5 Things You Should Do…For Your Marriage
Here is the next piece in my “5 Things You Should Do…” series (hope you caught the first one here). Before I dive into the topic of marriage, here is a little background on us. We will be celebrating 20 years (!) of dating this year and just celebrated ten of marriage. I don’t think my relationship is perfect. I know my relationship isn’t perfect. But it’s one of the things I am most proud of in this life: it’s strong and it’s stable and it’s still filled with laughter and fun and appreciation and surprises. And so while it may seem a little premature to be sharing marriage advice when we’re only ten years in, I know we have learned a few things along the way that are working. Things we hope to adopt for another ten. And ten after that. And who knows…maybe even ten after that. Here they are. Five things you should do…for your marriage.
1) Skip date night. Ok, ok. Don’t skip it all together, I know you love it. I may be a bit of a broken record on this topic, but like I said in my very first post for The Huffington Post, don’t put the weight of the world on it. Make tonight just as important as date night. Turn off the TV, put away your phones, get the kids to bed early and hang out with your partner. Talk and laugh and listen to music and share whatever is on your mind – good, bad, or in between. Don’t wait for that one night of the month where you have a babysitter and the perfect reservation and the candlelight. Enjoy that night, sure. But don’t wait for it. It’s the nights in between those – and what you do on those nights to connect – that make a marriage. Which leads to my next point…a big one for us.
2) Listen to each other. Really listen to each other. I can tell you that one of the biggest issues in my marriage is this: my husband is a long-winded story teller. He likes to recount every detail of every aspect of every thing he has to share with me…and will often pause mid-way through a sentence to think about what’s coming next, how best to convey it, etc. I, on the other hand, have a mind that is moving 100 miles per hour most days so while he is thoughtfully trying to share something with me, I am often thinking “can we possibly speed it up, there is a kid to feed or a load of laundry to put in or an email to answer…” I really do care about what he has to say (otherwise we wouldn’t be married anymore, trust me…), but I am not taking the time to listen to it on his terms and my impatient little face clearly shows that. I was just reading in Oprah’s What I Know For Sure that when she spoke to men who had cheated on their wives, the common thread wasn’t a lack of physical or sexual or even the attraction of someone new, it was that these men found women who would actually listen to them. I am fairly certain my poor listening skills aren’t pushing my husband out the door (yet…ha ha) but it’s the one area of our relationship that I am consciously working on so we can both be better at communicating.
3) Speak up. And when you need to, stop listening and do the talking. I have so many girlfriends who spend years talking to everyone about their marriages…except their spouse. And suddenly they go to talk and there are years of damage already done. Mainly in silence. I am a firm believer in telling my husband how I feel, and I hope he does the same. Thoughtfully, respectfully and honestly. If you are PMSing and a touch oversensitive, say that. Trust me, you will both feel better if you do. If you are feeling neglected or insecure or under appreciated, tell him. But find a moment when you can convey it calmly and effectively, emotions (somewhat) aside. If his work schedule is making you crazy, voice that. Maybe it won’t change in an instant, but in my opinion, having small conversations along the way works better than having one big conversation down the line.
4) Come up with a common goal each and every month. It can be to pay off a credit card. Or get your attic in order. Or lose five pounds each. Every month try to find one thing you both care about and find a way to work towards that goal together, big or small. It will remind you that you are on the same team, encourage you to work together and help you prioritize things for the sake of your marriage…and your to-do list.
5) Create a memory album in your mind. Your wedding day, the first time you kissed, when your first baby was born, that time you were wandering the streets of a new city together with nowhere to be and no one else to think about. Those moments where it was you and your partner against the world and there was no mortgage to worry about, no leaky faucets, no tired nights on the couch. Take a quick inventory of those moments and capture them in your mind – how they looked, how you felt, what they meant to you. Then pull those memories out from time to time. Turn them over in your mind’s eye and remember that feeling, that bond, that love. You don’t even need to tell anyone they are there, but know that they are. And you can – and should – visit them any time you want.
Hope you find some of this stuff interesting and inspiring — as always, would love to hear from you in the comments here or on social or via email at email@example.com. Happy Sunday!
(photo credit: Fawn Christiansen Photography)