Tomorrow I will wake up next to the man I have been married to for thirteen years. In my mind, we have been married hardly any time at all and at the same time, we have been married forever. We have grown up together, grown spiritually together, and grown some children together.
I do not claim to have all of the answers to having a good marriage, but what I can claim is thirteen years. It is most definitely a drop in the bucket to those who have been married half of a century. However, it is also a massive feat to a large majority of people in our society today. I was eighteen years old when we got married, and I’m sure that everyone thought it would be a complete nightmare of a mistake…..it wasn’t.
How does it work?
*Make it through the first seven years. I firmly believe that it takes seven years to learn appreciation for living with someone and for someone other than yourself. I don’t know why seven years is a magic number, but for us it was, and I seem to hear people agree quite often.
*Learn to love your husband/wife above yourself. This is not well received by some people, but I wonder how well those people love their married life. I love God above all else, but I love John next. I would rather see him happy, above my own desires. I would rather sacrifice my time in order for him to have special time. He feels the same for me. That is what makes it work well. He loves me above himself and I love him above myself. We have learned place the happiness of each other above our own. This doesn’t mean we go around unhappy or lacking the joy of life, in fact, quite the opposite is true. We live a much more fulfilled life.
*Learn to argue respectfully. Arguments will arise in any married couple’s lifetime. Should a disagreement come about, address each other with love and dignity. Our first few years, I was the forever victim, and John had no idea how to communicate in a nice way. He had never spent much time considering another person’s feelings, so when we would have a disagreement, he would cut to the bone. In the years since we have learned to disagree with fairness, and I have learned that I do not have to be right just to prove a point. The solution to any marital disagreement should be resolved in a way that will benefit the marriage since essentially this is the most important part of your life.
*Wait..is my marriage top priority? Below my love and commitment for God, yes, my marriage is a top priority. If my marriage is broken and hemorrhaging toxins into my life, not only am I unwell, but my children are unwell. My spirit is unwell. The world around us in which we are directly involved, is unwell. Why wouldn’t marriage be a top priority for any couple, it is the basis of our lives. When we said ‘I do’ we became part of one shared life.
*Do some exercise. We said ‘I do’ and then we expected that all would be peaches and cream. Well ya’ll, it didn’t happen so marvelously. As it turns out, a marriage is a living and evolving life of it’s own. It takes exercise to make it healthy. We have to give it work every now and then, and daily checks to make sure it is in good shape. Don’t let the busy-ness of life get in the way of exercising in your marriage. Don’t let two days of coexisting to manage the hectic life schedules turn into two weeks, and then two years, and then divorce because you no longer know the person you are married to. This doesn’t mean going out to spend time alone. We don’t have that option, and we have very high needs kids. However, we have found a way to put aside five minutes for smooches, an hour to just sit with each other and veg out together. We talk about our interests (very different from each other I might add), and try to keep invested in each other’s lives. It doesn’t take all day every day, just some effort from both parties to be present and involved in keeping things good.
*Uh…exercise? Marriage needs more exercise as well. Keep the intimacy. Keep it going. I am the mother of FIVE kids, I cook all meals, I teach them, I’m tired. My husband works very long 13 hour shifts with another 2 hours commute. He has 12 acres of land to keep in order, fire wood to prepare for winter, things to fix on the house, and is father to FIVE kids. He’s a tired man. Don’t let that be an excuse to ignore one another. Intimacy is a gift, it’s a proven stress relief far more potent than any pharmaceutical, and it’s a way to stay connected on a level that no one else gets to connect with your spouse.
*If your husband leaves his dirty clothes laying on the floor right in front of the hamper every single day for the rest of your life, regardless of how many times you ask him to put them into the hamper, he is not worthy of divorce….’nuff said.
*Do not rely on your spouse as your source of joy. My husband brings me so much happiness (most days), but he is not my source of joy. I thought at first that he should be, and I was consistently disappointed. He is not my source of joy, and it is not his job to be so. That is just to much to put on one person. Now, I seek to feed him well, and love him bunches, but I do not seek to be his only source of joy.
*You cannot force someone to change, no matter how bad you want it, nor how much you see that they need it. You cannot nag them into changing, you cannot punish them into changing, you cannot make someone be something if they don’t want to. John and I have changed completely from who we were thirteen years ago, but not through the initial methods of trial. Oh no, those methods only led to mini wars. You must reconcile that you cannot change someone, so essentially, you better like them a lot before you become part of their whole for life.
I am so blessed to have this man as part of my whole. He is a good man, he is full of faults and sins, but he tries. I am full of faults and sins, but I try. I appreciate his effort, I don’t dismiss it and see what he failed at. I believe that is key to marriage, look for the things that are going right, focus on that, give those seed of hope a foundation with which to grow from.