Four lessons I've Learned Over the Last Four Years of Marriage
Marriage is the best decision I ever made. Every morning I wake up next to my husband and see someone who is willing to care for me, comfort me, and encourage me no matter what comes my way that day. We've become an inseparable team over the last four years, but it hasn't been without a lot of work and many lessons learned along the way.
I want to share with you four lessons I've learned...one for each year Brighton and I have been married. I know I have so much more to learn in years to come, because when you've committed yourself to another person for life, four years isn't all that much. But over four short years, our relationship has grown deeper and stronger, and if I can keep learning how marriage thrives each year, then we are well on our way to forever.
Always uplift your spouse (even if they're not around)
When we went through marriage counseling, our pastor gave this advice frequently. At first, I thought the advice was obvious. Of course you want to say good things about your spouse. Who wouldn't? But then, after hearing his advice, my ears seemed extra tuned in to how others talked of their spouses. I learned how women can be exceptionally cruel to their husbands when it's a bunch of girls gathered together chatting about the day. "My husband doesn't do this" or "My husband never helps with" were common phrases I started to hear. And once one woman complained about her husband, the flood gates opened and everyone else in the group had a complaint to add to the conversation. However innocent the beginning comment might have been, the following comments only escalated as each wife fed off the negativity of others. Sometimes, I would leave the conversation wondering if these women loved their husbands at all.
Within a few months of being married, I started to view my pastor's advice as more of a warning. It's easy to lift up your spouse when things are going great and you're a newlywed in the honeymoon phase. But over time, it gets easier and easier to downplay the good in your spouse and focus on the negatives, especially when they're not around. You find dirty dishes left in the sink when you wake up in the morning, or you feel slighted when your spouse doesn't offer to help with dinner or with the kids. And then, you meet up with your friends and it's all too easy to slip in a venting session.
Do your best to stay away from venting sessions and work to build up your spouse in front of others. None of us like to be talked poorly of, and why would you want to give the people around you a tainted picture of the person you've dedicated your life to? Saying negative comments will turn into a habit and then you'll find yourself looking for the flaws in your spouse when you're together. It'll only cause unnecessary strife and can discourage your partner more than you can imagine.
Spend time laughing and talking about nothing
Not every conversation has to be deep and meaningful. Conversations about the budget and the busy schedules don't have to be had every night. Yes, these are important. Deep and meaningful talks build intimacy in your relationship, and both partners need to be in the loop with the budget and schedules. But your marriage is more than a business meeting or a therapy session. Marriage is living out every moment with each other. Joke around with each other, talk about the cat video you watched on YouTube over lunch. Brighton and I spend many evenings on the couch making fun of all the crazy things our dog does throughout the day. We often joke that our dog is what holds our marriage together because we find endless entertainment and conversation from him. (Obviously, a dog doesn't hold a marriage together but you get my point.) The fun of dating and getting to know each other doesn't need to fade away. The playful banter and senseless conversations keep the friendship side of your relationship strong. Have fun and unwind with your spouse at some point each day without bringing up serious topics.
Be the first to say "I'm sorry and I love you"
Arguments and fights happen. I'm sure we can all remember fighting with our parents or siblings at some point or another growing up. It's inevitable when you live under the same roof and spend a majority of your time together. But stop and think about what causes the fight in the first place. Many times, in the clash of opinions, you feel wronged somehow. Whether the other person said something hurtful or disagrees with how to go about a decision, human nature takes over our brains and we fight to defend and prove ourselves right. Neither person wants to back down. Words escalate and voices rise until one or both of you is pushed too far. There's no sign of coming to an agreement in sight.
This is the time to let go of your pride and consciously decide to back down. There was a night a few years ago when Brighton and I got into some argument (about what exactly, I don't even remember) and I made a nasty remark about him in an attempt to make him see my point. As soon as the words were out, I could tell I pushed him too far. He stormed out of the room and grabbed the car keys. He was only going to go for a drive to cool off before saying anything he'd regret, but I instantly regretted my words. A small voice in my soul whispered, "If you let him walk out that door, he may come back but you two might never be the same. Do you want to risk that?" Even though I still didn't want to back down from the fight, I had to decide what I wanted more. Winning a fight at the risk of burning down the walls of our marriage, or letting it go and apologizing.
I ran after him and gave him a hug and said I was sorry and asked him to stay. And I'm so glad I did. I know Brighton wouldn't have driven off with no return, but I don't want to think about the rift it would have created between us when he came back. Winning a fight wouldn't be worth broken trust. But don't stop at "I'm sorry". Tell your spouse you love them. Let them know that no matter how many times you may disagree on whatever you're arguing about, you love them and respect them and want to reach a mutual understanding. It's amazing how much easier an argument is to work through when you drop your pride and come at the hard disagreement with an attitude of love.
Show off your love for each other
My parents set a great example for this in their marriage. They'll be married for thirty years this May and they still hold hands in public. My dad puts his arm around my mom when they're sitting in church, and he never fails to open the car door for her wherever they go. They share cute lovey-dove looks with each other when they think no one is looking. They sit close to each other on the sofa when watching television. Growing up, I would get a little embarrassed over it. But now, I find it absolutely adorable even though I still claim to be embarrassed. I've never doubted whether my parents love each other or if they regret being married. They show off their love for each other no matter where they are or who is watching.
Marriage is an incredible bond. Watching two individuals in a ceremony vowing to be united as one is truly breathtaking. The breathtaking moment shouldn't end after the groom kisses his bride. Show outward affection and appreciation for your spouse every day. Let your actions toward each other shout your love for the world to see. Be an example of what marriage can be like so others will crave the same.
Busy days and hectic schedules can be hard to keep up with. Here are some tips and lessons I've picked up along the way to make life a little more fun in the midst of crazy.