The 7 Secrets I Learned in 7 Years of Marriage

And a beautiful anniversary certificate

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The other week, I went to dance class for the first time in years, after having two babies back to back. I was hoping for anonymity as I worked my way back from inflexibility, so I blocked out the possibility that anyone in that class might recognize my face. But of course, in a room packed with women of marriageable age, that was not to be. After class, drenched in sweat and lamenting not warming up properly, I heard, “Hey! Are you Meg Keene?” and saw the smiling face of a woman telling me she was getting married in August.

“August is the best month for weddings,” I said. “We’re celebrating seven years.” I saw the ‘holyshitsevenyears’ look on her face, and realized just how fast it’s flown by. “Blink your eyes, and suddenly it’ll be your seven-year anniversary,” I said. “In your thirties, life just happens so fast, and it flies.”

And so, here I am. Seven years from the day we stood up and made those vows. Seven years from marking my wedding day on the Internet. Seven years since we made those seven circles around each other. The seven-year itch. The mystical wedding number of seven, contained in so many ways, in so many ceremonies around the world.

Which leads me to wonder what I’ve learned in those seven years (other than understanding marriage is an impossible task). Because while they may have gone by in a flash, they contained multitudes—two books, two kids, two deaths, two careers. They contained triumphs and tragedies, and everything in between. So without further ado, here is my best stuff so far.

custom ketubah from ink with intent

1.Kids don’t ruin your marriage. When we got married and having kids suddenly seemed to be the done thing, I panicked. We agreed not to revisit the question for three years, and to just live a little as a twosome. Of course, life being life, three years later we had a bouncing baby boy, and two years after that, we had an adorable baby girl. Because, you know, I love my husband a lot, so I was worried that having kids would destroy what we had together. And while kids are hard (see below), as APW writers had previously predicted, having kids didn’t ruin our marriage. As it turns out, there is no one else on this earth who loves those two kids as much as I do… other than David. If I want to wax poetic about the baby’s chubby legs, or laugh about the hilarious thing our preschooler said, nobody will get it like he does. There is nobody else who would unquestionably throw themselves in front of a truck or a bullet for those tiny humans. And the only person they love as intensely as me is him (and each other).

2. Life is hard; your relationship shouldn’t be (you know, most of the time). Like pretty much everyone else, I spent my early years in emotionally… complex… relationships. In a society that glamorizes the types of relationships portrayed on Sex and the City, I think this is pretty much par for the course. And sure, I had the dramatic-sounding relationship with a drug addict in high school. And while it had all the ups and downs of an Ani DiFranco song, he was fundamentally a pretty nice kid. But then I subjected myself to the relationship with the “nice guy” in college, who I don’t have a single kind word for, all these years later. At some point, I read an essay on the Internet where someone said, “The right relationship isn’t hard,” and something clicked. And my relationship with David always had a sense of ease to it. Sure, we fought. But there was never drama, the kind where you just were not sure how it would work out. We’d been best friends before we got together, and we fundamentally just got each other. Even though we’d been together for five years when we got hitched, it’s the last seven years that taught me why this ease is so vitally important. Because life is hard, and it’ll get you one way or another, no matter what life choices you make. We’ve battled serious depression, a baby with colic, major family issues, the death of David’s father from cancer, the unexpected death of my grandmother in the same week, two kids under three, and very little sleep… and guess what? As we age, life will continue to get more difficult. So having a fundamental base of a (usually) easy relationship we can turn to for support? That’s vital. Which doesn’t preclude the fact that…

3. You will have bad years. My mom always told me, “Forget good days and bad days; marriages have good years and bad years.” And boy is this important to remember when the sucking just won’t stop. Or as my grandmother used to say, “People always ask me how to stay married. The answer is, don’t get divorced.” Which isn’t to say that divorce isn’t the right answer in some situations. But even in good marriages—the long, mostly happy kind—there will be years when the way you stay married is simply by not walking away. (And probably by going to couples therapy, too.) Sometimes, marriage is staying because you said you would, and having faith that better times are coming. (If better times don’t arrive, then by all means, on to Plan B.)

4.There is a reason people say that you marry the family too. Because those family issues that show up during wedding planning? They’re going to be sticking with you for the long haul. If your spouse isn’t talking to one of her parents, if a sibling has an addiction, if your in-laws are controlling, if one of you was badly damaged by your childhood… you’re marrying all of it. Sure, you get the hot guy or gal, but you also get all of their history, and all of those complicated family relationships. As you go through the process of forming a family unit of your own—whether it’s just the two of you, or you add tiny humans to the mix—you’ll have to wrestle with the truths about your families of origin. And for many of us, that process is messy (and may require some professional help).

5. Marriage gives you a way to create the family you’ve always needed. Maybe your childhood was perfect, and you’ve always wanted to grow up and have a home just like the one you grew up in. If that’s the case… go you… and marriage can let you do that. But for everyone with more imperfect childhoods, getting married gives you a chance to write the rules yourself. You’re a grownup now, with your own family, and you can do things however you want (as long as you and your partner agree on it). And if you bring tiny humans into the mix, you can use that chance to heal even more old wounds. Because you don’t have to parent how you were parented. This is your family, and you can consciously create a whole new set of rules.

6. Forgive constantly (mostly yourself). I’ve been working with my coach recently on the idea of constant forgiveness. It’s so easy to get caught up in the last mistake you made, or the last thing your partner did that made you mad. So I’ve been working on a new way of processing my emotions. Step one (of vital importance): Feel the damn feeling. Don’t shame yourself for being jealous, or petty, or lazy, or just flat-out mad. Let yourself feel it. Swim around in it. Enjoy it. Step two: Let it go and forgive yourself and/or your partner. They screwed up. You screwed up. You had a bunch of feelings. You felt them. And now you can move forward. Or as my preschooler said to my husband the other day, “Daddy. Mom was up all night letting you sleep while she took care of us. So she woke up feeling tired and mean. It okay.” And you know what? It was, in fact, okay.

7. Be kind. This post started when I decided to do something nice for David, because damn it, we were celebrating seven whole years. We recently did a post for Ink with Intent, a company that creates beautiful ketubot with custom text. Seven years ago, David and I had written out the language we wanted on our ketubah, and the agreement we really wanted to make for our marriage. But then we couldn’t find a company that would allow us to use our custom language (without, you know, having a bathtub full of money). So this year, when I realized Ink with Intent offered that option, I really, really wanted to get the ketubah we’d always wanted made, and give it to David as a surprise for our anniversary. So I worked with Adriana of Ink with Intent, who ended up creating a custom anniversary certificate for that mystical seven-year anniversary. I hacked into David’s email to find the ketubah text we’d written all those years ago. And now, in the middle of a fight, or a rough patch, we’ll be able to look on the wall and see exactly what we agreed to all those years ago.

I’m pretty sure David didn’t get me anything for our anniversary this year, but that’s okay. (UPDATE: he made secret dinner reservations!) I’m giving him a beautiful anniversary certificate, just so he knows I love him. It’s the same way that I try to thank him every night when he makes dinner, or he thanks me for getting up at night with the baby. Or he brings me random presents, when he finds something he thinks I’ll love. Because it really is those little kindnesses that matter over time. The world is hard, but the two of us can create a sanctuary together. (Plus, we’re sending the kids away for the night, taking two days off work, and just being adults together. After seven years of ups and downs, and never walking away even on truly bad days, we’ve earned it.)


This post was sponsored by Ink with Intent. Ink with Intent creates simple, contemporary, colorful ketubahs and Quaker wedding certificates that are inclusive of all couples. Ink with Intent offers a range of ketubah and marriage certificate styles, from abstract to nature-inspired to designs featuring a city that’s meaningful to your relationship. Or if you have something specific in mind, you can contact Adriana for a custom design (and the custom designs are totally worth it, you guys.) Custom ketubahs and marriage certificates begin at $400, or you can customize one of Adriana’s existing designs starting at $250. Click here to browse the whole collection and get in touch with Adriana today!

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  • Ashlah

    Hey, I’d forgotten we share a wedding anniversary! Two years for us today. I love all of this wisdom, and a lot of it was just really…comforting. So thank you for sharing. My husband and I have always failed at anniversary gifts, but we’re going to a fancy dinner tonight, and now I’m thinking I might surprise him with some flowers after work!

    • JC

      Happy anniversary!

    • Hannah B

      Me too!! Happy anniversary!! It was a hot beautiful day in PA for me two years ago. can you believe it’s been two years?

      • Ashlah

        Not at all, it’s flown by so fast! Hot, beautiful day in Oregon for us :) Happy Anniversary to you too!!

  • aly windsor

    <3 <3 <3 Number three is my number one. Happy anniv! Fantastic post.

  • mimi

    Happy Anniversary! Our 3rd was last week (on the 3rd). It’s been a year…. our daughter is now 11 months old, but my father in law passed away very unexpectedly almost 5 months ago. Our anniversary date ended horribly when my grumpy and depressed husband picked a fight with me. So today, I’m making the wedding album that we haven’t gotten around to making, and it also includes the text of our wedding vows. It won’t be hanging on the wall, but should still be a good reminder of what we promised.

    • ruth

      I think you’re my internet twin. I am embarrassed to say I picked a fight with my husband on our 3 year anniversary out of sleep deprived grumpyness, and we are just now making our wedding album three years after the date. Life happens. Happy belated anniversary to you!

      • mimi

        Haha so weird! Happy anniversary to you too!

  • joanna b.n.

    Congrats! You did it! Yeah, seven years flies, wow! We are just a couple months behind you guys, so also big thanks for the reminder to get on the anniversary present!! :) Happy Seven!

  • ruth

    Essays like this are why I keep reading APW, even 4 years after my wedding. This post was everything. Thank you for sharing. And happy anniversary!

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    • Ellie Rockhill

      Essays like this are why I keep reading APW, even 3 years after my wedding, 1 year after my divorce, and a few weeks into my new relationship! XD

  • Kate

    Amen to #5! I had an epiphany this year when my partner’s brother had his first kid. I had been struggling with the prospect of moving cross country and with potentially missing out on family holidays and traditions with my parents and sisters. Part of my anxiety stemmed from the fact that I spent some very dark holidays with my biological father growing up. A lot of my childhood weekends, summers, and holidays had been lost to a shitty court ordered custody arrangement and I felt on some level that I had been cheated out of my fair share of Christmases and Thanksgivings. While I knew I couldn’t get them back, I somehow wanted to make up for the lost time. When my partner’s nephew was born (just after Christmas), I called my mom and told her in a sort of happy shock how excited I was to find out that “they get to do it all over again. The parents, grandparents- everyone gets to experience it again.” Maybe do it better, maybe do it differently. But you get to do it again!

  • Sarah

    Happy anniversary! And how cool you’re famous enough to be recognized!

  • Amie Melnychuk

    I’ve always loved the idea of a Ketubah, but neither I or my husband are Jewish. Is it appropriation if we get one or something similar?

    • E.

      When my moms get married they typed up their vows and everyone signed it (they couldn’t get legally married at the time so that was basically their marriage certificate).They’re not Jewish, and I don’t think they even knew what a Ketubah is when they did it? I’m Jewish with big emphasis on the -ish so I don’t really have a say on if it’s appropriation or not, but I imagine there are ways to do it that are ok!

      • Amy A.

        “There are ways to do it that are OK.” – This. My aunt and uncle are Quakers and as one of the guests at their wedding I signed a beautiful wedding certificate. Fifteen years later I wanted something similar, but since I am not a Quaker I didn’t feel it was appropriate to simply take part of their faith tradition. I ordered a non-Quaker certificate (from a vendor I won’t name here since this is a sponsored post) from someone who did specifically Quaker certificates as well as non-Quaker versions. There are variations on the theme available that will give you something beautiful to hang on your wall and remind you of your marriage vows without strictly being a Ketubah/Quaker certificate.

        • Meg Keene

          RIGHT! Totally!

    • Jessica

      I’m not Jewish, so I can’t really speak to the appropriation, but using a business like Ink with Intent to beautify your vows without using any Hebrew seems like it would be a way to get custom made art with meaning into your household.

      But perhaps someone who is of the Jewish faith can provide more insight.

    • honeycomehome

      I can’t really answer this, but it’s clear that APW and Ink with Intent think it’s fine. They aren’t doing traditional ketubahs, they are doing modern/customized versions. And their little chunk of text at the bottom says they are “inclusive of all couples.”

      • Meg Keene

        No, to clarify, APW doesn’t think non Jews having a Ketubah is fine. It’s not. It’s not even legally possible, in fact, given that it’s a Jewish legal document (Talmudic Law). And modern/ customized versions of Ketubot are still legal documents—we were married under Jewish law when we signed our modern, customized Ketubah befor the wedding. BUT, Ink with Intent does inclusive wedding certificates for all couples (I don’t think they would do Ketubot for non Jews, in fact). So that’s the difference!

    • emilyg25

      Quaker here! Well, married to a Quaker and had a Quaker wedding. We have a wedding certificate. It has some traditional language, but mostly just notes the date and location of our wedding, our signatures, our vows, and the signatures of all who witnessed. It hangs in our living room.

    • Cleo

      Hi, Jew here. Hoping to help :)

      1. A Ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract. Literally a contract. It doesn’t have to be beautifully written up and framed (my parents’ ketubah is in their wedding album and done in plain calligraphy, Hebrew and English, on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper). It’s not necessarily artwork. It can be compared to a wedding license (the signing of the Ketubah functionally marries you).

      2. If you would like to commission a beautiful piece of artwork upon which you will print your vows and promises to one another, and that you and your husband sign (maybe along with witnesses, maybe not), go for it! It’s a lovely idea.

      However, it isn’t a Ketubah, and calling it a Ketubah can confuse matters both with your vendor and the general population.

      • Leah

        Another Jewish lady (with a rad Ink with Intent Ketubah on her wall!) just chiming in to say this is spot on, in my view. A Ketubah is inherently a Jewish religious document. A beautiful piece of art with your vows written down that you can hang on your wall? Sounds awesome, do it.

      • Meg Keene

        Agreed. The Ketubah traditionally says things like “if we get divorced, you get two goats.” Exceedingly unromantic. This is what we wrote together, so it’s more poetic, but if you read it it’s still outlining our agreement with each other.

        David’s family has a Ketubah from right after WW2, from two survivors that had just been freed from the camps, it’s literally just written on a tiny scrap of paper.

        Anyway, so no, non Jews can’t have a Ketubah. It’s part of a Jewish wedding, which you need to be Jewish to have. BUT, have Ink with Intent do art with your vows!!! It’s a really nice thing to have on your wall as a reminder. (Also, by the way, Minted is now offering letterpress text posters for vows, if you just want the words as art.)

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      Getting and signing a Ketubah? Yes. Something similar like having a special certificate made or what others have suggested on here that is specially not a Ketubah? No.

    • Kylie

      Same with us! We actually had Adriana make us a custom wedding certificate since we’re not religious. Here’s where they are on the Ink with Intent website: We’re so in love with this art that celebrates our love and has all the signatures of the people who were there with us to celebrate.

  • Yup. This.

  • Stephanie

    I teared up reading about your present to David. APW consistently provides excellent models for relationships and relationship-building. Congratulations on 7 years!

  • Kara

    Our 7 year is Oct. 3, so we’re not too far behind.
    Meg, you were my rock during wedding planning, and you and all the amazing / timely content you fabulous ladies provide keeps me coming back day after day.

    One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in marriage is that we can be different together. Many of my attitudes and positions have changed in the last 7 years. My values are the same, but politically, I’ve become more vocal. I’ve found confidence to be true to myself–I don’t hide the fact that I’m an atheist, that I’m 110% pro-choice, or that I’m 110% pro-human rights (LGBTQ and womens’ rights).

    My husband has been 100% supportive of who I am, and I’m 100% supportive of who he is. Seeing the evolution of who we are as individuals and as a couple has been an amazing lesson.

    Cheers to you and the journey ahead, together!

    • joanna b.n.

      Oh YEAH. Definitely. Not only can we be different together, but more fully developing our identities, and sharing them with each other is (for the most part) so rewarding. It’s like, yeah, I saw that in you, but now I get to see you realizing it to its fullest potential! Go you! The pride is almost unbearable watching your partner grow and get even better. And finding your own wings and seeing them behind you cheering you on is pretty dope, as well.

      ALSO, looking back on how having his supportive partnership has enabled me to be MORE me, and fly higher, and overcome some of my internal challenges is just… almost more than I can bear. I am just so grateful, and I try to be sure to remind him that my successes are truly our successes, since I could not have done them without him. That’s probably what I’m most jazzed about over a lifetime – helping each other be more than we could ever have been without the other.

      • Kara

        You said this so much more eloquently that my attempt. :)

        “helping each other be more than we could ever have been without the other” — hell ya!

  • I love this post so much Meg. I’m only in Year 2 but I found myself nodding along to so much of this. Congratulations on 7 years and 2 babies!

  • Rhie

    “But then I subjected myself to the relationship with the “nice guy” in
    college, who I don’t have a single kind word for, all these years later.” IT’S NOT JUST ME!!! Load lightened.

    • Yeah, turns out that “nice” and “kind” aren’t exactly the same thing… I’ve learned that what I want is “kind.”

      • Alvinartapia2

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  • emilyg25

    #2 all the way. Life pretty much just gets harder. Your marriage should be a refuge in all that mess.

    And yes to #1. I was so scared that having a baby was going to ruin our marriage, but it just made it stronger. We learned to work together as a team, to cut each other slack, to be kinder, to find joy in small moments. It’s been pretty awesome.

    • macrain

      For us we’re able to move on from petty disagreements much more quickly. We just don’t have the time or energy for it! And how do you stay mad when you’ve got this adorable little nugget around? Impossible!

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  • Michela

    Congratulations on 7 years, Meg + David! That milestone feels so far away to this newlywed, but I know time will pass in a flash.

    #2: Why don’t more people talk about this!? When I realized this about my husband a few years ago, it was life altering but in a “duh, what took you so long to figure that out” sort of way. Thanks for talking about it!xo

  • Eh

    #5 Marriage gives you a way to create the family you’ve always needed – This is huge in our marriage. We might not be able to control how his family treats him/us (see #4) but we can create a loving environment for our family. It also lets us set boundaries for his family (e.g., this is just time for our family of three, and us having a united front). And it helps with the fact that we live so far from my family, especially during the holidays (e.g., owning the holidays, creating our own traditions and bringing in things we each loved from our childhoods).

  • macrain

    We are three months into parenthood, and I teared up today realizing how much I miss my husband. So much of our time, attention, and energy goes into caring for our little nugget, we are understandably consumed by it at the moment.
    One piece of advice I keep hanging onto is- “Don’t put your relationship under a microscope when you have a new baby.” It’s a good reminder that this too shall pass. I’m sure the reason why a lot of relationships can’t withstand the pressures of having children is that expectations don’t shift accordingly. I try to remember that- to give myself a break, and to give my husband a break too.

  • Elinor

    Brilliant essay. Thanks Meg.

  • Melanie

    Love Adriana and Ink With Intent! I had her make us a marriage certificate for everyone to sign at our reception this past November. She allowed us to modify different elements of her standard text and when she accidentally printed and sent a version that was an earlier revision, she promptly sent the correct one at no charge!! She was wonderful and the certificate is beautiful!

  • Amanda L

    “Because life is hard, and it’ll get you one way or another, no matter what life choices you make.”
    So much THAT. We won’t get the opportunity to test our marriage with kids, but it was tested by infertility, and four+ years later, we’re closer and happier than ever. We know there is more in store for us… job changes, big moves (scarier for H than for me, a serial mover), elderly parents, our own aging process. “Life is hard; your relationship shouldn’t be.” Such a great post, Meg. Happy anniversary!

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  • Michelle Terri

    My name is Michelle Terri. lives Ireland i want to share to the world of a testimony of how my family was restored back,my husband and i was divorced for the past three years and left with me three kids, ever since then i have been finding it hard to survive with my kids, which involves my kids not able to continue their education,so i read of a testimony of how a separated family was brought back together as a happy family with the help of a spell caster. so with that i had it in my mind if only her family is back then mine will be a thing of the past, then i had to contact the spell caster whose name is DR IGBA, who told me never to worry and told me that my husband will come begging me for forgiveness in the next 48hours. behold 48hours later i received a call from my husband asking me were i am staying which came to pass and did what exactly what DR IGBA has said. And now we are back together and my three kids are back in school.thanks to a great Dr IGBA right now I`m the most happiest woman on earth and me and my husband is living a happy life and our love is now stronger than how it were even before our break up.All thanks goes to DR IGBA for the excessive work that he has done for me by helping me to get back with my husband. I would like to drop DR IGBA mail address and hope you see this testimony and contact him if you have a lover that you really want back so badly, His mail:( )call or him WHATS-APP:+2347053728380.

  • Happy belated anniversary, Meg. I can’t believe we’re coming up on 7 years as well. Life moves so fast and so much can happen and does happen. I love these statements and I’m bookmarking this to come back often.
    I especially love “forgive constantly (mostly yourself).” This should probably be my daily mantra. It’s funny how many times I get irritated at him because I am irritated at myself for a whole host of other things, just things not working out the way I’d planned, for not even having a plan. I don’t know. It’s so much easier to be kind and forgiving and compassionate to someone when you are that way to yourself.
    Love you, Meg! <3

  • JC

    I am commenting here because I remember reading this article as a Bay Area resident and thinking, “Would I recognize Meg if we took a class together?” And then today I may or may not have turned around and stared at a stranger in just such a way. So Meg, if it was you, I’m terribly sorry for my rudeness. If it was not you, then stranger, you look and dress just like Meg Keene (that is, impeccably). Whoever was wearing the black and white striped blazer, I would like to know you!

  • RoxiHes

    It’s crazy how I am in my 7th year of marriage and I don’t know where to turn. There has been so many screw ups on my part in this marriage I can count for days. I have tried to leave this marriage numerous times and am still here fighting for it to work. We have children together as well as children with others before we were married. I guess getting married after being back together for 2 months wasn’t such a great idea. All your points I wish I would of read before I got married, maybe I would of been getting to really know who my husband was before I married him. He hates who I am and hates that I am different. He can’t stand that I am not exactly a push over. He hates that I have mental issues that he knew about long before we even met in person. He knew about my past and I of his, and now it comes to haunt me everyday. Not sure how to fix it or just move on for good now. Since he has a plan “b” and tells his mother I am worthless.

  • sabrinamorris9908765

    My Names are Sabrina Morris, I am from Marion Iowa, This is a testimony about a Spell Doctor named Great Malawi via, that restored my hope and gave me reasons to love my life again. It was my first time to order for a spell or spiritual help because I don’t believe in them; my religion forbids spells or witches. I had no choice than to connect with the Great Malawi when my Husband-To-Be and my Baby Father left me because he was sleeping with my friend. I tried everything possible to win him back physically but he resisted all my efforts until I decided to go spiritual, but I needed higher power that’s why I connected with the Great Spell Cast of Malawi. He proved to me that his spell is not evil and it’s 100% genuine and last for eternity. He was an angel to me and my family during the process of the spell until he finally brought my Baby back as promised. He told me that my Baby’s spirit was distracted towards me and the world, so he called back his spirit and made him remember who he really is and how we started and also the promises he made to me and our child.The Great Malawi is a savior of our time and we should all benefit from his spiritual gifts. Thank you the Great one for giving me my own testimony. He will help you find the man or woman of your dreams if you try him. Connect with him via

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