Do you know what I'm excited about? I'm excited that *I think* my life is slowing down just a bit and I'll get to blog again! I've missed it.
Back in October some dear friends of ours got married. Their sister-in-law put together a book of "marriage advice" for them, and asked us to contribute. Brent and I sat and talked and came up with what we felt were most important to us, and then I typed up the list. As I did so it made me think about how "debbie downer" our society is about marriage. How when someone says they're getting married they inevitably hear from somewhere "oh…the ole ball and chain…" or "say goodbye to your freedoms…" or whatever. How sad. Marriage is great.
Here was our letter- what advice would you add to this?
He loved her, of course, but better than that, he chose her, day after day. Choice: that was the thing. [Sherman Alexie]
B & C--
Two become one! Marriage! It is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever be a part of, but just like other rewarding things in life, it takes effort. Brent and I sat down and talked for awhile about some of the top things we have learned along the way or seen modeled in healthy marriages, and we wanted to pass them along to you:
- Your response is your responsibility.
You cannot control every situation. You cannot control how your spouse responds. You cannot control outside factors. But you CAN control how YOU respond to everything. If the other person is acting unlovable or unloving, it has to be your choice to respond in love anyway. Just because something disrespectful was said or done doesn’t give you the right to act disrespectful in return. How you respond is ALWAYS YOUR CHOICE-- and your choice should be to respond in love and respect instead of blaming, even when it seems you have “the right” to do so. It is amazing how many fights or tense situations can just trickle away when a cheap jab or hurtful word is responded to in love.
- Learn to laugh at yourself and enjoy each other.
Don’t take yourself or your mistakes too seriously. You aren’t perfect and you won’t do everything perfectly. Your spouse will notice and it’s easier to laugh when they point out your flaws than be offended. Life will be much more enjoyable. For example: in our marriage, I [Kelsey] know I am a whiner. I whine about a lot. Most of the time my whining is dumb and selfish, and instead of being annoyed by it Brent just makes fun of it. When he is laughing at me I can’t help but realize how ridiculous I sound, and I have to laugh too. Brent mumbles when he talks. It could drive me crazy, but most of the time I just laugh at him, and he laughs, and then he shouts what I couldn’t hear the first time and we both laugh. When you realize you’re not perfect your ability to forgive grows exponentially. And enjoy each other. Have fun together. Find ways to laugh together. A lot.
- Talk positively about each other, especially in the presence of others.
The healthiest marriages we have seen, and the couples we enjoy spending time with the most, are the ones that speak positively of each other. They are encouraging to be around, and make you want to invest more in your own marriage. Be that couple for other people! It’s easy to get dragged into conversations like, “Well you think that is bad...my husband does this that and this!!” Etc. You’ll surprise everyone when you say, “What I appreciate about C/ B is how she/he does....” People will notice. Even if you walked out of the house with some unresolved issue that morning and you’re still kind of fuming at each other, don’t go airing that with your friends. Talk about the positives and you’ll be surprised how quickly the positives will be all you see in each other anyway!
- Comparison is the thief of joy.
Our culture likes to pit us against each other all the time, and in a world where everyone displays their life via twitter or instagram or blogs or facebook or whatever, it’s easy to peek into the proverbial window of someone else’s house. And when you start looking at what others have, it is sometimes easy to think about what you don’t have. This can be a slippery slope when it comes to a marriage. Comparing what you have to what someone else has can distract you from each other and rob you of your joy.
- You never marry the “right person” or your “soulmate”, and it is guaranteed that the person you marry is going to change.
This probably sounds completely wrong based on what you’ve heard all your life, but it’s true: there will always be something wrong or something that doesn’t “fit right” with the person that you chose to marry... but you chose to marry them and therefore they become the “right person.” From this point forward your spouse is “your type.” For better or for worse. In fifteen years it is not fair to say, “I thought you were my soulmate, but I was wrong.” There is no such thing as a perfect match. Your marriage -- your relationship-- is what you choose to make of it, and so everyday you must choose to be each others “right person.” And the person you married will change: guaranteed. 100%. And we aren’t just talking that they may one day decide to like mushrooms on their pizza, though that may be the case. We are talking bigger changes: they may decide to change careers, or go from being the extroverted, people-lover you married to an introverted, night-in kind of person. They will gain weight. They will age. But beneath all of that: he is still your husband, she is still your wife. You must choose to love her. You must choose to respect him. Embrace the changes as a new opportunity to learn more about them. You promised “till death do us part”, not “till you gain 20 pounds and start wanting to read books and go bird-watching.” Change is gonna happen-- just be ready to embrace it now!
- Don’t expect marriage to be self-sustaining.
Just because you’ve signed the marriage certificate doesn’t mean you should stop dating and getting to know one other-- the real work and fun has just begun! You don’t want to be the couple that five, ten years down the road says, “How did we get here? Who is this person that I am married to?” Everyday try to set aside time to talk to each other and spend time together. Schedule nights for your marriage. It’s not going to be as exciting and new as when you first started dating, but there is something beautiful in promising to be a student of the other person for the rest of your life; in desiring to learn more about each other all the time. It’s a slow fade when you drift away from one another-- it doesn’t happen all at once but rather is filled with days and weeks of neglecting to pour into each other. This looks different for every couple, but find what works for you: sitting together every morning and drinking your coffee and talking, or maybe putting on your pjs and talking about the day while hanging out on the couch. Whatever it is, make it a sacred time and your marriage will reap the benefits.
- Set aside time to dream big together.
At least once a year, if not more, spend some time dreaming about your future together. Talk about where you see yourself next year, in five years, in twenty years! What do you need to do to make that a reality? What are the things that are most important to you, and how can you change things or prioritize things to put them at the forefront in your marriage and in your life? It is easy to set goals for ourselves in a lot of other areas of our lives, but when it comes to our marriage and our family, we don’t. Don’t let that be the case. Don’t be afraid to dream big.
- Find ways to be a part of your spouse’s hobbies, even if it’s not something you enjoy.
One of the easiest ways to show your spouse you care about what is going on in their life is to find ways to be a part of what they love to do. This looks different for everyone but here are some examples from our marriage: Brent is active. He loves to run. I do not. But I go to his running events and cheer for him and support him. I let him talk to me about his running shoes. I bring him water on his long runs. I massage his feet [okay, not really]. Same with golfing. He tried to teach me once but we both saw very quickly [including the guy next to us that laughed out loud!] that I was not going to be a golfer. So I chose to walk with him and look for golf balls in the bushes while he golfed. I love to read. Brent doesn’t. But at least two or three times while I’m reading a book he will ask me questions about it. What is it about? Am I enjoying it? What happened next? He knows I love talking about it with him, and he doesn’t even really have to listen once I start rambling! Same thing with decorating: Brent could care less, but he lets me run ideas past him and will walk through Hobby Lobby with me. These are small things, but allow us to be a part of the other’s passions.
- Always want to be better.
Don’t ever assume that this is as good as it is gonna get. Always strive to enjoy marriage and each other even more! Find good books and learn about ways to serve each other with your marriage. Find a good Christian couple that has been married awhile and ask them questions, and watch the way they go about life. You never stop learning at your job; you always want to know more and grow in your career, so why would you stop learning in your married life? Here are some great, biblically based books about marriage we recommend: Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, The Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas, and The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller.
- Don’t expect your spouse to meet needs in your life that only God can meet.
If your goal in marriage is to be happy, you will be disappointed. Not that you can’t be happy, but that should not be the goal. God should always first and foremost be your source of joy and peace. If you start to expect your spouse to meet those needs for you, you’ll be disappointed. B will mess up. C will mess up. B will run out of patience. C will be selfish. It is inevitable. But God will constantly be faithful. He will constantly forgive. And He will constantly be the ultimate source of love and forgiveness-- tap into that great source always and consistently, and He will provide you both with enough love and patience and joy and kindness and gentleness and humility and forgiveness that it will have no other option but to overflow into your hearts and into your marriage. Fill your marriage with God, and it will be a full marriage indeed.
We love you guys and are so excited that you are starting this wonderful journey of marriage! You will love it!
Brent and Kelsey