Life Lessons from My Marriage
I was never the girl who daydreamed about getting married and starting a family. In fact, I never had any desire to get married. Frankly, I didn’t see the point in monogamy, and committing to spending the rest of my life with one person seemed...boring. I didn’t grow up in a family of married couples, nor did I see very many of them in my immediate circles, so marriage didn’t seem like something for me. But the funny thing about God is that he takes your plans, turns them on their head, and shows you that what he has in store for you is far better than anything you could have ever dreamed or imagined. That’s exactly what being married has been for me. It has been the best thing I never knew I needed. And with that being said, it has also introduced a new learning curve, a new skill set, and a new way of being in the world. Although we are still babies in the married game (four years in and counting), there are lots of things I’ve learned.
COMMUNICATION is always the best way. You think this is the cliché you’ve heard millions of times before, but it is a tried and true testament for successful marriages. As humans, we often assume what the other person is thinking. As flawed individuals, we often assume the worst. A simple conversation, a simple question, a simple explanation﹘all can save you the heartache, frustration, and confusion that follows the silent treatment and it’s the only thing that makes the rest of this list work.
LISTENing is more important than speaking. The other side of communicating is being open to listening which does not mean sitting there and coming up with a response to what your partner is saying. It means truly registering and taking in what they are saying, allowing it to sit with you, and then responding from that place.
Always be LEARNing. One result of not daydreaming about marriage and not having marriage role models was that I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing! The things that I thought I knew were only the tip of the iceberg. So in the beginning, we read books about marriage and learned the framework of what it takes to have a healthy marriage. Two of our favorite and most recommended books are Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. People change and grow, and you have to be willing to learn what your partner needs in each new phase of life. Just because you think you know your partner, doesn’t mean that they can’t surprise you. The more you seek to learn about them, the better you will be able to consistently show love to them.
You also must TEACH. We all want to be understood and for our loved one to know us so well that they do just what it is we want without being prompted. But the way to ensure you actually get the things that you want is to tell them (see #1.) Your partner is not a mind reader. Replace hinting and hoping with informing and receiving. It’s rewarding for both of you when the the other engages in learned behaviors after a lesson. (I’ve pretty much trained Mr. Marcy to be a therapist and it’s the cutest thing!)
Be alone TOGETHER. Spending time with my husband, just the two of us, with no phones, social media, or distractions is one of my favorite pastimes. Be intentional about this by setting aside time to spend between just you and your partner. I heard on the podcast ONE Extraordinary Marriage to have weekly meetings so we also schedule time to talk about our marriage or things that are going on with each of us. Regarding the first four points, this is a practical way to communicate, listen, learn, and/or teach. If there’s nothing on the “agenda” for that week, this is a great opportunity to just have fun with one another. Our weekly meetings are my favorite.
Offer each other GRACE. Your partner is the person that you will spend the most time with but often you give them less kindness and patience than you give to the strangers on the street. This is a common and huge mistake. I’ve learned to be kinder to my husband than I am to anyone else on this earth and I try to forgive him quicker than I forgive anyone else because he deserves it. In reality, he’s the one putting up with all of my crap, so at the very least, I should offer him a similar amount of grace, if not more.
Relationships must be RECIPROCAL. Remember, the more you give out, the more you receive. If you want love, give love. If you want grace, give grace. Go above and beyond in doing for the person that you love and they will go above and beyond in doing for you. However, if you notice that you’re going above and beyond but your partner is not reciprocating, then it’s time to inspect your marriage. Couples counseling doesn’t mean that you don’t love one another, it simply means that you need a tune up. Address the issues that you have before it’s too late.
CELEBRATE the small things. It doesn’t always have to be big celebrations, surprises, or events. Small things like preparing a home-cooked meal, washing the dishes when it was actually their turn, or glancing over with a slight smirk that lasts a bit longer than normal are key. These little things that say “I love you” are worth so much more than the big gestures.
Have SEX. Often. Period.