fundamentals for a happy marriage
Marriage. I’m far from an expert on the subject of marriage. My own 32 years of holy matrimony have been far from perfect. But based on those 32 years in wedded bliss, some of which feeling neither holy or blissful, I’ve got a thought or two to share with you about what marriage is all about.
If you’ve read my About Me page, then you know that I only dated my husband for a single month before he popped the question. We had only met each other a little less than three months before that first date. Hey, my own grandparents only knew each other for 12 days before getting MARRIED, so I was wondering what was taking so long! But I kid!
There’s something to be said for not over thinking things. We were young and in love, and passionate about God and each other. We just wanted to be together and get our life started as one. Some might say that we were young and dumb. They would be correct too. But even though those first years (and some others) were hard; in some ways I love that we were ignorant of the reality of marriage. All the learning and growing that we’ve done in 32 years, were done TOGETHER from the same starting point of CLUELESS.
This ‘how to’ list has little to do with finding time for regular date nights, holding hands, him letting you sleep in or doing things your husband is interested in. I can give you that list another day or you can search Pinterest to your hearts content for those ideas. I’m giving you what I believe are the MUST DO’S for a marriage to be healthier and happier at its foundation.
God on top
I once heard a man give this analogy: “In marriage, if God is at the top and you are both going toward God; you will also be going toward each other, making it nearly impossible to grow apart.” This is certainly a great basis for marriage and a tip I now write in every wedding card I give. This doesn’t mean that Christians never divorce. But I think if someone would study those couples, they would note that at least one of the parties took their eyes off the TOP.
Put your husband in HIS proper place
Made ya look! Your priority list for a successful marriage is: God. Husband. Children. Period. This is the correct order, NOT the easy order. Any woman who has just had a baby, has a two year old, a sick parent, a job, is head of the PTO, has a special needs child, or (insert your situation here), knows THAT! Priority doesn’t always equal quantity of time spent with. But even during those seasons when you are both stretched thin and seemingly away from each other, make sure your husband feels cared for and cherished. I know this is hard for mother’s to hear, but don’t favor your child over you husband. This doesn’t mean we don’t protect our children but within a healthy family dynamic your children will be learning about marriage from you.
Choose each other EVERY day
It’s often said that we “fell” in love with our partners as if it were by accident. But I believe that love is a choice. Whether or not we chose foolishly, blindly or out of desperation, we still CHOSE to open our hearts to love our spouse. There are plenty of unlovable things about both me and The Hubs, making it necessary to purposefully choose to love the other when we are unlovable. Easier said than done, but I want him to choose ME – I will choose HIM.
Forget about 50/50
I was going to title this point, “Be Unequal”, but I thought you might quit reading. 😉 You will be very disappointed or drive yourself and your spouse bonkers if you’re trying to build a 50/50 marriage. 50/50 works better in divorce than it does in marriage. The give and take ratio will ebb and flow naturally between a couple who give to each other without selfishness. I’m going to let this quote from Nancy Reagan speak for me on this one:
“Whoever said that marriage was a 50-50 proposition didn’t know what he was talking about. There are many times when you have to give 90 percent, or when both of you have to give 90 percent.”
Nancy Reagan – “My Turn,” her 1989 memoir.
Be the spouse you want your spouse to be
We’ve heard it time and time again: You can’t change someone else, you can only change yourself. Girls, we know there’s no fixing that man of ours. You might be able to get him to dress better or stop leaving his underwear sunny side up on the bedroom floor but there’s no making him someone he’s not. Do you want him trying to change or “fix” you? I doubt it. Here’s a question I find helpful to ask myself when things aren’t going as, ahem… smoothly as I like:
Would I want to be married to someone like me?
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
If you think your marriage is unhealthy consider your speech toward each other to be the soothing elixir. Remember that I told you that my husband and I are passionate. Well, that doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means. 😉 We are a loud, stubborn pair and this point can be a challenge for us. Words can indeed hurt, so choose good ones and use a gracious and soothing tone.
Honor and respect each other
Have you ever really thought about what it meant when we agreed to “honor” our spouse, if that was in your marriage vows? Honor, means to place a great weight or value on something. To treasure it. Dr. Gary Smalley has a marvelous teaching on honoring a spouse. His visual using an old violin leaves a lasting visual lesson in my mind. He walked around the stage gingerly holding this old instrument as if it were an actual priceless, Stradivarius violin comparing it to a spouse. A human is more valuable and precious than any inanimate object we hold dear and should be treated as if they are priceless, because they ARE.
Life is serious enough. Laughing together remains pivotal to the success of my marriage.
When The Hubs and I vowed to love, honor and cherish we did so sincerely but without any knowledge of what marriage would actually be like. We only had some ideal placed in our minds based on what we’d seen of our own parent’s relationships and those of Mike and Carol Brady and Darren and Samantha Stevens of Bewitched. (Okay, those last two were mine.)
We couldn’t have guessed that we would indeed go to bed angry, speak harsh words, snore so loud we would have to sleep in separate rooms, have days when we didn’t like each other, would go seasons with no physical intimacy, disappoint each other, get fat or I’m sorry to say, even utter the “D” word.
When things really start to go sideways in a marriage there is no date night on earth that will straighten it out. Examining ourselves and the role we might be playing in weakening the basic foundation of our marriage is a great place to start. And if you think that you’ve got it all down pat and perfected, you might want to tell us all how you did it. Because even after nearly 33 years of marriage, it’s a process of self-examination and lots of prayer.
I know it’s super hard to turn that magnifying glass on ourselves when we’re “practically perfect in every way”. 😉 A happy relationship is worth all the work that it takes to keep it that way.
Happy Valentine’s day my friends, whether your celebrating for 1st or 50th with your forever date.