10 Almost-Perfect Tips for the Imperfect Marriage

I needed these tips for the imperfect marriage when we married 10 years ago. Thank God, we have them now! When we first got married we’d argue and we’d fight. I remember trying to go to bed after arguing about something really important like dishes or laundry. In my mind, we had entered the verbal boxing ring, and I had one goal: WIN.

20 years young, gettin’ married.

He had one goal also: SLEEP.

Finally, I’d think of a point SO GOOD he’d fall silent. I was sure he was speechless with my wisdom, and I would let the victory spur me into more knowledgeable insights and quotable thoughts. I was five minutes in before I’d recognize the sound of heavy breathing. He hadn’t just “drifted off,” the man was in some sort of euphoric coma. He had MISSED my moment and he still did not know that I was RIGHT.

I’d turn on all of the lights and open all my dresser drawers just to slam them again. I’d grab my water from his side of the bed by “accidentally” trampling him with all my limbs. When all else failed I would drive around town until two in the morning eating tacos. Finally, my passion would dwindle and I would go home, conceding only because I was sure he would be worried, that he’d be awake and right where I wanted him … in the depths of despair. Instead, he was snoring. Snoring is annoying.

We’ve been married almost 10 years now. Still, we fight. Not as much. But still, sometimes, I bring out all my ugly in front of him.

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But I don’t think that’s because my marriage is hard.

We are vulnerable, we are raw and we show all our ugly because we are safe for each other. He loves me with my crap, and he tells me to stop it. And that’s what I need. My marriage is my best place to be real. Messy as it may be, it’s my favorite.

In our 10 years (of short) experience, here are 10 things we have learned and live by:

10 Tips for the Imperfect Marriage

1. Our marriage isn’t defined by the hard stuff.

Sometimes all the cars break, and the blender breaks, and I get the kids to school an hour late. Sometimes I set the cooking utensils on fire and shatter a $400 window. Sometimes there are surprise tax payments and a son who decides to put beads in his ears.

Torched utensil
Torched I tell you, torched.

There are all the little things. There are also harder things like miscarriages and broken friendships. LIFE is challenging, but at the end of the day, we are on the same team. Our marriage isn’t about life’s obstacles, and we are stronger together.

2. We mess up in our marriage.

We make mistakes and it is not pretty. But we stay, we show up and we forgive. It’s taken time, but we know now: There’s no better person on earth to fail around than each other. I know that his messes and his ugly don’t make me less, and they don’t make him less either, and then we can fight things together. That’s what best friends do. When I say I’m flawed and I can never change, he says BULL, and he is right. We are better and stronger when we listen and are safe and we forgive.

3. It’s OK to lose it.

We’re not each other’s mentors, bosses or parents. We’re each other’s friends, confidants, and partners. Sometimes after the end of a long day of keeping it together, we fall apart. Because we can. We cry. We say we can’t do it anymore. We let all the thoughts OUT, and it’s good.

4. We are each other’s most important cheerleaders.

This man has seen me in sparkly gaucho pants, light blue crocs, and a pregnant belly. He’s with me every morning when I stumble my way downstairs for coffee and can only communicate in grunts and swear words. If anyone knows, he knows, and he says I have what it takes to conquer my dreams. So … I must.

5. Sometimes he forgets…

what it’s like to be at home with kids. Sometimes he says, “If you would just look at our two-year-old, and raise your one eyebrow at her like I do, then she would listen and you wouldn’t want to bash your head against the wall.” But then he stays home instead of me, and after he needs to go into the mountains for four hours, and so he knows.

6. Sometimes I forget….

to ask him how his day was. I forget that he just worked 12 hours, and all I care about is that he changes the diaper and that he casts a magic spell on the chaos to make it STOP. But then I remember and I make gin and tonics and his favorite burritos, and we high five because we each survived this day #likeaboss. 

7. It’s good to let things go.

Sometimes we have to change our minds about things, like how he decided to think it’s cute that I lose everything and that I never have my own socks, so I borrow his. He decided to think it’s cute instead of annoying, and that was nice of him. I decided to like shows about cars and pawn shops, especially if it involves my back being rubbed.

8. We have friends besides each other.

We have other people too. He has poker nights and bro-trips and I have the best-besties a girl could ask for. People we do life with and are absolutely real with. We are big on being authentic and if we’re struggling we talk about it. We need community to be healthy.

9. Marriage is still an adventure.

We love adventure. We still have theme parties and go out dancing. We sold our house so we could go to Costa Rica and take our kids across the country in a camper. We have lone ventures too, and are quick to accommodate each other’s plans. Settling down does not mean we have to settle-in.

10. We are, and we always will be, best friends

Yes lovers. Yes parents. Also best friends. People that love to talk to each other about anything and everything. The silly things, like how I was so tired I almost tried to pay for my Americano with a bowl of oatmeal this morning, or how his day was just the worst. Being BFFs is about having secrets that no one else will ever know, about dreaming together, about always having each other’s backs and thinking the best, not the worst.

He is my best friend and I like him. I think he’s funny and smart and that he is the best dad. I like that he thinks it’s cute when I cry, and funny when I’m angry. And if I’m going to be hangry or unreasonable or frazzled or depressed, I’d rather be that way with him than any other place on earth.

Because the thing is, our marriage is a place for our most ugly, but it’s also a place for our best and our most beautiful.

About the Author: Jessica Johnston, her husband and her four kids (Malachi 8, Scout 6, Oaklee 4, Haven 2) live in the heart of Montana. She’s passionate about community, adventure, family and KEEPIN’ IT REAL in the process. Her writing has appeared on and Scary Mommy. She loves sharing laughs with you at You can follow her there, or “like” her page on Facebook’s WONDEROAK Blog.


Kelsey Straeter
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Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.