Our last dance at our wedding in 2019

5 Lessons Learned in the First 5 Years of Marriage

What I Learned After Being Married for 5 Years

It’s incredible how time has flown! Today marks the 5th anniversary of my marriage to Amanda. It seems like we said our vows yesterday in St. Augustine, Florida, in 2019. Now, after five years of marriage, we’ve both experienced significant personal and professional growth, not to mention the growth in our relationship as a married couple.

I’ve been contemplating writing a blog post about this milestone anniversary for a while now. Between work, family, and what life throws at you, finding the time to share our journey has been a challenge this year.

So, what’s the focus of this blog? I plan to dive into each year of our marriage and share the valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way. These lessons have truly shaped my perspective as a husband and partner. I hope that sharing these insights will resonate with those who have journeyed through five years of marriage or even those who are yet to take that step. My aim is for this blog to spark moments of reflection and inspiration for you. Enjoy the read!

Year 0 – 2019: Honeymoon Phase (Build a Team)

Amalfi Coast, Italy
Visiting the Amalfi Coast during our honeymoon in (2019)

After our wedding, Amanda and I enjoyed a few days at Disney World with my family before heading back to Atlanta, where she was working at the time, to pack before our flight to San Francisco. Leaving Atlanta was tough since it held sentimental value as the place we first met in 2016. Atlanta had become a second home to me during the times I visited Amanda for the past 3 years.

Then came the big move to San Francisco. I remember telling Amanda, “Welcome to your new home,” as our plane touched down. Little did we know that the first year of marriage was going to be a roller coaster. My sister generously offered us a place to stay in her in-law suite, but Amanda often felt like she was intruding.

We spent weekends exploring open houses in San Francisco and the East Bay, eventually falling in love with a townhome in Richmond’s Marina Bay neighborhood. After discovering a new development called North of Marina Bay, we put a deposit on a brand new single-family home without breaking the bank on a fixer-upper in Oakland. We moved into our home in September 2019 and have since made Richmond Marina Bay our home. 

Through this experience, I learned that buying a home is a joint effort. We discussed our priorities, like safety and proximity to work in San Francisco and Oakland. The proximity of the ferry terminal made choosing Richmond Marina Bay easier. It became clear that listening to your spouse and prioritizing their happiness truly leads to a happier life. Happy wife, happy life!

In October, just a month after moving into our new home, we went on our honeymoon to Italy for two and a half weeks. Visiting cities like Milan, Amalfi, Rome, Florence, and Venice was an unforgettable experience.

2019 marked our honeymoon phase, during which we achieved significant milestones as a couple. We also attended Amanda’s friend’s wedding in Florida and continued our tradition of seeing the Nutcracker ballet that we started in 2018. Wrapping up the year with the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker was a perfect end to a year filled with new beginnings as Mr. and Mrs. Gee.

Year 1 – 2020: Build a Strong Foundation

2020 Lassen Volcanic National Park
Sledding at Lassen Volcanic National Park during the COVID-19 lockdown (2020)

2020, what a rollercoaster! Just after we got our new place, Amanda and I were caught up in the daily hustle – early mornings, late nights, and that constant rush. Our lives were pretty much scripted: wake up when it was still dark, zoom to work, and then back home to chill and chat over dinner. It felt like we were just going through the motions, hardly having a moment to really make our space feel like “us.”

Then, out of nowhere, COVID-19 flipped everything upside down. Like everyone, we thought it’d just be a brief hiccup, but as days stretched into weeks and weeks into months, our makeshift home offices started feeling all too permanent. This unexpected break from the usual rush gave Amanda, with her amazing eye for design, the perfect chance to make our home ours. And just like that, staying in became our new favorite thing.

You hear stories about couples getting cabin fever and being stuck with each other nonstop, but we had the opposite experience. It would’ve been different if we were still squeezed into my sister’s in-law suite. But having our own space meant we could get through 2020 together without getting on each other’s nerves.

That year was really a foundation-builder for us. It was a challenge, but we made a conscious effort to figure each other out, improve our communication, and learn to live together 24/7. We agreed to never go to bed upset and to talk about it through.

Since traveling wasn’t an option, we turned to local road trips, checking out all the cool spots around the Bay Area, such as Port Costa, Port San Pablo, and Locke. Have you ever heard of Locke? It’s a small town built by the Chinese for the Chinese back in the early 1900s. Despite the chaos of 2020, it brought us closer and laid a solid foundation for our marriage.

Stepping into year two, it was clear that 2020’s ups and downs had taught us a lot and strengthened our marriage. Those early days really shaped our journey, making us a solid team ready to take on whatever was next.

Year 2 – 2021: Communication

Dole Plantation
Visiting the Dole Plantation in Wahiawa, HI, for a Dole pineapple soft-serve (2021)

2021 kinda felt like we were living through a sequel to 2020 but with a clearer view this time around. Amanda and I decided to convert our first-floor den, turning it into our home office. You might be thinking, “Don’t you guys get on each other’s nerves, being together 24/7?” Honestly, not really. Sure, if we both have calls, I’ll grab my laptop and make the kitchen counter or the dining table my temporary office. Or the rooftop deck if the weather’s holding up.

The magic word in all relationships is communication. It’s been our secret sauce from the get-go. I had a gut feeling about Amanda even before we met in person. When we clicked on our first date (yeah, that was back on August 26th, 2016—crazy, right?), I knew we had something special. Fast forward to now, celebrating our fifth anniversary, and it’s like, we’re doing something right, aren’t we?

Being together so much has led to some pretty deep conversations. We’ve talked about everything—life, goals, even sports. Yup, Amanda wasn’t much into sports before, but hey, people change. During this time, I also did a bit of a friendship audit. I did a social experiment, reaching out to people I thought I was close with. And man, was that an eye-opener. But Amanda was there for me the whole time, seeing how much it hurt and always supporting me. It’s all about finding that balance and pushing each other to be our best selves every day. I keep telling her, “I’m going be the best version of myself today,” and she’s probably heard it a million times, but that’s how we are.

Amanda gives me the space to talk and see my friends whenever I want and vice versa. We trust each other and know that maintaining our friendships is important and meaningful to both of us. We can go from having deep conversations to goofing around. We keep it lighthearted.

Year two taught us a lot, like how important it is to stick together, talk things out, and keep the vibe light, even when we’re dealing with the usual life stuff like budgets, bills, or disagreements. It’s all part of the journey, learning and growing together and just enjoying the ride.

Year 3 – 2022: Grow Together

Zion National Park
Visiting the beautiful Zion National Park during the winter (2022)

2022 was a pretty big year for Amanda and me. We were thrilled to kick things off with a well-deserved pay raise. Personally, I made a major career move after spending 9 years at my first job – I finally landed my dream role as a presales Solution Architect. It was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. Things were really looking up for us, both in our professional and personal lives.

On top of all that excitement, I also got accepted into an Executive MBA program. Talk about a busy year, right?

We traveled and did a lot in 2022. It all started with a birthday trip for me at Zion, Death Valley, and the Grand Canyon National Parks. Who knew you could roast coffee beans in a popcorn machine? We gave it a shot and now we roast our own coffee beans when we find time. We also tackled water leak at home that took us over two years, but we finally got it sorted with the builder.

Then there was the unforgettable moment cheering on my nephew at his first-ever Little League game in San Francisco. We visited Disney World after attending a wedding in Jacksonville and were able to fully enjoy it this time around, especially since I got food poisoning there in 2019 after our wedding. We got our music fix at the Lovers and Friends festival in Vegas, where we enjoyed throwback jams with friends and encountered a potential shooter scare. That was an intense situation that I’ll never forget…

Our adventures continued with a trip to Ashland, Oregon, for some Shakespeare and wandered through Redwoods National Park. The Great Reno Balloon Race wasn’t quite what we expected compared to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, but it was still fun. Maui for Amanda’s birthday was amazing and relaxing, especially with goat yoga!

Amanda went to the University of Florida (Go Gators!) for college, and I went to Sacramento State. Amanda wanted to watch a Hornets football game, and we were able to watch the Hornets win in an epic overtime game televised on ESPN. We tried glamping in Sonoma, took a spontaneous trip to LA for a Blackpink concert, and spent a cozy Christmas in Leavenworth, Washington, visiting a reindeer farm with friends. The year wrapped up with a snowy trip to Yosemite, where Amanda and I took skiing lessons for the first time. Through all of this, we’ve shared so much and grown even closer. We did a lot together, even with the busyness of work and life. I believe we can accomplish anything we put our minds to.

Let’s rewind a bit to our early days when we first started dating. Cooking meals together has always been fun for us. I can still vividly recall those trips to Publix in Atlanta, stocking up on groceries for the week and then going back to Amanda’s condo to cook dinner. We kept planning out our dinners when Amanda moved to San Francisco. We’d plan out our meals using a spreadsheet before eventually switching over to the Paprika iOS app. It’s been a game-changer, saving us time and making our dinner prep sessions way more fun and enjoyable together. We still laugh about the early days while living in my sister’s in-law suite when we used to eat dinner on our futon, using an Instant Pot box as our dining table (humble beginnings!).

Year 4 – 2023: Celebrate Milestones Together

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Beautifying Lake Chabot Marina as part of Earth Day 2023

Amanda and I are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, and we celebrate every big and small milestone together. Whether it’s celebrating a bonus, a pay raise, or completing a major project, our dating anniversary, our wedding anniversary, or our family and friend’s birthdays. We do it together. When I finished my EMBA program in March 2023, we chose a simple yet meaningful celebration at Glen Ellen Star, our favorite restaurant, instead of having a huge celebration.

2023 was one of the most difficult for us. We faced our difficulties head-on, engaging in honest discussions and seeking outside help when needed. Through couple’s therapy and personal coaching, we gained deeper insights into ourselves and each other, reinforcing the trust and openness we share.

Our experiences highlighted the value of seeking help and being open to growth within a relationship. For those considering therapy or coaching, taking that step can be transformative, especially with resources like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) available through many employers. My own positive experience with therapy, supported by my employer’s EAP, reinforced the importance of mutual commitment to the process.

2023 strengthened the importance of partnership and shared growth, teaching us that facing challenges together and maintaining open communication is key to building a lasting relationship.

Year 5 – 2024: We Made It!

Kihei, Maui
Catching the sunrise in Kihei, Hawaii, for my birthday in February (2024)

Can you believe we’ve already hit the 5-year mark? Honestly, it feels like it happened in the blink of an eye. Sure, there have been some ups and downs along the way, but mostly ups, thankfully. And you know what? We wouldn’t have it any other way because we’ve learned so much—about each other and about ourselves. Amanda and I are just excited as we step into this next chapter of our lives together. Heading into the upcoming year, one thing’s for sure: we’re going to maintain open communication and live life to the fullest together.

Final Thoughts

It’s almost hard to believe, but five years of marriage have zoomed past us. It feels like just yesterday Amanda and I were saying our “I do’s,” and now here we are, half a decade later. I’ve learned quite a bit along this journey, and I really hope you’ve managed to snag a helpful tidbit or two from my reflections. If you’ve hung in there with me till this point, I just want to extend a massive thank you. Your time and attention mean the world to me.

I’m all ears for your insights, too! Do you have any advice on a thriving marriage or relationship? Any feedback or thoughts you’d like to share? I’m here for all of it. Your constructive feedback is valuable to me.

Before we call it a day, let’s do a quick recap of the key takeaways from each year:

  • Year 0: We teamed up as the dynamic duo, Mr. and Mrs.
  • Year 1: Laid down a rock-solid foundation to build on.
  • Year 2: Mastered the art of heart-to-heart chats.
  • Year 3: Pushed each other to grow and be our best selves.
  • Year 4: Made sure to celebrate our wins, big and small.
  • Year 5: Here’s to the start of another five years!

Again, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you find it inspiring, please share it with your family, friends, or your network. With that being said, pay it forward to make someone else’s day better. Do better. Be better. Today.

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