Tips for a happy marriage

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We swayed back and forth in time to the music. And maybe it’s just this way in my memories but when I think back to this moment, the whole world is sepia toned. Soft and hazy and beautiful and magical. And I was more floating than swaying. And I couldn’t stop smiling.

And my father was talking to me as we swayed. And though I wanted to clutch my hands permanently around the cloud I was floating on and live in this hazy dream world forever, if not for just a little bit longer, I knew he was saying something important. And so I listened.

“Just talk,” he was saying, “Always talk. Talk to one another. Things will happen and things will get rough but just talk with one another. Promise me that.”

And in those first hours of wedded life, I pushed aside the idea that things would happen and things would get rough. But I also nodded. And I promised. And I tucked those words away in my heart.

And in the eight years since that moment, I’ve tucked more words away in my heart and then welcomed them into my life as the lessons that they are.

bride and groom

My father was right, just talk

Talking is hard. It’s really hard. I call myself a writer but there are moments, yes, so many moments, when I stand in front of the man I spend my life with and I can’t find the words. To tell him how I feel. What I need. What I’m thinking. What I’m dreaming. And I can’t find the words to ask him how he feels or what he needs. But when I try, when I stumble through and spew a long novel’s worth of the wrong things, all of the wrong words tumbling at my feet, I do find the right ones. And then I say them. And we talk. And when we’re done, we collect the wrong words and toss them aside and tuck the right ones neatly into our lives and we come away stronger than before.

And say nice things

Venting frustration has its place. We all, on occasion, need to send things out into the world in order to let them go. But these moments should be oh so rare. Say nice things about him or about her when you talk with other people. Tell the good stories, the ones in which he made breakfast for you or took the kids out of the house so you could shower uninterrupted. Lament to your friend how much you miss him when he travels and how happy you are that he is in your life. And you’ll be amazed at how it changes the way you talk to him or to her.

And, of course, listen

Listen to the words. And the words behind those words. And there’s even more behind those, you know? It takes time, and practice, and determination. But listen to the words and everything behind them. Just keep listening.

Remember that you’re never alone

In the weeks before our wedding, we stressed over engraving. What, oh what, do we engrave on our wedding bands. This small detail would never, of course, make or break our big day. But it was important to us as we thought ahead. Beyond the big day. Eventually we settled on two words: never alone. And today, when the flowers in my bouquet have long since withered and I can barely remember what the cake tasted like and I only remember who sat where when I look at photos, I can still look inside my wedding band and see those words. And they remind me that I should not carry the weight of life on my own. That all of the housework and children’s needs and burden of life’s decisions are not mine alone. But mine to be shared.

So do it together

It’s early. So very very early. And I haven’t had but a sip of coffee. And I’m still close enough to sleep that I’m thinking about going back. Or, at least, sitting, alone, on my bed and easing into the day in privacy. But I don’t. I walk down the stairs and together, we empty the dishwasher. And make little breakfasts. And because of the early and the coffee, I bump into him. And he into me. And it is not graceful or elegant. But it’s together. When we do it together, I love him more.

Love before things

And before emails. And Facebook feeds. Love before chores and tasks and lists of things to do. I could get myself all in a tizzy and make a big deal over where he left his socks or that he watched TV instead of emptying the dishwasher or any of the millions of little things that we expect without expressing. But I love him more than I love socks neatly tucked away in a drawer. So much more. And so the small stuff? I shift it to the back of the line. Where it belongs

Thank you

Likely this began as a modeling exercise. We want our daughter to say her please and thank you and so we made sure to say them to one another in front of her. But along the way, it felt good to thank him for folding the laundry. Or pouring my coffee. Or stepping in when I needed a break. And it felt good to receive those thank yous in return. Two words of appreciation go quite the distance.

Hug

Physical distance, even when it seems small, can create an ocean of space between you. But have you ever noticed how it is nearly impossible to be angry with someone when you wrap your arms around their shoulders? Hug. Hug when you wake up. At the end of the day. After a fight. In the midst of a celebration. Just hug.

wedding photo

~~~~~

At our wedding, we asked friends and family to write their lessons and advice and wisdom for us in a book. And this week, I, again, asked friends to share with me their tips for a happy marriage – what they’ve learned in their journey of making marriage work. Their words are beautiful and important and I’m delighted to share them with you.

Leave the comfort zone

People often talk about getting into that comfort zone of marriage (or a relationship) in which you trust each other and feel at ease. I think that’s vital. What I’ve learned in my own relationship is about getting out of your comfort zone too – of course, in a way that you still trust each other, but that you’re doing something that feels..different. New. Maybe even a bit painful.

Cassidy used to throw these Phish Phry parties in San Francisco, in which they played hand-picked Phish songs all night. I remember at one of the last ones before we moved east I realize I had never actually danced to Phish at these parties. I would mostly eat nachos and talk to people. So I did it. I danced. And he looked over at me and his eyes widened. One of his best friends said something to me along the lines of how Cassidy has seen a lot and has lived big, and that I have to surprise him every now and then by doing something like that – something unexpected. It was eye-opening.

Every now and then we need to do that again. We’ve been so caught up in working and parenting. For years. Sometimes I forget how to just be with him. It can even make me nervous again, like when I was in my 20’s. I think you have to do these little things to make yourself feel nervous, young and new all over again. No matter if it hurts. That usually means it’s working.

~ Tamara from Tamara (Like) Camera

 

Know your husband’s love language. 

Honor it, so that he can be filled and full.  Clearly communicate your OWN love language so that he in turn can fill you, and keep you full.  My husband’s love language is physical touch.  He needs my embraces and my physical love.  I must prioritize that in our marriage.  My love language is words of affirmation.  He knows this well.  He feeds me and fuels me with his precious notes and cards and comments supporting me in everything I do, and everything I am.  When each of you are fulfilled and full… everything else in the marriage comes easy.  That ground is solid and becomes the foundation of how your marriage operates.  If that is not cared for and nurtured and nourished…  the rest crumbles with it.

~ Chris from the Mom Cafe

 

Make peace with the things that you cannot change

Everything from how the bed is made to how the socks are folded to a million other things. But hinting and nagging can quickly turn passive aggressive, which often breeds resentment which isn’t helpful. So I will continue to refold my socks after my husband does the laundry 🙂

~ Christine from Love Life Surf

 

Let each other have space to be themselves

the longer i walk this road, the more i learn to celebrate each year. i’m looking at celebrating 10 years this summer, and the hard but beautiful lesson i keep learning along the way is to let each other have space to be themselves. it’s what drew you together in the first place and sometimes the last place we remember to extend grace.

~ Tara of Pohlkotte Press

 

tips for a happy marriage

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