My sweet husband and I recently celebrated our 11th anniversary. While I know this doesn't sound like a lot to some of you, in this age of quickie divorces I'm pretty thrilled to have made it this far. So, I got thinking, what advice could I give a newlywed or someone thinking about getting married?
Well, here it is (in no particular order):
My Guide to a Happy Marriage
1. Make Sure You Like the Person You Marry
You might be thinking, "Duh, of course I LIKE the person I'm going to marry." But do you? Do you really? If you put away the butterflies and the mushy gushy feelings, do you like them as a person? In my opinion, it's more important to marry someone you consider a friend than it is to marry someone who sets you on fire!
2. Be OK With Your Spouse's "Habits"
Everybody has little quirks that make them unique. Some are annoying; some are endearing, but we all have them. (I totally drool when I sleep) Despite what you think: THEY WILL NOT CHANGE. If your man is not lovey dovey now, please don't think that he is going to start being Mr. Romantic after the vows. It ain't gonna happen. If you don't like the way your lady leaves her keys laying anywhere and everywhere, chances are that's not going to change. Either learn to live with whatever annoys you or don't take the plunge, but do not go in thinking you can "fix" the other person.
3. The Seven-Year-Itch is a Real Thing
I don't know what it is about seven years, but I have talked to several folks who say the same thing. The seventh year of marriage is HARD. Really hard. Just trudge through it. Don't get discouraged. It can feel very lonely when you're going through a rough spot in your marriage, but know you are not alone. Seek the godly counsel of a friend who has already weathered the seventh-year-storm, seek couple's counseling if necessary. Keep James 1:2-3 close to your heart, "Consider pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." Don't give up.
4. Don't be Disillusioned When it Comes to Kids
Having a baby will not fix a troubled marriage and it will stress a healthy one. My husband I knew we wanted children. What we didn't know is how much they would change our marriage. We had planned to wait five years before having kids, but three months after our second anniversary we were pregnant with TWINS. Yeah, talk about a culture shock. We went from being basically newlyweds to a family of four. If you want to have kids because you think that precious being will pull your tired, crumbling marriage from the brink of collapse, think again. The stress of raising a family can push it over the edge. Think your marriage is solid enough to weather any storm? Children turn storms into hurricanes. Without a doubt, children are a major blessing, just know, be prepared, be mindful: A BABY CHANGES EVERYTHING.
5. Don't Try to be Their Parent
You are both grown-ups and while it's tempting to try and parent your spouse when they're acting like a complete baby, don't. It only makes it worse. It also serves to belittle them in the situation. Remember that as ridiculous as they are acting, chances are that you'll act equally as ridiculous at some point in time.
6. Take Time for Yourself
No matter how much you love your partner or how much you love spending time with them, being around someone 24/7 can get irritating. Find something you enjoy doing by yourself and take the time to do it. Go in a different room and read your favorite book, or go fishing or do anything that allows you to recharge your batteries. I sing in an interdenominational choir which practices once a week. Those few hours away from home doing something I enjoy makes me a better wife and mother.
7. Recognize That Different is Not the Same as Wrong
When two people, with two personalities, live under one roof, things are going to get done two different ways. That's ok. If he doesn't fold the towels (or the shirts, or the underwear) the way you like them folded, please don't fuss. HE IS FOLDING THE LAUNDRY. Just because things get done differently, does not mean they are done wrongly...wrong...wronger (I dunno). Let go of your perfectionism and allow the other person some breathing room. Men, this goes for you too. If your lady decides to fix the toilet that runs constantly, please don't give her a play by play of how YOU would have done it. Instead, thank her for a job well done by taking her out for dinner. Ladies, just a heads up: men parent differently than women do. In our house that means a lot more TV, but as long as everyone is safe, healthy and happy, I have to remember...it's NOT WRONG, JUST DIFFERENT.
8. Explore Your Spouse's Interests
Chances are you and your partner enjoy similar activities, but you also enjoy very different hobbies. My husband likes to fish and hunt. While I don't mind doing those things, I can think of activities I'd MUCH rather be doing. I like to sit and have meaningful conversations...my husband doesn't. But if a marriage is going to work, it's important to explore what makes the other person happy. I've gone hunting and fishing with my man; what he remembers is that I got out of my comfort zone to do something that was important to him. My husband is rather socially awkward, but I can't count the number of times he's gone with me to gatherings when he'd rather be at home playing video games. When you do something that is meaningful to your partner, you are saying, "I love you" without having to say a word.
9. Go on Dates
Because we DON'T get to do this very often, I know how vitally important it is. Consciously setting aside time to rediscover each other helps remind you why you fell in love in the first place. If you can
go out on dates, or away on weekends, PLEASE do it. We don't have the money or the babysitters to do either, but we can still set time to watch movies after the kids go to bed, or play a board game, or just talk. Again, because we're not good at this, I know how important it is.
10. Be Aware of the Seasons
Winter, Summer, Spring...? No. Your marriage is going to experience seasons. Seasons of plenty and seasons of want. And I'm not just talking money here. There are times when you cannot wait to get home to your fella or your woman. Then there are the times when neither of you are acting particularly loveable and you'd rather go lock yourself in the bathroom with a Hershey's bar than be around THEM. There will be seasons of joy and seasons of sorrow. There will be seasons of sickness and health. (This sounds a lot like marriage vows. Hmmmmm, coincidence? I think not.) Thing about seasons is that they pass. The good times can't last forever, but neither can the bad times. You've got to walk through the shadows of the valleys to see the sunrise from the mountaintops. You can't give up just because it's hard, and you can't grow complacent because everything is awesome. Seasons change.
11. Marriage is Not 50/50
Contrary to popular belief, each half of the marriage union needs to give 100%. Enough said.
12. Put God First
There should be three people in your marriage. God, you and your spouse. If God is the head of the household all else will fall into place. When you honor your spouse with your life and your love, you honor the One who said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18). When both spouses see the need depend on God rough seasons are easier to get through and seasons of plenty are that much more joyous (See #10).