Marriage, with or without kids, is still marriage. It has highs and lows. It has ups and downs. Marriage will throw EVERYTHING at you that life has to offer. Unlike loving our children, marriage is conditional love. It’s a choice. It’s a decision. It’s a commitment. It is a choice to go through someone else’s life while making one for yourself. All too often we forget that we are also living someone else’s life. How do we make sure we aren’t forgetting about the person we wanted to make a life with? How do we make this decision keep working? Sometimes the best you can do is bear down, and hold on tight: you’re in this together.
I love it when he goes away.
Okay, maybe not love it. My husband is in the Military, and I won’t lie…I love the little breaks it gives us because I can get back in touch with myself on the weekends or weeks he is gone. It gives me a chance to miss him, and a chance for him to miss me (FYI, if you can take a weekend away from each other just once a year, you will be doing your marriage a solid favor!). We also recently spent a year apart for a deployment. It was rough, and it was tough, and it did make us stronger. It also separated us from what we did together every day. We had to get back in touch with one another in everyday life when he came home. It took time and it took effort. We made it happen though. Why? Because we put our commitment first and then put each other’s shoes on! Here are some things we learned along this journey to making us keep working.
- Value and cherish each other! We all have that one thing that we take care of and would never let anything happen to. Perhaps it’s a piece of jewelry your grandmother left you. Maybe it’s a tool your great-grandfather passed down along the way to keep it in the family, with a story to go with it. Perhaps it’s simply pictures of your life. Whatever it is, you would do anything to make sure that treasure is safe, secure, and taken care of. That is how we should view our spouse. When we place a priceless price tag on them, we can look at all they bring to us simply by being there. Our partner is who we make our life memories with, who we share our secrets with, who we view as treasure to be taken care of. They belong to us, by choice! Take care of them as if you wouldn’t want ANYTHING to happen to them! Protect what is valuable to you.
- They know you inside and out. People are great at reading signals. Your partner knows what you feel before you probably realize you feel it. When they ask you if something is wrong, they ask because they know something is. If they ask you if you’re feeling ok, it’s because they know you’re not. They aren’t asking to start an argument, they are asking because they care. Don’t bite their head off for caring about you. Marriage isn’t about telling someone they are beautiful every day…most of the time it’s asking if you’re ok. To me, caring about how I feel is better than any compliment about looks. Plus, when they ask, it gives you a chance to talk, or cry, and hug, or say I need space for a minute. Communication! Enough said!
- Intimacy isn’t sex! Sex is a huge part of marriage, yes. It isn’t the only thing that makes you connect though. Intimacy is about how you perceive one another and what you do about it. To perceive is to become aware of something, to understand. Intimacy is about being aware of your partner and understanding them to build a connection. Some people need to be hugged just because. Some need to be left alone. Some people need to be busy around the clock. Some enjoy weekends doing nothing. The first step of intimacy is understanding what the other person needs and respecting that. The next step is sharing things you have in common and making it a goal to enjoy those things together. Movies, books, vacations, talking about your kids for heaven sake…whatever you enjoy together, enjoy it! Your marriage is about YOU (as in the two of you)! Not the neighbors down the street or your friends who you think you need to try and keep up with! There will also come a time when sex isn’t possible, or no longer relevant. I spent an entire year without sex, as well as my husband, and it didn’t break us. Why? Because we had built our intimacy on our love and perception…understanding each other that our marriage was more important than just sex.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Marriage isn’t selfish. Sure, we want our partner to see all that we contribute…but the saying is true, there is no I in TEAM. Stop looking at all you go through in a day and think about all they go through while you’re apart. They work just as hard as you do, they hate getting out of bed just as much as you, and they really have no clue what they want for dinner either! Yes, they know you have mounds of laundry to do (because let’s face it, we talk about it every dang day) but they want to go out and do something fun with the kids and you on the weekend. They groan and grumble that you ask them to help you around the house, but they realize that you asked because you need the help and they get up and try. Sure they don’t fold the towels the same way or hang the toilet paper over (I’m sorry, under is just wrong) but they try because they ultimately realize that this mom and wife thing is pretty exhausting. When we stop to think about it, they are pretty darn good at trying to fit in our shoes. We can certainly to do the same….just try and you’ll open yourself up to a new world of connection and understanding!
- Never make a disagreement about them. As a teacher, I have always taught my kids to “own your own feelings”. I have needed to remember this in my marriage. If I’m feeling hurt, sad, angry….it’s me that needs to own that, and not take it out on my husband. Never make attacks toward your partner with “you did this to me” or “you made me feel this way”. I have learned that when I take a breath and say “I feel this way because” or “I feel I need this” we avoid arguments. It helps him realize that I’m discussing how I feel and he opens up to listening to me…which is all I really needed in the first place. In turn, he does the same. We don’t attack, we talk. There is a difference. Making “I” statements also helps when you just need something in general. It helps when I say “I’ve had a long day and I would really like some help just cleaning up after dinner” vs “take out the trash”. Before I know it, he’s helping me and we’re talking, singing silly songs, or spraying each other with the sink sprayer! How you talk to your partner makes all the difference in the world!
Marriage isn’t easy. No one ever said it was, and no one should ever expect it to be! It is what you make of it. When you commit to the person who chose you to spend their life with, you have to work hard. The hard work lets you enjoy your life with someone you love….and that is what makes it simple!