I have been thinking a lot lately about love. What is love? What does love really look like? What does it mean to truly love someone. How can we show love to each other and our significant other? More importantly do we go out of our way to show the people in our lives that we love them?
Chris and I have now just celebrated 16 years of marriage. While our first five years were not awful, they could have been improved upon by each of us. I was naive and foolish and didn't safeguard my marriage as I should, letting Chris know what I thought was okay and what I absolutely wouldn't tolerate. In my effort to be a kind, caring and understanding wife, I did not realize that not everyone had our best interests at heart. Not just our marriage, but us as individuals. Growing up in a family who loved me unconditionally left me ill prepared for the harsh realities of the real world. I did not realize that some women see a wedding ring as a challenge to go after a man. Or that even though someone talked a good talk about their relationship with Christ, it didn't always mean that they were above board. Things happened that at the moment seemed disastrous, but God turned them into a great catalyst to encourage us to make our marriage strong or fireproof if you will. So I thought I would share some of the ways we keep our marriage fun, strong and affair resistant.
1. Build Each Other Up: We make it a point to build each other up. We both make it a point to tell each other how wonderful we find the other person. We share what makes us proud to call each other wife/husband.
2. Help Heal Old Wounds: My dad died when I was young and my mom remarried for 2 years to a man who was emotionally and psychologically broken...that brokenness spilled out into his relationships with my siblings and myself as well as Mom. This created in me a fear of abandonment and truthfully, a fear that something bad could happen at any time to Chris or the girls.
Chris grew up being told he wasn't smart and that his younger brother was smarter, would grow up to be successful and affluent. Worse is that teachers in private and public school fed this lie. It left Chris feeling as if he had married a woman who was smarter than he. This is absolutely and unequivocally untrue.
Chris does things like calling when he is running late to help me know he's still coming home. I build up his ego about his intelligence. We both tell each other we think we have a sexy partner. These are a few things I can share that we do....we have a few things I won't share (because my mom and pastor may read this).
3. Flirting: Flirting is important. Whether it is something as simple as a wolf whistle at your spouse or pretending to be a stranger hitting on your significant other, it works. More importantly we find ourselves often laughing and have a good time. It also usually ends with some kissing.
4. Date Your Mate: This one is very important. Especially if you haven't do this in a while. Sometimes we go out someplace nice. But often our dates are simply going to McDonald's for a drink and talking. Maybe we take a nice walk together, but it is about carving out time for just the two of us without children around or fighting.
5. Little Things: It's not just the big things that make a marriage, it is also the little things. Surely, this one isn't a surprise. A good marriage is about the little things. Making your loved one's favorite meal, warming up the bed with a heater blanket, opening the window before they head to bed because they like it cold or even warming up the car in the morning so they aren't freezing as they commute or start the day. When we do the little things for our spouse or loved one, it says I am paying attention. I am listening to you and trying to speak your language. These little things can make the difference when facing big problems.
6. I LOVE YOU MORE: When my mom married my dad, her father told her something very wise. He told her to make sure she and Dad said, I love you everyday. She then shared it with us when we married. This tidbit of wisdom holds Chris and I in good stead. It works to strengthen our marriage. But our favorite way to say I love you hands down is the I Love You More Game. Sometimes it's as simple as we are playfully arguing over who loves who more. Other times we have reasons why we love the other person more. Sometimes it's a fairly simple answer as "I love you more because I took you out for sushi and I didn't really want sushi" or it can be as complex as "I love you more because I didn't tell your family off or someone that would have taken it out on you". Chris won a few years ago by telling me he loved me more because after I left very upset and took a walk to talk to a girlfriend he told his family off for me. He won.
7. Defending Your Spouse: Standing up against your family for your spouse is VERY important. I hate confrontation but Heaven help anyone who messes with Chris or the girls. I will find it within myself to tell you off if you hurt them. The same goes for Chris. We do everything we can without reason and God's will to protect our family. By the way this includes defending your spouse against a child from another marriage - that one is very important.
8. Be flexible. This one is very hard sometimes. As I grow older I struggle more to be flexible. After growing up moving often and having a lot of instability in the last 16 years I have learned to love stability. It doesn't mean I still don't get bitten by the moving bug occasionally, but it happens less often now and I find contentment in staying home. However, there are times it's important to be flexible. Whether it is about your spouse's raise not being what you know he/she deserves or giving up plans because you know it isn't in the budget, flexibility is necessary.
9. Save Your No's: If you say no to your spouse all of the time, after a while it loses it's power. Plus, you aren't your spouses parent. It's one thing to say no to your children often, because children come up with some crazy ideas sometimes. However, it's important to make sure you always saying no to your spouse. Also by saving your no for something important, it holds more weight. At this point in our marriage if I say, No, Chris knows it's important for him to listen and vice versa.
10. Sometimes it pays to be stubborn. In 2005 we had a problem arise. A woman attempted to break up our marriage. She could have succeeded, except I am thankfully stubborn when needed and this was one of those times. I refused to quit and give in to what someone outside of my marriage wanted. We are now celebrating 16 years of marriage and she is nowhere near our family.
11. Dream with your spouse. Some of us are not dreamers by nature. I understand that, but dreaming is important. Dreaming is half of the fun. Chris and I often dream about what if something exciting happened. For example: What if we won the lottery? You have to buy a ticket to win, which we don't, but that isn't the point of our dreaming. It is about dreaming of endless possibilities and how we could make a huge impact. Chris is dreamer, I love this about him. If you aren't used to it, learn for your spouse how to be a dreamer. It makes life more interesting and it breathes life into your marriage.
12. Marriage Before Children: Children grow up and leave home, your spouse doesn't, and you CHOSE your
spouse. You made a conscious choice who you wished to marry. You do not choose your children (obviously, adoption is an exception to that statement) and children leave as they mature and are ready to leave our safety. DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR CHILDREN OVER YOUR SPOUSE. Do not put your children before them. It's a recipe for
disaster and many marriages have fallen apart because the spouses choose
the children over their marriage.
These are just a few of the things we do to keep our marriage strong. I hope you all have a good rest of the week.
Another exception to this last piece of advice is if you discover your spouse is abusing your child, emotionally, physically or sexually (or all three), PLEASE LEAVE AND PROTECT YOUR CHILD. This is one of the few exceptions to number 12.