It’s hard to believe that ten years ago today, my husband and I tied the knot. Of course, I made sure it was a constrictor knot. To date, he has not escaped. I honestly was a baby when we got married, and he an adult. In fact, in the 9 years that separate us, it’s crazy for me to think that I’ve just passed the age that he was when we first got married. My! How my perspective on life has changed.
Just recently, Brent was asked to share what he believed has strengthened our marriage throughout the years. Interestingly enough, this person (who has hit a bit of a rough patch-don’t we all?) has been married longer than we have. Brent and I sat down and brainstormed a list of 10 beneficial practices. Please note that all of these do not come naturally, and some of them we I didn’t even begin mastering until MONTHS ago. We’re all a work in progress. So without further adieu, here’s what we would tell our newlywed selves if we crossed paths in the space-time continuum:
- Have the same faith/worldview and practice it. Personally, this is the foundation of our relationship. I can’t imagine the obstacles we might have to overcome if only one of us went to church and we both had different ideas on how to raise our kids. In all things, we are a united front.
- Get on the same financial page. Money problems (either debt or miscommunication about money) is one of the leading causes of divorce. Brent and I have zero money fights in our relationship, and most of the time when we have a conversation about money, it’s actually really fun. We are squashing goals together and dreaming of our future.
- Discover and speak your partner’s love language. If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, take some time to check it out: http://www.5lovelanguages.com. People speak their own love language, but most couples do not have the same love language. That means your partner might not be feeling what it is you’re cookin’ up. You’re speaking French when all he understands is German.
- Forgive and ask forgiveness. Be quick to admit you’re wrong and ask forgiveness! And if you’re the one who is being petitioned to forgive, don’t make your partner jump through hoops to be back in your good graces. I’m not suggesting sweeping large, complicated problems under the rug, but be willing to have dialogue about it, without an agenda to come out on top. Instead of having an “I must win” attitude, sort through conflict with the mentality of “what can we do to make our relationship better.”
- Get away for several nights without any family members as often as possible. This one doesn’t need an explanation. It’s important to have time away from the same old same old. Adventure does a couple well.
- Surround yourself with friends who share your values. Brent and I believe in having diverse relationships. But when you think of the friends you’re “doing life” with, you should mostly choose those who share your core values. We have an inner circle of friends we are confident would give our kids the same advice we would (especially when those teenage years hit and they don’t want to hear it from mom and dad). It takes a village to raise kids. Make sure your village is not full of town idiots.
- Make expectations clear. If Valentine’s Day is coming up and you’d be disappointed if your spouse doesn’t do XYZ, YOU NEED TO TELL HIM. Absolutely under no circumstances should your response be that you want “nothing,” unless you truly would be happy with NOTHING.
- If you have kids, get away WEEKLY by yourself (especially if you are the primary caretaker). Ever since we added our second child, Brent and I have actually increased our social calendar: movies with friends, coffee, solo shopping. Just being able to shut off all the demanding responsibilities you experience during the week, even if only for a few hours, will help you reap numerous rewards. You return home refreshed and ready for the next challenge.
- Get help when you need it. Don’t believe the lie that counseling is beneath you. If issues run deep, it’s completely acceptable to seek licensed help. You are not a failure because you reach out. In fact, you are quite courageous.
- Laugh. A lot. At yourself, at each other, together. Laughter is the best medicine.
Let me also say this: There is no one-size-fits-all marriage. Each one has its own nuances (I mean, just throw in in-laws and no two marital relationships are the same). Brent and I aren’t perfect. At times we’d be embarrassed for you to be a fly on the wall. However, in 10 years, we have never said the D-word. In fact, I can promise you we haven’t even thought it. Not because things are always so swimmingly awesome. I’m fully aware that the best OR, heaven forbid, the worst is yet to come. But, we are ONE and operate as ONE. When he hit a valley, we look upward and onward.
If you’re getting ready to tie to the knot or have only taken the first few steps into your marriage, may your relationships be blessed. And if you’ve been married longer than we have, I’d love to hear the wisdom you’ve gained throughout the years.