3 Lessons I’ve Learned in 3 Years of Marriage


As of 3:00 p.m. today, Courtney and I have been married exactly 3 years!

Part of me feels like time is absolutely flying and the other half feels like we’ve been married twenty-three years.

It’s been a whirlwind over the last 3 years, with no more than 9-10 months between any two of these consecutive life events:

  • Engaged
  • Married
  • Pregnant
  • Start a business
  • Milligan Born
  • Sell Everything
  • Start a business
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Thailand

We’ve certainly not been perfect… and I’m certainly not going to be spouting off “advice” in this category.  (For that I’ll ask my grandparents, who’ve been married well over 55-ish years now).

That being said, I will share 3 lessons I’ve learn myself in 3 short years of marriage:

  • Marry someone you believe in and who believes in you. This is something that I got right.  I know with 100% certainty that Courtney believes in me.  She believes I have insane potential in whatever I do.  Lots of people in your life will say they believe in you, but then there are a few that really do.  And I feel the same way about Courtney.  I don’t love her because she’s fun to be around… or because she’s goofy, intelligent, a good photographer, or even because she’s an engaging and compassionate mother.  Those are just positive personality traits or skills.  I actually believe in her.  I believe she’s fundamentally remarkable.  I believe that as amazing as she is now, she’s only at 20% of her potential.  Because I honestly believe that, I not only want to help her get there…  I want to be there for the ride!
  • Marry someone flexible. It sounds foo-foo, but I believe the old saying…  the only thing that is consistent in the world is change. I’m lucky, once again, to have found someone that is ridiculously flexible.  I’m not talking about a push over (I dare you to come try to push over Courtney).  I’m talking about real flexibility.  Someone who is willing to roll through life’s punches together and most importantly someone who encourages you to be flexible as well.  By nature, I not very flexible at all.  I have an addictive and compulsive personality, which lends itself well to mastering a specific task, but not so much to achieving balance and flexibility.  Over the last 3 years, I’ve made great strides in this area by sleeping next to a great role model.
  • Learn to be confidently vulnerable. How’s that for a lesson?  I’m being serious though.  To me, the ability to be 100% completely and truly vulnerable to another person is the very essence of marriage.  It’s the ability to sit down on the couch, grab your spouse’s hand, and say, “Honey, I really feel…  xyz…” Where xyz is completely open and without any hidden agenda.  This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to learn to do in my entire life, but it’s amazing when I actually do it.  Any fights or disagreements are almost always from when one of us is hiding under our hard shell or one of us has ulterior motives (or sometimes both). At the same time, you don’t want to be a whiny, unstable bozo… emotionally rocky and frantic all the time.  So that’s where I dubbed the term confidently vulnerable.  Know that you are vulnerable, accept it, and genuinely show that to you spouse.  That’s the number one lesson I’ve learned over these three years.

Let me also tell you this, now that I know the consistent work and dedication that goes into only three years of marriage…  I can’t even begin to fathom what it’s like to be married 10, 20, even 50 years like my grandparents.

I have much, much more respect for people who’ve managed to build healthy relationships over a long period of time.  In my mind, there’s no such thing as “soul mates”.  I used to look at what I considered to be long marriages and think, “Oh, they’re just meant to be together.”

Bullcrap. They’ve worked their butts off to achieve what others contribute to being “soul mates”. I know that know  now.  And I’m ready to spend the next 50 years of my life busting my butt to make other people think Courtney and I are “just meant to be together.”

I love you, honey!


88 thoughts on “3 Lessons I’ve Learned in 3 Years of Marriage”

    1. There were several factors. First, it’s a LOT cheaper (at least here) to get married in March compared to May. Almost everything is between 30-50% of what it is in high season. 🙂

      We also wanted to try to time it so my brother (U.S. Army) may be able to come home. This gave him the best chance, although he didn’t end up getting the leave. 🙂

  1. As someone who has been married a little more than half that time, I can see that they are all true. And I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that people aren’t just “meant to be together” – it’s a cop-out for those who don’t want to put in the hard work.

    I’ve been reading, first time I’ve commented! Great post!

  2. Hey Adam,

    Congrats on the 3 year mark. I’m not married, but that confidently vulnerable advice is something I can completely relate to. Looking back at many of my relationships the guard I’d put up when I Was upset was what caused most of my arguments as well. So, that’s great advice whether somebody is married or not.

    1. Yeah, that last one has been the most recent development of the three (aka taken me the longest to learn). 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Congratulations, Adam and Courtney!!

    Having just made it past my first decade of marriage, I can honestly say that your conclusion here is brilliant: it takes work, I don’t care who you are, or how it started. If you are going to make a marriage last, particularly in this day and age (when most people just walk away at the first sign of trouble), it’ll take patience and dedication. But what endeavor could possibly be more rewarding than creating a stable, loving home for yourselves, for Milli, and for any future siblings she may have? You guys are off to an awesome start! 🙂

    1. “But what endeavor could possibly be more rewarding than creating a stable, loving home for yourselves, for Milli, and for any future siblings she may have?”

      None! 🙂

  4. Congratulations to you both.
    Whilst I, like you, am predisposed not to offer marital advice I would add one thing to your list:
    Marry someone you love, admire and respect.

  5. Congrats! Belief is definitely something that helps. When my wife decided to pursue teaching about 4 months ago, it was a total 180 on her current career, and quite honestly, it was a shock to my system. I’m very straight-lined and like my “comfort zones.” So although it was really hard for me to shift with the tide, I knew I needed to support her 100% and I know she can succeed at it!

    1. I think that is Courtney and I biggest strength. We can honestly support each other in pursuits just as you’ve outlined. It’s not easy, but we are starting to get some experience at it! 😉

  6. Baker – Congrats! From your list, the thing I find most important is believing in one another. It is difficult enough to believe in yourself sometimes. Having someone who really believes in you – always – is hard to find – and important to keep.

    1. Very true, Adrienne. We all need support to prop us up. Hopefully, when one person is down the other can inject belief and vice versa. And when both parties are clicking… watch out!

  7. Baker – a huge congratulations to you and Courtney! Given the list of things you’ve been through together, I’m not surprised that the three years feels much longer (in a good way, of course).

    I hear what you’re saying about the hard work that a relationship takes – but at the same time I wouldn’t entirely discount the idea of a soul mate, or someone with whom you’re naturally compatible. Being with your soul mate doesn’t mean everything will be easy; it just means you’re ready to work through it with him or her.

    Congrats again, man!

    1. When I say “soul mate” I mean the concept of having 1 true person out there for every person. I don’t give that much merit.

      Although, I do feel you about being naturally compatible. There are definition combination that make things easier than others, but like you pointed out it’s not going to take all the work out of it!

      Thanks for the great comment!

  8. Congrats, Baker! You know I’m all about great marriages, and I really enjoyed your insights. I especially like your phrase “confident vulnerability” as that’s definitely a key to meaningful communication.

  9. Baker,

    I agree with most of your posts ( I still have a problem with getting rid of ALL of the credit cards) but this one is has to be among your best posts ever.

    First, congratulations to you and Courtney! I wish society spent more time focusing on celebrating marriage and reinforcing ways to help people make them better.

    Second, you guys understand marriage is hard work and you are willing to fight for it no matter what. And guess what, its worth it.

    Finally, you get that its ok to have a bad day or be something less than perfect in front of each other. This makes life alot easier!


    1. Wayne, credit cards or not I really appreciate this comment! 😉 You’ve nailed the exact essence of what I was going for. Thanks for letting me know!

  10. A very happy anniversary for you two (and the little one can join in, too)!

    Eat some cake! Or since you’re in Thailand, I don’t know…bok choy! Delicious anniversary bok choy!

  11. Happy Anniversary!

    I agree entirely with your third bullet point – It’s sooo important to be able to spill your guts – no matter how ugly they may be. It seems to mitigate any would-be fights…

    In fact, we once realized that we didn’t have any experience fighting – and wondered if that would come back to haunt us someday – wondered if we should pick some small fights just to practice. 🙂

    Enjoy you day!

  12. I’ve been married twice – my first one failed and the absence of those 3 things were major causes.

    Current/second marriage is going on 5 years and like you, depending on the day, it can either feel like 5 years or 55 years, but all three of those qualities are present in copious amounts. It’s great to know someone is there pushing you to be your best, but will also pick you up when you fail.

  13. Happy anniversary to you both!

    I have to say, I’m surprised you’ve only been married for three years… March 21st is three years for the hubs and I, just sans kiddo. 😛

    For us, being military and watching most marriages fall apart in a matter of months really hits home that it’s more work than most people are willing to put in. I will definitely attest to the fact that it is a *lot* of work. (Especially when you hardly see each other, opposite schedules suck and when you’re tired all the time it’s extremely hard at times to remember to be nice.)

    1. Wow, we aren’t too far away then!

      Yeah I can’t imagine working on a marriage while serving my country. Luckily, I don’t have to because others do. It would terribly difficult.

  14. Congrats! Eric and I passed the three year mark in November. I really like your first point. It amazes me how much Eric believes in me. He’s supported every stupid idea I’ve had and he is the first person to cheer me on in just about everything I do. The time has flown but I also feel like we know each other inside and out. I’m sure that feeling only grows when you have children!

  15. With only 3 years under your belt you definitely get it. It’s taken me more than one walk down the isle to understand how important your 3 points are. I think one and two (‘someone who believes in you’ and ‘someone who is flexible’) kind of co-exist.
    I get that everyday from my partner and when I stop and think about it I give it back to him too (OK, maybe it’s every OTHER day that I give back!).

  16. Congratulations on your 3 years of marriage! We’re counting down the days until our wedding on April 22nd. My first, her second, and we’re happily escaping the rain of Portland, OR for the sunny (hopefully) beaches of Kauai.

    I’ve been devouring all of the content on your blog since I discovered it a couple weeks ago. Keep the content flowing!


  17. Congrats. Though I give her a hard time, I’m fortunate enough to have found a wife I can say the same about. She’s stuck with me through thick and thin and told her parents to go jump in the lake when they failed to understand the long-term benefit of decisions I was making that had short-term drawbacks.

    …though my wife does insist that we’re soulmates.

    Here’s to many more years of positive anniversary blog posts!

  18. from the looks and sounds of it, you found a great mate when you found Courtney.
    I love that you separated out the difference between Flexibility and Pushoveriness;
    huge difference.

    And you’re so right to say you need to marry someone who believes in you. That’s something I look forward to finding (…one of these days) 🙂

    Cheers, to you both. Congratulations.

  19. Congrats to both of you. It sounds like you have a fantastic thing going and I wish you all the best. Being “confidently vulnerable” is very much the antithesis of “blissfully ignorant” which is where I find many of my guy friends. This stuff takes work, all of it. Marriage, finances, career, parenting. Great words of encouragement, I’m rapidly approaching the ten year mark myself and this is a kick in the pants to make sure I’m giving my wife as much time as my other pursuits.

  20. Happy anniversary! Jaszy and I will be celebrating three years in November. You couldn’t be more right in your lessons. Here’s to many more happy and educational years.

  21. Well, I think you have a very lucky wife who has found a husband so willing and open to talk about his marriage happiness publicly like you do. Congratulations!

  22. Congrats, before I’d read your post, non-verbally Courtney’s smile in the pic seemed to already speak volumes! Seems a testament to your ongoing journey together, long may it continue as such….

  23. I just wanted to say THANKS Adam… Thanks for breaking it down for me and reminding me WHY I love my wife and why I believe we are soulmates… The belief in each other is HUGE!!! It’s easy to believe when things are going well but my wife, Lee Ann, has stuck by my side through thick and thin and thick and thin…. honestly its been one wild roller coaster ride… but at the end of the day regardless of how things are going we have each other to hold on to… we need to work on the confidently vulnerable part but we’ve made it through 16 years so far and triumphed adversities galore… we’ve had our share of moments when in frustration we were ready to throw in the towel because THAT would be easy.. but we have always managed to work things out and are a stronger couple for it…

    Till death do us part…


  24. Well said Adam – this is something I really wanted to talk to you about one-on-one, because I really do think you have a unique situation with a wife and child along on this “journey” with you – and, at least from the outside looking in, you balance everything extremely well – this balancing act isn’t something a lot of folks openly talk about/write about, but it’s out there, and a LOT of people, myself included, are dealing with it. Thanks for putting this together, all extremely valid points. Cheers buddy!

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  26. This is a very nice post Baker! Even if there are plenty of married people out there, it’s not so common to have this connection. Lucky you! And so true, belief is #1!

  27. Congratulations on your anniversary and this touching post. You’ve done a great job learning these lessons after only three years of marriage.

    What an exciting three years; I’ll keep reading to find out what happens in the next few!

  28. You also need to learn to cut each other a break. Once you’re married even longer it’s easy to not give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Marriage is a tough, tough thing, and not for the weak.

    And Baker – take this in the spirit it is given — you over-chicked. I should know, so did I. Congrats.

  29. I always say, marry someone with whom you could quite happily be destitute.

    And here’s the marriage advice my mother gave me when I said I wasn’t sure that I was doing the right thing by getting married: “I’ve been married for thirty years and I’m still having second thoughts!” Priceless.

  30. Confidently vulnerable… I love that. It is so awesome, yet it is such a challenge. You are definitely blessed to have someone with whom you can open up and share your deepest feelings. Wishing you a lifelong, joyful union.

  31. Congratz… ummm just read the first few comments and that’s awesome! BUT (and I will) be a stick in the mud, mos def work on it allll the time (marriage). I’ve been (and still am married) for 17yrs and my wife left. You think that you married someone who believes in you and you them, you think that through anything you guys can make it through, you think all those things and then all those thoughts are crushed by who you thought was your best friend. With a marriage it always has to be a give and take 50/50 on both parties… heck sometimes 80/20, or 30/70 – but you both have to understand that communication is the key! Try not to go to bed angry with each other, and separation is the last solution for anything… it leads to stupid thoughts and resentment starts to build. *sigh* Guess I had some sh.t to blow off. I hope that this encourages you and not look at the first part to negative… I’m still waiting on her! Anywho stay Blessed and again congrats!!

  32. Congrats on the 3 years.

    And I can completely agree with your suggestion to marry someone who believes in you.
    This is an absolute!!

    keep it coming.

  33. Sounds like you have a good grip on making this relationship a lasting one. In fact, I think that the odds are in your favor that you will be saying way down the road, “Courtney and I have been married for 50 years.”
    Congratulations. This gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling. Thanks.

  34. Today is my one year anniversary and I really loved reading this post. I think you say it best with the flexibility and someone believing in you. It can make all the difference in the world on a tough day. Loved hearing your thoughts! And congratulations!

  35. Totally agree with you – love is a choice, not a “find-your-one-true-soul-mate-in-a-haystack” thing.

    I love your 3 lessons – they resonate with my experience with Andy. Get those three things right and you could make it work with anyone, really. Andy’s not the person I married and I’m not the woman he married – we’ve both given each other the space to change and grow. And thank God for that! And 10 years of marriage down the line, and we have no regrets – it gets exponentially better and better ever year.

  36. Marriage really is a partnership and the two people need to be open and honest with their needs, wants, and goals in life. And I agree that being meant together is BS. A great relationship takes works and openness. Fate doesn’t just make two people fit together. You find that one person and then you work to become a unit with her.

  37. I’ve been a reader here, but this is my first time posting.

    First, I want to say Congratulations to you two! Marriage is definitely hard work. Hubby and I are going on 9 years next month and it has definitely been a rollercoaster, especially with kids and deployments thrown in to the mix. I’ve got to say that Recruiting Duty is by far the absolute *worst* of all. We both need to still work on the ‘confidently vulnerable’ part…it seems the longer we go, the further we get away from that. Thanks for the reminder. One thing we’ve got going for us is that we are both stubborn as heck. When we said our vows, we MEANT them, even on days we don’t like each other very much, because the love is still there. 🙂

    Here’s to the next 50 years!

  38. Congrats on your first three years of marriage. It looks like you guys have already experienced a lot in those first years with starting businesses and living in three different countries. Wow! My husband and I are going on five years now and time sure does fly. Marriage certainly does take a lot of work but it is so worth it. Thanks for sharing, and all the best for the coming years!

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  40. Congrats on your anniversary! I’ll be married one year this upcoming summer and you’re absolutely right in that one has to have somebody their compatible with. A strong relationship works on its own, it shouldn’t be a lot of work if each person loves each other.


  41. Hi Adam – my fiance just sent me this link (though we both read you at GRS) and this post has us both in tears and even more firmly convinced we’re on the right path. I also wanted to say thank you – I manage a wedding and marriage related blog and I’ve often been upset by a) the lack of emphasis on marriage and b) the lack of involvement by grooms during the wedding planning process. This article just validated everything I’m trying to achieve in my site and partnership. I would love to see more men (and women) write with the emotional vulnerability you show here. Congratulations on your partnership and on working to keep it strong.

  42. Awesome post, Baker. I’m coming up on 7 years with my wife, and agree with you on all 3 lessons. You’ll continue to learn more over the next 3 years, and you’re appreciation of a great partner will grow exponentially.

    It’s hard freakin’ work to keep it together, but it’s also easily worth it.

  43. Congratulations! I have been with my partner for over 15 years and it is work. “Meant to be together” is a load of hog wash. May start out that way but successful relationships are work in the end. Flexibility is key, especially as you start to age with your partner. Being confidently vulnerable is a great term. For us, the fights come when we are too afraid of “being out there” with the feelings.

  44. Congrats, I’m just starting on my third year of marriage. I absolutely love it and I have come to feel that one the unwritten things I vowed when I got married was to make a committment to care enough to try every day. I find it to be a very conscious decision that doesn’t just happen.

    After the intial honeymoon phase of the relationship you make that decision to put all the time, energy, and effort into it just like when you were dating. It can be really tough, but knowing that no matter how great or horrible I am, that she is with me to the end and I am with her to the end boosts my determination to make it the best journy possible.

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  50. I liked your last comment, about you thinking that some people that are 50 years together “are meant to be together”, while you have now realized that it’s through work that they have managed to have so beautiful relationships!

    This reminds of some ballet dancers that make the most difficult moves look so easy…

  51. my husband and i got married in september and have been together for 7 years (as of today, in fact!). hard work is absolutely the only way to have an excellent relationship. you can’t just exist in a marriage – you have to constantly be reviewing where you are as a couple and where you would like to be.

    that said, i also believe in soul mates. dedication and work are essential to a great marriage, but why care so much? what motivates you to make such an extraordinary effort? i think everyone has a soul mate. that kind of meant-to-be love makes you WANT to work hard. once you find it, then you get to work 🙂

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  53. “They’ve worked their butts off to achieve what others contribute to being “soul mates””

    So true. Indeed, destiny and fate didn’t matter much unlike the power of our choice and the decision to commit on our life partner. Congrats anyway. 🙂

  54. The 1st quarter of my marriage was absolutely wonderful, the 2nd and majority of 3rd quarter was absolute hell, and now it’s better than ever..all that in a 20 yr span.
    What I learned though all that is:
    Marriage can become monotonous which may cause problems.
    One person may change(thoughts, personality, wants etc. ) the other may stay the same. That causes problems.
    I’d say make sure you both try and grow together every step of the way. Much like your finances. In marriage you both have to keep up with it could fall behind. it’s really tough to stay on the same page when there are so many changes that occur in life. One minute you are both on top of the mountain the next you’re both on the bottom. Sometimes one is one top(lol) while the others at the bottom.
    The one on top must remember to pull the other up.
    Vow to let noone or nothing try and put a wedge between you.
    Treasure each other more than anything in the world.
    I don’t believe in soul mates. Even 2 identical personalities have differences.
    I do however believe you can choose who you wish to dedicate the rest of your life to.

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