Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wuv, true wuv...

It seems like there is an entire library of materials out there dedicated to marriage advice. Some of it's good, some is OK, and some (maybe more than some) is complete crap. The thing is, there's no magic formula that equals a perfect marriage - like anything else worth having, it takes work and commitment to build something truly special. I am by no means an expert, but now that I have 5 years of marriage under my belt, I've learned a ton. I don't have a perfect marriage, because a perfect marriage would require two perfect people.

(And the only one I know was a life-long bachelor)

But I do have a great marriage. A beautiful marriage. A fun marriage. And it totally rocks. I'm getting pretty sick of people telling engaged couples and newlyweds to "watch out - just wait till the honeymoon phase is over - brace yourself for the hardest year of your life!"

Give me a break!

Marriage can be absolutely amazing. Yes, it is the biggest learning experience you'll ever encounter, but it doesn't have to be a bad learning experience! Braden and I were only 19 when we got engaged, so we had the added learning curve of being very young and lacking in life experience. But it was still so wonderful. Yep, you are in imperfect, flawed, idiosyncratic human being who is choosing to share your life with another imperfect, flawed, idiosyncratic human being, and that can definitely result in some friction from time to time. But that's ok. You will look back on those conflicts and adjustments as a terrific tool that God used to help you learn about your spouse and to learn about yourself. And your marriage will be the better for it. Here are some really important things that we've learned over the last 5 years that have helped make our marriage awesome:

1. Never stop being best friends.

Braden and I are, first and foremost, absolute best friends. We just love to have fun together. It doesn't matter what we're doing, we can make it awesome. We talk about everything, share even the littlest bits of our life with each other, and never stop cracking each other up. Laughter will take you far in your marriage, and being best friends is what will keep your relationship solid for the next 20, 30, even 50+ years.

2. Choose your battles.

I'll be the first to admit: I'm stubborn, I like to be right, and I love a good debate. My husband happens to be exactly the same way. Needless to say, early in our marriage, we could duke it out with the best of them. Often over ridiculous crap we can't even remember now. Here's a good rule of thumb - before you start (or continue) an argument, ask yourself "Will this issue matter in a year? In 10 years? In 50 years?" If not, it's probably not worth fighting about. Be willing to let it go. Some things are just not worth the breath it takes to hash out. Learn how to love your spouse more than you love being right. Forgive. Forget. Don't hold grudges. This is an area we have grown so much in, and I tell ya what, it's a beautiful thing. (Sidebar: this does not mean you should avoid conflict like the plague - on the contrary, issues and feelings should always be discussed openly and honestly. Just know the difference between communicating sincerely about an issue, and just being ugly and hurtful to the other person. Which leads me to my next point.)

3. Communication is everything.

Maybe you haven't noticed this yet, but women and men are different. Really, really, really different. It's these differences that make women and men such an excellent compliment to each other. It can also seem like getting a penguin to understand a wombat might be easier than getting a man to understand a woman sometimes, and visa-versa. But communication is the magical salve that can fix nearly any conflict or misunderstanding! Ladies, your man cannot read your mind. I feel like you might have missed that, so I'm going to say it again: ladies, your man cannot read your mind! That means he cannot discern your every thought and feeling through your tone of voice, silent treatment, pouting, huffing, or carefully laid trail of breadcrumbs. You have to tell him (using words) exactly what you're thinking and feeling and why. Then you will begin to understand each other. Talk talk talk. About everything. Don't play games. Address issues like a grown up. The more openly and honestly you communicate, the more you'll start to "get" one another, and your marriage will grow stronger and more beautiful because of it.

4. Egalitarian relationships are cool.

At this stage in our lives, my hubby and I both work full-time. We also both clean, both cook, and both take care of basic stuff around the house. It's a partnership. We share the responsibilities of our shared life. When we have kids, I plan to stay home with them, but even then, my husband has already asserted that he will always share in responsibilities around the house. In his words, a full-time job is a full-time job, and raising kids is a full-time job, and taking care of the house is a full-time job, so why should one of us have to do two full-time jobs? Marriage is a partnership my friends, and if you openly communicate about even the littlest, most niggling details of sharing a life together, you will both find more peace and less resentment. (For example, I hate vacuuming, so Braden does all of the vacuuming. Braden hates hanging clean laundry, so I hang the laundry. See? Easy!) Also, he likes to cook for me. Which is pretty awesome.

5. Focus on the beautiful.

Growing up, my mom always used to say "before you get married, keep your eyes wide open; and after you get married, keep them half-shut!" As a kid, I had no idea what she was talking about. But now, I get it. When you're committed to someone for a lifetime, it benefits everyone to focus on the positive, the beautiful, and the encouraging things about that person. If you wanted to, you could get out a piece of paper right now and write down a list of things you don't like about your best friend. You could, if pressed, probably thing of things that irritate you about almost every person you know. But how productive is that? Are your relationships with anyone going to get any better if you list on paper all the things that drive you crazy about them? I doubt it. So why do people seem to do this constantly with their spouses? A lifestyle of nit-picking is like being nibbled to death by angry ducks - it's just not a good time for anybody involved. I'm sure there are all sorts of areas that your spouse needs to improve in, but guess what? So do you! You married this person, right? So clearly, there are a whole heck-of-a-lot of things you adore about them. Focus on those things you love, the things you admire, the things that make you smile - the traits that made you fall head-over-heels in the first place. Write that list down. And go tell your spouse how much you appreciate them for everything they are. Go now. I'll wait.


Here's the thing: God gave you your spouse. God hand-crafted the two of you for each other, and there is no one else on earth who is more perfectly tailored for you than the man or woman God already gave you. It is His will for you to live a life of love and unity and joy and friendship together until death do you part. What an incredible gift it is to be able to share your life with someone who loves you - now go make it as beautiful as it can be!

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