They didn't know us.
We got married the following year at the ripe old ages of 25 and 18. Peter was, of course, of marrying age, but no one who gets married at 18 knows what they actually want, right? WRONG. In some cases, of course, that is true, but every person, situation, and relationship is different. When I said "I DO" at 18, I knew exactly what I was promising. It was, at times, scary and overwhelming when I stopped to ponder the magnitude of my decision, but I never questioned it.
It hasn't always been easy. In fact, for reasons which I will not share, the first few years of our married life were filled with difficulties big enough to split up many couples. But when I vowed to love and honor Peter, in sickness and in health, for better for worse, I wasn't just making that promise to him, I was vowing it to the Lord, and that is not something that either of us took lightly. (If you want to know what got us through those first few years, read THIS)
Throughout the years, we've made a few "simple" changes that help make our marriage run smoothly. Though not perfect (we are forgiven, yet still struggle with the old sin-nature), we rarely fight, we never stay mad, and we never get tired of each other. Of course, you know the old adage, "never go to bed angry", which is certainly something that we practice and believe in, but it takes more than one rule or practice to make a marriage work. Below are what I like to call, 5 Simple Rules for A Great Marriage.
- Never, ever talk about your spouse in a negative way to people outside your marriage. This includes sharing your intimate arguments with friends and family, talking down to your spouse in a group, or spouse-bashing with "the guys" or "girls". (Note: This does not apply to counseling, if you and your spouse are having problems - but I encourage couples to get counseling together, not separately - see #4.)
- Let it go - it's not worth clinging to tiny details or being picky about who did what. Over the last 16 years, I have realized that I don't always remember correctly. But more importantly, even if I'm 99% sure my recollection is accurate, it's just not worth fighting over who forgot to put the milk back in the fridge. Most of our arguments start over something silly, so learning to let it go (on both sides) has made life so much easier.
- Hear what's important. How many times do we listen to our spouse, but we don't actually hear (read: take note, file for later, make a change) what's important to them. Our entire married life, Peter has been bothered by the state of the house. Full kitchen sinks, flat surfaces covered with piles, Mt. Vesuvius in the laundry room - these things bothered him, while I didn't notice them until someone was coming over. Late last year, I finally heard him. Now we have a tidier home, and a happier environment.
- Be trustworthy - there is nothing that you can't talk to your spouse about. You married them. They've seen you naked, and you've seen them puking their guts out, and smelled them when the words "fresh as a daisy" do not come to mind. You've seen each other at your worst - so talk to one another! There are things that I can tell Peter, that I would never tell anyone else. Make your spouse your one confidant. And on the flip side, be worthy of that confidence. What your spouse tells you never goes beyond you - unless you talk about it first.
- Be a team. People get married for various reasons, not all are good. Peter and I got married because we met, became friends, and finally decided it would be fun to hang out together forever. Imagine the best friend you've ever had...now imagine getting to hang out with them, every day, for the rest of your lives. BINGO. That's us. I realize not everyone likes their spouse that much, but that doesn't mean you can't work on it. When you are together, be together. Put the smart phone down, turn off the TV, ask about their day. In essence, date your spouse forever. When you were dating, you might have feigned interest in what they liked...do it again, only this time, don't fake it. Try to understand why it's important to them. Read a book about it, ask questions, engage and interact. In our house, there are no kids, but I believe that it's even more important to maintain your relationship as husband and wife, not just "Mom" and "Dad", when you do have children. Your kids will thank you. At 31 years of age, I'm still thankful when I see my (almost) 72-year-old parents, spending time together and still getting to know one another.
Is there a "rule" or guideline that has helped in your marriage?
Please share in the comments!