A few weeks back, I asked for suggestions on my Facebook page, as to future posts. It seemed the most popular suggestion was to write about marriage. Yikes. I am by no means an expert, but I am happy to share what works for us and maybe you'll find some tidbit that you can make work in your marriage, too.
First of all, we made it! Football season is over and we both came out smiling. Because my husband is the most humble man on the planet, (Not kidding, ask anyone that knows him!) I will brag for a minute. When they took over the football program 4 years ago, the team had been 0-19 in the previous seasons. Things weren't good. Over the past 4 years, with a ton of support and dedication from many parties, the team has improved a ton. This year, they were undefeated in league! Unbelievable!! They were the champs of their division and have so much to be proud of. The crazy thing about the game of football is that it can end so abruptly. They lost in their first round playoff game, and just like that, the season was done. It feels a little like being cheated, having not lost a game until that point, to just be done. But that's how it is, and we are choosing to focus on the fact that the season was amazing and they left it all on the field. No regrets.
And I guess why I brought that up, is because football most definitely impacts our marriage. Although I love many things about football season, and I know it makes Adam SO happy, it is a tiring and long season. I think the impact it has on our marriage is the hardest. We get to a point where we feel like ships passing in the night. Instead of spending time together, we are handing kids off, driving kids around, organizing this, calling back that and it is hard. Really, really hard.
The good news is, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are monetary reasons why being a teacher can be challenging, but nothing beats a teacher's schedule and hours. Now that football is over, it's hard to know what to do with ourselves. It's almost like re-learning our relationship. For the kids, too! Instead of him walking in the door at bedtime, now it's before dinner. He is coaching girls' basketball at the junior high, but the hours are a lot better and he's home by 4:30pm! When that's over, it will be 3pm! Bonus.
But, back to marriage. It's hard.
There are times of ups and downs, highs and lows. But, in the end, we both entered into marriage knowing that it was forever...in sickness and in health, till death do us part. With the mentality that no matter what, we would stick together.
Marriage isn't something romanticized, like you see on tv. It's real and it's raw and it's full of emotion and heartache, and times where you feel like giving up. But, knowing that isn't an option for us, makes us work harder.
Sometimes I think social media makes marriage seem fake, too. Couples take pictures of themselves and write posts about their love. And I'm sure they are all great and all, but the reality is, people aren't posting when times are tough. When their marriage isn't full of rose petals and sunny beaches. And when others read and see those posts, it makes them feel like a failure because that's not what marriage looks like 90% of the time. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my husband with 110% of my heart, but marriage is hard work for us. It's putting each other first, when it's not always the easy choice. And making sacrifices on a daily basis. If you took pictures of us regularly, it wouldn't be pretty most of the time. ;-)
However, it will be eleven years next month and I feel more solid in our marriage than ever before. When we first met on our blind date, one of the things that I loved about him was how much we had in common. We joked that we were the male and female versions of the same person. Many mutual friends, common interests and similar values and beliefs. We really do love so much of the same that it's fun to spend time together. He loves that I love sports, and I love that he loves babies. ;-) We both love Jesus. Family is our favorite and traveling and spending time together is the best. Although we have many similarities, we are opposites in some ways, too. I'm more assertive and strong willed, while he is more passive and easy going. The best part is that we tend to compliment each other in most situations. He talks me off my ledge while I give him strength in his uncertainty. And while some of the things about each other drive us nuts, I think we both appreciate that we can find strength in our weaknesses.
Here is what works in our marriage and helps to keep the spark alive:
1) Learn each other's love languages. I'm serious, if you haven't read the book "The Five Love Languages", I want you to stop what you are doing, get on Amazon and get this book ordered, stat! Or just click HERE. We had to read it as part of our "pre-marital counseling" with our pastor and it was a game changer. The crazy thing is that we are the same love language.....words of affirmation. This means that we feel love the most, through words. Giving compliments, taking time to talk and listen and being encouraging are the best ways we can show each other love. If your spouse isn't the same love language, it's important to learn what theirs is, and try to practice it as much as possible. We tend to give love in the way we best receive it, so chances are, you either need to adjust the way you give, or work harder to show love in their love language.
2) Make time for each other. This is hard. Oh so hard! Adam and I almost never get out, just the two of us. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the amount of times we've gone on a date in the past year. Childcare is our biggest hurdle and, to be honest, with the expense of a babysitter, we often just opt out of date nights because by the time we pay for dinner and a movie, along with the cost of a babysitter for 4, we might as well have taken the kids for an overnight stay in Seattle! Kidding. Sort of. There are ways to spend alone time together at home. We put our kids to bed early. It's something we've always done because we value having our evenings with each other. We have a handful of shows we both like on TV, or we'll sit and chat with a tub of popcorn and glass of wine. Kind of feels like a real date. ;-) When we are watching something together, we institute the "no electronics" rule, so we aren't playing on our phones or computers. This helps us focus on each other.
3) Have open communication. When something is frustrating you, instead of bottling it up and being passive aggressive, tell your partner. In the same respect, when they have done something great, praise them!! Focus on the positives, even if they seem minor! Send a sweet text, write a note for their lunch, leave a card on the nightstand...whatever!
4) Praise in public, criticize in private. This has been the motto of our marriage and one of the best pieces of advice our pastor gave us. The world doesn't need to know your complaints with each other. You should be the first to praise and compliment your spouse. And when you think they are wrong, wait until you are in private to say it. I love to talk about how much I love Adam. I think he's the best husband, dad and person I know. Sure, there are things that drive me crazy, but I don't share them with the world....that's between he and I.
5) Have a life outside of each other. I can't tell you how important this is! We love spending time together, but I think it's made even sweeter when we've been apart, too. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. We both have separate groups of friends that we like to spend time with, away from each other. We do not have a co-dependent relationship and I'm thankful for that. We even support each other when one wants to take a weekend away, or even a vacation with friends. I've gone on trips to Arizona, California and multiple overnights in our state, while he's gone to Texas, California and Oregon. Time away from one another makes us realize that we love being together. And gives us a chance to strengthen our friendships, which are a super important part of life.
6) TRUST! If you don't have trust in your marriage, you've got some work to do. I trust Adam with 100% of my heart. We have built our relationship on that foundation and have never done anything to waiver that trust. I don't question him when he's meeting up with a friend, or making a phone call. When you have that trust, it makes your relationship feel like a place of safety and security.
7) Get involved in each others lives. Ask questions about what they are interested in and support them in their endeavors. I love Adam because he's really good about doing this with me. Daily, he'll ask me about my blog and what I'm writing about. We talk about my friends (in a good way!) and some of my favorite activities. In the same way, I'll talk football with him or let him talk to me about his coaching responsibilities. Know your partner's interests and hobbies. And even if they completely bore you, offer to do something that they love, just for the heck of it!
Love each other.
Honor your wedding vows and put your partner's needs before yourself.
And even when you are angry with one another (because it WILL happen), try to be the bigger person.
And don't ever stop telling them how much you love them.