Advice for newlyweds (and the rest of us, too!): Part 2

In honor of Valentine’s Day, my current obsession with some wedding shows and my youngest first cousin getting engaged, I’m dispensing marital advice this week.  On Tuesday, I gave you my first 10 pieces of advice for newlyweds and the rest of us, too.  I’m continuing today with some more thoughts based on the 14-1/2 years I’ve been married.

11. Don’t stop dating.  Once you’re married, it’s easy to become complacent, but never stop dating, wooing and romancing your spouse.  Of course these things will change a bit once you’re married.  And they’ll change when you have children.  But, don’t forget the things you loved doing together before you were married.  Go see a movie, go to dinner, go for a walk, play a game, color in a coloring book — just do something together that you enjoy.  You can get creative when money is tight.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  A date on the couch with a movie and microwave popcorn can work.  Going out for a bagel instead of a full dinner when funds are tight can work.  Just do something to date each other and reconnect.

12. Fight well.  You are going to fight.  It happens.  But, make your fights productive.  Don’t run away from them when things get tough.  Don’t resort to name calling.  Do try and listen to the other person.  Do stick with it until you’ve come to a resolution you both are OK with.  Do be willing to compromise sometimes.  Do know that there are times you might need to take a break to cool down, but always come back to the topic.  Don’t let issues go unresolved.  Even the smallest issue will fester and cause problems if you let it go without resolution.  Don’t press each other’s buttons.  You know your spouse so well.  You know what will hurt him or her deeper than anyone else.  Never breech that trust and use it against them during a fight.  Remember even in anger that words spoken can never truly be erased.  No amount of apologizing and forgiveness can remove those words and the feelings they evoked.  Just don’t go there.

13. Don’t try to change one another.  Some things you know about your spouse before you’re married and you think they’re cute.  Then you’re married and you find they lost some cuteness. Other things you maybe didn’t know until after you were married and you don’t find those things cute at all. Work through them.  You can talk about them with your spouse, but the only person you can really change is yourself. Many times that means getting on your knees and asking for God to change you.  And that’s OK.  Remember my gaming example from last time?  When we were first married, I sometimes wanted my husband to play games less often.  It didn’t work.  I just made myself miserable.  This was a part of him I knew about before I said “I do.”  Once I changed my attitude, then it all worked out.  And now it’s a hobby we enjoy together.  It’s also a hobby he still enjoys on his own sometimes and I embrace having the time to myself to do things I enjoy alone like reading.  Does it help that he makes our family a priority over his games?  Most definitely.  If not, we’d have a problem.  We’ve learned how to work it for the good of both of us.

My husband and I just past our 13th wedding anniversary a year and a half ago when I was expecting our second baby. We've changed in many ways from the young couple we were when we said "I do," but we've changed together. (Photo by Catherine Hatton)

14. At the same time, be aware that you both will change, just make sure you change together.  My husband and I got married young.  I was 20; he was 22.  We’ve gone through many life transitions together.  We started as college students.  Then we evolved into young professionals.  Then we morphed into parents.  Now we are settled  into 30-something parenthood.  I’m not the same Stacey I was when we got married.  Chris is not the same Chris he was when we got married.  We’ve both grown and changed as we’ve lived life.  But we’ve grown together.  Each stage of our life has brought its own challenges.  In the early days, we’d struggle to connect in the midst of going to classes, studying and working.  Then we struggled to connect when I dealt with some health issues.  Recently we’ve struggled to connect while being in the fray of having small children.  But, we’ve figured out — sometimes through trial and error — how to adjust to each phase as it’s come and how to stay connected when life changes and when we change.  Some changes are pretty easily resolved, like how we’ve learned to ask each other if the timing is good before starting a serious discussion.  Other changes are more challenging, like figuring out how to stay connected to my husband when I feel like just crashing at the end of the day after taking care of the kiddos and the last thing I want to do is have to talk to someone else or have someone else touch me when all day I’ve had someone clinging to me.  We’re always learning and always growing.  The key is to make sure that you’re learning and growing together and never ever forgetting your spouse or taking him or her for granted.

15. Respect each other’s privacy.  Trust is a huge part of a relationship.  If you work hard to be a team, to communicate well and to fight well, trust remains.  Act in a way that your spouse has nothing to worry about in trusting you.  Be honest.  Be up front.  Expect the same from your spouse.  Give space sometimes.  Respect and trust go a long way in a relationship.  I have nothing to hide from my husband, but I still appreciate that he asks me before getting in my purse to get something.  I give him the same courtesy and don’t go rifling through his wallet or cell phone unless I ask.  Neither of us have secrets, but we are still human beings.  We do still have belongings that are ours and it’s important to respect that even within a marriage.  If I went through his text messages or e-mails, all I’d do is communicate to him that I don’t trust him.  And I do trust him — completely.  Plus, who has time for that?  If your relationship is at the point where you feel like you have to do those things in order to trust someone, then you’re not actually trusting them at all and need to work through the underlying issues.

16. Enjoy one another in every way.  I’m not going to go into details of the physical aspect of a marriage, but enjoy that, too.  Never use that against one another.  Just enjoy your relationship.  Enjoy your physical bond, your emotional bond, your spiritual bond and your friendship bond.  Marriage is meant for the long haul.  Enjoy it!

17. Keep a sense of humor.  Laughter can diffuse any situation.  When I was in college, one of my professor’s had a theory that if he was going to laugh at something later then he might as well laugh about it now.  That’s not always an easy thing to do, but it can be helpful.  We put this to the test on our second day of marriage when we ran out of gas right as we rolled into the visitor’s center in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where we were going to spend our honeymoon.  We’d both been so distracted and excited about being married and getting to go somewhere together out of town that we completely forgot to fill up the gas tank.  It gave us a bit of a chuckle then and still makes me smile to remember those kids we were.  Never take yourselves too seriously.

18. Don’t listen to others.  Yeah, I’m ending with this one, because it seems contradictory since I’ve been dispensing advice this week and now I’m telling you not to listen to others.  What I mean, though, is don’t listen to others’ opinions about your relationship or marriage when it comes to little things.  If multiple people you love and trust who know you and your spouse and sending up red flags, pay attention.  But at the end of the day in most situations, it doesn’t matter what anyone else’s opinion is on how you’re doing things other than your spouse.  If you’ve talked through your issues, if you’ve come up with your own game plans and if you’ve figured out what works best for the two of you, then so be it.  Everyone else can butt out.  It really isn’t their business.  Do whatever it takes to protect your marriage.  Go to counseling if you need help working through problems.  Don’t allow others to plants seeds of doubt that don’t need to be planted.  Cut off conversations if you need to.  Cut off friendships if you absolutely have to.  You know in your gut what is best for your relationship.  Follow that instinct together with your spouse.

Marriage is an awesome journey.  I can’t imagine my life differently.  I love being a missus and wouldn’t change it for one second.  Enjoy the journey.  Enjoy one another.  Enjoy the journey together!

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