As I’m sure most people will say (or should say), I don’t know a lot about marriage, but I know more than I did seven years ago when I said “I do”. The thing about doling out advice on marriage is that the only marriage anyone really knows is their own. You can observe others and see what they do in public, or, if they’re your good friends or family, maybe what they do in semi-private situations. But under no circumstances do you ever see what goes on behind closed doors. You can’t see into their lives or their minds or their relationship. So, what works for Jason and I might be the last thing that would ever work for you and your spouse. And what works for you might never work for us. But, in the effort of getting back on the blogging horse and some mental prodding from attending my cousin’s wedding last weekend and my brother-in-law’s a few months ago, I want to share some of what I would say is my marriage advice. Take it with a huge grain of salt. 🙂
1. Know that every marriage is different and you need to figure out what works for you in yours.
Some people are most comfortable when they have lots of time by themselves, away from each other pursuing their own interests. Some people (like us) would prefer to be together doing just about anything than spending a large amount of time without each other. As long as you both agree on your preferred time apart/together then you will do well. Try not to resent time that the other gets to spend doing something that they want to do even if it means you’re taking most of the responsibilities for the day/weekend/etc. Your marriage will be much happier if you allow your spouse to be who they are meant to be rather than trying to fit them into a mold like you are, even if that means sacrificing some of what you prefer some or most of the time. As long as you talk about it and are both on the same page there shouldn’t be resentment or wedges coming between you. And on that note, don’t judge another couple’s decision. Just because you like more space to do your own thing doesn’t mean that everyone else needs or wants that same space and their spouse isn’t giving it to them. Let everyone figure out their own marriages without pushing them to make it look just like yours.
2. Sometimes the best way to resolve an argument is to quit talking about it and get some sleep.
This point was probably my favorite in Rachel Held Evans’ recent similar post about marriage and is so true. We don’t fight or even disagree a lot. But I can almost guarantee that if we’re going to get into an argument it’s when one of us (*cough, cough me*) is low on sleep. When you’re tired even the most basic actions can seem like attacks and you can’t reason with yourself enough to know that he didn’t forget to do something just to spite you. This is especially so important in the early years with kids when you are running on pure adrenaline and caffeine and no one feels at their best. Sometimes it’s best to just agree to walk away and sleep on it and discuss it in the morning when you’re feeling better. Most of the time, when you wake up, the issue that was so big the night before is insignificant and almost funny that you were so upset. And, if not, you both have had some sleep and distance to be able to discuss it as rational adults as opposed to sleepless zombies.
3. Your husband is your first priority after God.
The first days, weeks, hours, years (maybe all of them) when you have kids are hard. You’re being pulled in multiple directions and you are literally responsible for keeping your child alive which can be so overwhelming and time-consuming. You spend so much time with a little one touching you, pulling at you, needing you, and it feels like they are drawing every piece of you out of your body so that you feel like you have nothing left to give. And then your husband comes home and expects you to do things like hug him and fix dinner and be nice and, to be honest, a lot of times, it just feels like it’s too much and too hard. But the reward of pushing through those times and trying to prioritize your husband and your marriage, even when you don’t feel like it, is so worth that effort that you feel like you don’t have. Your marriage is going to change after kids, that’s a fact of life and your husband understands (or tries to) just like you do, but finding common ground to keep you connected — a tv show, a magazine article, the weekly meltdown boards during college football…something, anything — is so important to help you remember why you loved that guy to begin with and remember that, in the end, it’s just going to be the two of you again so you want to remain friends.
4. Try to get away as often as you can.
I know for a lot that it’s near impossible to get away on a couple’s trip. But in the same vein as the point before, try as hard as you can to do it even if it’s just for a night down the street. The chance to go somewhere different and experience new things together by yourselves is so helpful in reconnecting you as a couple. I’m not sure that you can feel more dependent on each other than when you’re in a foreign country and it feels like you’re the only two speaking your language. Or when you’re walking in to a new situation and don’t know a soul. Or even when you’re trying out a new dish at your favorite restaurant and it’s just the two of you and you’re wondering if your risk is going to be worth it. Try to do something just the two of you, something new and exciting or something comfortable and predictable. Just try to do something just the two of you every so often. It will help refresh you and bring you back together and help you fall in love all over again.
5. Books can only tell you so much.
Nothing really prepares you for marriage like living it. Books can help prepare you but you have to remember that they are still written by one or two people who don’t know you or your spouse and don’t know what your marriage is like. I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the book that I read not long after we got married which advised spouses to have totally different bathrooms and that it would be best for the husband to never know what the wife does to get ready in the morning or ever really see her other than at her best. Which makes me just wonder what that guy did during childbirth? Or what he does when his wife is sick? At the time I pondered if that was a good idea and I’m pretty sure that Jason laughed at me when I mentioned it. Life is messy and being married means you are one and that means dealing with the fun and the not-so-fun. Just like taking advice from other people (hello, this blog post!) take books with a grain of salt and pick out the pieces that work for you. If you want a book to read that’s going to help you consistently in your marriage, read the Bible. It’s the only one that’s going to be able to speak to you about your marriage and will help you the most. The others (Five Love Languages especially) can be really beneficial, but remember that they’re not divine and are only interpreting a portion of the Bible (hopefully) and are written by people who don’t have all the answers just like you.
6. Have fun. Laugh at yourselves. Relax.
You’re not perfect. Your spouse isn’t perfect. Your kids aren’t perfect. Your families and friends aren’t perfect. Relax. Don’t worry about having the perfect marriage, just work on having one that satisfies you both. Don’t worry about what others are doing in their marriages, just do what needs to be done to make your marriage the best it can be. Enjoy your spouse and your family. Take time to remember what a blessing they are (write it down and put it somewhere you see it every day if you need the reminders!). You’re going to make mistakes, laugh at them and remember that no one expects you to be perfect, except maybe yourself (which you shouldn’t!). Take your marriage one day at a time while holding both God’s hand and your spouse’s and know that if you prioritize the two (God and your spouse) that God will help you through the hard times and that the hard times will help you enjoy the good ones even more.
Praying for you and your marriages as I’m praying for ours. I’d love to hear your advice if you have it. Or, if you disagree or agree with anything I said, I’d love to know it! I definitely don’t have this whole thing figured out and don’t follow these consistently every day, but I bet our marriage would be even better if I did!