Lessons learned in the first year of marriage

My husband and I are celebrating our 14-year anniversary. That is insane!! Today, I want to share with you the lessons learned in the first year of marriage.

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This year was the first year that I looked at our wedding day photo and saw 2 babies!! Seriously, we look so young (24 & 26)

Anne and Greg markey on wedding day 2007. Lessons learned the first year of marriage. 
www.onedeterminedlife

Even though my wedding day was so long ago, I still remember it like it was yesterday. There are large portions of the day that are a blur, but I clearly remember the look on his face when he saw me walk down the aisle. I thought I loved him. I guess I did, but my love has grown so much since that day.

To celebrate our 10 years together, I wanted to take time and remember everything that I have learned about myself and marriage. I have learned so much so, I want to break it all up into smaller blog posts.

Read the next post: 4 things I wish I knew before I got married 

** This post has Affiliate Links see my Disclosure Policy***

6 things I Learned in the first year of Marriage

I was warned over and over that the first year was the hardest. So, I was expecting a bad year. Thankfully. We had a really easy first year. Even though it was an easy year, I still learned so much from our first year of marriage. I hope what I learned can help you too.

1. Don’t be attached to the symbolism

When we got back from our honeymoon, we bought a starter garden.  I was so excited! I had this vision of growing our own fresh herbs and using them in the kitchen.  So, I put the plants on our balcony and took care of them.

Within a few days, they were dead!

I had this moment and thought: oh no!! Our first project as a couple has failed!! We have killed our plants!!!

I was worried that this might be a sign of our lives as a couple. That somehow we would fail because we could not keep plants alive. I had heard that if you want kids you should try to keep a plant alive. So all these voices were saying: you can’t even keep plants alive, but you want kids!!

I had to take a moment and calm down.

I needed to realize that these plants were not a picture of our marriage. My ability to take care of plants had nothing to do with my ability to be a good wife or a good mother.

I had to let go of those expectations I had of myself and let a plant be a plant.

10 years later, I have yet to keep a single plant alive but I have 3 healthy kids and healthy marriage.

2. Let it go

My husband does not do the dishes the same way I do. He fills the sink first and washes the dishes in a specific order. I like to leave the sinks empty and run the water and wash one dish at a time.

Watching him do dishes drove me nuts. I thought that his way took longer and made no sense to me.
It was tempting to “Correct” him. Instead, I let it go. I decided that I preferred him helping me in his way than fighting over the way things should be done.

That first year, I had to let go of a lot of things: mostly control over how things were done around the house. I decided that I did not want to create conflict over these simple and small things. I instead focused my energy on making our home a good place for both of us to live in.

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3. Think before you speak

In the first few months of marriage, we bought a dining room table. Some of our wedding guests had given us the money to purchase a table. We went to the store and brought it home.

We had planned to put the table together the next night.

The next day, my husband calls me and tells me that he has been invited to participate in a baseball game. I said it was ok and I figured that after the game he would come home and set the table up. I also assumed that if he was going to go out after, he would call again and ask if I wanted to come as well.

That call never came. He played the game and went out without communication.

What came next

Needless to say, I was livid. I was ready to yell and scream and accuse him of not thinking about me and my needs. I was also mad because I had started building the table and he was not around to help. He had made me feel abandoned.

Over the next few hours, I was able to calm down and gain perspective on the whole night. By the time my husband got home, I did not yell or scream. I was able to discuss with him how his actions had made me feel.

Had he been home when I was mad, I probably would have caused some serious damage to our marriage. My words and anger would have hurt his feelings and might have changed the way we worked together in the future or affected many other aspects of our relationship.

This event was a big lesson for me.

From then on, when I got angry, I thought about how my words and actions may affect our marriage in the long run. Since I am in it for the long hull, I decided that I should be careful to not ruin my marriage over these small issues.

4. Set a routine

When we got married we had lots of invitations out for dinner and visits and nights out of the house. My husband is an outgoing guy and he loved being out of the house every night. For me, that was too much.

After a few months of being out of the house every night, I told my husband that I could not keep up. I told him that being out of the house every night was too much for me. I needed nights at home with nothing to do and we could just be the two of us.

Since he liked being out, we needed to find a routine that worked for both of us. After some discussion, we decided to stay home 3 nights a week.

In the first year of marriage, it’s important to find a routine that suits both of you. We both had to compromise. He wanted to be out and I wanted to be in. We settled into a routine that we could both live with.

Since that first year, we have continued to set routines for our family that work for both of us. Having a routine that meets all our needs is sometimes hard to get, but it’s so worth it.

5. Learn to communicate

The first year of marriage is the foundation year. It’s the perfect time to build healthy communication patterns. If you can learn to communicate in a healthy way, then the rest of your marriage will be so much better off.

I found that the first year we “defined terms”.

I would say something that hurt his feeling and I would say sorry and he would say: that’s ok. To me: that’s ok means that what I said and did was ok. I wanted to hear, you’re forgiven. For him, when he said: that’s ok, he meant– I forgive you.

So we were using different languages to mean the same things. It’s important to figure out what the language differences are and make it clear what you’re trying to say. Doing so will save a lot of heartache and misunderstandings.

6. Enjoy The Year

There is no other time in a marriage like that first year.

When we got married, we were young with no commitments. We didn’t own a home yet or have children.  I wish we would have enjoyed these freedoms more. Once you start having kids or financial responsibilities you have less freedom and have to be more mindful.

So, that first year, just have fun. Do things that you might not be able to do again ( or at least for a long time). Travel, go to the movies, go out to dinner. These things become a bit more complicated when you add a few kids or mortgage payments to your life.

I was very fortunate and had a very good first year. It was easy to live together and get along. I know some people are not so fortunate and they have a hard first year. But, the first year becomes the second and before you know it 10 years have passed by.

On the comments below, share the lessons you learned in the first year of marriage. Please share this blog post with others. Thank you.

Read part 2 in my series: 4 Things I wish I knew before I Got Married

Lessons learned from my first marriage challenge

In this post, I will share with you the things I learned from running my first marriage challenge.

I ran my first challenge a few months after starting my blog. I was very new to all things blogging and today I will share the 6 things that I would change and the 5 things I would keep the same.

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In the blogging world, a challenge is something that you ask followers to work with you as you tackle a problem.

Over the past 6 months, I have been trying to learn everything I need to run a successful blog. At times, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of information out there and all that there is to do.

From all the blogs I read, one thing I kept seeing was: build an email list!! So, that is what I set out to do.

The story

Since I don’t have a product yet to sell and I had not created extra content and only had 3 blogs posts on my website, I did not know what to do to see if I could get some people on a list.

** This Bog post contains affiliate links please see the disclosure policy**

I joined a few Facebook groups to promote my blog and connect with other bloggers. One of these groups had a collaboration Day. People posted what sort of collaboration they were looking for.

I am a Christian who blogs about parenting, marriage, and faith and I wanted to find another blogger to work with to share ideas and content.

I found a woman who wrote about Christian marriage who was also wanting to build her list. We got connected and started brainstorming.

The plan

When we first started talking we thought we would create a free downloadable date night planner. But after a few days, we both agreed that we wanted to create a marriage challenge.

Our marriage challenge would include sending emails for 14 days to our subscribers. These emails would help our readers grow in their marriages and also in their relationship with God.

We decided that each day would focus on a specific area: communication, finances, physical attraction, planning for the future and so on.

The emails each had a personal story, a verse to think about and a challenge to complete for the day. We also created our own hashtag to post pictures on our social media and encouraged people to do the same and follow along.

We decided on 14 topics and split the content writing. I wrote 7 and so did she. Then, we each promoted the challenge using any way we wanted to.

The result

Before we started the marriage challenge I had zero subscribers. By the time the challenge started, I had 37 subscribers.

I was a bit disappointed because I had set a goal of at least 100 subscribers, but decided that I would focus on the positive and not the negative.

We sent out the emails, ran the challenge and waited.

More disappointment: nobody else from our email list used our hashtag or engaged on social media. I was feeling pretty low!!

I had put all this time and effort into something that I thought would explode my email list and encourage so many people.

Looking back, I can see that my expectations were too high.

2 Lessons Learned from the Marriage Challenge

1. To not focus on numbers

At the end of the challenge, I looked at the number of people who had signed up for the marriage challenge and compared it to how many people opened the emails. Let’s just say that the numbers were not encouraging.

I shared my disappointment with the person who wrote the challenge with me and she told me of a few people who had emailed her to tell her they had been encouraged. I think we got 2 responses back saying they had been encouraged.

These are small numbers but I had to remind myself why I was blogging. It’s not to make the most money or to have the largest email list but to truly help and support and love women in their life and to glorify God.

I was reminded of the story of the lost sheep. He left the 99 and went to search for the one. God rejoices in each and every person who comes to Him. To Him, it’s not a numbers game, it’s personal. He knows each and every one of us and rejoices for each person who is saved.

I took that example and chose to be thankful for the people who were reached and encouraged.

2. How to properly analyze the numbers

During this process, I learned so much. One of the main things I learned was how to use MailerLite. I had never created a campaign and saw this challenge as an opportunity to learn how to use a new system.

I also learned about ROI: return on investment, click rates and open rates. Before this challenge, I assumed that if 37 people signed up for the marriage challenge then 37 people would open the email and click on the information we were sending them.

I was so wrong.

As one of the perks of using Malerlite is its data collection functions. I can see how many emails have been sent out and how many of those emails have been opened.

Since I am still new to all this, I see the numbers but have no idea what they mean or if it’s good or bad.

Overall, 37%  to 42% of the emails I sent out were opened. To me, again, I was discouraged. Not even half of the emails I had sent out had been opened.

When I shared this with my husband, he was actually impressed with the click rate.

Since he is in marketing, he was able to give me his perspective on the click rate. He let me know that the conversion rate was good and something to be happy about.

His insight taught me that my expectations were too high and that I should expect click rates to be closer to industry standards.

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6 things I would change

1. Sign up form

Since neither myself nor my partner are very computer literate we were not sure how to collect emails but have one list.

After a bit of reading, I thought the easiest thing to do would be to have a Google form for people to sign up with. We each would promote the same image and have a consistent brand but have one form.

The problem with this is I think it may have kept people from signing up.

Why??

  1. The Google form took people off the website to a different page. This is one more step that may have kept people from signing up.
  2. You have to have a Google account to sign up. So, if you don’t have an account you can’t sign up until you sign up for Google or contact us separately. Again, adding more steps made it more difficult for people to sign up, so they didn’t.

What I would do: instead of using google forms I would use Mailerlite opt pop-ups and landing pages and then share the emails I collected.

2. Use video

It seems to me that video is becoming more prevalent on social media. I did not use Facebook Live or Instagram live and that was a mistake. In the future, I plan to go live on either platform once a day. I think by doing this, it will encourage more engagement from the people on the subscriber list but also from my facebook and Instagram followers.

3. The length

I loved all the content we wrote, but I think maybe 14 days is a long time for a challenge and may have scared people away.
When I look online at challenges, they are either 3, 5 or 30 days long.

I think in the future, I would maybe condense the challenge to 5 days and then maybe try to sell an ebook that contained more information in it.

4. Nothing to sell

Since I am a new blogger and started promoting myself before any content was created, I ran a challenge with nothing to sell at the end. I built 14 days of trust and created a small list, but then did not use that trust to try and sell them a product.

From what I read and understand, the best way to sell a product is after building trust and relationships through your email list. I sort of feel like I missed the boat on that one.

5. Scheduling tool

When I was promoting the marriage challenge I had yet to invest in Tailwind. That was a big mistake.

Since investing in Tailwind, my pins have been shared so much more and I have received way more traffic than I did when I was trying to use Pinterest on my own time.

If you plan to run a challenge make sure you are using Tailwind or another Pinterest scheduling tool to help you get as much traffic to your blog as possible.

6. Landing page

When I was promoting the challenge I did not have a landing page. When people were looking at the challenge they did not have enough information and did not know what they were signing up for and what they would gain from signing up.

In the future, I plan to use mailerlite to make landing pages to inform my readers what the challenge is about and what they will gain by signing up.

5 things I would keep the same

1. Time to promote

To promote the marriage challenge, we decided to give ourselves one month to promote and try to gain subscribers. I think that one month was a great time frame. It gave time for natural growth and promotion across boards.

2. Mail system

I love Mailerlite and was so happy to have found it before I started writing the challenge and sending out emails. Their system is easy to use and I loved the results.

If you plan to send out any emails, I highly recommend you use Mailerlite or another mail system.

3. The content

I really enjoyed writing the content and thought we gave our readers great value. The emails were 700-1000 words long with the same format each day and covered a wide range of topics that any couple faces on a regular basis.

I love the content so much, I plan to use the portions I wrote again. I’m not sure how yet, but I will recycle my content.

4. The teamwork

I was excited to meet another blogger who had the same passion and vision as I did. I feel like we worked well together and created great content. What I loved most was the accountability. I checked in on her and she checked in on me.

Because I was not the only one on the journey, I had to finish writing content by a certain date. If it had just been me, it would have been easy to push things later and not get as much done.

5. The daily engagement

One of the main parts of the marriage challenge was creating a hashtag on Instagram and posting pictures every day.

Even though the subscribers did not use our hashtag, I still enjoyed taking pictures each day and sharing them on Instagram. I thought it was a great way of showing people a real couple in real life dealing with real issues.

Even though I was a bit disappointed with the results of the marriage challenge I ran, there were so many things I learned. There are a few things I would change and a few things I would keep the same. It was a way to learn about blogging and everything blogging incorporates.

If you have something you want to write and share, I suggest you go ahead and so it. Even if you’re not sure of the results or a bit afraid to jump the gun, there is nothing to lose. Things may not turn up the way you expect, but you will learn so much about yourself and the way things work that it will be worth it.

Please Share

In the comments below, share with me one lesson you have learned from blogging this week.

I am working hard to grow my blog audience. Please help me by sharing this post with others. Thank you

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2018 Blogging Goals

Today, I want to write about the growth my blog has had and my 2018 blogging goals.

I started my blog about 18 months ago but only started being consistent with it about a year ago. I wanted to take the time and reflect on what I have achieved and my progress and set some goals for the coming year. 

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Blogging Goals I have reached

1. Blog views

Since I first published my blog I have been able to get consistent traffic to my blog posts.

My numbers are not amazing but I went from 10 views a month to 2 thousand views a month. (On average)

I know that this is not crazy traffic but I am very happy with it.

Over the summer, my computer was broken and I could not post blogs let alone schedule pins. But, since I had set up Boordbooster, I was still getting about 50 views a day without doing any work.

My goal for next year is to increase my blog views to 300 views a day.

2. Social media Engagement

  • Pinterest: when I started my blog I maybe had no followers. I had a personal account but made a new account with no followers. In the past 18 months, I have been able to increase my Pinterest followers and I now have more than 2 thousand followers.
  • Facebook: I decided to start a Facebook page for my blog this year and started with no followers. In the past year I have been able to grow my page and now have just over 1 thousand followers.
  • Instagram: I was never an Instagram user until I started blogging. Since using Instagram for my blog I have enjoyed using Instagram and the relationships I was able to make using that medium. My first picture was posted on June 29, 2016. I started with no followers and now have just over 2 thousand followers.
  • Twitter: I never really understood Twitter and I still don’t. I have an account, and the first couple of months I worked really hard to gain followers and tweet things daily but found the impact was minimal. Even after hours of work I still would only get 5 views frTwitterter. The work I was putting in was not worth the effort.

3. Email list

When I first started blogging I had zero email subscribers. Not only did I have zero subscribers but I had no clue how to gain subscribers. Over the past year, I have learned a few things about getting email subscribers and now have about 200 people on it.

It’s still very much a small list and the number seems very modest compared to bloggers who have thousands of subscribers but I am thankful for each and every single subscriber.

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4 things I have learned

Blogging has been a crazy and awesome adventure and journey. I have learned so much and have grown even more.

1. Start the way you want to go

This is easier said than done. Because if you are like me when you start you have no clue where you want to go or how you want to get there. So, this may be hard to implement.

But, before you start a blog I would highly encourage you to learn about SEO and about living blogs. If you learn that before you start you can implement both on each blog. This is so much easier than having to go back to every post and update each and every one.

2. Focus on areas that bring the most return

I love Instagram and am still trying to figure out Twitter. They are amazing platforms but I hardly use them anymore.

I spent hours a day on Instagram posting pictures, finding hashtags and being part of comment pods. But all that work and energy was only bringing a few clicks to my blog. The hours I spent on Instagram were not worth the return in the views I was getting.

I still love Instagram and use it, but no longer spend hours on it. Instead, I spend less time on platforms that bring me 98% of my traffic. (Hint, hint, its Pinterest)

3. Do what you can

There are many bloggers that can write and publish posts 3 times a week. For me, just the idea of doing that makes me want to cry. For me, 3 blog posts a week is not realistic nor is it sustainable.

After some trial and error, I found what worked for me. For me, I could publish one blog post per week. That number was realistic and sustainable.

Since I am a stay-at-home mother, I only have 1-2 hours per day that I can devote to blogging. Since I have minimal time, I do what I can with the time I have. The rest, I let go of. I do what I can and am thankful for what I can get done. 

My reality

When I first started blogging I knew very little about blogging. I started wanting to blog twice a week and had no plan or direction.

I slowly realized that I could. To keep it up.

Every piece of advice I had read had told me to write as much content as I could, publish as much as I could and then all these places to share my blog.

As a small blogger, I do not yet make money. I think I made $50 this year but my costs were probably closer to $300.

As a stay-at-home mom to 3 kids, I don’t have much time. I have maybe 3 hours is a day to do all I need to write, publish and promote my blog. This may sound like lots of time. But that’s not true. The hours I have been interrupted and over the span of the whole day.

Most of that time is at night when I still have housework to do or am so tired I can’t think of doing much work.

4. Take Small steps

So I decided to take one small step at a time. What that means is that I set small goals that I can attain in the time I have.

This past year, I focused on Pinterest and Facebook. I took the time I had and learned about both.

There are a few free courses out there and I took some to learn more about the areas I wanted to grow in.

The other thing I did was that I bought the ultimate blogging bundle and am slowly working through all the material.

I learned where my traffic was coming from and focused my time to increase that.

Try to stick to the 80/20 rule. This states that 20% of your work should produce 80% of the results.

Since I have little time, this means optimizing the systems and time I have with my small budget.

I have yet to perfect this for myself but am slowly learning and growing as I go.

Blogging Goals for next year

  • create my first course
  • write A bible study
  • grow my Pinterest following by 1000
  • grow my Facebook followers by 500
  • sent out one newsletter a week
  • Increase my email subscribers by 100
  • figure out what type of content converts to subscribers
  • Create a content plan for the year 2018 and stick to it
    • This includes blog content but also Facebook and Twitter
  • Connect with other bloggers in my niche
  • Have more guest bloggers contribute to my blog
  • Be a guest blogger for other bloggers at least 6 times a year.

Areas of growth

  • I want to learn about email sequencing
  • I want to learn how to make courses and how to make them into affiliate products for others to sell

Please help me by sharing this post with others. Thank you

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4 Things other Cultures Teach us about parenting

There are many things that other cultures can teach us about raising kids. Today, I will share 4 things other cultures teach us about parenting.

Today, I am so excited to once again work with Zara Lewis. She wrote a blog for me a few months ago. It was so well received that when she offered to write another post, I jumped at the chance. I hope you like it.

BONUS: CONTINUE TO READ AND RECEIVE FREE PARENTING RESOURCES

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For the longest time, I based my parenting beliefs mostly on what I experienced in my own home. It felt natural to continue the traditions of what our own society perceives as normal. We were not tempted to resort to unusual ways of other cultures across the globe.

Still, I became curious as I came across many intriguing stories. I decided to make the most of other societies’ parenting methods, adapted to our own living circumstances. Let’s embark on a journey through cultural diversity in raising kids.

3 Things other Cultures Teach us about Parenting

1. The freedom of Finland

The western norm of helicopter parenting assumes that we need to spend every waking moment doing everything for our kids. This includes making meals, preparing snacks, reminding them of homework assignments, setting aside their clean clothes and so on. Yet, in most Scandinavian cultures, parents create an atmosphere in which kids develop a sense of independence and responsibility.

From a very early age, Finnish kids go to school on their own. They make their own meals and do homework without their parents’ pushing or reminding them.  Sounds great right! So, what can we do to help our children do the same?

From an early age, finish children are given hours of independent free play every day. They actually have fewer school hours and more hours to play.

The best way to have independent children to give our kids opportunities to exercise their freedom.

These freedoms can be as easy as:

  • Letting them walk to school alone
  • Allowing children to chose what to wear
  • Letting children experience natural consequences

Independence is something priceless that we can use to teach our kids. Not only will they value their time but it will help them cope with the challenges of growing up. Being more independent will also prepare your children for the future.

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a dad hugging his daughter. There are mountins in the background

2. The respect in Asia

The cultures of Asia differ greatly from what you can find in many other corners of the world. Perhaps the most crucial aspect that makes their parenting different from others is teaching respect towards elders in the family, including parents and grandparents.

Families in Asia often live all together in the same house and take equal part in raising the kids. This dynamic gives the youngsters more than two grownups to look up to and treat with respect.

Most of us don’t live in the same house as our parents. How can we instil this respect for their family and the elderly?

The best way to teach our children to respect the elderly is by spending time as a family with the elderly. We can sit with them and listen to their stories. When we meet elderly people at the store, we can treat them with respect and kindness. Our children learn best by example. If they see us treating our families and elderly people with respect then they are more likely to do the same.

a grandma sitting next to her grandson in the rice field

3. The nature-loving Australia

Living in Australia, I’ve grown to love its many customs and traditions. Most traditions are nature-oriented, and for a good reason. Australia is a land of pristine nature and wildlife. People here have learned to pass on their innate appreciation for all things that are natural, organic and pure to their kids in various forms of behaviour.

They teach their kids gratitude and respect towards all living things by owning and taking care of pets. Parents in Australia teach their children the importance of spending time outside by surrounding by nature. Parents here don’t fear letting their kids play on the ground, and they teach children about their environment through uninstructed play. By creating a strong bond to nature and living things, children treat the earth with greater respect and care.

Some of these things are easy to duplicate in North America. Instead of spending time indoors, we should be spending more time outdoors enjoying nature and the world around us. We can teach our children that they impact the living things around them by teaching them about the life cycle and recycling.

4. The acceptance of Africa

Among so many African traditions regarding raising kids, I’ve come across one that has particular relevance for our modern age. In one African tribe, every child has their own song that is sung to them from conception, for them that is as soon as the mother envisions the baby in her mind and all the way to their death. The entire village learns the song and sings it on every relevant occasion.

Not only do they sing this song often, but they use it in a unique way. When a  child makes a mistake or commits a crime as an adult, the whole tribe sings their song. The tribe gathers together and sings this song to remind them of the unique qualities the child possesses, the good they have done thus far and uses love and acceptance instead of punishment. The community uses this song to honour the child’s identity and teach them kindness and love.

This practice encourages me to use meaningful words to teach identity and responsibility to my kids. Giving our children a sense of self and acceptance may help them live a better life.

a mom working the land with a child attached to her back

Parenthood is a journey with many challenges. As we strive to raise our children based on our own society’s norms, we have yet to learn from other cultures that have a different yet valuable insight into a child’s identity.

Maybe if we manage to blend all of this wonderful wisdom into a collective pool of knowledge, we can give our kids the most valuable guidance this world has to offer. This will help our kids become the best people they can be.

Need more?

Parenting is hard work, and we all need some help. If you are looking for more support in your parenting, click here to receive free parenting resources.

In the comments below, please share a lesson you have learned about parenting from different cultures.

Please share this post with family and friends.

4 Things other Cultures Teach us about parenting
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