I know I’ve mentioned this before, but this summer Brandon and I will celebrate ten years of marriage. We’ve been together as a couple for over 15 years and friends for an additional 2 before that. While I need to make a caveat that our marriage is absolutely NOT perfect, I do think we have a strong one and I’d love to share a few things we’ve learned along the way so that we can help our newlyweds and brides-to-be in their new journey. Here are 5 things we feel are important to building (and maintaining) a great marriage.
1. Go to bed at the same time
This may seem like an odd tip. Why does it matter if you go to bed together? Well, it doesn’t REALLY matter. But we have found that when we do, there are more opportunities to connect, to talk about things that pop into your heads as you lay down to the pillow. I’ve found that my mind starts really turning at night, and Brandon’s starts turning in the shower (usually he showers at night) so if we are both getting ready for bed and one of us has an idea or something we need to chat about, we can easily do that right then and there without distractions since we’re both just, you know, flossing or something.
Sometimes it’s in those little moments that we can actually dare to dream big and make plans since the world isn’t pinging notifications to us at that time of night. Now, one of you may start crashing at 8 while the other is a night owl who can’t shut down until midnight, but if possible, spend some time together in the evenings as the day winds down and see if opportunities don’t pop up to share your hearts with each other.
2. Never go to bed angry
The old adage is true: you should never go to bed angry. If you had an argument that’s still lingering and you’re having trouble letting go of it, sometimes you need to go ahead and get it out before you go to sleep. You have to be careful not to unfairly unload on your partner and remember there are two sides to every story. You certainly don’t want to bring up every little thing that bothered you, but if your heart is hurting from a recent argument, it’s usually better to address it before going to bed and stewing over it.
Although there are times when you shouldn’t speak while angry, it can be worse to simmer in your anger and build your argument in your head when you could go ahead and bring it out (fairly) before you get too bitter about it. We’ll talk about arguments down in #4.
3. Find a common hobby
I know that not every couple will have the exact same hobbies. But we think it’s important to take an interest in what your spouse likes and why. Although Brandon and I tend to have more similar hobbies than different ones, I believe every couple can find things they both like to do. Whether it be biking, hiking, going to the lake, or just common tv shows and cooking together, it’s important to spend time together when there’s no pressure, only fun.
If separate hobbies take you apart too often, it’s easy for resentment to set in that your partner likes the hobby more than spending time with you, and vice versa. That’s not a message you want to be sending. So if your hobbies are on vastly different ends of the spectrum, take some time to try and learn more about it, why he likes it (how does it make him feel, and why does he need that) and go with him once every so often. If you still hate it, then work together to find things you both love so that you can plan for times to spend together just enjoying that time.
4. Fight fair
We all have arguments. And we believe it’s not a bad thing to have them every so often. The biggest thing here is just remember: Words can’t be taken back, so choose them carefully!
Despite the elementary school rhyme, words CAN hurt. Big time. So as husbands and wives, we must be very careful to protect our relationship by not hurling fire-filled balls of words. You know – those in glass houses should not throw stones. It’s impossible to take back what you’ve allowed out of your mouth. I’ve found that if I always said what I wanted to say, the damage I’d cause would be catastrophic.
Remember to always try to see things from your partner’s perspective. Chances are, when you do, you can start to see why they were upset and what you could do in the future to combat the issue before it even comes up. P.S. Sometimes we are wrong, and realizing that and saying “I’m so sorry” goes a long way. If you’re winning the argument, then your partner is losing. That’s still not a win for you. Arguments aren’t a always bad thing when you use them to understand each other better. So, use them as a tool to love them better instead of seeing who “won.”
5. Always think of the other
When you signed on for marriage, to a degree you lost some of the privilege to consider only yourself. I’m not suggesting you need to entirely let go of your individuality, but there is now another factor to most, if not all, of your decisions. Your grocery store list, your Saturdays off, your budget, and even your Netflix cue may look different than they did before you transitioned this other person into the picture. If you’re loving your spouse above yourself, you’ll think of picking him up the little things he likes at the store, like those little chocolates, or in my case, garlic stuffed olives (ew, I know).
Often, a good marriage has a lot less to do with being perfect and a lot more to do with the little things you do to remind him you choose him daily. (For more on this topic, read Hearts in the Shower.)