Best thing I ever did, or what was I thinking? We asked readers recently marking 10-year anniversaries to tell how marriage has or hasn't has or hasn't met expectations.

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We asked readers recently marking 10-year anniversaries to tell how marriage has or hasn’t met expectations. Guess it’s no surprise we didn’t hear from those at each other’s throats. All said they’re still in love but they’ve learned a few things along the way, too. Excerpts:

Faith Cooley Hesselgesser, 44, project manager, and Eric Hesselgesser, 47, software development manager

Ticking clocks and values: Faith: “We both knew we wanted to have children. When you’re 35, you don’t want to be spending a bunch of time talking about it or you’ll miss your window of opportunity. A lot of people scrutinize a lot of issues but most of these are really non-issues. They spend too much time obsessing — does he leave his socks on the floor? That’s so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. What mattered to me were values: Was he trustworthy?”

Biggest challenges: Most of all: “Kids are tough on a marriage. He’s used to being No. 1 with me, and I’m used to being No. 1 for him. But then kids throw you for a loop. It was probably my big adjustment because I needed to do everything, but it didn’t even dawn on me to ask him to help. Maybe that’s because my mom did it all.” Eric: “Spending time together — finding personal time. Both of us kept trying to fix it.”

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Which led them to local marriage guru John Gottman’s “booster” seminar at the Relationship Research Institute. Eric: “It relieved a lot of the pressure to know that other people were dealing with this” and allowed him “to re-connect with Faith and what was important for us.”

Phil Thompson, 49, labor-relations attorney, and Beth Dolliver, 55, retired labor-relations specialist

On her earlier marriage: “I was too young and unrealistic.” Her father suffered a stroke, and “you realize time is finite. I asked myself: ‘Is this really the kind of relationship I want to be in when my days end?'”

Course correction: She and Phil first met through work. Each divorced, and within a year they bought a house together and married after Beth became pregnant at age 45.

Parenting: Beth: “Both my daughters (from her first marriage) would probably tell you that I was distracted and not as engaged as a parent. When you’re in a difficult relationship, you withdraw … I’m more patient (parenting now), even if I’m more tired.”

Mid-life marriage: “When you’re younger, you’re more focused on whooping it up. As a mature woman, I’m much more interested in just spending time with my husband. Some of my best memories are of taking a walk and having a conversation where he is truly listening to you. Believe it or not, we derive a huge amount of satisfaction in just going to Costco together. The ordinary takes on a whole new meaning when you do it with someone you care about and who cares about you.”

Ken Molsberry, 45, computer analyst, and Chris Vincent, 47

Going slow: Chris was in Japan for a year soon after they met and almost daily e-mails helped them “get to know each other intellectually before we ever fell physically and emotionally in love.” Ken: “I had been married to a woman for seven years before I came out. If I was going to find someone else, I knew getting to know them would be slow and careful.”

Best part of marriage: Chris: “We had already been living like a couple for many, many years but when we were married (in San Francisco) we finally felt complete. We didn’t think it could get richer, that it could be something better, but it was … It was such a sense of belonging and acceptance by society.”

Biggest challenge: Having their marriage nullified when a court overruled San Francisco’s decision allowing same-sex marriage. Chris: “If anything, it brought us closer to together … We want other people to see that it’s important for them not to take their marriages for granted.”

Ron Stuart, 37, Bothell High School guidance counselor, and Leinora Stuart, 35, kindergarten teacher

What’s important: “I knew which qualities were important to me,” Leinora says. “The one thing that stood out in Ron was his gentle heart. It showed in his love for kids. I also knew the qualities I didn’t want in a husband. No. 1: a temper.”

Best move: “It’s been key that we waited six years to have kids,” says Ron. “That gave us time to enjoy being a couple,” buy a first home and subsequent fixer-uppers and pour in their “sweat equity” side-by-side.

Toughest challenge: Leinora’s taking a break from teaching to stay home with the boys. “I don’t think we realized how difficult it would be,” she says. “We’ve really learned to trust each other’s (spending) decisions. It can be stressful, but it’s helped us grow.”

James LeRoy, 29, MBA student at Seattle University, and Jennifer LeRoy, 29, elementary teacher now stay-at-home mom

Marrying young versus later: They fell in love working at a Dairy Queen at age 16. After high-school graduation they married, and James enlisted in the Air Force. Jennifer: “Even though James was young, he was mature, respectful. The first time he met my mom, he came in the house and took off his ball cap. That was important to my mom, so it was romantic to me.”

Hardest thing: Jennifer: “We faced a lot of pressure. A lot of people thought we must be pregnant if we were getting married so young.” (She wasn’t.)

Best marriage moves: One was moving away from their families for the first four years of marriage. Jennifer: “We learned to be more independent and rely on each other more than anybody else.”

John Hellwich, 43, middle-school dean, and Jeanie, 40, middle-school teacher

Best thing they did: Jeanie: At a McDonald’s two months after they wed, “we got on the topic of happily married couples, and sadly, we had a hard time coming up with even five couples we knew who were crazily, happily married. We decided right then and there that we would always be the happiest married couple we know. I know it sounds ridiculous that one hurried dinner conversation has had such an impact on us,” but it worked.

Biggest challenge: “Going through infertility for several years. We talked about it a lot and realized that children would be a blessing but we were complete as a couple.”

Changing each other: “We seldom argue, but we very quickly come to the middle. When we first got married I was a staunch Republican. I referred to him as my Socialist friend. We’re both much more moderate (now). It’s because we share ideas and we’re growing together as we share values.”

— Reporter Suzanne Monson is a Seattle freelance writer.

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