10 Things I've Learned About Marriage
We are headed into October very, very soon.
And I suddenly realized that shortly thereafter Tom and I will have been married for a year and a half.
Okay, okay. I am not one of those "OMG! We've been married a year and 2 months and 12 days and 4 hours and 15 minutes and 6 seconds!" kinda gals. But I guess I also looked at my blog categories and realized the Weddings & Marriage portion is getting a tad dusty.
So here is a list of several things that, in the past year and a half, have made a difference in our marriage.
1. Don't fuss over the little things (just like everyone says)
This might seem like "Well, yeah I've heard this a million times... duh." But I really think this one is worth repetition. Do those strewn shoes you always trip on make you want to bang your head against a wall? If you were to lose the love of your life, you'd give anything for them to leave their shoes strewn around just one more time. Tom's shoes are always like this and I hate tripping over them... but over time, I've made less and less fuss over picking them up.
2. But the little things actually mean a lot
No, I am not contradicting myself here. The small things can make such a difference, especially when you acknowledge and appreciate them. When Tom does the dishes after I make something or picks up his shoes before I have to... Or how I always do the laundry, fold his clothes, and put them away. When I grab him a beer, while I'm grabbing one for myself, or how he gives me the last bite of ice cream. Those are such small things, but man-oh-man do they make a difference. Not only do I know he'll appreciate having clean clothes for the week, but he also TELLS me how much he appreciates that. Would he still do those random acts of kindness even if I didn't thank him for it? I'm sure he would, but being outwardly appreciated for it sure makes you want to keep doing it! And when he gives me that last bite of ice cream, you can bet he'll always get a wink and smile of appreciation from me :)
3. One bad day doesn't dictate your whole marriage
Sometimes I get in these funks where I'm just unforgivably annoyed. Nothing cheers me up. I'm grumpy and moody... and somewhere in there I let my mood dictate our relationship. Like I make the biggest deal out of the smallest things - it's unhealthy and pretty cruddy of me, as a person, to do. I'm getting better at it, and Tom is actually the bomb-diggity at cheering me up. But it is definitely a lesson I've learned. It isn't fair to my main squeeze and he deserves someone who isn't going to let a bad mood make their relationship a buzz kill too. Usually, coffee and a biggggg hug helps though.
4. It's not about you
Yeah... soooo... selfishness doesn't have a place in marriage. Period. You are encouraging, uplifting, holding, and supporting your spouse. Their needs go above yours. Sometimes that can be a transition. For me, I used to sometimes choose clothes shopping over grocery shopping and eat toast for a week. In marriage, that doesn't work. What, am I going to insist on that $85 dress instead of groceries for our week? No! It should be such a privilege and blessing to have someone to put before yourself. Do I feel a little "behind the times" in my wardrobe? Yep, but we aren't starving!
5. Bickering or fights are inevitable - but it matters how you go about it
We have a few rules for when we get nippy with each other:
- Do not talk over each other.
- Do not raise your voice (And if you do, and the other clocks you on it, there is no getting defensive. Just take a breath).
- Do not shut down.
- Absolutely NO name calling.
- Listen and respect what each other is saying.
- And do not diminish or demean each other's feelings.
We are two different people. Tom is not "my other half" and vise versa. We are individuals that work together as one, but we will have differing opinions, views, or ideas. So what ends up happening in our spats, is two people working to understand the other in open and honest communication. No putting up walls, just open. So truthfully, our "fights" are really pretty calm and I am so thankful we learned this right away and set up ground rules.
6. Laugh, laugh, LAUGH
We make jokes out of everything. I think it's my favorite part of marriage. All the inside jokes, secret signs to each other in public, and the ENDLESS sarcasm. Some would say that sarcasm in a marriage is damaging. If it sounds like this: "Oh of course you wouldn't ever do that. Because you neeevverrrr make mistakes. You're sooooo perfect!" then, absolutely - very damaging over time. However, sarcasm is built into our personalities and it sounds like this:
(While driving around looking for somewhere to eat)
"What do you want for lunch?"
"So something cheap?"
We laugh a lot. It does the ab muscles good.
7. A little PDA does the soul some good
A while back, I wrote a post about holding hands (check it out here). This post still rings true to me. I hate seeing young couples, especially, not holding hands or showing any kind of affection. Okay, so you aren't "touchy" people. Or you don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. Sorry, but if people have an issue with me holding my HUSBAND'S hand, then we live in a weird, weird, society. It is the most non-intrusive way to show someone affection, and I for one will always be for it. Even a kiss on the forehead or a little peck is harmless in my book. I like people to know we belong together, and it makes me fuzzy when that guy grabs me around the waist and plants one on my forehead. He's letting the world know I'm his, and in doing so makes me feel pretty darn loved. I say keep up the PDA! At least to an extent... everything in moderation, right?
8. Plus other physical things
Okay, I'm not gonna get all "hot and heavy" on this part because I'm pretty sure our moms read this (haha sorry moms!), so all I'm gonna say is... be intimate and enjoy. What an awesome God-given gift. Yes, I'm talking about sex. I once read an article about a really old lady talking about marriage. When she started talking about sex, she said "I don't understand the excuse 'I'm too tired.' Unless you've been lifting boulders from sun-up to sun-down, then being tired is no excuse" I think that's good advice and keeps the excuses out of the bedroom.
9. Forgive and then forgive some more
This is huge. The thing is, you're gonna hurt each other, you're gonna be wrong, you're gonna be right, you're gonna make mistakes because you're human and you sin. So forgive, forgive, forgive. Forgive out of love, and because you're going to need forgiving too. You don't just say it, you MEAN it. I don't even have more to say about it, because it speaks for itself. You have a lifetime on this earth with this one person and you're going to come across disappointments and mistakes, so you had really better learn to forgive.
10. Marriage is really great
I'll just go ahead and say it. Marriage is so awesome. It is such a blessing that God gives us, and though we have plenty more to learn, and we'll have our share of ups and downs, going through life with someone who loves waking up next to you, kissing you goodnight, and everything in between is indescribable. You can't explain it, and unless you're in it, you don't really get it. One of my best friends who has known Tom and I from the start, was single up until this past year. Now she's with the guy she's going to marry, and I will never forget how she came to this realization one day: "Joy, you know I have always been you and Tom's biggest fan. I love your relationship, and I have always been so happy for you and listened to you talk about how much you love him. But I never fully realized what you meant until now. Now I GET IT. It's amazing and unlike anything else... and all those times you'd tell me about what it's like never made sense until now. I GET IT!" It's so true, there is just something you don't "get" until you're with the right person, and wow. It's so incredible.
I know we're only a year and a half in, but that first year teaches you a lot. You depend on someone else, and someone else depends on you. You aren't living this life for you, you first and foremost live it for God... but along your side is someone who will encourage you and live this life with you as a partner and companion. There will be more things to learn, and I am looking forward to the journey that comes with that.