Colby and I celebrated our 20th anniversary on the 17th. Just a few weeks before that, I turned 40. That, my friends, means that I have been married to this guy for half of my life. And I can tell you that when we got married, I was far from done. Meaning, I, or both of us rather, had so much more learning to do. In fact, the past 20 years of marriage have taught us a lesson or two along the way.
If there is one thing I have learned the hard way… MARRIAGE IS HARD WORK! It is not all roses and making love I tell ya. There is some crazy amount of time and effort you must put into a marriage in order to make it happen. And even then, you are in no way promised an ounce of success. It takes two. Both parties must be actively involved and willing to make the relationship become what you envision. Don’t expect it to be “walk in the park.” If you do, you will only set yourself up for failure.
I am only giving it to you straight here. I feel it is best.
Second, after our separation (I told you… it’s HARD WORK, remember), we both made a promise. Never use the D-word.
Divorce is a word that should not be spoken in a marriage in haste. This was also told to us in our (required) pre-marital counseling, but we never got it. It definitely helped in the demise of our marriage in the early years. Just keep it from leaving your mouth if at all possible.
Respect each other’s differences. You are not married to each other so that you can change your spouse. This is not a missionary marriage. Stop it. Let your spouse be who they are meant to be. You be you. There was a reason you were attracted to each other in the first place, now remember those reasons. Dwell on those. Don’t nit-pick. GROW TOGETHER.
Communicate. Always. The break down of communication is a relationship killer. You must be able to talk to each other and be comfortable sharing. Learn to both talk… and listen. Be there when your spouse needs you with your full, undivided attention. I cannot tell you how important this is, People!
Fight fair. Oh, THIS is so important too. You are going to have disagreements. There is no doubt. It will happen. You put any 2+ people together and there will be differences of opinions. BUT… there is a way to discuss things without yelling, throwing things, or slamming doors. Learn how to fight fair and your entire life will change. I am not kidding. This one discipline was a huge key in our marriage after we reconciled.
Again, there will be arguments. There are some points where you both may have to agree to disagree. That is okay. Come to an agreement that you both feel is fair and that works for your situation. Sometimes it may be the best option and there is no reason why both parties can’t give a little.
Put your marriage first. I know. I know! This was so difficult for me to “get.” I was taught that the children came first. Their happiness was all that mattered. But, when I (slowly) learned to put Colby’s needs and happiness first, not only did our marriage improve… but our family dynamics got better. The kids saw us happy… together… and it made the entire household seem to beam rainbows and unicorns. Not kidding! Try it and see how it can change your relationship.
Learn to say “I love you” according to your spouse’s love language. Whether you have read the book or not, every one of us feels love in a different way. Watch and learn how your spouse feels love the most. Then, discover new ways to continue to fill their love tank according to his/her needs. We all want to be loved, but we all do so differently. For example, I need tons of quality time whereas Colby needs words of affirmation. Together, we have learned how to give each other the things we need so that we both feel loved and respected.
Keep the romance alive… always. Just because you have kids, that does NOT mean there is no longer time for intimacy. How do you think Colby and I had more than one child? Ummm… make time for each other. Enjoy the moments you have. Keep your spouse lingering for more. Date your spouse as often as you can. Be creative!
The thing most couples fight over? Money. Have a plan. However you choose to budget your money, do it. Be wise about it and don’t live above your means. It simplifies things and reduces the need to argue over it. Trust me on this.
And if you’re going to have a disagreement, say “I’m sorry.” Swallow any pride and humble yourself enough to apologize. Right or wrong doesn’t matter if your marriage is being sacrificed. These are strong words and can change everything.
Lastly, put your marriage first. (See what I did there?) Honestly though, you cannot expect to set your marriage on cruise control and hope things work out. It doesn’t happen that way. It is meant to be a union of two people into one. You become one. TOGETHER you must learn to look past your differences, expect the unexpected, roll with the punches, celebrate the triumphs, and love each other… no matter what. Love is a choice. Choose each morning when you wake up to love your husband/wife. There really is no greater thing than that.