Kids have a way of challenging us and pushing us to look at our lives from a different perspective. As cliché as it may sound, I can honestly say that my children have changed me in so many ways. And some of the change is difficult to process because our kids force us to see not just our best, but also our worst qualities. As difficult as that may be, though, seeing the worst in ourselves offers invaluable lessons that can improve so many areas of our lives.

I can’t say that I wouldn’t be happily married if it weren’t for my kids because I just don’t know that. It’s quite possible that if it were not in God’s plans for us to be parents, we would still have a happy marriage. But I can say with certainty that I have learned a lot about how to navigate my marriage and how to be happier in it because of my kids.

When people enter your life and they depend on you for everything, it stretches who you are as a person and it makes you look at your previous commitments differently. When my children were born, the expectations that my husband and I had of each other changed. We realized that the life we once knew would never be the same, and we figured out how to make changes so that we wouldn’t lose the love we had for each other because we now have two people that need us in a profound way.

So, in raising children and navigating marriage, what have I learned? A whole lot, and I believe I will carry these lessons with me throughout our marriage.

Here are 5 marriage lessons I’ve learned from my kids:

Patience will get you everywhere.

Admittedly, I am not the most patient person. It’s not a quality I am proud of. I have always been really patient with kids so I thought that having my own would be no different. I guess the patience fades when it’s your own children, though. Having two kids under the age of 6 has taught me to be more and more patient with each day, and being more patient with them has made me realize how important it is to be patient with my husband and to ask him to be patient with me.

Having patience with the people you love, whether it be your children or your spouse, can make all the difference when building a healthy relationship.

How you say things really matters.

How I say something to my kids has proven to be far more important that what I am saying. My tone, my body language, and even the expression on my face—they all convey meaningful messages. If my attitude and energy is off when I deliver a message, I may as well not speak because what I am saying is not being heard.

Yelling gets me nowhere with the kids and neither does saying things passively. The same goes for my marriage. I have to communicate with my spouse in the way that encourages him to listen, otherwise my message is missed and nothing I say is heard.

The anger is not always about you.

Sometimes my kids start crying, or my 2-year-old has a tantrum, and I can spend so much time trying to figure out what’s wrong. I wonder if it’s something I said, or something I gave her (or didn’t give her), but finally I realize that her mood has nothing to do with me. Sometimes kids aren’t even certain why they are upset. Maybe they got hurt and don’t want to talk about it, or maybe they had a bad day and just can’t figure out how to express their frustration.

I’ve realized that adults do the same thing. Sure, we should have the words to express how we feel, but sometimes we just don’t—or we can’t at the moment. That can lead to misunderstandings and can leave your spouse feeling like they did something wrong.

But the thing to remember is this: it’s not always about you. When the people you love are in a bad mood, just give them a bit of time to express how they feel, and don’t assume you can fix it.

Time outs work for grown ups too.

We all need quiet time and space. It gives us the ability to reflect and calm down. Just like your kids need a time out when they have done something wrong, adults can benefit from a time out as well. If you just had a fight with your spouse, give yourself some time to cool down and relax. This allows you to think about what went wrong, how you feel about it, and how you should move forward. Taking some time serves our kids well, and it serves us well too.

Change is scary but can be great.

Kids love routines and change can scare them. I get it, because change can be some scary stuff. But once we embrace the change and process the emotions that come with it, we often realize how great the change can be.

In marriage, change can be scary, and maybe even painful, but it can often lead to a wonderful new chapter in your relationship. The things in life that scare us the most often lead to the most growth, and ultimately a greater sense of joy.

What have you learned form your children about marriage? I’d love to hear.