marriage advice part 2: after the wedding

Posted: June 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

It is a slightly awkward thing for me to offer “advice” to anyone about how to do married life.  Before G and I were married, I mostly just refused, reasoning that I had proven well that I did NOT know how to make a marriage work, having failed my first one.  Oh, I could say a lot of things that one should NOT do – I could share my mistakes.  But as far as how to do RIGHT things – I was less confident on that point.  I really just preferred not to try to offer what might just be all theory, you know?

Ever since we’ve been married, I have still felt pretty reluctant.  I know that some folks feel like since we’re still “on our honeymoon,” it’s too early for us to give advice – that we haven’t been married long enough to have encountered real difficulty.  I also know that some women are quick to say, “Well, my husband isn’t like G.  You got an exceptional man.”  And he IS – there is no denying that.  So I’ve felt like even when I might have something to say, no one is really going to listen.  Too easy to dismiss any “wisdom” that I might offer, with those two rationales.

Still, there is another side to those perspectives.  Yes, we are still on our honeymoon – but that is a CHOICE we make daily.  We will have been married two years in August.  Ever notice how many people say the first year is the hardest?  I have.  And I have a friend who also theorizes that the second year is the hardest – that both parties play nice for a year, and then slide more into being themselves and getting grumpy about stuff they’d have glossed over during dating and the first year.  In my first marriage, the first fight happened on the second day (the first “married” fight – we’d been fighting throughout dating), and our relationship was marked by pretty consistent difficulty in negotiating differences.  I’ve watched lots of newlyweds (or people in the early days of living together) fight and struggle with each other.  So I’m not sure it’s fair to dismiss us as being without marriage wisdom by reason of Too Little Experience, at this point.  There has been plenty enough time for stuff to go badly – heck, we know of folks who married after us and are already divorcing.

And as far as G being an exceptional man, as I said, he is.  Exceptional, not perfect.  He is human.  He makes mistakes.  And furthermore we do things differently, reason differently, have different political perspectives, etc.  In other words, there is bounteous fertile ground, ripe for disagreements, squabbles, frustrations, etc.  He’s exceptional, but we could darn well still fight.  There has been plenty of opportunity.  So…no, his being exceptional does NOT mean that I just get to coast through life on a cloud, never having to work at marriage.  We BOTH work at it.

I suppose that’s enough disclaimer.  If you’re reading this, you’ll either give it a listen or you won’t, eh?  All I can do is bring what works for us.  Do with it what you will, and don’t suppose for a moment that I see it as some sort of prescription – that if everyone just did things like we did, the world would be filled with shiny happy marriages.  Each pair has to work it out, eh?  Each pair.

Intentional Celebration Part of the reason that we are still on our honeymoon at this point is that we celebrate our relationship each and every day.  We don’t set the alarm for the last conceivable second we can wake and then fly out of bed like we were shot from a gun into a hurried morning.  We wake up hours before we have to be anywhere, and we ALWAYS celebrate the joy of waking up together.  We say it, we show it.  We don’t care that we say the same words we always say.  “I love you,” doesn’t get boring.  We tell each other things we appreciate about each other.  We speak our admiration, appreciation, and gratitude aloud – we don’t just each assume that it’s known by the other.  We build each other up and we celebrate the miracle that God brought us together, even after 46 years of life.  At 4:30 AM we often revisit tales from when we were dating, or (more often) tales from before that – from when I had my mad crush on him and he had not a clue.  I say how glad I am that no other woman snapped him up while he waited, though I think so many women must have been crazy or blind to walk by this guy and not turn around and try for it.  We celebrate.  Every day.  Every morning, every evening, and often in between.  Our relationship is one of the very best gifts we’ve been given.  I have no intention of ever taking that for granted.  We celebrate.

Serve One Another G and I look for ways to serve one another, to bless one another, to each lighten the load of the other.  He starts work 3 hours later than I do in the morning; he spends a good chunk of that time working around the house and yard, looking for tasks to complete so that I will not have to.  I get home from work 3 hours earlier than he does in the evening; I spend a good chunk of that time searching for stuff to do so that he won’t find it and feel the need to do it.  It’s like a contest to see who can out-bless the other (full disclosure:  I have never won this contest yet.  G is a rock star at lightening my load, and he is some kind of Jedi Master at serving others.  I don’t know that I will EVER get one up on him, but I do try.)  We don’t do this from obligation or any kind of “should,” but from a sincere desire to each help the other.

Remorseless Murder of Expectations  I’ve said it before here on the blog and I’ll say it again:  expectations are relationship killers.  Probably the biggest reason so many couples spend so much time fighting is the failure to murder their expectations.  Expectations are little assholes who buzz around inside your head, pointing out what the other person “should” have done, asserting that if they cared, they would *know* what you wanted without you having to ask, judging differing approaches and declaring one right and the other wrong (when often there is no moral difference between the two).  Expectations swim around and find all your old wounds and neediness and poke them with sharp sticks, and say, “This pain is all HIS fault!  HE should have fixed this in you by now!”  Expectations trick otherwise kind and reasonable people into shaming others for not magically knowing something they had no means of knowing.  Expectations trick wounded people into behaving in ways that push others away from them, even as they seek to draw people closer.  Expectations deserve nothing but premeditated, callous, unrepentant, remorseless murder.  Expectations MUST DIE for relationships to flourish in a healthy manner.  This means when I notice that G has done something in a way differently than I would have, and the impulse shoots through me to be angry, offended, irritable, or judgmental…I stop and murder it.  No, I tell it, G does not owe it to me to do things the way I would do them.  No, there is no reason to believe that he should have known my way and automatically practiced it.  No, I’m not going to let you trick me into being a jerk to him.  Nope.  Go die, expectation.  And while most expectations tend to continue making A LOT of noise inside of me for awhile, sooner or later they run out of steam and fall dead on the floor.

Assuming the Best There is a line in the “love” chapter of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13 – the whole chapter is worth more than just a casual read) that says, “Love hopes all things, love believes all things, love endures all things.”  For the longest time, I was confused by love “believing all things.”  That just sounds like gullibility, doesn’t it?  Since then, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps it means that love assumes the best.  This is something we practice.  When G does or says something that looks or sounds like not caring, I do not assume he doesn’t care.  I assume he means well and loves me deeply.  So I don’t confront him angrily; instead, I take care to ask him about it in a non-accusing way.  It always ends up being some kind of misunderstanding, and is always quickly worked out.  When I’m a grumpy old bear, G makes the assumption that I’m suffering or struggling in some way, rather than just thinking I’m an inconsiderate jerk who likes to be rotten.  He handles me with according kindness, gentleness, and compassion, and his assuming the best about me works miracles in pulling me out of dark places.

Prayer and Devotionals  I remember being a single person in a large adult Sunday School class.  Another single person raised his hand and asked the many couples in the room how many of them prayed together regularly.  I remember how my heart fell when NONE said that they did – not even the pastor and his wife.  I just about lost hope for what I was dreaming for a someday marriage, that morning.  Here were all of these couples that I liked and enjoyed spending time with, people who were learning and striving and growing in the things of God daily right by my side, and NOBODY prayed together regularly?  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to give up.  To this day, I hope and pray that some of those couples moved a better direction since then.  G and I read our morning devotionals aloud together every morning over breakfast and take some time to discuss them.  Most mornings we pray together before I go to work, though sometimes we’ve dallied too long at enjoying the time together and then I have to hurry off to work without us doing the prayer thing.  When one of us is sick or struggling, the other prays.  When I had my that awful month of poison ivy last year, there were times that I was struggling silently in bed in the middle of the night, and without a word to him, G would suddenly wake up and just get on his face on the floor, praying for me.  We ask God most every day to be the center of our relationship – to be the boss – to be in charge – to teach us how to love each other well, to talk to one another, to hear one another – to use our marriage for His kingdom purposes.  I ask Him to teach me how to be the wife that G needs, and G prays to be the husband that I need.  We pray together for family, friends, and just folks whose hard stories we’ve heard.  Last week we had a wounded squirrel crawling around in our yard with a broken back, and G and I prayed together that he would die quickly and mercifully (he did, and G gave him a nice burial).  I have been known to pray during lovemaking, just saying, “WOW God thank you for THIS!”  There is nothing too big, too small, too personal, too whatever that we shouldn’t pray together and separately over it.  I believe in the power of prayer in our marriage.

No Taking Umbrage G and I don’t fight.  We just don’t.  We didn’t fight while we were dating and we’ve not yet had a fight while married.  I have struggled with how to express it; I heard someone else tell it well on a podcast recently.  He said that in his marriage, no one “takes umbrage.”  People are always taking umbrage at something or another – suddenly puffing up with rage, indignation, woundedness, etc.  And then the other spouse scrambles around, trying to figure out what they did wrong and trying to make it right, or else just getting offended and tossing the rage right back.  This guy said, “We don’t do that.  We don’t take umbrage.”  EXACTLY.  I love that way of expressing it.  I’m not saying everything is perfect.  We disagree, sometimes strongly.  We struggle to talk through some of those disagreements.  Once, we disagreed so strongly on something he was planning to do that I had to ask our pastors to help me navigate my reaction – I wasn’t asking them, “Tell me who is right or wrong,” but instead, “I am struggling with my feelings about this and I don’t want to be a jerk to my husband in the struggle.”  They were very helpful and we worked it out in the end.  There are little dumb things all the time that we could fight about, but we don’t.  We treat each other with gentleness and kindness and respect.  We talk it through and/or we both try to be all the time surrendering to the other.  Humor plays a big role here – often things that could drive one of us batty about the other just becomes an item over which we chuckle together.  Note:  I’m not saying no couple should ever fight.  Fighting seems to work for a lot of folks.  A lot seem to need that process.  Probably they do.  That is not wrong.  I’m just saying:  it is equally wrong to say that a couple that never fights is somehow being dishonest or avoiding confrontation (this is what I used to think, and I know plenty of others who think that).  In my astonishment that we don’t fight, I have discovered quite a lot of other couples like that, some of whom have been married more than 50 years.  Fight or don’t, but don’t believe the lie that people HAVE to fight to have an honest relationship.  It just ain’t so.

Okay, there is more that I’d love to share, but we are almost 2500 words into this thing (why must I always write enough to stop people from reading clear thru?!) so I’ll sign off for now.

These are things that work for us, offered up in case they might work for any of you who are reading.  Offered with a prayer and with certainty that I am no expert.  I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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Comments
  1. Jaclyn says:

    These posts are so eye opening…Sean and I have been following this series and finding was to model your relationship as I trust in what God is doing in you and through you. Thank you for being so open and see through 🙂

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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