When I was 22 and living a thousand miles away from home in Dallas, Texas, I had a friend named Jerry. He was 27 and had been married for 4 years to Meg, who I thought was gorgeous and smart. They had a baby girl named Evie and seemed like they had it all together. It was clear that Jerry adored his wife. I met Jerry at my job, and I remember him telling me and another co-worker one day that when he and Meg had their one-year anniversary, they celebrated that they had both survived and that they were still married. I laughed and thought to myself, “That seems a little dramatic.”

The next year, I moved in with my friends Jacob and Camille, who were coming up on three years of marriage. We lived in a little ranch on Provincetown Lane with three bedrooms and a wine-stained dining room table. It was here that I first saw marriage up-close and personal; I would hear tones change when someone got irritated and heard the notes of sarcasm. I would also see Camille work to make delicious dinners for her husband and see Jacob surprise Camille with a clean kitchen. I remember chatting with Camille about their first year of marriage when she casually mentioned throwing a shoe. My eyes got wide, “You threw a shoe? Why?” “Not exactly sure,” shrugged Camille. “It was less at him and more in his general direction.”

I remember thinking, “For heaven’s sake, what makes people so upset and fiery?”

After one year of marriage to my precious husband, I can now say that when you make it to the end of each year of staying married and alive, you should celebrate. There is something about this sacred institution that both reveals our best and our worst because our intertwined souls are completely exposed to another human. We have never lived in a world where our independence is gone; all of our actions directly affecting this other person who lives in our space. It takes some getting used to, and the adjustment period is not always lovely.

Maybe some of you are laid back husbands and wives, but my husband and I are not. We are fiery, intense, and opinionated. We hear every tone and sense every disagreement. It’s truly exhausting to be married to us.

This is what I have learned from a year of slamming doors, sharing joy, and throwing a fork into the sink one time just to make a point:

1.Protect your marriage at all costs.

I am 25, and I now have friends who have been divorced and friends who have come close. None of us are above it, and it’s not as foreign as you may think. Protect, protect, protect.

2.Laugh as often as possible.
For us – life gets too serious. There are bills to be paid, rooms to be cleaned, meals to plan, and children who need to work on their sight words. Be silly for absolutely no reason and laugh. It makes a significant difference.

3.Actively listen to your spouse and continue to discover them.
When you’ve been married for even a year, you can easily disappear into Pinterest. Or, if you’re my husband, watching endless videos of motorcycle racing on Youtube. Remember when you were dating your spouse and everything they said was fascinating? Time to bring it back. Sometimes we don’t even know that we’ve been missing truly feeling heard.

All that being said: Marriage is the best kind of work. If you’re just celebrating that you’re still alive and still married: you’re not alone. Power through the exhaustion and remember that it’s a sprint, not a marathon. Protect, laugh, and listen.