Today, I’m going a different direction and chatting about marriage and a few things I’ve learned thus far in our 3+ years as a married couple (though we’ve been dating since circa 2006). I don’t claim to be an expert on marriage, or relationships, but I adore my husband and the partnership we’ve built together and I believe, some simple choices we make daily really have a positive impact on our marriage.
Having a forever partner in life is an incredible gift, but a gift that requires effort, patience, and selflessness. When we got married, the priest who married us shared this… “keep working on love,” and it was the best, most eloquent, yet reasonable advice I’d received about marriage. Keep working on love. So simple, and yet I think we can easily overlook doing so day to day. That little phrase is the one I come back to over and over and over again, both during seemingly perfect moments, and during the frustrating, stressful ones.
“Keeping working on love,” I feel, is the cornerstone of our relationship (so a tremendous thanks to Fr. Carl for imparting your wisdom on us). Everything I’ve learned about marriage, and specifically our marriage, stems from following that advice. And now, a few things I humbly share about marriage…
BEGIN AND END YOUR DAY WITH LOVE AND KINDNESS
You’re the first person your partner sees in the morning, and the last before they go to bed. What you say, do, how you act… can have an incredible impact on your partner’s whole day…so make sure your words come from a place of love. Yes, mornings can be stressful (you’re talking to a gal who struggled with sleep issues for many, many years). But you won’t feel any more rested or any less stressed by snapping at your spouse, or starting the day off crabby. Choose love. Hug. Make the coffee for your partner. Wish one another a good day.
Same thing at night. End your day on a positive, uplifting note. There’s definitely something to the old saying, “never go to bed angry.”
REVIEW YOUR EXPECTATIONS
It took me a few months to get into a good groove in terms of marital expectations, but I think we’re well-balanced in this department now. Remember, you and your spouse/partner are a team…you’re wearing the same jersey, so act like it. Early on in our marriage, I found myself getting frustrated over trivial issues…pretty much all related to cleaning.
And then one day, when I caught myself ferociously stirring in my own mind about the pile of dishes that was still in the sink at 9 pm, I realized, “why do I expect Matt to do this?” You see, at the end of the day, you’re both tired. Maybe you both had a stressful day. And I think it’s important to step out of your own head, and into your partner’s. Perhaps he/she wants to relax on the couch because today was a particularly draining day at work. It’s not that Matt was ignoring the dishes and plotting against me…he just wanted to relax too.
Now, when it comes to dishes, we usually do it together. But, I know to wait at least 15 minutes after we finish eating to bring it up, because my husband just likes to chill after he eats. So take some time to understand your partner. Don’t assume they don’t want to help you. Just review what you’re expecting of them, and the time in which you’re expecting it.
Still on the topic of expectations…your spouse may have a different way of expressing his/her love and gratitude than you do, a different way of communicating, a different way of responding to stressful situations. Don’t expect to receive exactly what you give.
Example: almost every night, I tell Matt I’m grateful for him. Those who know my husband well…you know he does not repeat the same phrase back to me. In fact he usually says, “Okay.” Does this hurt my feelings? No way. That ain’t his language. He has a million other ways of expressing his love, and that’s cool with me. He’s quieter, more subtle in his expressions, and I’ve learned to appreciate his unique way of showing his love. Always review your expectations before you start expecting.
DATE, DATE, AND DATE SOME MORE
I would say as a married couple, we date more now than we ever did when we were “dating.” I’ll chalk that one up to being poor college students for the better part of our dating years, but it’s the truth. We plan and execute more dates now than ever before in our relationship, and it has strengthened our marriage and helped us get to know one another even better. Matt and I do a good mix of dates at home (which usually involve homemade pizza, vino, and a movie) and date-nights out (“out on the town” as Matt says.)
What I will say is this…sometimes getting out of your routine, away from your usual environment can be therapeutic. For whatever reason, whenever we go out to dinner, and there are no distractions (T.V., dishes, etc), our conversations seem to expand…we hit topics that don’t always get discussed at home, even if they’re just fun, laid back topics.
Be creative dating your spouse. Plan for bike rides, walks, hikes, mini-getaways, movie theater dates, dinner dates…try something new together- maybe a cooking class, or a festival of some sort. Getting out of your relationship comfort zone can only make your stronger.
I am blessed to have an incredibly supportive husband. I mentioned casually one day (a few years back) how I thought I’d enjoy going into a fitness career…he said, “go for it.” I knew it would bring a pay-cut and possibly, some uncomfortable financial instability. He said, “go for it.” When things weren’t going quite as planned when I first made my career change, he said, “don’t give up.” Support is Matt’s love language. He just knows how to show support more than any other person in the world.
His support has pushed me to fight for my passions, to pursue dreams, to truly live life in a way that feels authentic to me. I strive to be as supportive as Matt. When he struggles or feels stressed, I listen. I encourage. I love. Show your support constantly. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Matt’s constant, unwavering support. Your encouragement and love could change your partner’s life (truly).
There you have it. A few pearls of wisdom I find to be incredibly helpful on our marriage journey. Again, I’m no expert, and perhaps a couple with 20+ years of marriage under their belt would laugh at my newbie advice, but I believe we all have something to share with regards to relationships, and this is just a sprinkle of what I’ve learned thus far (more to come at a later post).
I leave you with this…with your spouse, partner, with any significant person in your life…”keep working on love.” You can never go wrong with love.
Question of the day: What’s one piece of relationship/marriage advice you hold near and dear to your heart?
Wedding/engagement photos taken by Anna Guziak