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10 things I’ve learned in 10 years of marriage

Ten years ago I was a wide-eyed girl in love with the cutest guy in the university field hockey team. I was also in the middle of dealing with my parent’s divorce. Looking back, I’m always surprised that Daniel stayed with me, because my parent’s split hit me hard. I became clingy, jealous and controlling and yet Daniel held me close and got me through it all. 10 years later I get to fall in love with him all over again as I see him in his new role as a Dad and we navigate our way through the beautiful new adventure as a family of three.

January 2018, Charlotte. Laughing our way through the tears at Ensley’s housewarming party.

Daniel was my field hockey coach at the University of KZN in Pietermaritzburg. This was 2006 when I was 19 and he was 21. Everybody called him “Disco” and I didn’t find out his real name till a couple of weeks later. Daniel Deane? Just dreamy.

It was not love at first sight for me. I actually had a crush (yes, we had crushes 12 years ago) on his roommate so I would be in and out of their apartment (digs) where they both lived. I remember Daniel always playing the guitar when I came over and I came to find out that he was wooing me with his musical skills. It was the same three songs over and over, but it totally worked. I slowly started hanging out with him after practice, and I quickly realized how kind-hearted he was. It took a while for me to get under all the walls and layers he had put up trying while he was still finding himself. He took me to his parents house in Greytown one day and casually told me that he had never brought a girl home before. Whaaaaat! I had a mild freak out but I was also excited that he wanted his family to know me even though we weren’t even dating at this point. We had pizza with the family and I saw how much he loved them and made time for them even though he had two coaching jobs, played hockey himself and was studying as well. He treated his mom and sister so well, I knew he would make a great boyfriend, even without much experience.

Later in 2006 he started holding my hand on a weekend away with his family but hadn’t asked me out yet. I called him on the Monday after and told him that I don’t just hold hands with guys that aren’t my boyfriend so he asked if I wanted to make it official. We didn’t tell the hockey team because you know how girls can get when they think you’re getting more game time because you’re with the coach.

Daniel asked me to marry him in 2007. It was the most romantic proposal that involved me getting clues and driving around the city (the whole day) before reaching his parent’s house out in the bush. I had to hike down a path marked with pink flowers to the edge of a waterfall. He was standing in a suit at the bottom of the waterfall and I literally asked him if I had to jump! He had a picnic of my favorite foods and my family waiting back up at the Deane’s house for a celebratory lunch. Our proposal day was just as magical as our wedding day!

Wedding Day 2008. Providence Country Weddings, KZN.

We got married at Providence, a beautiful country wedding venue in Nottingham Road. We had a small ceremony with family and friends and it was perfect. I didn’t have a Pinterest board to help me plan but I had magazines and friends. Seriously, it’s amazing how far technology has come in just 10-12 years. The ceremony was at 4 on a Friday afternoon and we left at 11:45pm after dancing the night away with my “Disco.”

Playing tennis on our honeymoon at Champagne Sports Resort, March 2008.

I know 10 years isn’t 50, but it’s our little milestone to celebrate this year and I wanted to share some stories and things I’ve learned over the last decade:

1. Have Fun Together

I remember picking out golf shoes in the first or second year of marriage and calling the golf clubs “sticks.” He must have cringed inside because that’s a real “no no” in golf lingo, but he just laughed it off. We’ve had fun in the everyday moments and we’ve been intentional about keeping the love alive with holidays and dates. Luckily, we have a LOT of similar interests. From golf, camping, field hockey, movies, going out to dinner, playing board games, to tennis, playing in the worship band at church and especially traveling. It’s important for us to have fun together and now that we have a baby, we need to make time to do some of these things that make us laugh together. Anyone want to babysit him while we go for a round of golf?

5 Day Giant’s Cup Trail hike in the Drakensberg Mountains. South Africa, 2013

2. Make Life an Adventure

We found joy in working hard and saving for a big international trip once a year. We were actually saving some of that money for a baby, but then we went on a holiday instead #priorities. We watched a ballet at the Sydney Opera House, hiked and slept in caves in the Drakensburg, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, danced at the UMF in South Korea, walked through Central Park and drank out of coconuts in Thailand. We have a very different approach to how to do things in foreign international airports and thus have learned to communicate better with each other and have a lot of patience. I’m ready to ask for help, but Daniel is more a “suffer in silence” kind of guy.

Soaking up the Thai sun on one of the islands outside Phuket, 2010.

3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Watching Daniel pick a parking spot is pure torture. It’s so unbearable that I actually try to distract myself from watching by looking at my phone or closing my eyes. He starts to go into one, then pulls out and decides it’s not the best. He heads for another one, but that one usually doesn’t cut it, so he finally backs into a third one so far away from where we are going that I forget what we came for. It’s definitely not anywhere near to where I think is the best spot, but I’ve had to realize that it doesn’t really matter at all. He might pack the dishwasher differently, and that’s ok. He changes Oliver’s diaper differently, and that’s ok too. Don’t try to change the way your spouse does things. Or try to change them at all because all it does it create arguments. I’m getting better and better at just leaving him alone if it doesn’t actually make a difference. Why argue about who’s right and wrong? Especially if he is actually loading the dishwasher in the first place.

4. Lean on Each Other

We sold everything and moved to South Korea to teach English in 2012. We got tired of the 9-5 and wanted to experience a different culture before we settled down to have children. We decided to teach English because it seemed like a great way to find a job and accommodation all in one. It was such an incredible six months because we really were each other’s only friends until we could get out and make some. I remember on our anniversary in March we took the bus downtown to go have dinner but picked the wrong bus, missed the connection and ended up in a very dark, quiet part of town. We caught a taxi home after arguing about who picked the bus, and ended up going to a small restaurant around the corner from our house. The owners gave us some cake for free and became our good friends. We had a tough time at the school we  taught at and had to make big decisions together about staying and leaving. We really leaned on each other and the church community that we found and loved.

Hiking outside Daegu, South Korea 2012.

5. Get to Know Each Other

Daniel and I are best friends, and that doesn’t just happen overnight. Instead of just asking about each other’s day (which we do), we also like to ask the ‘bigger’ questions too. What was it like growing up as the first-born? What do you like about your parents marriage that you want for us? What makes you feel appreciated? I find that so often we just scratch the surface of what’s actually going on in our hearts. I want to know what Daniel is thinking and feeling about his work, where we are in our relationship and what we can do to make it stronger.

6. Be Positive

Daniel added this one because it hurts him to his deepest core if I say “you always leave the dishes out” or “you always forget to put out the trash.” Granted this is relationship 101 stuff, but it’s easy to forget when you are frustrated or angry. I honestly think the “Positive Discipline” approach to teaching has helped me problem solve in my marriage in the last 3 years. We use “I statements” that don’t attack the other person and make the discussions explode. For example “I felt angry when you said the house was messy, because I’m really trying hard to juggle taking care of the baby and the house chores.” Let alone the fact that he might not have been directing the comment at me, but just stating a fact that we need to clean it up at some point. That’s another lesson in itself. Don’t make assumptions.

7. Talk About Responsibilities

We did this in our marriage counseling ten years ago and now that we have had a baby and I’m at home, we need to sit down and talk about it again. Who takes out the trash? Do you alternate? Is it whoever puts the last thing in before the lid can’t close? What does Daniel expect me to get done during the day? Who does meal planning, groceries, bills, and the list goes on. Talking about these early really helped us feel like we were both contributing to the chores and meeting each other’s expectations. Right now, I look after Oliver during the day while Daniel is at work. I try to do the grocery shopping, meal planning, vacuuming, mopping, laundry and keep up with loading and unloading the dishwasher. Daniel helps a lot with Oliver when he gets home from work as well as handles all the bills and admin. He takes out the trash and helps with any chores I haven’t been able to do during the day as well as any DIY projects around the house that need attention. We both cook together unless he is bathing Oliver or has something else to take care of. We still need to officially have a talk about what we both expect from each other, because unmet expectations can brood discontent.

Pre-season Panthers game in Charlotte, USA 2015.

Surprise trip to Sodwana Bay with friends in SA 2013.

Fifa World Cup 2010, Durban, SA. Spain vs Switzerland.

8. Make Up Before You Wake Up

“Do not let the sun go down on your anger – Ephesians 4:26.”

This was the best piece of advice that we got at our wedding. Of course we didn’t listen to it a few times and those were the worse. Drawing out arguments over night and through to the next day is not worth it. I remember a couple of times throughout our marriage trying to get through a school day without sobbing through the ABCs. Sometimes it’s really hard to say sorry or initiate a resolution to an argument when you think you are not in the wrong, but it’s worse to leave it overnight. Daniel and I go to bed at the same night almost every night so if we argue, we don’t get to snuggle. I think it’s worked well for us to put down what we are doing to go to bed together. We will do that today and it’s my favorite time of the day.

9. Have Your Own Interests

Taking care of yourself is so important in a marriage. How can you give to someone else if you are unhappy? As much as we like doing stuff together, we still have our own things that we do separately. I love having coffee with friends, working on the blog, going to yoga, doing baby play dates and playing tennis matches. I have taken a break from the tennis matches but hope to start them again sometime this year. Daniel plays soccer, goes on golfing weekends and plays poker with colleagues. It’s even more important, now that we have Ollie, to get in some “me time” even if it’s just grocery shopping.

10. Have Kids When You’re Ready

We originally were going to wait two years before having kids but those two years came and went and we were not ready for that commitment. We pushed it back another two years and again we felt that we needed to travel and learn a lot more about ourselves before bringing a child in to the world.

We made the move to USA in 2013 with the thought that it’s a safe place to raise children, plus we’d would have the support of my mom and stepdad, who had moved here two years before. In 2016 I realized I needed to quit my teaching job because it was too stressful.  Teaching is seriously one of the most stressful (and underpaid) jobs and I was not doing anyone a favor by spreading myself so thin. I even went to France for eight weeks at the end of the school year to recharge and hit the refresh button. I came back even more in love with my McDeaney and ready to start talking about having children. (Daniel was very ready at this point.) Nine years just the two of us was perfect, and we welcomed Oliver into our family in October. Now we’re figuring out our new normal as mom and dad!

Thanks for letting me ramble away about the last decade.

How do you keep the love alive?

What have you learned over the years?

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Hi, I'm Kendra

I am a qualified Montessori teacher and yoga teacher up to my ears in diapers, toy cars and the best kisses a mama can handle. I am passionate about connecting with moms and supporting each other on this journey of motherhood. I share family-friendly recipes, my pregnancy, postpartum and parenting journey, Montessori inspiration, and products we loveI am a South African living in the US with my hubby and two boys.

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