Last week I heard on the radio that our cars have arrows beside the gas symbol on our dashboards to show us which side has the gas tank. I thought to myself, ‘Well, that knowledge would have prevented several irritating episodes at the pump!”. I’m sure it’s happened to us all at some point, right? We find out that tricky situations could have been avoided with a little extra knowledge. That’s where I got the idea for this blog post.
I’ve talked to a lot of married women over the years and believe it or not, most of the challenges we all face are the same. How well we overcome those challenges and build strong marriages is another story. So, today I’m going to share 7 things we should all know about marriage to make our lives better.
#1 Marriage is Not Easy
Yes, this should be a no-brainer, but I am always amazed by the number of women who are surprised by the work that is required to build and sustain a successful marriage. There is no auto-pilot button we can press after the wedding ceremony that cruises us into ‘happily ever after’, though that would be awesome! Two people coming together as one is no easy task. So we must be mentally ready to step up to the challenge and not allow unrealistic expectations cause us to think our marriage is not good.
Working on ourselves daily will be the most challenging task of all. Living with another person day in and day out will bring out some things in our personalities we did not even know existed, and it is not all good. We may even wonder where in the world that thought or those words came from! But it’s part of the process and completely natural. The key is not to get stuck in that place, but use it as an opportunity to improve ourselves. Face those imperfections and be diligent about changing behavior that you know is harming your relationship. For example, I found that most of the issues I had with my husband were really my unresolved issues and had nothing to do with him. When I made the right changes to my thinking and my actions, I saw the positive results I wanted. Was that easy to do? No. But it was much easier to create a marriage that I enjoy, than settle for one that I had to endure.
#2 Communication is Not Yelling
Two people yelling their opinions and grievances at each other is not communication. Repeating something over and over, louder and louder, is also not communication – even if your spouse is quiet and appears to be listening. Yes, this is a little dramatic, but really we cannot talk ‘at’ each other and think we are communicating. I remember many times sitting and listening to my husband say something, but the whole time I was dissecting his argument and preparing my case in my head. Yes ladies, I was Matlock! Needless to say, that got us nowhere.
Learning to really hear my husband was definitely an acquired skill. Being quiet, allowing him to speak, and then honestly thinking about what he said went against all of my natural instincts. But that was a good thing because I needed to learn self-control and how to show love under all circumstances. We have to resist the urge to defend our position and go down with the ship at all costs. That type of approach keeps us going in circles of unresolved issues that will eventually consume our marriages. Take a step back, and see if what your spouse says has some merit. Most of the time there’s merit in both sides. When we listen to each other and understand why we feel the way we do, then we can reach reasonable compromises and fix the problem. That is real communication.
#3 He May Not Pick Up His Pants
This is a biggie! Endless arguments swirl round and round over the silliest things. I have heard some of the strangest reasons for arguments that fall under this category. He leaves his pants in the floor. He doesn’t put his dishes in the kitchen. He leaves hair shavings on the bathroom sink. He drinks all of the juice. These things may be annoying, but focusing intensely on these small things prevents you from seeing the multitude of good qualities about your spouse. And to be honest, they probably have a list just as long about all of the things we do that annoy the fire out of them. So, don’t let these small issues drag down your marriage. It is not personal. Let me say that again, because too many women think their husbands are methodically planning and plotting to do these things for the sole purpose of causing havoc in their lives. It is not personal. Just think about what that says about your spouse if it were true. Crazy, right? Most of us know we married decent people who are not crazy and really love us.
So, be aware when those small things start growing into big things. Remember the years you hoped and prayed for someone to share your life with. Remember all of the great things they do for you and how amazing they make you feel. Then pick up those pants in the floor.
#4 50/50 is an Illusion
What does David Copperfield’s disappearing Statue of Liberty, a desert mirage and 50/50 marriage relationships all have in common? They are ALL illusions! Marriage is not a neat business contract with equal distribution of responsibilities and dividends. If you view marriage like this, then you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment in yourself and your spouse. Should we all do our best and contribute the most that we can to the relationship? Absolutely. However, there are going to be times when you or your spouse just do not have it to give. It is in those times that we support each other, and rally around to pour out more than we ever thought we could. Some days you may only have 10% to give and that’s ok because tomorrow you could be covering your spouse’s shortcomings. The key is not to fall into the trap of self-pity and condemnation when the scale tips in either direction. We cannot believe the lie that something is wrong with us or our marriages because someone is struggling and needs some extra support. It is not easy and it takes true selflessness, but if we learn to ebb and flow with one another it will create a bond of trust and security that cannot be broken. The best thing to do is throw out the scale because marriage can never be tit-for-tat … at least not a successful one that you enjoy.
#5 Stickability – Learn It!
Stickability is one of my favorite words, and I was pretty sure it was made up until I searched it on Google. I heard this word years ago from the Mother of our church and it has truly ‘stuck’ in my mind for almost two decades. Stickability means that we do not turn coat and run at the first sign of trouble or hardship. So many people are divorced today or living in marriages that might as well be over due to a lack of real commitment. Our wedding vows say for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, til death do us part. That pretty much covers anything that life has to throw at us over the course of our marriage. Now, I really should not have to say this, but I am obviously not talking about staying in situations where your life and health are at risk. Good, now that I have that out of the way, let’s get to the point.
When we go into marriage, we should not have an exit plan already mapped out. That is a sign of failure waiting to happen. Our spouse should be the one person we trust with our very lives, and they should feel the same way about us. Through thick and thin, ups and downs we have each other’s back like soldiers. It is that serious. There are so many obstacles and attacks that married people face from outside of the marriage, that we cannot allow internal strife and division to sink our ship. Guard your marriage from those who come and try to speak ill of your spouse and relationship. Never speak negatively about your spouse to others and berate them. Too often I hear married couples making fun of one another and mocking each other is ways that destroy trust and confidence in the relationship. Watch your words and listen to the words others use in reference to your spouse. If you have contributed to others having a negative view of your spouse, then apologize to your spouse. Commit to rebuilding the trust that was broken and choose to love, support, encourage and stick to your spouse. The biblical term is cleaving, but it is the same thing.
Decide today that you are going to create a relationship with a bond so strong that it cannot be broken. Keep it watertight and airtight so nothing gets in to separate the two of you. My husband and I have a saying, same tree. That means we will always be in the same tree. We may have moments where we are not on the same limbs, but we never leave the tree. That is stickability. Live it every day and watch your marriage blossom into the relationship you always knew it could be.
These are my top 5, but I would love to hear yours. What are your top 5 things everyone should know about marriage?