How We’ve Made Our Marriage Work
Hello friends and happy Friday! Hooray for the weekend, and this weekend in particular is special for several reasons. First, we will officially kick off fall, and this girl is here for it! Second, I have a movie night planned with my big kids and will introduce them to one of my favorite scary movies from my college years, The Craft. Third, I have a breakfast date planned with some new friends (Hooray for making friends!). Lastly, Chris and I will head out to celebrate 16 years of
wedded bliss marriage. I know some of you have been married for years and years more than us and probably have some words of advice for me, but some of you might be in a hard season and hearing what has worked for us might help you make it through. I can honestly say that I am more in love with my husband now than I was on the day we said “I do.” It’s not just seeing him as a father to our kids, although that is definitely a factor, but I attribute it to going through hard times together and seeing what we’re made of and how we are there for one another. Today I thought I would share with you how we’ve made our marriage work based on what I’ve learned over the last 16 years.
Before I begin, let me tell you that our relationship is in no way perfect, and I am far from being the perfect wife. I do keep it real on this blog for the most part, but you don’t get to see my crazy flag wave as highly as Chris does. When I am overwhelmed with work and life, he takes the brunt of it and I can be harsh with my words. He sees every good, bad, and ugly part about me, and I see the same about him. I have called him names, thrown accusations his way, and behaved in ways I am utterly ashamed of. Heck, I have gotten in my car and driven for 30 minutes while he repeatedly tried to call me and I ignored it. I am telling you all of this not so that you can judge me, but so that you can know how truly imperfect we are. However, we recognize that we made a commitment, and we work to show up for each other even in the ugliest of times.
Here are some of the things that we do to work for our marriage to make it work for us in return.
- Date Your Spouse: We have not always been good about making time for date nights, but every time we’ve had a date in the last several years (which were few and far between if I am being honest), we’ve reconnected and realized just how much fun we have together, how much we make each other laugh, and how much we enjoy our conversations. There have been times in our marriage where we’ve certainly felt disconnected, and spending time together without distraction helps close that developing cavern between us. Kids, work, and life in general keep us both busy, and it’s easy to just cancel a night out because you’re exhausted, but my advice is to never do that! If you are exhausted, send the kids elsewhere and spend a night in together, eating sushi in your pajamas; whatever you do, make the time for one another. Dates don’t have to be elaborate at all; it’s not about what you are doing, but who you are doing it with. No matter what you do, I recommend an activity that allows room for conversation… visit a winery or vintage market, go for a hike, go out to eat. Whatever you choose, do something where you know you’ll be able to truly focus on one another while having fun together.
- Apologize & Forgive Quickly: I am the first to admit that this one took me a very long time to master. I used to get upset with Chris and not speak to him unless it was essential for a couple of days. Yikes! We only get one life here on this planet (that I am so far aware of), and I don’t want to waste my days being a stubborn cow and losing time I could be spending happily with my husband. Now, this doesn’t mean for me that I apologize or forgive immediately, but I have definitely gotten much better at both and usually forgive in under an hour these days. 😉
- Get Vulnerable in Discussions: A little over three years ago, I came to Chris with the desire to have another baby. He was not for it at first, and we had months of serious discussions. I knew how he had felt before I went to him with what was on my heart, so it took me an immense amount of courage to speak to him openly about it. Likewise, it took him the same amount of courage to tell me how he felt because he knew it would break my heart. We discussed this topic for months without resolution, but what we did during that time that brought us much closer together was share our deepest thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Of course, not every topic of conversation in our household is as life-changing as that of bringing another human being into the world, but the willingness to be vulnerable applies to all hard discussions.
- Show up for One Another: If you’ve been here a while, you know that the conversation from number 3 ultimately led to the choice to have another baby (and I can 100% tell you there are zero regrets from either of us.) The road that followed was one of the most difficult I have traveled in my life. Miscarriage after miscarriage broke me down, leaving me feeling lost and defeated. However, at home I never felt alone. Chris didn’t understand what I was going through, but he was there for me and showed up in my time of need. There was nothing he could say to make me feel better, but he didn’t give up on me. He chose to keep showing up. When life hands your partner lemons, sometimes all you can do is just be there, but that is exactly where you should be.
- Always Be Honest: Unless it’s about my hair, wrinkles, or weight. 😉 Seriously though, I am not one to believe in little white lies and I completely feel that honesty always wins. Perhaps you recognize this scenario… Chris says, “What’s wrong?” I say, “Nothing,” or “I don’t know.” We all know those answers are complete BS. Be honest and open with your feelings because otherwise, you’re going to build a wall and shut off what could be wonderful conversation.
- Ask for Help; Don’t Assume it: I am the first to admit that I am terrible at asking for help. Rather than asking for help with cleaning the house, I will start bitterly scrubbing the bathtub and angrily vacuuming, assuming that everyone else has seen the dirt and mess but are choosing to ignore it. Here’s the thing… Chris wants to help me because he wants to make my life easier, just as I like helping him (most of the time. 😉 ). When I behave as I mentioned, Chris will step in and help because he can tell I am mad that no one but me is cleaning, but the result (aside from a clean house!) is that we’re both frustrated with one another. However, when I say, “Hey, can we spend some time cleaning this weekend?” he is 100% on board with helping me. There’s no argument and no frustration with one another. It’s truly as simple as just asking for help rather than assuming he sees the dirt and knows I want to clean.
- Make Each Other Laugh: The ability to make me laugh is just about the sexiest quality I can think of in a man. After 20 years of friendship, and 19.5 years of a relationship, Chris knows my quirky humor well and he is constantly playing off of it. Likewise, I do things to make him purposely laugh. Not only is it attractive, but it helps calm down what could be a bad situation. Just this summer, Catcher (our dog) caught the Norovirus from us, and had diarrhea all over our bedroom rug. At 3 am. You can imagine what it’s like being woken to that sound and smell! I could see Chris starting to seethe, tired and frustrated, so I did what I do best, and started laughing hysterically at the situation and cracking jokes. Immediately, I saw Chris start to laugh, too, and the tension in his shoulders released. It was a night I will never forget, but the best part was that we got through it laughing together, rather than yelling at each other and our dog.
- Balance Housework: I take back what I said about the ability to make me laugh being the most attractive quality, because when I see Chris fold laundry… yeah! Ha! Seriously though, we both are busy. Chris has a full time job, I am self employed and hustle through nap times and of course have a 1 year old at home all day. At night and on the weekends, we’re both on with 3 kids and a house to take care of. We respect the work that each other does and recognize that we need to share in the chores that keep our house running. Chris has always been the laundry guy, and I have always been the house cleaning guy. We both cook, and we both do grocery store runs. We simply work together to do what needs to be done. There are times when neither of us seems to have time, and finally I will snap and go on a cleaning rampage, but when I do, Chris always steps up to join in the cleaning even if I am scary to be around at that moment.
- Create Alone Time for Each of You: Chris and I run on totally opposite schedules, but that honestly keeps us each centered. I get up at 5:30 each morning and head out for a run or walk. I listen to podcasts that inspire me and take some quiet time for coffee when I get home. On the days that I can’t do that, I tend to feel on edge. I need that time to get my focus for the day! Chris is the exact opposite in that he tends to get up with enough time to get ready for work and start his day. At night, we all go to bed, but Chris stays up watching a show, reading, just unwinding on his own. I honestly believe we are all happier when we have a little “me time” each day. I can’t give to Chris and our family, if I feel like my cup is empty, and each morning while I am alone, I refill my cup and get ready to serve the rest of the day. Additionally, we allow each other to take time away from the house and family when possible. Chris went to Scotland last summer, and I got to take a girl’s weekend in Asheville this spring. It’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, so when we allow ourselves time away, we miss one another and appreciate our time together more.
- Have Hobbies & Friends Outside the Marriage: Chris is into college football, golf, craft beer, sci fi and adventure. I am into thrift & vintage shopping, hiking, biking, red wine, self help and thrilling fiction. It’s so important not to lose yourself in a marriage, and stay true to what moves you and keeps you alive! Your marriage is better off if you are both fulfilled by things outside of your relationship. Last weekend was Chris’ birthday, and I was invited to attend an event my friend Lindsay at Scent Workshop was putting together for local women in business. Even though it was his birthday, Chris was fine with me going, and afterwards we headed out to dinner to celebrate his birthday as a family. I went to that dinner in such a fabulous mood, full of love and appreciation, after spending quality time being lit up by an amazing group of women. I love this photo Lindsay, the owner, captured of me with my soul on fire.
- Keep Each Other Healthy: Neither of us is in perfect health and we are rocking our Dadbod and Mombod, but we are overall healthy. At this stage of the game, we aren’t in it to look our best (Although I would not be sad if I suddenly had a six pack) but we want to make sure we’re at our best mentally and physically. I am 41 and Chris is 43 and I want to make sure he’ll be around for at least 50 more with me. We have never been the couple to exercise together (aside from the occasional hike or walk), but we fully support one another when it comes to making time to exercise. Our budget is super tight at the moment, but we made room for me to join a local gym which has made me a much saner and happier mama. I stressed about asking Chris for it, but I am so glad I did.
- Have Great Sex: There’s a great chance my mom and mother-in-law are reading this so I’ll be brief. And if you are one of those two ladies, skip on ahead to the next one. However, I feel that healthy adult sex is something that should be talked about more, so here I am. When we were much younger, I was not in a healthy place mentally. I was not comfortable in my skin, and I was certainly not that comfortable expressing what I liked and what I didn’t in the bedroom. Now, as a woman in my 40s, my sex life is the best it’s ever been. Perhaps that has something to do with my natural peak, but I think it has more to do with the deeper connection that Chris and I have formed over time. I hear some couples say they schedule sex, or they have it 3 times a week… For us, it’s definitely a quality over quantity kind of situation. Life is busy with 3 kids and we often don’t have the time, so when we do we make the most of it. We work to please each other, we’re both 100 percent comfortable with one another, and we make more time to talk before and after. It’s about so much more than just physical contact, as it should be. Just as in our marriage, it’s give and take and the ultimate goal is for both of us to be happy. I tell you these things because if you’re at all uncomfortable or timid, I want you to allow yourself to be free and giving- great things will happen. I wish that I had been less inhibited in the beginning, but at least I’ve learned! Also I take back what I said about being 100% comfortable, because I still don’t like to fart in front of Chris. Ha!
- Say I Love You: I am not really sure why, but saying I love you to anyone other than my kids has always been hard for me. However, when I remind myself to say it more often to Chris, we’re both much happier. When I struggle with it, I remind myself how much better life is when I am able to say those 3 little words. Also, we are at the age where people fall ill, friends get divorced, and we no longer feel immune to the bad things that can happen in this world. If something terrible would happen, I do not want to regret that I didn’t say “I love you” to the important people in my life, especially Chris.
There you have it… these are the things that make our marriage a successful one! We are not perfect people, and we certainly don’t tick these boxes all of the time. We’re messy, we argue, we are (or maybe I am) overly emotional sometimes. However, when we do make sure to do these 13 things, we’re much happier. We’re constantly learning and growing more and more into our relationship. I acknowledge that there is always room for improvement, and I hope that the two of us continue to work hard for our marriage and grow closer with each passing year. Now I would love to hear what works for you in your relationship?