Marriage is hard.
The sky is blue and bears live in the woods. I know this title doesn’t suggest any shocking or ground-breaking revelation. I mean, after all, all of us are either married, know someone who is married, lived in a home with parents who were married or have seen married people on television. 😉 We’ve all seen marriage in its many forms, I’m guessing. But if you aren’t actually married – single and looking, single and not looking, dating and/or engaged – it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting into. Even under the best of circumstances, couples who marry will find struggles along the way. Marriage wasn’t meant to be easy, but it was always meant to be what points us to heaven. Each spouse is tasked with getting the other to heaven – heavy, huh?
I once heard on the radio a really good point made by a priest who hosted the show. He spoke of marriage prep and the length of time most dioceses prepare a couple for the sacrament of marriage vs. priestly formation, which typically takes seven years. His take was that couples are not spending enough time properly discerning marriage or with the proper disposition of heart. The secular push (and this is now my own observation) has a very set timeline. Timelines that are typically attached to availability of venues – be they churches and halls or hotels for the reception. I can attest to this as a former wedding photographer myself. I saw it in the frenzied clients I worked with and then even in my own journey to the altar for my wedding. Did I mention there is the perfect date, too? That date can also dictate the timeline to logistically prepare for the wedding date.
But…aren’t we called to a better discernment, free of distractions and timelines?
Here’s the flip side.
Can you imagine dating someone for SEVEN years just to see if he/she was the right one? While seven years isn’t practical in terms of a dating to engagement to wedding timeline, the idea that discernment for marriage ought to be longer than it is, with more grounding in intentional spiritual formation does seem to be a good direction. Whatever your timeline, be aware that the key to going forward and creating a rich foundation to build your upcoming marriage should strive to be rooted in God first, timelines and desires second.
So…what exactly do healthy marriages look like and what can a single person glean from a post like this? Let’s explore a bit, shall we…? I asked – let’s call them the big brain trust. These are ladies I call friends who I’ve known for many MANY years – some online, some in real life for real and raw marriage advice. It’s a messy sacrament, that thing called marriage. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you might sneeze, but trust me, you will walk away from this post with some idea of what you’re in for – the good, the bad, the ugly, but most of all, the root of what marital love really can be. So, grab your coffee and we’ll get started. 🙂
SO, HERE’S SOME ADVICE YOU CAN USE
The kids are not number 1.
You should go to those stupid marriage communication seminars even at years 5, 10, and 15. You might learn something you forgot you knew, something you put off doing. You might make fun of everything they say and remember why you uniquely work together.
You should definitely have the priest over for dinner.
You should have people you are friends with that you aren’t friends with because your kids like their kids. Unless you come from an extremely healthy family of origin, don’t tell them your problems with each other.
Have your own hobbies, make sure your spouse has their own.
Encourage each other.
Dream about the future together.
When you get teenage babysitters, go on adventures together again.
Nfp sucks, if you have a chance/choice to abandon it and ttw, do.
~ Kat W.
Pray for each other, make time for each other WITHOUT the kids
learn each other’s love language, remember all the things that love is.
Sometimes it IS ok to go to bed mad. Being tired and upset, isn’t the most conducive to having a productive discussion. Sometimes a clear head in the morning is better.
There will be ups and downs. You’ll experience greater joy than you could have ever imagined and then sometimes you’ll get into a huge fight about whether the ceiling fan should be off or on.
~ Christine H.
Learn and understand each other’s love languages.
Have a saying, or multiple sayings, that reminds you both that you are on the same team.
Know that you may have different “dictionaries”, and use certain words in a way that is misinterpreted by the other, remembering -same team.
Help support one another in having ample spiritual feeding time/opportunities.
~ Cindy R.
Have the utmost respect for one another, never belittling the other, especially in front of others.
Know that there are going to be times when you feel like you’re clawing your way through hell, but one of you will have the strength to climb up and throw the other a rope.
Have a good strong prayer life …Mass/rosary/receive holy communion together and spend time alone…dates…movie night etc. Laughing, talking, venting.
Affection is so important, too…(lots of hoochie ?) and doing nice things for each other, surprises to make the other feel really loved and taken care of. Be mature…listen/discuss/disagree like rational people.
~ Sarah G.
If you think you will always be giddy in love, you won’t. You have to want to be married. You have to believe in staying married. Society offers too many outs, too many opportunities to think you should have more. You need to realize you already do have more, a life partner, someone who accepts you as a whole person. The catch is, you have to accept them, too.
I have seen long marriages as a nurse and I have seen them under tremendous strain due to illness. Always say please and thank you to your partner. Serve your partner. Love them at their worst and remember them at their best. Do what is best for them. Be patient, be kind and save your best for them, they deserve it.
And pray. Always pray.
~ Melanie M.
If it crosses your mind that it would be nice to do something little for your spouse, but you feel super burned out or tired, do it anyway. A foot rub, an unexpected love note, a phone call just to say “hi,” taking the extra effort to make sure his dress shoes are clean or his favorite shirt is hanging up for him to wear again. Whether or not he is aware of the extra effort it takes doesn’t matter, because he will feel truly loved and appreciated.
Let them know that you value their skills as a provider. Thank them for their dedication to work so that your family can meet needs and even wants. Let them know that you feel secure when they are around.
Take turns giving each other time (and resources) to do what “feeds” you as individuals. Remember that you are stronger as a couple, and keep your relationship in good condition with dates – even at home watching a show one night a week.
Pray together – take turns leading, and thank God for the gift of your spouse in specific ways.
And laugh together! Laugh at the good times and the bad times! We ALWAYS have something that gets royally messed up when we go on a vacation – it is what it is and we chalk that up as part of the experience. Laughing at yourselves and each other and the things that sink will get you through A LOT.
Know your temperaments/tendencies. He likes to solve problems, but I like to just be listened to. If I don’t want to hear his problem solving idea, I will tell him that I just need him to listen. In time, I usually ask for his advice anyway and we both win. 🙂 Sometimes I get overwhelmed and have to spill out everything that is on my mind, that I regret, that I am sad about, that bothered me a month ago and is stupid and I don’t know why it still bugs me – I can tell him, “Babe, I have to do the “melancholic dump” on you today. I’m really sorry, but I will get out of this funk if you just let me pour it out…will you please give me 10 minutes to just pour it out?” Then he doesn’t feel like I am oddly attacking him for something, or wonder if I am gearing up to drop horrible news on him or anything. It just helps to know who you are and work with/around it. 🙂 But it does take time to get there!
Love isn’t really a feeling – it’s more of a choice. When my husband is acting like a selfish jerk, I desperately don’t want to do some of the little extra things to make his life easier, but I feel like that is when its most important. It even seems to make me feel less angry when I do.
Also, if there’s a problem, don’t just sweep it under the rug. It’s one thing to take some time to get a clear head and really think things through, but it’s really important to talk about these things before they become an even bigger issue.
~ Jessica G.
When you can only think of responding to a situation with anger … wait … pray … breathe… usually you can find a way to communicate without tearing each other down.
Go out without kids. If that’s expensive (babysitting & cost of meals or entertainment, etc) instead, make the kids an easy dinner put them to bed and order in … talk to each other about the things that brought you together in the first place … talk about your hopes and dreams. Be present. Don’t chat about daily chores or stressors … that’s later. Try to set a date night like that at least every other week. It’s not expensive … but it’ll keep you connected.
~ Donna S.
Sexual intimacy is important. When TTA, find other means of intimacy — hugging, back rubs, holding hands, kissing. However, when you are both able to engage, do! Often!
Never use words of insult. No name calling, no belittling.
~ Charla S.
There will be ups and downs, make the decision to be married and to be kind every day. Oh, and separate comforters!
~ Jen M.
There is a difference between arguing a lot and domestic abuse. If you aren’t sure which one is happening in your marriage, talk to a counselor. It doesn’t mean yourmarriage has to end either way. Don’t be afraid to see amarriage counselor. Lots of strong married couples go or have gone to marriage counseling. The longer you wait to fix a problem (or hope that it fixes itself on its own) the more difficult it will be to fix it when you finally do start to do the right work.
~ Elisa L.
Just keep hanging on. Remember you are literally creating a building block for society. Your mission is so much bigger than just the two of you.
~ Amy V.
Put God first, because happiness will not be found in each other. God is the source of joy. Somehow God provides, so do not worry and argue. Save. Save memories, save time for each other, save resources.
~ Abi W.
When you are in the thick of it, step back and remember the person you fell in love with.
Start each morning and end each day with a deep embrace. It connects you in a very intimate way and starts and ends the day on the right foot.
What would you add to this list to share with dating and engaged couples?