Let me first say I am no marriage counselor, nor do I have the world’s best marriage. I do love my husband like crazy and I think we have a good thing going. That’s really where this is coming from…my heart. This year, we celebrated 15 years of marriage and I feel like we are a better couple – better people, in general – than we were fifteen years ago. That’s a good thing. Trending upward.
As I read last week about the 72-day marriage of the Hollywood Couple Who Shall Not Be Named, it made me think two things:
1. When will Hollywood ever learn? That zip code cannot sustain a marriage.
2. When did marriage become something we just throw away? Eh, it didn’t work out so after 72 days we’re going to call it quits. It’s hard. Thanks for the newsflash, sister. Any couple who’s been married for any length of time can tell you that. Even “awesome” marriages have to work at it.
3. Oh, and it made me think that I have to work that much harder to ensure my children see a healthy, happy marriage. We repeat what we know and I want them to know love.
In light of all that, here’s this week’s…
TOP TEN: MAKING MARRIAGE WORK
1. Thank your spouse for the little things. Did your husband take out the trash? Tell him thanks, and mean it. Did he fill up your van while he was out running errands? Did your wife cook dinner, fold and put up the laundry, take care of sick little people all day? Give her a hug and kiss and say “thanks.” My husband is famous for saying, “A grateful heart silences a complaining voice.” One night, I was exhausted and Scott knew it. He silently picked up the keys, gave me a peck on the cheek and headed to the grocery store. Over an hour later he returned and what did I do? Complained about the kind of bread he got. Then, I scowled at the fruit. Where were the strawberries? Didn’t he know the kids like those more than grapes? He sat dejected on the couch and said, “I was just trying to help.” Ouch. I’ve never made that mistake again. I wasn’t seeing the act of gratitude, I was focused on how I *thought* I could do it better. Shame on me.
2. In line with that first tip, look around and see what little things you can do to help your spouse. Scott arrived home early from work one day and had swung by Sonic during happy hour to buy me a vanilla DP. He knows it’s my favorite.
3. Make a consistent date for date night. Our day is typically Thursday – no cell phones, no computers, no work. Occasionally, we spring for a sitter, but most Thursdays we just hang on the couch.
4. Put your kids to bed at a decent hour so you have a moment to reconnect. I recognize that our stage of life, with five children ages 10 and under, we can still get away with getting everyone in bed by 7:30. Our 10-year-old is starting to get closer to an 8pm bedtime, but that still gives us a couple of hours to reconnect. The after school activities are usually done by 7pm so our evenings are still our own. I know that will change, but parenthood is about being flexible with the season. I have a feeling, very soon, our moments to reconnect will be at 5:30 in the am!
5. Don’t keep score. It is a bad math habit to get into and it will destroy your marriage, bit by bit. If a spouse is constantly withdrawing from the marital emotional bank account, sit down and hash it out. If you have to, seek professional counseling and speak honestly with one another. There is nothing shameful about seeking professional help. I proudly say my husband and I have done it and I’m sure will do it again.
6. Refrain from male-bashing with your girlfriends. Nothing can chip away at a marriage quicker than degrading your husband in a public setting. That animosity just builds and when you return home, you’re resentful rather than grateful. Trust me on this one. I used to do it and everytime I came home, I felt horrible. Scott really wasn’t that bad, but in order to fit in, I found myself exaggerating his actions. Soooo unhealthy.
7. Find something to do together that you both love. During Lent his year, Scott started working out on a regular basis. I was inspired, so a few months later I started doing the same thing. We’ve been encouraging each other, keeping the other accountable. Our plan is to start training for the Austin Cap 10K this spring. It’s been awesome.
8. Surround yourself with better skiers. My mom used to tell me when I was learning to snow ski, to ski with those that were better than I was. It was the only way I was going to improve. I would be challenged. She was right. In marriage, what kinds of couples do you surround yourself with on a regular basis? Are they faithful? Do they view God as key to their marriage? Do they inspire you to be a better wife, mother and person?
9. Pray together. I’ll admit, during the early years of our marriage this was so much easier to do. We had so much time and we didn’t even know it! Through prayer, you experience spiritual intimacy. You can call me out on this, but I daresay it’s much more of a vulnerable position than physical intimacy. You’re laying your innermost thoughts, fears and feelings on the table. The best marriages, I’ve learned, work toward experiencing physical, spiritual and emotional intimacy on a daily basis.
10. Get involved in a ministry (or more) at your parish. Some of the ministries we do independently, lector, VBS, Eucharistic minister. Some, we do together. Both are important. In my case, being around other mothers during VBS feeds my need to be inspired by awesome moms. Our work with engaged couples inspires us to be open and honest with each other.
I have no doubt you might have even more tips, more life experience, in sharing what makes your marriage work…