Today I'm writing about something I care about. A. Lot.
It's something I've been doing more than half of my life.
I'm talking about marriage. Y'all. I got married when I was just a baby. I was 18 and had no clue what the world had in store for me. I didn't know what "for better or for worse" meant. Or "in sickness and in health". Not even sure I knew what "to love, honor and cherish" meant. I was 18. I had just barely graduated. I didn't even know who I was.
I knew I wanted to be my husband's wife. I knew I meant it forever. I knew I was marrying someone who had been my friend before he was my boyfriend. I knew he was kind and stable and I could count on him. Those were super important to me. I knew we had the same views of marriage and family-overall, of course there are always differences.
The years have not always been easy. Far from it. From growing pains (more mine than his) to bad external influences. From infertility to miscarriage to surviving sleep-deprived years as parents of young children (I'm not very nice when I don't sleep). From job troubles to separation due to jobs. (We've spent years in separate states due to jobs.) We've never had a lot of money (but God has always provided the necessities). It ain't no fairy tale. And it's not a romance novel. But it's our romance. And it's real. I love him and he loves me. And when we remember to show this to each other, it's all good.
Love isn't a feeling. Love is a choice. Love is something you do. It's a verb. Some days I don't feel it. At all. Some days I "feel like" I want to bite him. But I choose to love him. Not perfectly. I mess up. I say things I don't want to say-or more like don't say the things I should. I don't make him feel like he's the most important human to me. I get distracted by life-usually the things that distract me aren't "bad" but they keep me from being the wife I want to be. The wife my husband deserves.
All that said, I have this heartbreak inside of me. I know, that sounds really dramatic. But my heart breaks when I hear of marriages in trouble. I feel like bursting out in song "Doesn't anybody ever stay together anymore?" ("What's Forever For?"-several different singers) I love my friends and I want them to be happy like I am. Marriage can be...FUN. Did y'all know that? I don't have all of the answers, and I don't pretend to-most of the time ;). But, 22 years later, I think I have a few pieces of advice. (***Disclaimer: I realize that some marriages were entered into and the other person hid his or her real self. They didn't disclose addictions or moral differences. I'm really not talking to those people. I'm not qualified for that.)
1. Marry someone you are friends with. Not kidding. My husband and I were friends before we ever dated. For several years. And it's carried us through some rough times. Passion comes and goes through the years-especially during those childbearing years or if someone is sick. If you're married to someone that you have both friendship and passion (attraction) with, you're never unsure of how to "be" together.
2. Have fun. You can make almost anything fun. Or you can make it miserable. My husband and I can have fun at the grocery store. That's not an inherently fun thing to do. But when we do it together we can laugh and be silly. Who cares what someone thinks if we're being silly? Maybe it will make them smile too. :) You should have so many private jokes that no one else knows. Memories of silliness. (literally just shared one with my husband as I was typing this!)
3. Touch plenty. This isn't even about "that". Touch hands. Remember when you were dating and you let your hand hang in case he wanted to hold it? (Ok, don't laugh. Remember, I've been married since I was a KID!) Or laying your hand so nonchalantly on the seat of the car in between you? Just in case!? Don't forget that feeling. That desire just to touch his (her) hand. When you think of touching him, just do it. Don't overthink it. And for heaven's sake, go to bed together! If your schedule allows it at all! I could stay up way later than my husband-I don't have to get up as early. But I'd miss out on touching him with my feet while we watch tv-and he'd miss out on them freezing him to death in the winter! And if or when he touches you, respond with a smile! Encourage him!
4. Put your spouse first. Yes, first. Before the kids. It's HARD. They're louder. They're needier. They're louder. Obviously, I'm not suggesting you don't care for the needs of small children and babies. That's a season. That's temporary. Definitely take care of the screaming baby or the hungry toddler. Or the sick child. I'm talking about as a way of life. My husband and I sit next to each other as often as possible and we rarely let a child sit in between us. And before your friends. And before your family. (unless someone has an illness or something-again, that's temporary. If you normally put your spouse first they shouldn't be hurt if there's a period of time where you have to take care of someone else)
5. Be honest but not brutally so. For real. You should be honest but what is your motive? If your motive is to free yourself from something but it will bring pain to the other person, does it really need to be said? There are 3 things that can never be recovered in life: the word after it is spoken, the moment after it's missed and the time once it's gone. Once you say something it can never be taken back. That's it. You can say you're sorry. You can say you never meant it. You can do all kinds of penance.
If you throw a plate on the ground and it shatters, it doesn't matter how many times you tell it you're sorry. It's still broken. And even if you glue it. It's never the same. Be careful.
Unburdening yourself from something is NEVER a good reason to hurt someone else. Especially the person you're supposed to love, honor and cherish.
Be honest. But as my father-in-law tells my mother-in-law all the time "you don't have to tell all you know" (I laugh every time he tells her this).