Oh my, oh my, friends!
Today I have been married 16 years! It is way beyond exciting – it is thrilling! We have successfully DOUBLED the going rate for marriages in the United States. Seriously, folks. Quora and Wikipedia and other sources all say the median average is 8 years, with most separating around 6 years.
That is not okay with me.
Marriage has become as noncommittal as dating nowadays, and this makes me super sad. The institution of marriage is so important, so sacred, so sweet. I am thankful daily for my husband and our relationship. We are best friends, partners, homies (he will make fun of me for using that term) – and we love spending all our time together.
Marriage is a lifelong commitment. When I put that ring on my finger I said yes for the rest of my living days. I signed, sealed, and delivered my “I choose you” and promised never to choose someone else.
It is not roses, kisses, and lingerie every day. It is not always perfect. There are rough edges and scary corners.
But it is all worth it. The process of choosing to love is just as fun as the roses, kisses, and lingerie. In fact, I think the process of choosing to love is MORE fun than the roses, kisses, and lingerie.
Because it’s real.
And I LOVE real.
So how have we done it so far?
Well, I will tell you we haven’t been perfect, it hasn’t been easy, and it certainly isn’t always romantic running through the fields in slow motion.
It’s real, raw, living and breathing through life together.
Here are 16 ways we have loved and lasted the last 16 years:
My husband tells me when the dress I’m in makes me look fat. Now, he doesn’t say it that way, and he certainly does it with tact because he has earned the right, but I always take him with me when I shop.
But more than just clothing stuff, we vowed to tell each other EVERYTHING. We have no secrets. And although some truth is pretty painful, we’ve decided to always tell it.
We have worked really hard to put our marriage first – even before our daughter Kayden. I know it is difficult, moms, not to give priority to your kids over your husband. The logic is that they need you more, right? Wrong. You are modeling for them the way to love a spouse. So, when Brady and I get home from work, our conversation together is priority – then we bring Kayden into the loop. Trust me, she gets plenty of time. But she knows that in order to take care of HER, we have to take care of our marriage.
And keep eye contact. Don’t break it when the kids pull on your arm and the computer is calling. Show him/her that he/she matters. SHOW SHOW SHOW.
Dates & Hobbies
One of my favorite questions to ask couples is what they like to do in their free time. Most of them say they don’t do anything anymore because they are doing stuff with their kids – their activities, their sports, their concerts… Stuff with kids is good. But ONLY stuff with kids?
…that is a marriage killer.
You NEED to have regular date nights – and you need to have HOBBIES (because sometimes on date nights you’ll fall asleep). Whether it’s going on bike rides, going to museums, baking together – it doesn’t matter. But you need to have something you do TOGETHER other than the things you do with your kids. Because what are you going to do when they are gone?
Speaking of dates, hold hands. Often.
Remind yourselves why you fell in love in the first place.
Listen. Then Talk.
I love to talk. And I am fortunate that my man also loves to talk. So we communicate a lot. But I think it’s easy to want to get a word in edgewise all the time (guilty here!). So I’m working more on listening FIRST, then talking.
My husband has a great phrase, “So, what I hear you saying is…” – it’s great to repeat what you just heard before jumping to conclusions (guilty again!) and getting hurt (guilty thrice!).
Plan an adventure together. The more you experience together, the more you will be bonded together.
CHOOSE to be fearless.
Brady and I are riding our bikes across Iowa this summer with 20,000 other bikers. We will be spending a whole week together experiencing something we will remember forever. A few years ago, we went camping in the Grand Canyon in 14 inches of snow.We could have had the worst vacation ever in all that snow. But because we were together, we made the CHOICE to be fearless and just roll with it.
We are always planning fun adventures together.
If you haven’t planned an adventure, put one on your calendar. Push yourselves to do something together that pushes you outside your box.
Do stuff yourself…
Brady and I are super duper best friends. But we can do stuff apart, too. Not only should you have hobbies together, but you should have hobbies apart from one another (other than the kids!). I like to read, do puzzles, write (Brady only does puzzles when I have six pieces left and he pretends he is better at it than me). It’s important that I have a sense of my own identity and who I am – not just as a couple.
…but still do stuff together as a family
We try to play games a lot as a family. We’ve actually become table game nerds. We have more table games than I can count. In fact, so many games we haven’t even played them all. But we love these long, strategy games (Go Settlers of Catan!) and we love to play them together. Family time helps our marriage, helps us spend time together, helps us grow as parents and people.
Before you say it, count. Count to whatever number helps you calm down and NOT say the thing that could hurt the person you love the most.
Before you do it, count. Count to whatever number helps you think about the choice you’re about to make.
During the day, count. Count the number of wonderful qualities your spouse has. Choose to see the best in him/her.
Count before you say, do, count your blessings, and you can count on improving your marriage.
Kiss in front of the kids.
Do this. Enough said?
They need to know how you feel about each other – and we figure if Kayden isn’t sticking her tongue out all grossed out by us then we’re not doing enough.
If you don’t have kids, just practice a lot so you’ll be ready to kiss in front of the kids.
In the past year, Brady and I have changed our lives dramatically. We have lost 70 pounds, begun to exercise, eat only organic and natural, and have seen crazy amazing changes.
During this time, we began cooking meals together in the kitchen. I know this can’t happen all the time, but while you are both using your hands, great conversation happens.
It slows life down and puts you together in a small space.
Kissing and holding hands is also acceptable when you are not cutting or slicing vegetables.
Write down the good stuff.
A dear friend of mine once told me she was keeping a log of all the good stuff her husband did. She said it really helped her focus on the positive instead of the bad stuff.
I am a HORRIBLE remember-er. My husband knows this – so he does a lot of remembering for me.
But when I write down what I’m grateful for (lots of great stuff about gratitude from this amazing blogger, Ann Voskamp) it reminds me of all the great stuff my husband does daily that I don’t notice.
Then, when I’m feeling particularly snarky, I get that out and give myself a swift kick.
I’ve got it pretty great.
This is the hardest one for me. My husband is really good at it. I always say that marriage is like this mirror that screams “THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE REALLY BAD AT!!!” I often am worried about who is right or who is wrong – or my rights as a person. And that is silly. Being married means putting someone else before yourself. It means loving unconditionally. It means not always having to have my way (ouch) and not always having to be right (double ouch). I’m still learning this after 16 years, but I have a patient husband who wants to learn all this stuff with me. And I’m thankful.
…and out GIVE.
When you’re doing all that listening, you should be able to figure out what love language your spouse speaks. My husband appreciates TIME together – and he loves it when I make him food. It seriously doesn’t matter what kind of food. It could be peanut butter and jelly. But he loves when I bring it to him. It’s just his thing. So I try (not always successfully) to do those acts of love that speak to him – even though some of those acts might not be my favorite.
They SHOULD be important to me, because they are important to HIM.
I want to OUT GIVE him, without expecting anything in return.
I read a great passage about expectation vs. expectancy in one of my fave books, The Shack. God is talking to the main character, Mack:
“Mack, if you and I are friends, there is an expectancy that exists within our relationship. When we see each other or are apart, there is expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. The expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that ‘expectancy’ into ‘expectation’ – spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do…”
“But,” argued Mack, “if you didn’t have expectations and responsibilities wouldn’t everything just fall apart?”
“Only if you are of the world, apart from me, and under the law. Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment, and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis or identity and value….The idea behind expectations requires that someone does not know the future or outcome and is trying to control behavior to get the desired result. Humans try to control behavior largely through expectations… I already know you and everything about you…I have no expectations of you, what I do have is a constant and living expectancy in our relationship, and I give you an ability to respond in any situation and circumstance in which you find yourself. To the degree that you resort to expectations and responsibilities, to that extent you neither know me nor trust me…”
Some interesting stuff to chew on. I’m not great at this, but I work everyday to have expectancy with my husband instead of expectation.
Pray for, with, about…just PRAY
Your personal time with Jesus is going to directly affect your marriage. Because when you become more like Jesus, the overflow of your heart is going to be like Jesus. If I haven’t spent time with my Jesus, it is OBVIOUS in the way I treat Brady, Kayden, and everyone around me.
For me, I need to start in the morning. I need to begin my day with Jesus – prayer, the Word, time being discipled by Jesus. Then, everything else (including my marriage) seems to fall into place.
Being with Jesus also keeps all that other junk out of my heart – selfishness, anger, bitterness…stuff that slowly creeps into a marriage and likes to hang out and destroy things. So the more time I spend with Jesus, the more I love my husband unconditionally. It just works that way.
Forgive. And don’t bring it up.
I read somewhere that not forgiving is like letting someone live rent free in your head. It eats away at you. Once you’ve apologized and forgiven one another, that’s it, friends. I am not good at the “not bringing stuff up” thing. But it doesn’t improve your relationship to continually bring up the past.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know this is one of my favorite words. Everyday I have to choose Brady again.
And it’s a choice to choose.
Choose to love, choose to give, choose to serve, choose to put him first.
I don’t always nail these things.
But I choose to continue to try.
And I’ve been choosing for 16 years – and I plan on choosing for 16 more.
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