Bryan and I are celebrating our 14th anniversary today! This may surprise you, but we’ve picked up a little knowledge in between then and now. Much of this is common sense, but when you’re irritated with someone, having common sense is hard. So, here’s a few things that I have learned while spending 14 great years with an incredibly funny, brilliant, and handsome guy.
1. Your spouse cannot fulfill all your needs. God can. Even if you have an incredible husband like I do or an amazing wife, he/she is a long way from being God. Lean on God when you have a disagreement or hard time or just feel grumpy. Pray. Get insight from the Bible. Your spouse was never made to be infallible. Let them be human. You’ll love your spouse a lot better if you’re getting filled by God with love so that you can overflow with love for others.
2. You can be right but wrong at the top of your voice. That’s a quote from Emerson Eggerichs in Love and Respect. The more right I am, the louder I am, so this was a good lesson for me which is helpful with my children as well. Your tone matters. You will not win an argument with volume, even if you are right.
3. Focus on the good things. You married this person, you must have seen something in them. I think sometimes when we get married, we change from thinking we have the greatest person in the world to seeing them, as the weird rock/troll/gnome things sing in Frozen, as “a little bit of a fixer-upper.” While there may be things that we would change if we could, you’ll be much more content and happy in your marriage if your main focus isn’t that thing that irritates you but that thing that makes you happy. Then, affirm your spouse. I think the “mommy wars” are a pretty good picture of our culture. Everyone is wrong if they’re not on your side. Remember those good things, the stuff that made you fall in love with them and all the awesome they’re done or been, and tell your spouse about them. Chances are, no one else is. Make them feel worthwhile, important, attractive. That’s what they are to you, and they should know it.
4. Learn about each other’s worlds. I could not hope at this point to know as much about programming as Bryan does, but I listen to him. I read articles that he posts. If I wanted to know how to program something, I would know to Google it. I know that Google changed their ad policy and in app purchases of upgrades are the way of the future. Bryan took a psych class in college since that was my major. He’s read some books that I recommend to him, or at least skimmed them. Learning about the other person matters. Related to that, share ideas. Is there an idea that’s influencing your views on parenting, education, society, politics? Share your sources with your spouse so they know where you’re coming from. If you’re changing because of some new idea, at least your spouse will know about it.
5. You are not the boss of them. Whether we’re a mom or a manager or a team leader, some of us get accustomed to telling people what to do. Ask. Ask your spouse. They are your partner, your equal. Respect their time as a fellow adult and ask. If you have a problem with housework, childcare, finances, have a discussion and figure out a plan, but don’t order or nag or use sarcasm to tell them about your disapproval because that will totally work.
6. Dream together. There is nothing more fun to me than talking about future possibilities and goals with Bryan. I think it’s a great way to invest in each other and cheer each other on. Also, it helps you get on the same page with where your family is going.
7. Having someone in your prayer corner is huge. If I’m struggling, I know I can share prayer requests with Bryan even if I would not want to share them with anyone else, and he will be there for me, interceding. I’ve got his back, too. So, I guess I should add, pray for them. Are they struggling, why not talk to the greatest source of strength, endurance, and power there is? That’s the best thing you can do, but still . . .
8. Be willing to serve your spouse. I’m not saying one person should bend over backwards to do whatever the other person wants, I’m saying that doing things for other people is a great way to show love. Watch the kids so they can go out or work on a project. Make them a meal. Fold a load of laundry that they’ve been meaning to get to. Wash the dishes after they make dinner. Take the kids out if they’re sick or worn down so they can get a nap. They will feel the love.
9. Make time to talk to each other. You know what has been one of the best things for our marriage? Getting rid of cable service. Now, even though we sometimes watch things on Amazon or Hulu or YouTube, even though we still spend time online, we have a lot more time for conversation. I know what’s going on with Bryan’s work. He knows what my challenges or triumphs at home are. You don’t have to get rid of your tv, but shutting it off and talking is kind of a big deal for a marriage.
10. Find something that you enjoy doing together. I don’t program or solve the Rubik’s cube well. Bryan doesn’t bake or sew or read fiction or craft. We’re opposite on a lot of spectrums, but we’ll take a walk together or watch MacGyver or play a board game or go out to a movie or watch stupid YouTube videos or dance in the kitchen. It makes a difference. Related would be laugh together. I think research has proven or something that laughing together makes for a better marriage. If it hasn’t, it should because it’s true.
11. Be an accountability partner that’s an encourager not a nag. Honestly, other people may be better accountability partners for things, but if you are working with your spouse on this and they are on a diet or exercising or reading their Bible or whatever, build up their successes, help them find good rewards, but don’t nag them. Go back to #3, affirm and build up, don’t focus on the negative. Or join them.
12. Don’t argue over the little stuff. Toothpaste tube being mistreated? Toilet paper on the wrong way? Socks on the floor? Keys perpetually lost? Go ahead, offer a suggestion, tell them that it is important to you, but don’t make it an argument. Do you know how hard it is to change a habit? Of course, you do, you’ve tried to do it before. Most of these behaviors are habits. If it’s important to you, you may need to make an adjustment yourself.
13. Tell other people how great your spouse is. Don’t just stop at telling your spouse what you appreciate, tell people at your Bible study, your friends, people at lunch, people on Facebook about the good things they have done. Tell people about their accomplishments, how they’ve hit their goal. Some people think this is bragging, and it is, but it’s about someone else, so go ahead. But DO NOT, please NEVER EVER, share all your peeves and arguments with other people. I cringe when I see a husband (usually always a husband for some reason) being chastised on Facebook. It’s ugly. If you are struggling with something and have one good friend who is a good encourager, go ahead and share your problem with them, but don’t make it a habit to tell everyone the bad stuff about your spouse. These others will think you have terrible judgment, or they may think, well, if someone complained about me that much, I might not treat them very well either. And to extrapolate, don’t have a disagreement with ANYONE over Facebook. Even though it has the word “face” in it, it’s not their face which is the place you should speak your disagreement to.
14. Enjoy parenting together. Parenting can be hard, but sharing smiles over adorable babies across the room, texting the hilarious thing your kid just said, or playing together with the family is good for the family and good for your marriage. I love watching Bryan be a dad. It’s amazing. Having kids does not have to be a marriage killer if you are in it as a team and not forcing each other to compete with the kids for your attention. Also, in relation to that, put the kids to bed early for as long as you can. Trust me. At least in my marriage, it’s easier to connect with my spouse at 8:30 at night than it would be to get up at 5 and connect. People in the 1800s used to go to bed that early, your kids can to. It just takes practice.
OK, here’s a bonus #15. Realize that they probably have good motives. Your spouse, hopefully, really loves you. That means they want to make you happy. They may still be a little selfish, but you probably are, too. When they say something, they are most likely not being malicious. Case in point (forgive me, Bryan), when I was pregnant with Hannah, Bryan asked me why women’s butts get wider when they are pregnant. This was NOT the right thing to say to a pregnant woman, but he wasn’t saying I was overweight or that he disapproved of my shape, he was just expressing a curiosity. As he is still living today, you can tell that I must have been living by the spirit in that moment to realize that he didn’t mean to hurt my feelings. Your spouse probably doesn’t mean to hurt your feelings either or trip a painful memory. They love you. They want to make you happy. Talk with them about it, or realize their motives and let it go, but they are not your enemy.
I’m sure that’s not all I’ve learned, and we certainly don’t have a perfect marriage, but I feel like we’re a lot better off because of the things we’ve learned over the years. If one or two of them strikes a chord with you, that’s great! I hope you’re strengthened and encouraged. If not, then tell me, what’s been working for you?
What have you learned from being married? Being single?