Here I am not talking about a topic I am an expert on….but then again who really is? Do marriage/family therapists know more about this topic? Definitely. Is John Gottman the relationship guru? I would say yes. But at the end of the day, we are all in our OWN relationships learning what does and doesn’t work.
My husband and I recently celebrated our FIVE year anniversary. So again, we are no experts on marriage. And yet, five years of marriage can teach you a lot.
And then there’s my parents who have celebrate 55 years of marriage. What’s neat is that their marriage is still growing. I have observed over the years just watching my parents, that your marriage is never set. Meaning, you don’t reach a certain year of marriage and you have “figured it all out and everything is bliss.” Moreover, marriage is a day-to-day experience.
Some days are better than other days, and it’s obvious that you are either growing or declining in marriage every single day.
What’s more interesting…I have reflected on my experience and can tell you it’s those small, little things that make ALL the difference.
A few GOOD examples:
My husband will randomly leave me sweet notes on the mirror in the morning (with a whiteboard marker.) There’s no rhyme or reason as to when he leaves these notes, but every time I wake up to a nice note…it makes my day! I have more of a bounce in my step, I feel lifted up. It’s so simple and easy, it probably takes him 20 seconds to write it…and yet that thoughtful, kind note, boosts my self-esteem like nothing else.
I observed my parents walking into the mall ahead of me, holding hands. They had been married 52 years at that point, and I snagged a picture because I thought it was beautiful. It was a moment of understanding for me, in which I realized that those little terms of endearment are so sweet and important throughout your entire marriage. Holding hands doesn’t take really effort, and it symbolizes love and togetherness. And yet, it’s so easy as a couple to rush around and forget that. For my husband and I, we have 2 little ones we hold onto and carry a lot, BUT I want to make a more conscious effort to hold my husbands hand. Holding hands is a small simple gesture that reminds your loved one that you care about them and that they are a priority in your life.
Taking a moment to “listen” to your loved one. As I mentioned, I have two toddlers at home. So there are many days where my husband walks in the door from work and I have many things to tell him about the kids interactions throughout the day. Or, I put him right to work as soon as he comes in the door. And yet, I have realized, a sweet bonding moment for us as a couple is when my husband walks through the door and I ask about his day and truly “listen,” and in return he asks about my day. Simple, and easy to have a thoughtful conversation…but easily forgotten with the rush and swiftness of life.
Finding a moment to do something fun together as a couple: This can be simple and easy. My husband and I have found that it is important to have “date nights,” and I HIGHLY recommend date nights with your spouse. But you can have a date night at your house too. You can plant a garden together, do the dishes together, read scriptures together, get your mitts out and throw a softball together in the yard…..the list goes on. Anytime you are bonding and working together, it’s amazing how you are reminded how much you enjoy your spouse. (this pictures was taken while hiking with my husband, before we had kids so a bit easier to get out).
Some BAD examples:
As I mentioned, it’s the little things that make a HUGE difference for BETTER or for WORSE in a marriage. I’m being open and vulnerable as I write so that you know that not only are my husband and I NOT a perfect couple, but moreover, we are still learning from mistakes and I know that will be a continual process.
Deflating comments: I hate to admit there are moments when my husband has walked in the door from a long day of hard work and instead of a nice, warm greeting from me he will get something like “I couldn’t pack the kids clothes up because you forgot to get the bins down for me AGAIN!” A remark like this, starts frustration brewing, the blame game is on, and basically you are in a lose/lose situation. Is it ok to discuss issues with your spouse? Of course. And yet, there is always a tactful and kind manner of discussing problems and issues. It’s small and simple, and it may take a few seconds of your time to determine the most tactful way of discussing the problem…but is it worth taking those few extra seconds? Yes. Even if you’re inconvenienced by the circumstance, we all know it’s worth handling in a tactful manner so that the tone of your relationship isn’t ruined for the rest of that day.
Not reminding your spouse/loved one that you care: This isn’t just never saying “I love you” to your spouse (even though I highly recommend that as well), but it’s doing those small, thoughtful things that remind your loved one that you care. It could be making them dinner, folding their laundry, sending them a thoughtful text or leaving a note on their pillow, smiling or laughing with them…and the list continues. When your spouse never has any thoughtful gesture or words from you….don’t you think they will begin to wonder how they are valued? And then what happens? They turn other places. It doesn’t mean an affair….it could mean hanging out with friends, or going to fun activities without their spouse etc. Those little words or acts of service…end up making a GIGANTIC difference in how your spouse or loved one feels about you AND about the relationship in general. Which leads into my next one…..
Not making TIME for each other. I can see that TIME in a relationship can either be a great 4 letter word, or a really bad one. When one spouse is always putting other priorities in front of spending time with their spouse/ or loved ones…problems brew. Resentment begins to grow. A lack of compassion and empathy are experienced and it can turn ugly really quick. Granted, do you need to spend 24/7 with your spouse or loved one? No. There are times my husband encourages me to go to dinner with friends or go work-out with friends. And yet, the time spent with others doesn’t always trump time spent with my spouse/loved one. The memories that you make and time spent with your spouse are KEY in cultivating not just love in a marriage…but friendship. I remember my mom saying long ago, that she was hesitant to go on a girls trip because she wanted my dad to be with her having fun. I didn’t understand where my mom’s rationale was with this at the time. I thought, “go enjoy time with girlfriends, you always have fun!” But as time went on and now that I am married myself, I understand that my husband is not just my spouse, but he has become my best friend and I too enjoy his presence and want him to experience all the fun things I experience. I can honestly admit we are far better friends now than we ever were dating or as a newly married couple. It took years of TIME together to learn and grow together. If you look on the flip side, it could take years of NOT spending time together…to drift apart. Simple and easy, but unfortunately if that TIME is not spent with the spouse I can see how things crumble quite quickly.
Lastly, I will again remind you I am NO expert on marriage. I have found things that work well for a marriage and things that don’t. I truly believe it’s a day-to-day process and that you are either growing closer together everyday, or drifting apart each day. The neat thing is, MOST of the time, if your marriage is somewhat healthy, you and your spouse are in control. If you are drifting you can cure that. If you are growing you can keep growing.
It’s hard to be two imperfect people figuring out a good but imperfect relationship. There will always be disagreements or frustrations, but there will also always be fun times and great memories. (Below: My parents on my wedding day, at this point my parents were married 50 years)
Perspective is key, and being a continual learner is crucial. I think learning a lot about your spouse can help immensely. Take time to do some research. A few things I will share that my husband and I have learned about each other that has helped greatly:
What I have learned about my husband:
-He does’t like soggy food (one time I made him cereal to surprise him and it sat and got soggy and he didn’t like it. I was offended and he felt bad, but it was an easy fix. Pour him cereal when he’s there ready to eat:)
-My husband thrives on being outside
-My husband loves being active, it relieves a lot of stress to give him time to lift weights or go on a walk etc.
-My husband clams up when he is being blamed for something. He shuts down all communication.
-My husband has a certain way he likes shirts folded.
-My husband thrives being around family and prioritizes that.
-My husband enjoys small group settings better than large group settings.
-My husband doesn’t like the tv on for long periods of time.
What my husband has learned about me?
-Getting a decent amount of sleep is crucial in how the next day will be for me.
-Sometimes I like “me” time
-I am hypoglycemic and get cranky when I haven’t eaten or my blood sugar is low
-I like to go to bed at night leaving a clean kitchen counter to wake up to.
-I enjoy small group settings over large groups.
-When I have an issue he has learned to say “should I help fix it, listen, or validate it”. (He used to just FIX the problem and that wasn’t always what I needed).
-Giving me a big bear hug relieves alot of my stress.
-He has learned to not just assume I am finished watching tv, he asks before he turns it off.
-He has learned that I love it when he takes charge of planning a date night for us.
-He is learning that telling me to “relax” makes me more stressed than I previously was.
-He has learned that I feel more at ease when the house is on the cleaner side versus the messy side.
*There are plenty more things that my husband and I have learned about each other in the past 5 years, and I know there is more to learn.
My challenge for you as a couple is to take time to jot down things that you know your spouse or loved one needs in a relationship or doesn’t like. Learning about your spouse creates a more empathetic relationship between each other and my husband and I have found that it helps us to get less offended by each other, and more content with each other and our differences.
Now for you to tell me any tips and advice that YOU have learned in your marriage? As always I love hearing your comments and ideas on this topic. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could all figure out how to help our relationships thrive and grow? Please Share any ideas and I am sure marriage and relationships will be a continuous topic on the blog.
I will end with my favorite scripture, that rings true to this topic we have discussed:
Until next time,