We recently celebrated our 15 year anniversary!! Woohoo! I have learned so much about myself, relationships, and marriage during that time. The other side of my story involves growing up in a broken home and entering marriage not trusting men in general. I lived my early years of marriage with a fear of being abandoned; me not being good enough or having a husband that just couldn't hack it any more. I viewed life from a lens that said I can't be my authentic self - with all of my strengths and flaws, but that I always had to showcase my strengths. I always needed a gold star. Ok, I still like my gold stars of affirmation, but that's a story for another post. The pain was real and I felt hopelessly flawed, but what I have learned is that we are all hopelessly flawed and that is part of the beautiful bond of marriage. No matter how you look at it… Marriage is beautiful and it is hard.
Marriage requires work, commitment, and grace.
Reminiscing over our last 15years brought me to the simple things we did that I feel had the most beneficial impact on our marriage.
Communication - we have all heard the importance of communication, but unless this was modeled for you there can be quite a learning curve when learning to communicate effectively and with love. Early in our marriage I was not a great communicator, I struggled to express what I was feeling effectively and this often led to hurtful words and hurt feelings. But over time, I have learned how to express what I am feeling in a non-accusatory way. Brene Brown describes this process beautifully in Rising Strong when she talks about how to frame a conversation, especially the hard ones, by saying" the story I am telling myself is…" This has been such a valuable tool. Try it. The story I am telling myself is…
Along with communication we are often told that there are some things we should keep to ourselves, or some things we should only tell our girls friends, but my husband is the one I share nearly everything with. My struggles, hopes, dreams, fears, and celebrations. I have found that having this deep level of communication and conversation has strengthened our marriage so much. This is where I have learned that although advice from others is great, you still have to figure out what works for your marriage!
My husband was raised to fight to the end, and we both valued the instruction from the Bible to not let the sun go down on your anger. But, we learned early on that this does not work so well for me. Sometimes, really most of the time, I just need to go to bed and get some sleep. That is usually enough for me to be able to think clearly and oftentimes just laugh and move on in the morning. I find myself asking the next morning, why was it such a big deal anyway? I think this verse is applied in our marriage by not holding grudges or glossing over things, but always being willing to dig deep. And of course, always after a good night's sleep. :)
You are each beautifully designed, with different lenses through which you view life and respond to life. Each of your personalities, upbringings, strengths and weaknesses play a significant part in your marriage. So decide what those non-negotiables in your marriage are and then get curious about how you each respond and operate. You have a lifetime to learn about each other. :)
Date night/date weekends are so important. We are slightly crazy about our date nights. They happen weekly, almost without fail. My hubs actually was the one to push for this when the kids were little. I hated setting up babysitters (yay for texting) and when we had nursing babies, they came with us. I find that date night is not only a way for us to connect as a couple but it also reminds me of who I am as a woman. Date nights also give me the mental space to process more clearly. If things aren't running smoothly in our homeschool/day routine, date nights usually brings the clarity and space I need to receive answers. So often just stepping out of the home and sharing with my hubs brings the solution on its own. Date weekends are even better. Truly a time to refresh our marriage as well as my soul. When our kids were little we were usually only gone for one night and as they got older we are gradually able to be gone for a longer period of time. (I say, were able to be gone, that is referring to my mommy anxiety and the level of my comfort with different amounts of time.) Even if it is just a day trip, date weekends/days are a beautiful and meaningful way to connect with your spouse.
Every couple has a hot spot, sex, money, in-laws, etc.. At different seasons there may be more than one or it may change. Knowing what your trigger points are in relation to the issue that you struggle with most is very helpful. Expressing these trigger points with your spouse in a non-confrontational way is vital to a healthy relationship. We all have junk, it's how we hold onto it and how we allow it to enter into our relationships that can make or break any relationship.
Always be willing to grow, to change. Have fun together. Explore. Adventure together. Anything worthwhile is worth fighting for and investing a significant amount of time and energy into.
Hey, I'm Julie. I love books, coffee shops, traveling, and exploring. Homeschooling Mama to 4, wife of 15 years. Enjoying the journey and learning to add a bit more of summer into my everyday life.