fester and bother us. We talk it out in the moment or close to the moment and work past it so we can move on and be happy.
2. Speaking of fighting. Nine times out of ten the fight you are having has zero to do with the root cause of the fight. Maybe you’re fighting about the stench of your partners shoes in the room after a long hike. What a silly fight, and why are we even fighting in the first place?! Because our needs aren’t being met like we are hungry. Or we are tired from lack of sleep the night before. Try to take a step back from the fight at home and ask yourself, why are we actually fighting and is this particular fight really worth the battle when we could just address our deeper needs instead. Now as parents, we find this super relevant because we oftentimes find ourselves fighting over silly things only to stop and acknowledge it is just because we are exhausted, stressed, or our needs aren’t being met. Once we realize that we stop fighting over the trivial things like dishes.
3. In sickness and in health. Marriage isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and neither is travel. There will be amazing times when you both look and feel your best. There will also be times when you brushed your teethe with the water in Guatemala and you are deathly ill for over a week. We definitely saw each other at our absolute worst on this trip and had to take care of each other and forego plans to support one another through sickness. Life isn’t all fun times. You have to be able to be patient with each other, empathetic, and nurturing to get through those rough times too. Our rose colored glasses came off real fast on our honeymoon and prepared us for those real moments in our every day life. We know that we will both be there for each other through sickness and health.
4. Balance your strengths. Marriage is a partnership. You each come to the partnership with strengths and weaknesses and if you’re lucky you balance each other out and fill those gaps for other person. On the trip, I did all the planning. I booked all of the overnight stays and tours, because I love planning and Ethan does not. Ethan on the other hand was much better at the on the ground navigation and problem solving. As soon as we arrived in a new place, Ethan sprung to action grabbing both of our backpacks off the bus, hailing a cab, and giving directions in Spanish to our hostel. I was usually way too exhausted to think or move fast like him. In our normal married life, we also recognize our strengths and weaknesses and try to support each other creating a healthy balance.
5. Be present in the moment, especially the special moments, but also the simple ones like a sunset. Life is short and it can seem to pass by in the blink of an eye especially if you are always looking forward to the next thing and not enjoying the present moment you are in. On the trip, we always tried to be present and acknowledge the amazing moments we were experiencing every second. Nowadays we try our best to slow down and be present with our son and enjoy his monumental moments, but also the small ones.
6. Be grateful. We had to pinch ourselves so many times on the trip and not take it for granted. We were so grateful for the opportunity to be on the trip and have the opportunities we had to travel abroad for so long. Even when things got tough or exhausting, we had to remind ourselves to be grateful for all the things going right. In our every day life things can get real stressful and tough, but we try to always remind ourselves to be grateful for what we do have and that helps us through these tough times.
7. Shared memories help you reconnect with each other. When my husband and I get time to just relax or have a nice dinner together, we oftentimes harken back to our days on the road together. This brings us closer. We laugh, reminisce about fun or even challenging moments, and feel close again thinking about our trip together. Having shared memories like this helps us reconnect to a simpler time before work and kids and helps us find that love we built on our trip together. We will always have that trip to get us through the tough times.
8. Keep going, keep working at it, the best is yet to come! Marriage is not easy. Most older couples who are celebrating their 50th anniversaries will tell you they lasted that long, because back then when something was broke you fixed it. You didn’t throw it away. People divorce for a multitude of reasons and I’m not saying they all just quit early when it got hard, but when it does get hard for us and I want to just quit I’m reminded of all the long treks and mountains we climbed together on our trip. Trekking up Torres de Paine in Patagonia Chile or Mt. Fitz Roy in Patagonia Argentina or five days on the Inca trail in Peru to reach Machu Picchu, was not easy. I wanted to quit so badly most of the time. You know who wouldn’t let me quit!? Ethan! He would always remind me how rewarding it was when we would reach that peak or the final destination and have that Aha moment at the top looking down. The hard work was worth it for those outstanding views. It was almost more enjoyable knowing how hard we worked to get there. So when we are stressed and we are bickering a lot and it feels easy to just throw in the towel, I remind myself that there’s a spectacular view at the top of this mountain and it is worth the climb to get there.
I know it isn’t feasible for most couples to start their marriage with a 7 month honeymoon, so this is why I am sharing these universal tips we learned to make your marriage last.