Be honest, did the title of this post just totally blow your mind? I mean based upon all the fairytales I’ve read marriage is about living happily ever after. And happily ever after shouldn’t be hard or difficult, it should be natural and easy, right!? Wrong!
My husband and I just celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. We received many congratulations and well wishes for the future which we both greatly appreciated but it was one statement, more like a label of us that really had me thinking. On more than one occasion we were referred to as the ‘perfect couple’ which I realized was merely a term of endearment but it did make me think, did we actually look like a perfect couple from the outside? Just the thought alone had me giggling. We are far from perfect, in fact we are the perfect example of trial and error. We are a work in progress. We have learned from our mistakes and past experiences and from other’s mistakes and experiences. We are also very blessed to have parents who have 70+ years of experience between the two marriages.
Our parents support and advice have been invaluable. Now I realize everyone is not as fortunate and sometimes parents model a much more complicated path. This is when advice from other married couples, like us, can be very valuable. But I would warn that most advice should be taken with a grain of salt. If it sounds to good to be true than it probably is. Thus, my first bit of advice is to be careful whose advice you take (anyone else see the irony in that? Ha-ha!).
It was 2005 and my husband and I were sitting in a preparing for baptism class for our future child. We were at a large table with 5 or 6 other expectant parents. The couple running the meeting, who had been married for 15 years started to discuss how much our lives and marriage would change after children. They addressed how we would need to be a team and lookout for each other. Then a couple attending the meeting asked about arguments and how to handle them in front of children. The response the couple running the meeting gave sent me into full on shock!! Eyes bulging, mouth wide open shock! The couple expressed to the group of expectant parents that they never argue or disagree, NEVER! Did I mention I was shocked by their response!? I so badly wanted to stand up, point my finger at them and scream LIAR, LIAR, pants on fire…but that wasn’t the way a mature expecting mother should act. I did however find comfort in the fact that my husband’s expression mirrored my own. I have to say that was the WORST advice/support I have ever been given with regard to marriage. News flash, married couples argue and if you don’t then chances are someone is holding a LOT of stuff in, which is SO not good for your marriage. Learning how to disagree/argue is an important part of marriage because trust me, you will be arguing and disagree on things for the rest of your live….on things like chores, finances, what color car to purchase, where to send children to school, how to pack a car efficiently, how to load a dishwasher efficiently, etc.
The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.
Learning how to argue? What? Like it is difficult? Well, actually it can be at times. It is in the heat of the moment, when we can’t see straight and are so pissed off that the WORST things leak out of our mouths. We attack; we want to hurt by any means possible, we want the other person to feel pain. But wait, didn’t you marry that person because you want the best for them, because you love them, and would never dream of hurting them? See what I mean? You need to learn how to argue as a couple. Discuss it and set boundaries when you are in a state of peace. Because trust me, whenever two people live together their will be disagreements and preparation is key to resolving the conflict and eliminating verbal wounds.
Simple rules I live by when it comes to disagreements:
- Attack the issue not the person….It can be tempting to address a character flaw when your husband hasn’t put the seat down for the umpteenth time but DON’T! Stay focused on the issue, the toilet seat. (Stick with the good old, “I feel_____ when you____”….I feel insignificant when you leave the seat up).
- Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes…perhaps he was rushing quickly to help one of the children and totally forgot about the seat. Haven’t you done something similar before? What about the keys you left in the door last week? And remember how understanding your spouse was?
- Find a resolution…perhaps it is time to get a seat that slowly closes on its own.
- Forgive. Holding a grudge only harms your health and your marriage. Remember we are all human, we are ALL flawed, and we all make mistakes. THIS IS THE HARDEST STEP, especially when we forget #1 and attack each other instead of the issue.
The thing is chances are you will not resolve the issue the first or even second time you argue about it. But eventually with age, patience, and conviction the problem will become resolved, or something bigger will take its place. The important thing is that you balance the good with the bad. Make time to grow together, spend time together, and have date nights, weekend getaway…remember why you fell in love in the first place.
Love is by definition focused on its object. If I’m thinking about me, I am not focused on loving my man.
-Elspeth, Traditional Christianity, The Heart of the Five Love Languages-
It is 2014 and society tells us that our happiness is what matters; we should be self-serving at all times. But that isn’t authentic happiness. The truth is the moment you allow marriage to be all about you is the moment it begins to deteriorate. Marriage is all about putting someone else’s needs before your own. Hard, right!? I know it can seem exhausting but when both spouses are giving selflessly to one another it is beautiful. But the things with marriage is that there are different seasons. There will be times when you and your spouse are so in sync and then the next month you aren’t. Like I said marriage is hard. Marriage is something that you need to tend to on a daily basis and there will be days when you just don’t feel like giving it your all. Days when you are just not feeling the love so-to-speak. It is on those days or those seasons in your marriage when commitment needs to be your focus. Not one couple is in love 24/7…and if anyone tells you that I would suggest you cross them off you list of great advisors.
Ever hear someone say, “I have fallen out of love”, “I am no longer in love”? Love is a two way street. How on Earth can someone be expected to give love day in and day out if they do not receive it? If only one spouse is constantly giving and the other just takes and takes and takes it will eventually drain the relationship. Love is a choice and it takes work. Do your actions show love? To say “I love you” is endearing but empty if not followed up by action that expresses that love. Love is something that can be shown through our actions.
Show your love to your spouse:
Do something for your spouse every day that expresses that you choose love. Grab your spouse coffee, text a sweet note during the day, etc. Please feel free to comment with a few ideas or share small things you do for your spouse.
And last but certainly not least, thank GOD!
In conclusion, there is no perfect couple. No matter how perfect any couple looks it is important to remember that each has their own issues, struggles, and at times even heartache. I know my husband and I have had our fair share. But the real key to a lasting marriage is to keep a 3rd party present at ALL times, GOD. There are moments in marriage when both parties throw up their hands and God takes the wheel.
If you are going through a difficult season in your marriage or know of another couple who is here are some great resources:
Please share your thoughts