I posted the other day about how Dayne & I are at a really good place in our marriage; it seems we’ve hit kind of a sweet spot. We’re hardly bickering at all lately, and both of us are really enjoying our lives and each other.
So I thought I’d take this time to list out the Top 12 Things I Think We’ve Been Doing Right. Maybe this advice will help you, and I know it will certainly help me to have something to refer back to…
(DISCLAIMER: We are by no means perfect, and this list is not meant to come across like we think that we are. These are just things I’ve noticed lately that have made a positive difference in our marriage and would be beneficial for us to keep up!)
1) We’re silly. The stupidest things make us laugh, and we often tell each other how weird we are. We have nothing to be embarrassed about. We even use our own language with each other — you’ll hear words like “gwumpy” and “sweepy” flying around our house. This helps to lighten the mood – especially when one of us is, in fact, “gwumpy” or “sweepy”.
2) We have sex. (GASP! I’m talking about sex on my blog!) Sex is a healthy part of a healthy marriage. Most married couples are having it, as they should be. So I’m going to talk about it. Sex is not all glitz and glamour and romance and candles and all that nonsense, although those things can be included… God designed sex and created it to be such a special, unique, spiritual bond between a husband and wife that it is of utmost importance that married couples make it a high priority. It’s not always easy when you’re busy and tired and overworked and “sweepy”, but make time for it. There is plenty of evidence that sex makes you feel better, makes you healthier, and increases the bond and loving feelings between you and your spouse. With all of those reasons to do it, do it.
3) We’re mindful of each other’s love languages. Have you read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman? If not, you should. Today. Or you should just go to this website and take the quiz. It’s very important to know what makes you and your partner feel loved; it will help resolve a lot of conflict before it starts.
Dayne’s top love language is acts of service, and one of mine is quality time. I make sure I go the extra mile in serving Dayne as much as I can, and Dayne often asks me if I want to spend time with him before he jumps into an activity that’s going to demand his attention.
4) We do our research and we’re open about our marriage. Talk about marriage. Talk about your fights. Talk about your sex life. Talk about finances. Talk about problems understanding the opposite sex. Not just with each other, but with trusted friends and other couples. Don’t talk about everything; use your discernment. But be open. You will learn something – 1) that you’re not alone, and 2) other people may have suggestions that will improve your marriage. Also… READ about marriage and everything related to it. Dayne will admit that he doesn’t read as much as I do, but I am constantly trying to improve my understanding of the 3 M’s: myself, men, and marriage. I share what I learn with Dayne, and in the end, it’s almost like he read something himself.
5) We ask questions and we listen. Or at least we try really hard to listen. It’s very, very important to ask each other questions – it’s a way of showing that you are still interested in your spouse, and it’s a great way to keep conflict from escalating. Dig deeper into how your spouse is feeling and why (without judging and while remaining open to the answers). Which leads me to #6…
6) We strive to be long-suffering. For the first few months or our marriage, I was long-suffering when it came to Dayne’s morning routine (which happened to involve 3 alarms and at least 10 minutes of music). I was prepared to endure this for life, or at least until I had to get up first, but now Dayne gets up faster. Be long-suffering when you couldn’t care less about what your spouse is talking about (it will happen). Be long-suffering when he or she has a habit that annoys you (I can think of at least five habits of Dayne’s right off the top of my head). Just be long-suffering. You’re in this for the long haul.
7) We’re open to criticism. You got married, so at least you know you aren’t perfect; otherwise you wouldn’t have made it through the trials of dating. You’ve opened yourself up to another person, and they’re gonna see every last nook & cranny of your soul shining through your words and actions everyday. Not every piece of you is pretty. Take constructive criticism and always be willing to work on yourself.
8 ) We have fun together. For us, this includes taking trips, trying new things, and keeping up with our favorite activities. Look for things to do that you haven’t done before when you feel like your relationship is kind of stale. I recently read something about keeping a jar of date ideas. The same could be accomplished with a list if you don’t like the jar. I get excited about the unique options for activities that each season brings, and I typically make a list at the beginning of each season of things I want to do, which provides great date activities for us (examples: ice skating [winter], apple picking [fall], gardens or arboretums [spring], beach [summer]).
9) We cultivate and encourage each other’s passions. I love to write, and I will tell you that the single biggest fan of my blog is my husband. Not necessarily because of the content, but just because of the fact that I’m blogging. He encourages me to write and write often, because he knows it’s important to and for me. Dayne loves programming. He does it for work, but he also loves to do it in his spare time. While I don’t understand code or computer language, I recognize that Dayne is passionate about it, and he’s good at what he does. He should, therefore, follow his passion and get better at it. So I try to make time for Dayne to be uninterrupted so he can program.
10) We’re mindful of, and communicate often about, our finances. Dayne and I have chosen to do our finances together. All of our money and cards are joint, and we see where all of our money is going in real-time (we use mint.com and PNC Virtual Wallet). We have met with a financial advisor, and we went over financial planning in our pre-marital counseling. Knowing that money is one of the main causes of divorce, and a struggle for anyone who’s breathing, we take finances very seriously and stay painstakingly detailed in our monitoring of and communications about it. We are constantly talking and making sure we are on the same page about our financial goals. It’s not always easy, but it’s unavoidably crucial.
11) We spend fun time with friends without each other. This is so, so, so, so, SO important. Your spouse is not your be-all and end-all. Dayne is, without question, my soulmate and best friend and the person I love most in this world. I miss him when I’m not with him, no matter what. But he is not, and should not be, everything to me. Time away from each other is good for your relationship and your soul when you are surrounding yourself with good friends. It’s refreshing and rejuvenating. (See my post on keeping good girl friends.)
12) We don’t take each other for granted. This may seem to be a given as far as relationship advice goes, but it’s surprising how easy it is to do this once you’ve been married for, oh, five minutes. We are selfish people. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think at least once during the day that the world revolves around me. That includes the bare-bones honest truth that I sometimes wholeheartedly believe that Dayne exists to love me and take the trash out. Be careful to stop that thinking before it pervades your relationship. This means fully concentrating on your spouse when it’s needed, thanking them for everything they do [not assuming it’s their God-given duty to do it], carving out special time together for dates, and making an effort to please them and keep them interested (as an example, this means sometimes I try to look nice even when we’re at home in the evenings [i.e. jeans instead of my raggedy sweatpants – yes, this topic has come up]). You are lucky to have your spouse.
And, of course, the importance of keeping God in the center and at the forefront of our marriage cannot be overstated. We try to involve ourselves in regular prayer and Bible study. We’re still newbies at seeking God together, but both of us have the desire to love each other the way God loves us. His love is the ultimate example of married love and commitment.
. . . We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 . . .