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Five Things I'm Learning About Married Love

28/04/2014 17:58 BST | Updated 28/06/2014 10:59 BST

Married for three months now, my husband and I are already learning important lessons about our marriage that will help form the basis of how our love for each other develops and grows over the years to come. Reflecting on lessons learned so far, here are five things that have struck me as particularly significant since saying 'I Do'.

1) Married love is not unconditional love

One of the first things our marriage counsellor told us during marriage preparation was 'married love is not unconditional love'. We are two whole people coming together to create one whole marriage. We have chosen each other, and chosen a life together, on the conditions held within the vows we have made. We have a responsibility to live out those vows, to respect the marriage we're creating and the family we are by actively loving each other, rather than expecting marriage to 'happen' without any conscious input.

It's not okay to check out and refuse to participate. That's not what our marriage is about. We are accountable, both of us, and we both have to put the effort in. We are builders, and we have a responsibility to build! We have a responsibility to be kind. To put each other's needs before our own. Marriage requires mutual effort, respect, love. These are conditions we're committed to meeting, over and over.

2) Married love requires communication

My husband, talented as he is at many things, isn't a mind reader. Neither am I (although I do love to get the tarot cards out now and again!) When we fail to communicate, we inevitably construct a story in our heads justifying our upset and persecuting each other. Yet when we reach out and say 'I need to tell you something' or 'I'm feeling like this at the moment', the need to build a defence dissipates and we have a better shot at a loving conversation.

The amount of times I forget this is maddening! It's so simple: communicate our thoughts and needs, and listen attentively in return. Actually, swap those two around. Aim to listen before speaking. If we prioritise each other in this way, we'll both be heard, and we'll build a story together rather than building stories separately.

3) Married love means we are on the same team, now and forever

It's natural to disagree and to argue at times, but it sure helps to remember that my husband and I are on the same team. More often than not when I take a step back I realise we're on the same side, we're just coming at it from different angles. And when we do disagree and can't seem to find a way to bridge the gulf between our opinions, it pays to remember that we can be on the same team while respecting each other's stances.

It's amazing how easy it can be to forget you're on the same team as your spouse. I remind myself that I chose my husband and he chose me to create a marriage together. Marriage takes two! Letting go of the little things, forgiving far more frequently than chastising or holding grudges, re-framing each other's annoying habits as harmless quirks (!), celebrating all of the reasons we love each other, reminding each other of the type of marriage we'd like to build, all help remind us there is only one team, our team. We're getting there!

4) Married love is healing love

Married love may not be unconditional love, but married love has an incredible capacity for forgiveness and for acceptance. We're human, we make mistakes, we don't always do the right thing or achieve what we'd like to achieve. Having a husband who finds it easy to say 'it's OK, I'm proud of you, I love you' is a wonderful support, vital during difficult times.

Married love also isn't afraid to gently tell us when we've messed up, hurt someone's feelings, made the wrong call. My husband and I encourage each other to reflect on our actions and our choices relating to work, friends, family, and our relationship without judgement or scorn. We encourage each other to be accountable; that's how you grow, after all.

5) Married love brings freedom

There's something truly liberating about committing wholeheartedly to each other, choosing to be together for the rest of our lives. I feel confident and strong knowing I have my husband rooting for me, and that I'm rooting for him; that we have a safe, sturdy springboard to launch from when working on achieving our goals and dreams. We have roots, we have an anchor, and that brings freedom to strike out and grow together, knowing we will love and support each other throughout.

Often marriage is talked about as if it's 'the end'. 'Settling down', wanting to 'live life to the fullest' first. Truthfully, marriage doesn't feel like an end at all. It feels like an amazing beginning, with so much potential. I don't feel restricted or limited or 'tied down'; I feel supported, uplifted, and loved for who I am. There is no urge or need to hide, and there is freedom in sincerity.

My husband and I are at the very beginning, and there is so much we've still to learn. We know there isn't such a thing as a 'perfect marriage'. We can only build our marriage, appreciating the lessons we learn along the way and striving to bring out the best in each other. Married love is not to be underestimated!

This post originally appeared on To Marry Completely