28 August 2013

ON MARRIAGE

I'm 30 years old, and have been married for a little over four years. I met Anj nine years ago, and we became "official" that August, in 2004. You can read more about those shenanigans here

Since I was a teenager, the only thing I've ever really been sure of in regard to what I wanted "to be" was a good wife, and a good mother. Divorce {or a bad marriage - because one is just as awful to live through as the other, for the spouses and the kids} and not being able to have children are two of my biggest fears.  

I knew I would marry Andrew a few months after we started dating - although I had years of school to finish before an engagement made sense for us. Then, when we got engaged, I prayed and prayed for God to bless our marriage, for him to give us a solid foundation, one that was built on him - not on our parents, not on our friends, not on our kids, not even on each other, but on him alone.

Here's the thing, y'all. He answers, indeed. But - the trials that bring about an answered prayer request are sometimes not exactly what you were hoping that God had in mind. 
I always used to think that not getting along and being mean to each other would be your biggest problem, and hell, you could tell that much when you were dating, right? I mean, we allll know 'those couples' who fight all the time, and you wonder why on earth they choose to stay together - or how they get along long enough to reproduce. Other than that, your delirious love conquers all .... right?

 But, for me & Anj, fighting wasn't our challenge. We got along beautifully and never, ever got sick of each other - as long as we were in the same house. Our challenge presented itself in the form living three hours apart for over two years {collectively}. I took a job in Raleigh before we ever got engaged, and Anj planned to job hunt and join me there. 
Then - the economy tanked. And try as we might, we just couldn't justify him leaving the perfectly good job that he had to start over in Raleigh and be the last-one-hired-first-one-fired. So, for four years {not four years straight, because of my teaching schedule, but for four years off and on} we split time in two cities. We had weekends, holidays, and track outs {three week periods} to be newlyweds. Other than that, it was a three hour drive back to our respective jobs and phone calls and emails and g-chats. Living out of a suitcase. Never having normal weekend plans because you are traveling to be with your spouse. No lazy Sunday afternoons. No Friday night dinners out, because you won't get there until bedtime. {God bless y'all who are married to those in the military! <3 }

We started off thinking that we were doing what was best for our bank accounts by taking jobs where we both had good bosses, and a steady paycheck. But, as each trying month dragged by, we realized that there were some other things that God was working to weed out of our marriage as well, which brings me to this list of things I've learned about marriage in my short-but-very-long four years of marriage. Short because my husband is truly the biggest blessing in my life, and I mean that with every ounce of my heart and soul - and long because we spent too much of it apart.

{1}
If one of you has a problem, both of you has a problem. Period.
You may not understand the other person, but you must figure out a way to come to a solution, or it will catch up to you eventually and rip your marriage apart. Do what it takes. Go to counseling. Let the other person voice all of their feelings without you interrupting. Repeat back to them what you think they are saying. {Our pastor did this with us in our premarital counseling when we were engaged - with very simple phrases, and it was amazing how the other person hears something totally different than what you are trying to communicate.} Never, ever make your spouse feel like their feelings are stupid or unfounded. If they could so quickly and easily "fix" how they feel, you wouldn't be having this conversation in the first place!
You chose to marry your spouse. An upset spouse should be a higher priority than any friend, boss, or other family member. Sit down and listen and try to help. At the very least, acknowledge your spouse's feelings and be concerned.

{2}
After God, your spouse comes first
Not your mama. Not your daddy. Not your children. Not your jobs.
Obviously, there are individual situations that are very important, and this does not mean that you isolate yourself - but in the grand scheme of things - your husband or wife should feel that they are first. If there is something that is repeatedly happening that is making your spouse feel that you trust/confide/seek advice from someone else more than them, you have a problem. Ladies, you are grown, everything is not Mama's business. Your husband is your first of kin now. Don't go runnin' home to mama/daddy/brother/sister/aunt/grandma, whoever. It won't help anything. And once you let them into your business, you will never get them back out, and you will never be able to change the negative way that they look at your spouse. This goes for husbands too - don't compare everything she does to how your mama did it. If your mama was so awesome, you shoulda married her. I think this one is especially difficult for those living in towns where both the married couples lives in close proximity to extended family. Put up some distance, y'all.

{3}
Marriage is give and take. 
Do something your spouse wants to do sometimes, and then next time, you can switch. Also, find things that both of you enjoy. This sounds trivial, but after years of feeling like your spouse is all about him/herself, I imagine it'll get pretty old, and pretty soon, you'd just rather not spend time together at all.

{4} 
Give genuine praise & compliments.
"Thank you so much for cleaning the house today." {Even if he/she cleans it every single week.}
"Supper was delicious."
"Did you get your hair cut today? You look so handsome."
"Thanks for changing my oil (or taking my car in to get the oil changed)."
Say 'Thank you' even if you think it's something they should be doing anyway - because there is no such thing as what somebody should be doing. You are just as capable as your spouse, so say thank you, and don't complain and critique the way they do it.

{5}
When something's bothering you that you need to discuss, try to be specific and don't use blanket statements. 
Instead of saying, "We never do anything I want to do," say, "Last month, when I asked you to come with me to my friends' cookout, you said you didn't want to go. But, now that your friends are making dinner on Saturday, you expect me to be there. It doesn't seem fair that we attend your friends' functions but not mine."
Use concrete examples, "The other day, when such-and-such happened, you said, "_______", and although I know you probably didn't mean to, it made me feel like _____."

{6}
Make time for yourselves as a couple, and learn to say, "No."
Being single means more free time, and it means that you are usually available to attend family functions, baby showers, bridal showers, graduations, etc, etc, etc. 
Being married means that you have all of your functions, plus all of your spouse's functions, and you need some time to yourselves (not to mention if you have kids and their schedules).
Here's the deal: You can't make it to everything. And, even if you could, it's not worth sacrificing your sanity, or valuable time with each other if that's what you need or would rather do. You don't have to make excuses. Sometimes, "We just want to stay home and relax with each other as a couple/family today" is reason enough.
If you come from a family that gets together twice a week (or more), and your spouse comes from a family that sees each other once a month (or less), then it's not fair to expect your spouse to suddenly attend every single birthday party, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, baby dedication/baptism/christening, birthday party for every family member, on and on and on. Mama 'nem will have to get over it because your marriage is more important. Equally important, other family members/friends/whoever should have enough respect for your marriage that they don't make you feel guilty for taking quality time for yourselves.

{7}
Never insult or belittle your spouse - to their face or behind their back.
Yes, we all need to vent, but it's one thing to find one friend that you trust who will help you find a solution to the problem, and offer advice without judgment, and it's a completely different thing to just list your spouse's negative qualities that get on your nerves.
And, sometimes, this isn't intentional. Saying, "He put the cabinet door on crooked and now it squeaks," may sound like factual information to you while you announce it to everybody at supper at your mama's house, but to your spouse, he may feel like you may as well have said, "Bless his heart. He tried, but he manages to screw up everything he touches." 
Or, "Mama, Susan made your casserole last night, but something about it was a little off." Hubs may think he's simply asking for his mama to offer suggestions about how to tweak the recipe, but poor Susan hears, "Mama, you know I love my wife, but she can't ever feed me as well as you could, poor thing."
And along those same lines, always be respectful and never call your spouse names or say things that are condescending just to "win the fight" or get a reaction out of them.
It just brews more and more toxicity, and you can't take it back.
Just try to be more conscious of what you're saying and how it sounds.

{8}
When you have discussed and discussed and discussed, and your spouse is listening, but they just aren't 'hearing' what you're saying, shut your mouth and pray.
  To me, this is the hardest, because everybody's doing what they're "supposed to". You are voicing your concerns, calmly. Your spouse is engaged and genuinely listening. But - it's like y'all are coming from two different worlds. 
Well, at that point, I just pray. Pray for God to help us see where the other is coming from. Help us to find a solution. Help us to focus on what matters and find a way past it.
It has worked for us more than once. Nothing about the situation changed - except, suddenly, we could get where the other person was coming from, and therefore, move forward.

{9}
As long as you feel loved and respected and safe in your marriage, it doesn't matter what other people think or if they 'get it'.
Maybe your husband's mama thinks that you should do all of the housework and that you should have his supper waiting everyday at 5:00 when he gets home. 
Or maybe your daddy thinks that your lazy husband should mow the grass himself instead of spending y'all's hard earned money to pay somebody to keep the yard up.
Who gives a flyin' rat's ass?!
How you and your spouse split household chores, childcare, grocery shopping, meal prep, whatever - is y'all's business. The quicker you nip that shit, the better off you'll all be.
Again, your marriage = God + you + your spouse

{10}
Physical togetherness is important 
Yes, sex, which is crucial, but also the cuddling and just knowing that the other person is there for you, figuratively and literally - sometimes, being near that person and feeling their embrace is worth more than you could ever put into words.
How many marriages have ended because one spouse was never around? Either they worked too much, or were always out with their friends, when the other spouse just wished they were at home with them?
Being apart was one of the hardest things we've ever gone through. We both hated talking on the phone, and sucked at it. Simply being back in the house together was such a magical, magical thing.
The second hardest was losing a baby and having to have an emergency surgery.
In both cases, having each other there helped so, so much. Andrew was there with me the whole time in the hospital. He respected and enforced my wishes to not have visitors.
Sometimes we choose to be with each other, rather than to go to things we've been invited to.
Being together in a quality way is absolutely vital.
I still get excited every single day when I see Anj walk through the door.

Now, I hope this didn't sound all preachy.
As I wrote this, I realized I've written a post similar to this before.
No matter, these are things that stand out to me as important, and I wanted to share.
Lord knows, the only reason I could even write it, is because of lessons learned - some from my own marriage, some shared with me by others.
I write it in hopes that it'll be helpful in some way.
And, I give credit for my own marriage being as magical as it is to the Lord above. Being apart wasn't easy, but he gave us the solid marriage we prayed for, and he showed us where some things needed to change in order to have a stronger marriage.

Much love friends. Hug your spouse today. Tell 'em you appreciate 'em. Do something special, just because {and it doesn't have to cost money!}.


*Also, check out this post over at Lindsey's - she interviewed her grandparents about marriage. :)

6 comments:

Amin said...

Thank You, Beth. I really needed to read this. Especially #8, but all of it. I'm just trying not to cry again today because I spent an hour putting on make-up trying to make myself feel better.

Love you, and bless your magical marriage.

Shawna

Meredith said...

This is good. basically the 'high points' we discussed with our pastor last weekend.

SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

What an exceptional post. I love it.

put a bow on it [kaitlyn] said...

Love this. Sending it to my husband now.

Joy Sugg said...

I so agree. God has brought us so far and so close through many different trials so that are greatest hope is in him. I now love to serve my husband. I mean, who ever thought I would leave Roxboro and do so willingly.

The Pink Growl said...

Love these! Great marriage advice!