14 years ago at the “tenderoni” age of 25, I married the most handsomest guy I’d ever seen! He was 1 month shy of his 22nd birthday, which made me a “Cougar”…to which I utter a soft, but proud RAAAAWRRR :D!
The last few weeks, my hubby and I started reminiscing…laughing and chatting it up about the growing pains, the good times, the funny moments, the ridiculous arguments, our near split and memorable make-ups. I started thinking of some of the important things I’d learned as a wife in 14 years of marriage. I decided to pen some of these lessons – some hard learned years ago, some I only recently mastered and some I’m still learning. Marriage is a lifetime…you really never stop learning.
Certainly a lifetime of becoming one with another yields more than 14 short excerpts, but 14 is the magic number for now. Next year, I’ll share 15 more :). Here goes (in no particular order):
- Touch often. Everyone, everything on this planet with a brain and a heart yearns to be loved! There are many ways to show love, but I’d argue that nothing is as powerful as the human touch. You can usually spot a closely-knitted couple easily by their physical proximity to each other and the way they interact through touch. It is hard for them to keep their hands off each other – not always in a seductive manner, but subtle gestures like rubbing thumbs, playing footsies, rubbing the other’s head, or even something as simple as their arm around their mate. I’ve learned that a soft, warm touch can quickly diffuse anger and relieve stress. Touch is a powerful communicator. Don’t underestimate it. There can never be too much!
- Set goals together. Marriage is not a reason to lose your individuality. There will always be individual things you want to accomplish. Maybe it’s a doctorate degree, learning a new skill, developing a talent, or even white water rafting. Whatever your personal goals, be sure to make “together” goals. Whether you accomplish them in the time you allotted or not, you will realize the effort taken to get there is the stuff that builds your relationship. People often advise about financial goals, which is great and even priority I would say, however, making not-so-serious goals together is great for marriage (aka team) building. A trip to Greece, recording a documentary, volunteering at a hospital, saving for a large donation – planning for the needful as well as the pleasurable can be fun and rewarding.
- Get yourself some friends. Let’s be real here…I don’t care how pretty your teeth are, how sexy you look or how amicable you are, no one wants to sit up under you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week nor vice versa! Spending time away from your spouse cultivating your friendships keeps both you and them sane. When I first married, I thought my husband was to be everything to me…EVERYTHING! I quickly found out he could not appreciate the many hues of lipstick I felt MAC developed just for me like my girls can. As well, I could not relate to the Patriots losing the Super Bowl like the fellas could. Time with the girls/guys is essential in relationships. Encourage your spouse to spend time with their sisters or brothers. If you don’t have a good circle, make it a point to get one!
- Maximize each other’s strengths. Most couples I admire are complete opposites. I have watched very many of them over the years and realized the reason is this: the strength of one is usually the weakness of the other. Example: I am the BEST at spending money – THEE BEST! If we need something, I can bargain hunt with the best of them to obtain the best quality item at the lowest price – I will NOT pay a lot for my muffler! 🙂 The only problem is I will overspend in a New York minute! By the time I pick up a few extra whatnots because it’s such a good deal and we can always give them as gifts to this one and that one, I am way over our budget! Not good! Enter my husband…the saver. He always saves the day (get it :))! He can only bargain shop if I give him a very detailed list of what to buy and where, BUT he is THEE BEST at saving money (…read as “saving” me from spending too much “money”). It’s the perfect balance really. Had I realized this our first few years of marriage, I would have saved myself from a world of debt. Discover what your strengths (and weaknesses) are in your marriage and find the best ways to maximize them for the common good.
- Set boundaries. Every couple is different just as with every individual. What’s good for one relationship may be the detriment to another. Recognize your thresholds and discuss them. Set reasonable boundaries to ensure each other’s security and comfort. This can apply to something as minor as what time the lights go out at night to something as major as opposite sex relationships. Set your boundaries and make every effort to stay within them. In a questionable situation, ask yourself, “What would I do if my spouse was here?” You should get the right answer every time.
- Laugh. The bible is so right that laughter is like medicine. Earlier on in our marriage, I was so dern serious! As much as I joke around and love to entertain and get out and enjoy life, it’s probably hard to believe, but I was a stiff neck at home. My feelings were easily hurt (and sometimes I just acted like they were) all because of some really tall pedestal I thought I sat on. I did not believe my husband should laugh at me…EVER…unless I laughed first…HA! I learned quickly how silly that was and stopped taking myself too seriously. My husband and I have tons of fun laughing at ourselves. Sometimes it’s my crooked wig, sometimes it’s his wrinkled pants LOL! We laugh at you too! 😀 I’ve found that many would-be arguments can be avoided by interjecting something completely and foolishly funny (and usually something completely foolish is what the argument is all about anyway).
- Hone “a very particular set of skills”. This is a G rated blog so I will leave it at that. Enough said! 😉
- The kids will leave. I have seen a lot of couples, especially mothers, spend the majority of their time raising their kids. Soccer practice, teacher conferences, PTO volunteering, etc. All of that is great and needed! The kids grow up to achieve the American dream – college, job, house, the works! The husband and wife, however, eventually divorce because they don’t even know each other anymore. This happens more often than we know. While certainly I would not advise child neglect in any form, it simply is not healthy to your relationship to pour ALL your efforts into your children while your marriage lacks the quality time needed to grow. The kids will eventually leave (or at least they’re supposed to). When the little ones become big ones, you want to be left with someone you can enjoy for many more years to come – until the end of time. Find ways to get that quality time in with your spouse now…even if it means missing a soccer practice or refusing little Johnny from sleeping in your bed.
- Get into his/her world. More than likely your spouse has a hobby or something they love to do in their spare time. My husband is a sports F A N A T I C! Me? I couldn’t give two-tenths of a dern about sports. Reality shows are my guilty pleasure. My husband? Loves watching the tube, but couldn’t possibly care less about my shows. Yet, we both make an effort to appreciate each other’s favorite pastime. I have to admit…stomaching football is haaaard for me. I’d rather watch paint dry LOL! But, if it’s an important game to him, I’ll cook a few of his favorite bites and be a peaceful onlooker while he explains to me every play. On certain weeknights when we’re not too busy or too tired, he’ll routinely ask me, “So which show are we watching tonight?” Sometimes he’ll even recall a past episode better than I can LOL! Getting into your spouses world takes extra time and effort and sometimes more planning than you’d like, but the payoff in cool points is BIG! 🙂
- Get professional help. Sometimes you just can’t resolve things of your own attempts. Recognize the need for help and resolve to go out there and get it. You may need couples counseling, but sometimes individual therapy is a necessary precursor. Exhaust all efforts to save your marriage. Talking out your issues with a trained counselor will help you see things – often yourself – in a different light. Many times we think it’s our spouse when it’s really our own heart and mind that needs fine-tuning. **PLUG ALERT: If you are in the Chicago area, I happen to know a GRRREAT therapist. Check her site here and tell her PThirty1 sent you. ;)**
- Be practical. Let’s be clear: God is first in ALL things! It begins with Him and ends with Him. A relationship with Christ and connecting through prayer is essential whether you’re single, married, divorced or a monk! Religion, however, is no place for marriage. The Merriam-Webster definition of religion is, “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” So religion doesn’t necessarily refer to your serving God, rather a practice or set of practices you adhere to. In learning to live peaceably and lovingly with someone for the rest of your life, your “religion” will be challenged. It doesn’t mean that your beliefs or practices are right or wrong, but it could be wrong for your spouse. One belief instilled in me since birth is that of the husband being the head of the house, the chief provider, the end all/be all and sole leader in the household. This belief placed a false burden on my husband and a huge strain on our marriage. For example, we have both been jobless at some point during our marriage, but the level of stress during my jobless season was waaaay less than his – boy, it got reeeeal hot! While even in his jobless days, my husband still found work and even started a small business to keep income flowing, yet the spirit of religion almost overcame me. I didn’t feel like provision was part of my role as a wife although I had worked all of my adult life and enjoyed having a career and my own flow of income. In fact, early in our marriage, I had tried being a stay-at-home mom for a little less than a year and decided it just wasn’t for me. So why did I have a problem stepping in as a co-leader and co-provider in our home while my husband sought steady employment again? One word – religion! I was inflexible and my belief was unreasonable. I could go on and on with examples here, but the gist is this: apply practicality and sensibility in all things. You will sometimes find the beliefs you hold on to are just dead wrong. They may even be right, but the delivery or application is misplaced. Sometimes you will need to take a step back and apply good old common sense to a situation. Everything is just not that deep!
- Drop the in-law drama – it’s his momma! Okay, I kinda liked the sound of this one, but it’s true – a lot of marriages have in-law issues. And most of the time, it’s somebody’s momma that is a part of the drama (are fathers just too cool for drama?). Here’s my take – who doesn’t love their mom??? Even if she’s nit-picky, fussy and opinionated, most people are naturally drawn to their mom and seek her approval – especially men. Allow your spouse time with his/her parents. Don’t nag or induce melodramatic episodes to prevent your spouse from spending time with the one that birthed him/her. Make an effort to get along with your spouse’s parents. And, if all else fails, just stay away from the drama while still allowing him/her to keep the relationship they have with their parents. Besides, if someone doesn’t have a healthy relationship with their mom, there is probably a deep, underlying issue that inhibits a healthy relationship with anyone else.
- Learn to make his/her favorite meal. There is something to be said for a good meal! I believe everyone – not just foodies – have at least one dish that they would eat everyday if they could. It might be mom’s mac-n-cheese, Uncle Ray’s barbecue ribs, or a grilled gruyere cheese sandwich with fresh avocado on a ciabatta roll and a side of tomato basil bisque. Huh? Oh, right…what was I saying? LOL! I know some people are just not that into cooking. That is A-okay, but ladies don’t be fooled. It may seem old-fashioned, but having at least a good recipe or two under your belt goes a long way with a man. I believe it is still one of the ways to his heart. My husband used to order orange chicken from Panda Express a couple of times a week. One day, it clicked to me. I need to learn how to make this for him! He greatly appreciated the gesture (hence, my 3rd child :)). And guys, even if your wife is a master chef, she doesn’t want to do it all the time. Don’t be afraid to bake or fry up something every now and then. It may take a lot of trial and error, but making the effort to cook your spouses favorite meal will say a lot about how much you value him/her. It says, “I want to please you!” From there, the sky is the limit! 😉
- Shut up sometimes! Eeeee doggy! Boy, did it take me quite some time to learn this one. And admittedly, I learn a bit more about this one every day LOL! Plain and simple – not every battle is worth fighting. Not every misplaced word is worth correcting. Not every argument is worth winning. You really do achieve more and learn more in silence than you do in the war of the words. Ladies, if you’ve ever found yourself repeating your words over and over, you may have already realized sometimes men tune us out anyway LOL! At some point it just becomes, “blahblahblahblahblah…” Ain’t nobody got time for that! Stop focusing on winning the argument and start focusing on what really matters. This applies to both men and women. Peace in your home is priceless. Be okay with losing the battle to keep the peace!