Deciding to get married can be a grown-up thing. Notice I said, “can.” I don’t believe that getting married automatically puts you in the grown-up category; there is a journey of letting go of childish things and attitudes that has to occur. At first, I didn’t realize this, but as I learn to slow down, one of those grown-up things . . .they’re popping up all the time.
Here’s 10 grown-up things that we’ve learned since getting engaged.
1. Being able to keep your cool when someone cuts you off. In the literal sense, driving on the road and the everyday interactions of life, the impulsive need to “be right” is slowly waning. It’s just too much energy being pissed for a moment that doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things.
2. Not complaining all the time. This is a hard one. It’s easy to complain. It’s a shortcut to your irrational self, which is gratifying but always leaves you the worst place. Not complaining is a discipline and disciplining yourself is one of the best habits you can build.
3. Caring for more than you. When you move out and enter college, it’s all about you. You buy food for you. You clean for you. You split checks. You cook for you. When you get engaged, you promise to make room for someone else. Someone who also has done all those things for just themselves too. Caring for each other means your heart has to grow up and make room for more than you.
4. Making your house a home. The concept of home has always been a strong theme in my life. Long before I got engaged, it’s been a journey and process to share this theme, and it’s importance to my partner. Having a home isn’t just having fancy outdoor furniture or planting new plants. It’s not just buying new sofas and rugs from high-quality designers. And it’s certainly not mimicking an expensive model home. It’s planning, discussing, working on, building and having pride in a place that’s all your own—together.
5. Sticking up for each other. “Where’s your fiancé?” There’s an annoying societal obligation to be with each other all the time when you become a couple. I don’t believe in this. As couples, you’ll draw those lines in the sand as to where you “should” show up together and where it’s okay to not be together all the time.
Despite what other people think, the put-upon obligations of what it means to be engaged are defined by you together, and it’s up to you to communicate that outward. I used to get thrown under the bus if I didn’t show up to a friend’s party or event until I voiced that it doesn’t matter what other people think. What matters is what we think of each other and how we represent each other when the other isn’t around.
6. Having the courage to change the norm. We had a fight in a public place one time. The normal and typical thing was to quit. Go home. Stop talking. Go to separate rooms and fume for hours. This needed to stop. And that’s what I said, “This needs to change.”
Having the courage to change what or how you’ve handled things just because that’s how it’s always been done is hard. It makes you realize you’ve been wrong, and both of you need to change. It takes a great deal of self-awareness to call yourself out, but it takes someone who chooses to love to determine to change and make it stick.
7. Seeing past your assumptions. We all assume things, but I have most shamefully let my assumptions keep me from creating a relationship of equality. I would often let my assumptions of my partner keep him from fully discovering something about me or himself. “He’ll never understand” was something I used to say a lot to myself.
It kept me from being the woman I wanted to be and the man my partner could become through self-development. We’ve learned to create an environment where it’s okay to be wrong and forgive each other mistakes.
8. Calling each other out in a kind way. It’s enough that you’ll know almost everything there is to know about each other. Things can get old, things can become routine are boring. That’s okay too. It’s up to you spice up your lives when you need it. However, one thing that should never get old or diminish is being kind. We all have our faults, and being self-aware to those faults are what push you to mature, although being kind about it the growing pains of maturing should always be handled with care.
9. Having an outlet. No, not a shopping Foutlet. Although shopping together is quite therapeutic sometimes. Having a creative outlet or more specifically an emotional outlet is something we became brutally aware of as we matured together.
Being on different physical planes and capacities made it difficult to find something we could both enjoy on the same level. Climbing has become that thing for us. It’s become something where we can act as a team, build each other up, support our falls, mentally and physically and be at the same level.
10. Establishing your voice. Sometimes, one of the scariest things is asking for what you want from your partner. Better yet, asking to discuss what you want. When I first entered in the relationship I’m in now, I had no voice and didn’t know how to develop it. I was like a child gesturing and pouting and silent treatment-ing. When my partner taught me to say what I meant and did what I said. I became a stickler for it and found out I had so much to say.
Megan Pangan is the founder and host of the video podcast Get in the Lab. When not creating content online, Megan enjoys climbing, fishing and gardening.
This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.