You might notice that although I don’t write about marriage as much as I do “mom” stuff, marriage articles have been a part of my blog from the beginning. I mostly write them for me so that I can focus on what I love about marriage, as well as where I want my marriage to go. As I have written articles in the past, I have interacted with many good women that also have a desire to upkeep their marriage. Because of this, marriage has become one of my very favorite things to write about.
Marriage isn’t easy. At least not for me, and not for the majority of the world. I’ve noticed that my marriage goes through cycles: there’s really good times, and there’s okay times, and then there’s times when I think, “What the heck?! How are you so annoying right now?!”
It’s during these times that I realize I have forgotten some things.
I’m no marriage expert by any means, but I majored in Marriage and Family Relationships, and there are a few marriage principles that seemed to repeat themselves in my classes. I have found that when I truly follow them, our marriage becomes way more enjoyable and far less annoying.
Here are my favorites:
9 Marriage Principles to Never Forget
Focus on what you want. Life seems to give us exactly what we are focusing on sometimes. If you don’t appreciate something about your spouse, don’t constantly complain about it. Focus on the good. Compliment what you like. During our first year of marriage, I was venting to my husband one time and then I said, “Sorry, I shouldn’t be a whiner.” He then replied, “Whiner? I’ve never heard you whine!” I don’t know if he meant it, but I felt very encouraged by his statement. I wanted to continue being that girl that he saw….the one that according to him, “never whines.” This brings me to principle #2,
Rarely is anyone motivated by criticism. Let’s say someone came up to you and said, “you are a horrible human!” What would you naturally want to do? Go home and do everything you can to practice being amazing? No, probably not. You’d probably value their opinion next to….dirt. It’s okay to bring up frustrations, but does your spouse know that you see far more good in him than ill? Does he/she feel awesome in your presence? Or do they feel like they are always on the verge of making one more wrong move? Healthy relationships tend to have a ratio of at least 5 positive interactions to every negative.
Fighting isn’t Bad. This is a big one for me. I remember panicking after our first fight (which probably occurred during our first week of marriage). I thought, “oh crap. We don’t get along. How are we going to stay married??” In my post on Fighting in Marriage, I mention something very important: it’s not how often a couple argues or fights that determines the health of a marriage, it’s HOW a couple fights! This is probably one of the most memorable things I learned in college, because it helped me to recognize that talking and venting and sometimes even getting angry, is all part of having a healthy marriage. The caution lies in how you handle your anger and frustration and the respect that you show to your spouse when you “fight.”
Distinguishing between Principle and Preference takes Humility. Just because you like something a particular way doesn’t mean it’s the correct way. My husband feels that a home environment that is clean and tidy creates a happy feeling in the home. I would classify this as principle. When we first got married my husband didn’t want a single appliance on our kitchen counters (no blender, no kitchenaid, and definitely no toaster)! After all, that’s how his mom does it! We classify this as “preference” and met somewhere in the middle (I get my kitchenaid on the counter, but the toaster hides away in the cupboard).
Repeated Behavior Doesn’t Reflect Character. Since the day we met, I seem to do a lot of waiting on my husband. His sense of time is a little….skewed. However, since the day we met, I have lacked organization in my life. My husband still doesn’t understand why I don’t fold and match up my socks. Typically when a spouse repeats a behavior (not always), it is because they lack a certain skill, not because they lack love for you. When my I told my husband how much I hated when he walked in the door an hour late, I naturally assumed he would start being on time (if he truly loved me, right??). When my husband expressed how much he hated clutter in our house, he naturally assumed that I would keep things from cluttering up from then on. At one point, when neither of these thing happened, we both felt unloved by the other. It’s important to remember that habits don’t always change so quickly. We have had to be patient with each other as we try and learn a new skill. My husband is still late, and I still struggle with keeping our house neat and orderly! But you know what? I think we both are a little better. And we are only motivated to be better when we patiently teach the other the skills we need in order to reverse the habit.
Love Your Spouse and You Will Love Yourself. Sometimes it can be so hard to climb above your own interests and act in the best interest of your spouse, but it really does bring happiness. I once heard a quote, “you love those you sacrifice most for.” I totally believe this. When I sacrifice my time, thoughts and energy for my husband..I end up loving him more, and I end up loving myself more. It’s just the happier way. But sometimes it’s so hard to do!
Giving Up and Compromising are not the same thing! I have a classic line that I use when I get really frustrated in an argument… are you ready for it? It will really prove how immature I can be. The line is, “Fine. Do whatever you want.” My husband hates it when I say this! Why? Because it’s not a peaceful compromise. And it’s not very nice. It’s pretty much saying, “Hi. I’m a victim of your cruelty. Do what you want and I will dislike you for all of our time on Earth.” Okay, so maybe that’s dramatic, but that’s what it feels like to the other person. It takes maturity, patience (and sometimes a few minutes away from each other) to reach a conclusion that both are happy with. And when a compromise can’t be find, sometimes the issue just needs to “sit on the shelf” until it can be talked about again.
Re-live the Good Times. There is great power in memories. Create holiday traditions just for the two of you. Look at pictures together and share favorite memories. Read from old journals from when you were dating. Put effort into date nights in the same way that you did when you first met. Sometimes you have to lean on the good times to get you through the hard times. Things may not be good right now, but if you focus on all the pleasant memories they can give you perspective. Take time to remember why you got married in the first place. My mom used to always say that the Devil works really hard on families right before family pictures are taken, in an effort to make everyone hate the experience and give up on it altogether. Why? Because there is great power that comes just in hanging pictures of your family in your home. It creates a sense of belonging and unity.
Celebrate Your Spouse. Make sure that you are always honoring and praising your spouse in front of other people. Don’t be that person that unrealistically tries to make everyone think your marriage is 100 times more blissful than theirs, but always speak pleasantly of your spouse. Be their biggest cheerleader. One year for my husband’s birthday I had everyone put their smartphone camera to use by telling me what they loved about my husband and then I compiled it into a Birthday Tribute Video for him. It was meant to be an awesome gift for him, but it ended up being an awesome experience for me to just sit back and reflect on everything that makes him so amazing.
I hope some of these marriage principles were helpful to remember or reflect on! If you have an anniversary or spouse’s birthday coming up, you might enjoy my post on creative ways to celebrate your husband’s birthday.
What are some Marriage Principles that have blessed your Marriage?