We made it to the one-year anniversary mark where the reward is . . . paper! Though, being a teacher, I can appreciate that. In the last twelve months, we have hiked a gigantic rock in Sedona, moved out of our apartment and bought a house, snorkeled with nurse sharks, attended weddings together, attended separate weddings alone, visited family, threatened to spend the night at a hotel in order to get away from each other, and watched tons of baseball together. Though I am still an amateur at marriage, in my one year I have gained some experience and wisdom that I would like to impart to you.
1. Go to Bed Angry:
If you find yourselves in a heated argument over the dishwasher (all fights stem from that appliance) at 10:00 PM, pause the altercation and simply go to sleep! You'll wake up with a good night's sleep, a cleared head, and a refreshed attitude. If you wish to commence the brawl the next morning, you'll have had time to reflect and articulate your problem much better than you would have with exhaustion hanging over you. However, chances are the disagreement will seem pretty minute the minute you wake up, and you'll most likely forget about it or brush it aside. ***Note: I do not recommend this if you are 75+, for you have a much better chance of dying in your sleep and it would be unfortunate to wake up still angry at your spouse only to find a dead one.
2. Pray for Your Marriage:
I often ask God to not change James but to change the way I view James. As I am sure all married couples can attest, a slight quirk your partner has when you first meet him or her eventually turns into an annoying flaw and then gradually morphs into an "OMG YOU ARE LITERALLY DRIVING ME INSANE!" I have now realized I cannot change James, but I can pray for peace in our marriage and how I react to James' faults. This helps! Do it!
3. Do Not Let Your Partner's Little Flaws Become Big Problems:
I often wondered why so many marriages ended after enduring for so many years. I get it now (I think — check back with me in a few years). Couples let little flaws become big problems. I do not clean the dishes thoroughly when loading them into the dishwasher, which causes them not to always be so squeaky clean when it is time to unload. This bothers James. I do not understand the frustration. Just clean it afterwards. It's either scrub before or after. I prefer to take the chance on the dishwasher cleaning it all. On the other hand, James leaves cups scattered throughout the house. He gets a new one when he already has a half-filled one lingering on the coffee table. This confuses me. He rationalizes that we have plenty of cups so why should it matter. Both of these problems — no big deal, right? WRONG! A couple who lets these little flaws become big problems festers in resentment and bitterness. It is no longer an issue of cleaning the dishes, but an issue of respect. "You do not respect me. You do not listen to me. I ask you to do one little thing, and you can't even do it." "Well, you never listen to me either. You keep cups strewn about AND you never pick up your dirty clothes. It's like you do not even care what I want." Wow! Over time, this language becomes toxic, and if the couple does not resolve their initial problem, the marriage continues to break down. After a few back-and-forths, we agreed that we needed to set aside our differences immediately. Remember what I said about not trying to change your other half? The plethora of cups makes me laugh now. James tries but really it only takes me a few seconds to pick them up. And James has backed off tremendously on the dirty dishes. He shakes his head every now and then when he spots a smudged spoon but barely complains because he knows I have made an effort to clean them more. And guess what? We are still learning, but we are much happier.
4. Do Not Invite Unwanted Visitors Into Your Marriage:
Right before we got married, a man, who was moving our furniture into our apartment, gave us some advice that I will never forget. He was a divorced man who credited his failed marriage due to both of them letting outsiders control their union. He failed to realize that they were both joined as one. "When it comes to money, children, or any decision for that matter never sacrifice your spouse's opinion or belief in order to gain approval from someone else." That was deep! I am surrounded by family and friends who have very successful relationships and whose advice I value deeply, but James and I are one and sometimes the decisions in our marriage are only meant for us.
5. Make Your Own Advice and Ignore Some of the Advice You Hear:
According to some people, we should have children after four years of marriage, before we are thirty, only after we travel the world, after we pay off any debt, before my ovaries get old, which can be any day now, after someone else has kids, when there is a blue moon, and on the fifth day of the sixth month at the seventh hour. Likewise, according to some people, we should use this time to travel everywhere and spend our money on adventures because "Once children come you will NEVER, EVER have time for any fun!" We should also save, save, save as much money as we can. "Save for a house, children, your children's colleges, your retirement, and so your children can have money to save for their children." La da dee, so let's see, we should have children now but also wait, and we should save money but also spend it. Thanks. Got it. Except we don't, and we are learning that sometimes it is best to create our own advice to share, and cherish the really good advice we receive.
6. When All Else Fails, See Number Two.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.