A Happy Marriage-Anniversary Thoughts
A Time to Reflect
Marriage is such a learning experience. We just don't know everything the first year or even the second year of marriage. And then, just to keep things interesting the stages and phases of family life keep changing and with these changes the dynamics of the husband/wife relationship change too. So just when you think you have it all figured out, there is something new to learn about yourself, your spouse and your relationship. It can be rather frustrating, but it also keeps things adventurous as you keep questing for a happy marriage.
It is a Quest
A happy marriage doesn't usually happen by accident. Typically, it takes two people who are committed to loving and caring for one another to create a mutually satisfying relationship. What that looks like is different in every relationship.
I'm a morning person who likes to get up early and make coffee for my husband and see him off to work. This is a small thing I can do to please and pamper my husband. In other homes the morning routine no doubt looks different.
The point is not to be like everyone else. The point is to find out what pleases your spouse and do those things with a willing and loving heart.
I remember as a young wife I was having a time of intense self-pity. Why did I always have to do this and that? Why didn't my husband make more of an effort to make me happy? Couldn't he see how pleased I would be if he would cater to my every desire?
Yes, it is rather shameful to admit the thoughts I was having, but it is ever so easy to begin believing that your spouse should devote all their energies to pleasing you. And there is even some truth to that, but what stopped me short in the middle of my self-pity, was the sudden thought that I should be devoting myself to his happiness too. It wasn't all about me and my happiness.
Of course, this is completely obvious, but I still remember the room I was in when I suddenly realized that instead of thinking about all the ways my husband could and should please me, I really should devote my energy to finding ways to please my husband.
Determine to fulfil your vow
As our sixteenth anniversary approaches I wonder if I have learned anything over the years worth sharing. They have been good years, but not without some important lessons lived and learned. We could have ended up going the wrong way on more than one occasion but thankfully our commitment to each other and our determination to fulfil the vow we made before God kept us faithful to our marriage and willing to do what it takes to maintain a strong and healthy relationship.
16 marriage lessons - one per year
1. Have fun.
This isn't usually too hard during the first year when the blush of first love is still quite new. But sometimes the fun gets left behind as the seriousness of life and major decisions begin to weigh you down. Fun is so important because these are the memories that keep the good feelings alive on days when you wonder if you even really like your spouse very much (because there will be days like that). It doesn't have to be expensive fun, in fact, some of my favourite memories are the silly things we did at home. Anything that makes you laugh is great glue for marriage.
2. Spend time together - be each other's best friend
Depend on each other. Share your secrets with each other. Don't talk to another friend and tell them things you would not tell your spouse. That puts a wall between you. Build your friendship, don't sabotage it.
3. Focus on the good things about your spouse.
I had been to a wedding shower and the young bride-to-be was just oozing and gushing with pride and compliments for her groom. I loved my husband, but after 3 years of marriage, I was very aware of his humanity and short comings. I began wondering if I even noticed his good qualities anymore. I knew I could give a list of all the things I thought he could do better without hardly thinking, but if someone wanted me to list his good qualities I feared I'd have to sit and think a little harder and that didn't seem right. So for a few weeks I kept a journal of all the things I appreciated about him. If I liked the way he said 'good morning' as soon as the alarm went off, it went into the journal. If he gave me a special smile and hug, it went into the journal. Only positive comments went into the journal. It didn't take long for me to remember the great things about my husband. It was much more constructive reading, than a list of gripes about how he didn't help with dishes, or pick up his dirty laundry.
4. Read marriage books, but only as they pertain to you and action you can take.
I like marriage books and I find them helpful reading to pick up here and there over the years of marriage. Every book holds a few helpful gems to incorporate into your marriage or to give you fresh insight into your relationship. However, I have made the mistake of reading books that give advice to husbands and these books simply got my poor, unsuspecting husband into trouble. He would come home from work to find me grumpy and stewing because he wasn't doing certain things in our marriage and he wasn't interested in hearing what the book had to say. Instead of helping our marriage, the book was nearly collapsing a relationship that wasn't really that bad until I read the book and decided my husband should change. So, after a few episodes like that I realized that you only read a marriage book pertaining to what your spouse should and should not do if they are interested in reading it too, or you read it aloud together. If the marriage book idea is interesting only to yourself then stick to books that deal with only your part in the marriage relationship.
Two favourites that have greatly influenced me are:
The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
Creative Counterpart by Linda Dillow
5. Ask questions
Ask your spouse what they like and don't like. Ask how you can please them and what thrills them. Ask questions that can't be answered with 'yes', 'no' or 'fine'.
6. Keep expectations realistic
It is silly to expect your spouse to suddenly become someone different. I remember a friend of mine complaining to me that her husband had only cleaned the bathroom once in their entire married life. I was rather shocked that he had cleaned it that often, considering I was married to a man who had NEVER cleaned the bathroom. I remembered wondering if I should be upset about that as it seemed to be an issue for her. However, I realized how completely futile that would be. People are who they are. Not to say that people don't change. They do, over time and when they are ready. They don't usually change due to nagging or complaining and whining. I know that my husband is not the bathroom cleaning type of husband. He has stepped out of his comfort zone and begun to do other things that please me that I never really expected him to do, but so far he has yet to clean the toilet. I don't expect him to, and so I am not angry about this and if he ever does decide to clean the washroom I will simply be glad and impressed.
7. Do not speak disparagingly about your spouse.
If your relationship is a healthy, safe relationship, then speaking negatively about your spouse is not helpful in any way. These conversations do nothing to improve your attitude, or the attitude of your friend or family (whoever you are complaining to at the time) toward your spouse. If there is an issue to talk over with someone, choose your listener carefully and do not make husband-bashing a regular conversation piece.
If your relationship is abusive, then by all means speak to someone and get counsel.
8. Choose your words carefully when you are upset or angry.
When there is an issue to talk over, take time before you let words spill out all over the place. If the topic is particularly emotional be very careful. Choose the time and place for your conversation. Think before you speak.
9. Trust your spouse.
Don't always meet suggestions with the negative aspects of the potential plan. Husbands get irritated when you always think their plan is flawed.
10. Have mutual friends.
Have fun with other couples. An infusion of laughter and activity is good for all relationships.
11. Think about your spouse positively during the day.
Look forward to seeing your spouse again when you go your separate ways during the day. Keeping a picture, or a prayer reminder nearby can help you to take some moments to think about them and anticipate your time together when the work day is over.
12. Remember that marriage is a process.
It isn't all fun and games and high points. Sometimes you hit a plateau. There are stretches of time when things are humdrum. It's OK. Don't panic. Be patient. Look for the time and opportunity to ignite the spark again and take your marriage up off the plateau.
13. Do not compare your spouse to others.
This is very hard to do. When you hear about the friend who has a husband who always cooks dinner and your own husband doesn't set foot in the kitchen, it is hard not to envy and feel a little cheated. Or the friend who has a husband who goes over the top on surprises for birthdays and Christmas and your own husband rarely remembers to buy a gift. Stop yourself. Do not begin to pity yourself, or wish your spouse to be someone different. Remember the good things about your spouse and do not allow your thoughts to travel down the compare and envy path.
14. Look at your spouse.
Do you ever get so busy with the kids and work that you don't really look at each other when you are talking? Look at your spouse. Watch their eyes while they talk. Notice how their cheek dimples when they smile, or the movement of their hands while they are explaining something. Do you know the shape of their face and where each freckle has a place? It is surprising to me at times that days can go by with each of us busy with our own activities and conversations are hurried and distracted. Just slow down, really look at your spouse and fall in love all over again.
15. Go on dates.
This is a complicated piece of advice. It has always made me feel pressured. However, I have discovered that "dates" don't have to mean babysitters, money spent or time driving all over the place searching for the perfect night out.
It can be a walk under a beautiful June full moon, tea on the deck, a movie after the kids are in bed, or a drive to the grocery store. Just enjoy time together.
16. Be happy.
Recently I was in the mood to improve our marriage and I was badgering my husband about ways we could make it better and I was asking him how I could really please him and make him really happy etc. etc. I think I was being a little annoying. He wasn't really in the mood to discuss marriage improvements and since it was really late at night and not really the right time for this sort of discussion he finally murmured out something which turned out to be very profound.
He sleepily said, "Be happy. I am very happy when you are happy."
How true. When I am happy and cheerful the mood of our relationship is way better. It makes him happier, which in turn makes me happier and the cycle continues. The trouble is, sometimes the happiness is harder to come by. There are bad days and grumpy moods and someone has to have the courage and strength to begin the happy cycle.
If you can do it, you will be rewarded. Your spouse is most happy, when you are happy.
Enjoy the Adventure
Being married is an adventure. Your life is not your own. There is no room for selfishness, moodiness or quick tempers. It isn't always easy, but the rewards of a happy marriage are many. How wonderful to love and care for someone and in return be loved and cared for.
Take the time to make your relationship as rewarding as possible. Don't let the years and pressures of life lull you into complacency. Marriage is wonderful when it is cultivated. Root out the bad habits and replace them with good habits. You will reap the benefits.