Well, everybody, my husband and I celebrated 8 years of marriage yesterday. We had a great date night while my awesome mom kept our little ones for us. I thought I would share a little 8 year wisdom (yeah right) on my view of marriage. I'm no expert, obviously, but from my own personal experience I beleive there are a few, dare I say, "rules" to follow that will encourage a successful lasting relationship that Justin and I have done pretty well at following.
Rule #1: Anything you don't like about the person you are considering marrying is more than likely not going to change after you say your wedding vows. You will not change the person you marry and you will have to learn to live with your differences. In fact, some of the things you do like about your relationship may even stop or become less frequent. It's important that you aren't merely in love with the "idea" of marriage, but that you actually love the person - bad breath, messy hair, no make-up, and maybe even a few extra pounds and all. Love is a decision, it's rarely a feeling. The main question to ask yourself is this. If you take away the dining out, gifts, movies, going out with friends, picnics at the park, and fun surprises, are you content with what is left over? If not, you may need to take that into consideration before putting on the dress and/or tux. I'm not saying that you won't have any of those things after you get married, but it's just not the same as when you are dating, especially once children are in the picture.
Rule#2: Assuming you are OK with rule #1--Once you are married, never use the word divorce during an argument (or "uncomfortable conversation," if you prefer). Sometimes it's tempting because you are just so mad in the heat of the moment. The only time you should ever say it is if you are absolutely serious about doing it which means there should be some sort of infidelity or abuse of some kind taking place. Those are pretty much the only reasons to end a relationship, in my opinion. Arguing is definitely part of marriage. I think there is more to worry about when you don't argue. It's important to express your feelings and views. You need to be willing to agree to disagree sometimes, but don't stay mad for too long. If you do, you are more likely to hold that grudge for longer because of rehearsing your side of the argument over and over in your mind. It's best to let it out early on and deal with the issue then, as painful as it may be. Uncomfortable conversations aren't supposed to be fun, it's just necessary sometimes.
Rule #3: When kids come in the picture, be sure to make time for yourselves. I think some moms tend to focus all their attention to their children and dads may even become more involved at work or activities outside the home to escape the chaos at home. Both of which create distance between you and can be harmful. Having children should not make your relationship suffer. In fact, it should change you for the better. Instead of doing everything for yourselves and each other, you are now pouring your lives into someone else together. You should begin to love and appreciate each other in a new way and draw closer as you bond with your children as loving parent partners. This is not only good for the two of you, but great for your children, as well.
Rule#4: Communication!!!!! Justin and I have had our share of "miscommunications" and knowing how frustrating that is, we work really hard to discuss everything (well, almost everything). I hate that Justin can't read my mind, but it's just a fact that he cannot and will never be able to know what I want or need. I have learned that I must tell him exactly what I want or need regardless of how embarrassing, uncomfortable, or needy it may sound. He doesn't know, he won't figure it out, so you MUST tell him. And for you husbands, in a nutshell, your wife just wants to feel loved and appreciated. Even though sex may seem like a good way to show that to her, it rarely is. Think of something else, but show her in some way that will be meaningful to her. I've learned through the last 8 years that Justin wants respect more than anything else. I think the best way to show this is by making sure I include him in family and money decisions. I try to ask Justin if he minds if Sidney spends the night with her Grams before just telling her it's OK. I ask him before making larger purchases for the home or for myself. This lets him know that I respect him enough to let him in on the decision making, big or small, instead of just making the decision by myself and telling him after it's done.
Rule #5: Now for the, oh so important, subject of sex!!! I may get some flack from this, but here it goes. Just remember this is my personal opinion. Men want it, need it, and should not be deprived of it. Women may or may not want it, and husbands should be sensative to this at times; however, if you never want it, then I would advise you figure out why and explore some ways to change that. It should be an important part of your relationship regardless of how many kids you have and how crazy life can be. It does change over time (and I'm sure I have lots more to learn about this changing over time), but I don't think it should ever stop. Communication is key here, too. I have found this christian website useful on this subject http://www.themarriagebed.com/. Bottom line-- be mindful of each other's needs and find a plan that works for you both.
Marriage can be a beautiful, amazing, and rewarding part of life, but it's also one of the most difficult things you can do. It is possible if you both commit to stay faithful to each other, think of each other more than you think of yourself, and consistently pray that God will give both of you wisdom, guidance, and protection.