1. Stop comparing:
The reality is, the scales will never be perfectly “even.” It is impossible. A marriage is sharing the same load but often carrying different things. It takes time to figure out your different roles and responsibilities; but if your goal is to for everything to be “even” you will end up exhausted, discontent, and resentful.
2. Be best friends:
For some this comes naturally. For others, it might take more work and intentionality. On one hand, don’t be too serious. Laugh, smile, and enjoy. Do things together that you can say “that was fun!” about. But also sit down and talk. Wrestle through your thoughts, desires, dreams, and concerns together. Be open and honest. Share your heart as well as your experiences.
3. Don’t get “too close”:
This one might seem a little strange, but there is a difference in a spouse and a college roommate. Boundaries, even in marriage, are not always bad. I am just going to get real- some people do not want you to pop their zits or be in the bathroom while they are pooping. Lack of space can subtly lead to lack of respect. Let your spouse be their own person. Let them get away (in their own way) to refresh and recoop. It is a healthy thing to still see them as an individual and respect them from “afar,” too.
4. Appreciate differences:
This kind of goes back to #1, but this has been a theme for us this year because of how hard it has been to do. Celebrate your differences, do not resent them. Be glad you are not married to someone just like you. Sometimes it is good and funny to just sit back and appreciate that another person could possibly think so differently than the way you do.
I do not even know what describing word to use before this one because there is just so much to say about it. Be aware that 99.9% of the time you will be coming at things with two totally separate, yet assumed and unspoken, expectations. Be willing to share them and also adjust them. Do not let unmet expectations ruin what could be.
6. Protect your marriage:
Treat others the same way you do when your husband or wife are around. Live with a healthy fear of hurting your spouse. Assure them they have the upper hand against another person or thing, always. Do not let them feel like they have to compete in any capacity against another guy/girl, your phone, a video game, a football game, your friend or family. They already won. Make sure they are secure in that.
7. Invite other people in:
Do not try to do marriage alone. Find someone who is the type person who tells you what you are doing wrong and not what your spouse is doing wrong. Seek out someone older and wiser who can see from a different perspective and who can speak from more experience. Listen to them. Let them help you.
8. Know and be known, today:
I have heard it said that one day you basically wake up to a stranger. This thought has scared me… what if we do not like who each other becomes? But that is missing the beauty of it. As Dale Partridge says,
” I fell in love with a 19-year-old rock climber, married a 20-year-old animal lover, started a family with a 24-year-old mother, then built a farm with a 25-year-old homemaker, and today I’m married to a 27-year-old woman of wisdom.”
I do not think we should spend our marriages trying to “get back what we once had” but rather use what we had as a foundation to keep building on. And instead of “remembering what we loved about them,” finding something new we love about them, today.
9. Forward is easier than backwards:
Be careful what lines you cross. For example if you let yourselves raise your voice for an argument (or throw things or slam doors, etc) that is likely the level your arguments will always go to. Draw lines and do not cross them; then you will not have to worry about going back.
10. Stop nit picking:
You do not HAVE to state every single thing that bugs you. Pick your battles wisely and ask, “is this really something that matters past this one second of life or am I just being a control freak?” Correction is easier to take when it is not all you hear. I think the philosophy for kids applies to the marriage relationship too; for every put down do three pick ups. Words have the ability to empower or drain.
11. Say “I’m sorry”:
For a specific thing. Verbally. Not just when something blows up and you “have to” in order to “move on.” Initiaite apologies, do not wait for them to be required of you. It has softened my heart every single time Kyle has said “I am sorry for…” Period. With no “buts.” Grace and humility have a way of beckoning grace and humility in return. There is a vital difference between conversations that say “well you did this, and you should be sorry” and ones that say “I did this, and I’m sorry.”
12. Be vulnerable:
I think vulnerbility means actually choosing to expose. I realized recently that the embarassing things we struggle with (like the ugly motives that lie deep in our hearts) are the things we should invite our spouses to see and help with. Welcome and praise this sort of honesty. Do not let your spouse fear coming to you.
13. Take advantage of them:
Marriage is common yet rare and unique. No two marriages are the same because no two people are the same. Sometimes we need to take a step back and remember this special bond we share with another person that no one else gets to. It really is a once in a life time kind of love, so make the most of it.