In my last post I talked about standing side by side with your husband, and that’s all well and good. But you may be wondering where on earth to start? How do you take an idea and turn it into real life actions?
Every couple is different, of course. Personalities and interests make every home different. I can’t give you an outline and guarantee success, but I can give you a peek inside our home.
Start by CONNECTING. Do the things you enjoyed when you first met and married. Discover new things together. Really talk about everything! Jonathan and I simply must be together and talking. (If you’ve ever met my husband this isn’t a surprise at all!) If you’re not sure what makes your man tick (or yourself, for that matter) it’s a great time to take the 5 Love Languages test. It’s simple but can shed a lot of light on where you place value and how you both feel loved. For Jonathan, he rates off the charts on time and touch, and not at all on the other 3. I could give him gifts and tell him how great he is all day long and he’d feel alone by nightfall. For me, I love those things, but every so often a sweet gift or act of service makes my heart melt.
Say YES. Don’t you just love it when people go along with your ideas? Especially ones you’re really passionate about? Your husband does too! When my children were very small I felt like I said no all day long. Trouble was, this habit of saying no spilled over onto my husband too. I said no to everything, with no good reason! I remembered wise words I heard from an older friend I admired and decided to put it to the test. Her advise was simple: say yes to your husband every time it’s feasible. Radical, isn’t it?
START small. Say yes to his restaurant or movie suggestion, especially on those days when you really don’t have an opinion. Yes to spending some time doing what he enjoys. I didn’t start out as a fan of cycling, but Jonathan loves it. I started watching the Tour de France just because I didn’t have a good reason to say no. I’m still not as big of a fan as he is, but I look forward to it now. Who knew? Say yes to intimacy on days when it hasn’t been on your radar but is definitely on his. It’s important to not see this as being a doormat or as a way to manipulate to get your way later – just a way to connect. As your yes’s multiply, I’d bet money his will too. Speak up when you do have an opinion or idea. Let him say yes to you too. Marriage is a beautiful give and take relationship. Simply saying yes is encouraging and builds trust when you do it from a place of kindness not one of keeping score. And, when the times come when you do say no, it doesn’t hold the same sting as it might otherwise.
FIGHT FAIR. Eventually you will argue. Two people with different ideas and backgrounds simply won’t agree on everything. During some seasons it may feel like you can’t agree on anything. In those times you may need some ground rules. Before we were married, Jonathan and I wrote down what we did and did not like about our parents’ marriages, and then actively worked to find ways to help us avoid the difficult parts. I won’t get into all the rules for fighting we sorted out – partially because I can’t remember them all! But here are the highlights.
- Only fight about what you’re actually fighting about. Don’t dredge up the past. No “you never” or “you always” allowed.
- No name calling. If you say something mean, you lose. Jonathan and I are both competitive and would hate to lose on a technicality.
- Tell the truth. If he asks what’s wrong and I say nothing, I don’t get to be mad that he can’t figure it out. I can’t lie and yet expect him to be honest. I will be honest here, because it took some time to work the passive aggressive tendencies out of me. But this one is vital. This is one we stress with our children as well.
- When it’s over, it’s over. When we come to a solution then that’s it. We make up and move on. It’s such relief to know past issues won’t come up every time things get a little tense.
Above all, SHOW SOME GRACE. We are all selfish, imperfect people. When you’re married you can’t hide the ugly parts for very long. This is where grace comes in. Not to gloss over parts that need to be addressed or give excuses for issues that really do need intervention, but to give each other room to breathe. Sometimes this looks like one person doing extra errands or carlines. Sometimes it’s him picking up a pizza on the way home from the office because it’s 5:30 and I haven’t made a plan for dinner. Again. Other times it’s overlooking that annoying habit that just doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. At our house no one has permission to be a jerk, but grace always lets me say, “I’m in a bad mood and need some space”. I don’t know that I ever feel quite as loved as I do when I know I’m a hot mess and that man likes me anyway.
Not every marriage will look like ours, and boy, is that a good thing. We don’t have it all figured out and hit our bumps just like everyone else. What works for us may not work for you, but it’s a place to start. I hope we can be an encouragement to you. After multiple job losses, five miscarriages, unexpectedly living in a church gym, and more, we’re here as proof that marriage can be really good, even when life is really hard. Our life is pretty average from the outside and that’s okay. I’ll take a marriage full of grace and love over a glamorous one any day.