Marriage is hard.
Being honest about that fact doesn’t make yours any less rewarding, enriching, or holy.
I’ve been married for almost three years now. As the time has passed, I’ve found myself writing down little lessons I’ve learned on marriage in my journal. I looked through it recently and realized I would have loved to know this stuff right after I got married. I always tell my husband that we should write this stuff on the little “advice” cards you find at weddings. You know, the “what’s your key to happiness” keys and there are little cards attached to them. Or sometimes it’ll be a canvas you sign with your little suggestion for a happy marriage… I don’t have a wedding to go to right now, but I do have a blog… I give you, the eight lessons we’ve learned that have enriched our marriage and helped us to grow closer to one another!
1) Take as much time as you need to work out disagreements. If you go into the discussion with a time limit of when it should be over or how much time you can spend talking, it’s guaranteed that one or both of you will feel cheated and unsatisfied. In addition, it’s an absolute waste of time to talk within a time limit and then end the conversation without working anything out.
2) Be sensitive to your spouse’s feelings. If you sense your spouse is unhappy or annoyed with you (even just a little bit), don’t let it go by without saying anything. If you do, that sadness or irritation will grow into resentment that will be a surefire fight later. Instead, gently approach your spouse with a temperate attitude and ask if your concerns are valid. If they are confirmed, do your best to work it out while it’s a small misunderstanding or frustration.
3) Figure out each other’s Love Languages early on! For instance, I am an “Acts of Service” person and my husband is a “Words of Affirmation” person. For about a year, I tried loving him by little serving acts (i.e. breakfast in bed, washing the nasty pot on the stove, picking him up from the school, putting away his folded clothes) and would often be frustrated because he wouldn’t even seem to notice and I would sense that there was something I wasn’t doing right. I was trying to love him that way because that is the way I felt loved, but I totally missed the point! It was only after we took the little quiz that I realized his longing for “words” and I kid you not, as soon as I started practicing that, I could tell that he felt better and had more confidence in our relationship! (Fun Fact: Pinterest has lots of sweet ideas for loving someone with words (post-it notes on the mirror etc…) if you need a little help.
4) Encourage time alone. I am a clingy person and I guarantee if you ask any of my friends, they rarely see me without my husband by my side. I just love to be around him, even if we aren’t interacting. That is a good and sweet thing, but giving your spouse time to be an individual is a must. While you have become One, you don’t cease to have your own ideas, hobbies, likes, and dislikes. Example one: Just because we got married and became One, it doesn’t mean that my husband magically likes mushrooms even though I love them. That seems very silly, but it’s true and it works for other things too. Example Two: Just because I married an extrovert doesn’t mean I am no longer an Introvert or that I don’t need quiet time to recuperate after a party. Respecting each other’s individuality (and really thinking about the things that helped you to love that person during the dating) will help you to grow closer together.
5) Cut each other some slack on the little things. Ladies, he isn’t going to put the toilet seat down every time. Gentlemen, she isn’t going to remember to hang up the towel from her hair every time. I actually smile when I see the lid up now, because I know that my husband tries so hard to remember to put it down. He gets it right ninety percent of the time! In turn, I try to hang my towel up for my husband because I know it bothers him when it’s left out somewhere and he understands that if I don’t, it’s not for lack of trying.
6) Whatever you do, do not yell. I learned that one from my Dad, who, in all my years of living under his roof, never yelled during an argument. I struggle with this one and I’ve made it my mission to abide by this rule at all times. I fail. A lot.
7) Spontaneity can go a long way sometimes. It is easy to fall into a rhythm in your marriage and let me just say, THAT’S GREAT! If you guys have a good routine going, way to go! But remember that it is so easy to lose track of each other in the habitual practices of your days and before you know it, a week has passed and “daily life” has gotten in the way of you guys spending some quality time together. One time, I got home from work and after seeing how “blue” my husband looked, I decided to give us a much needed rest from life and book a hotel a few hours away! I also decided to keep it a surprise and so I packed all of his stuff for him. At 8:05 p.m., I stocked the car with our favorite CD’s and drove us out of town. It was only when we were about half an hour from our destination that I told my husband where we were going and all the exciting things we could do for the weekend (we had an awesome guessing game going before that though!). He was awestruck (I’m not a very bold person so it was way out of character for me to do something like that) and we had an amazing getaway weekend that lives on in our memories. We have only done something like that once because it’s not exactly something that is inexpensive. But we’ve been spontaneous in many other economical, effortless ways (i.e. picnics at the park instead of dinner at home, midnight walk looking at the stars, a drive to the lake).
8) Do stuff together on occasion to encourage your spouse’s interests. What I mean is, in addition to giving your spouse their individual time, also offer to do some of their favorite things with them! My husband loves Batman (comics, movies, everything about it). I knew this when we got married just as he knew I hated Batman. It’s almost three years later and he has never ceased asking me to watch it with him (“give Batman a chance,” he says). I finally decided to give it a go and was actually surprised that I enjoyed the movies. I still wouldn’t have picked them out to watch by myself, but that’s the great thing about marriage! You’re exposed to new things and you become a much broader person. Alternatively, I love Jane Austen. Ladies, my spouse took the time to watch Pride and Prejudice (not the 2005 version, the 1995 SIX HOUR version) with me when I was home sick one day. I felt more loved than ever by his interest in my interests, and he even had a kind word or two to say at the end!
I hope something from our list will benefit you in your quest to love your spouse more and more each day.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned in loving your spouse? I’d love to hear in the comments below!