1. The nature of giving gifts
It seems that true gifts in marriage are often far less grandeur than we imagine them to be yet far more meaningful than we give them credit for. One of those unexpected gifts that we have discovered (especially as parents) is the gift of letting the other person leave in peace. It’s an act of sacrificial love to hold down the fort and say “Go! Work. Enjoy. Rest. With no guilt. We’re good here.” Being given the gift of leaving well enhances the gift of returning well. It’s good to study which ordinary gifts mean the most to our spouse, and then practice giving them when and how we can.
2. Keep asking the questions
Real life is a lot of doing the same things over and over again. I think marriage is too. And one of those things we’ve discovered is asking the same ol questions: how was your day? How are you? What do you think about this? These sort of every day questions have a way of continuing to say “I still care. And I care about your whole being (heart, mind, interests, concerns, etc)”
3. Remind them you need them
Even after 4 years, maybe especially after 4 years, there’s something so powerful about knowing you are still needed. To know you are needed means there is a special place that you fill. It means you bring something unique to the table that they often lack and are bettered by. But the best part of all is knowing that you’re not just needed for what you give, but solely who you are. The significance of receiving “I need you” beats the awkwardness of being the one to say it.
4. Remind yourself you don’t need them
Something I’m glad I was told is that even in light of all of the very best things we desire for our spouses to be, in the truest of senses, we don’t need them to be those things. It’s really good to want a loving and gentle and thoughtful and fill in your own blank, spouse. But if our spouses fail us in those ways, we do not have to come undone. For the believer, our deepest needs have been truly and fully met in Jesus. We do not have to lose the essence of who we are when our deepest human needs are not being met by another person. We are still whole.
5. Joke away your annoyances
A while back I heard this idea of lightheartedly picking on our spouse as a way to actually guard against seeds of resentment being subtly planted against them. The person who shared this (on a podcast) used the example of nicknaming her husband “Ogre.” This was due to his apparent inability not to clunk around loudly in the morning while the rest of the family sleeps. Of course this doesn’t mean there is not a place for confronting our spouses in the areas of needed growth. But, other times we need to just laugh a little and decide to nickname them. Because after all, no one can be mad at Shrek in the kitchen just doing his normal ogre thing.
6. Give them space to try and fail
Is it really possible for someone to “fail” at going grocery shopping, loading a dishwasher, or mowing a lawn? Probably not. But, to the other person who would have never purchased that item even though “it was an amazing deal”, it can sure feel like the one who did, failed. Or at the very least it can feel like they did it “wrong.” It’s clunky and hard and hilarious to merge a life with someone else. And not only live life with them, but in some senses let them live parts of it for you. Yet this past year especially we have seen how important of an aspect it is to give the other person space and trust to do certain things their own way, even if it’s very far from our own (obviously most sensible) way.
7. Keep first things first
I think this can be applied in a much broader sense, but as is the nature of these anniversary blogs, I mean it in a very every-day sort of way. One helpful way we’ve been told to think about this is “product vs procedure.” If the final product is a painted room, was it really worth it if the whole time we painted the room we gave each other the silent treatment? When we keep first things first we value unity, listening, respect, enjoyment, growth, etc as much as we do the destination itself. The result is much more satisfying when the relationship is not lost along the way to get there.
8. Like them, too
In my less-fond-of-Kyle moments, I’ve been known to quote the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (definitely our most quoted movie in marriage) “I love you Binky, but I don’t have to like you!” And the truth is, we don’t always like our spouse.. especially when they kill our love ferns. But in all seriousness, it’s really sweet to be reminded that we’re not only loved but also liked. Recently Kyle commented on a random Nat-ism, “I’ve always liked that about you!” My response was both “oh, I really do that, don’t I?” And “Aw, you like that about me?” Then we keep doing those things.
9. Knowing and being known
Kyle and I continue to grow in the knowledge of just how exposing and humbling being known is. Yet also just how comforting and freeing it is. Tim Keller sums up this idea in a beautiful way:
“To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
This knowing and being known doesn’t just happen in the context marriage. But, marriage gives us a unique taste of what it’s like to be both known and loved by the Creator of the universe. And in marriage too, this is something to continuously behold and to be held by.