In honor of our 11th wedding anniversary, I set out to ID 11 things that help my husband and I NOT make each other miserable. I should have posted this days ago, but I stalled out at number four and it took me a bit to recover.
NOTHING interests me more than humans and our relationships. What draws one human to another? What keeps them there or lures them away? What do we give and take from each other as we cross paths? How much do we change for one another? How much do we gain or lose for our efforts?
Obviously, the institution of marriage falls right in there, and my marriage so far has taught me a lot about love. I’m a believer in marriage, in the value of two people committing to build a life together. I also believe it is a hard thing to do, especially in today’s world.
I wrote a bit about this hard, beautiful thing a couple years back and tried to reconcile the range of emotions I feel for my husband on a regular basis (unimaginable, overwhelming love to mental diagrams of a homicide and cover-up). I concluded I am far better with him. He is worth it. Our marriage and life together are worth it.
DISCLAIMER: We are generally happy. We enjoy each other and usually have fun. We are so NOT anywhere near perfect and I struggled about posting this for that reason. I don’t want to pretend to have easy or right answers. These are just a few things that work for us (so far). Marriage can be hard. We work at it. We try. That is all.
So, in honor of our 11th anniversary here are a few things that help us NOT make each other miserable. Most days.
- Deep breaths, basic manners, kindness, and simple consideration go a long, long way toward making a happier every-day life. We practice these. Even when it’s hard. ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. Over time they’ve become a natural part of our interactions. Most days.
- We each have a role to play. The roles change depending on time and circumstance. Sometimes, the grass looks magnificently emerald on the other side. We have to remember these glimpses are a product of the ever-shifting light. They will change again. Often. We try not to begrudge one another our good days. We try not to resent each other or hold each other responsible for our bad ones. We especially try not to ruin each other’s good days with our bad ones.
- Timing. RIGHT NOW is not always the best time to discuss (or scream or argue or try to choke each other to death).
- A happy marriage is made of a million tiny forgivenesses. We try to practice perpetual forgiveness and let go of the little things that annoy us, not cling to them. So he doesn’t shut the cupboard doors all the time. I’ve asked. Asked again. Pointedly closed them in front of him. Slammed them. Shouted. Begged. That’s a lot of energy I could have put toward just forgiving and learning to let it go, learning to not let it bother me.
- Look for opportunities to offer meaningful gestures. Maybe I started closing the cupboard doors without comment. Maybe I started turning all his shirts right-side out even though he won’t outright ask me to. Maybe I started checking his pockets before I put his clothes in the washer. All these things I swore I’d never, ever do. I let them go to show him I care about him more than my stances on (most) small things and then I realized one day none of them really bother me anymore at all. Easy little things and it’s far better to see his little smile when he sees his undershirts are all right-side out in the pile.
- A willingness to change (for the better) for each other. A few examples outlined above. Seeing your partner try to change is a powerful motivator to do the same. (To clarify again; change the little stuff, change for the better, but I’d never advocate completely changing yourself for anyone, unless of course you’re a complete ass hole who should change. If you aren’t sure if this is you, ask your partner and at least two other people you know.)
- Celebrate each other. Make it a point to recognize and celebrate what makes your partner your partner, what they bring to your relationship and to the world. These may be things they love about themselves and/or things you love about them. Not always the same, but both are important. Mine, he truly helps make life better for a lot of people every day. He is KIND. And he’s an implementer. I’m all vision and big plans, but he’s usually the one that makes it happen. He handles the pesky details like the times things are actually open, directions, and the like.
- Have a long-term vision. A marriage is an agreement to build a life together. What are your common goals for your life together? What are you working toward? Be sure to make each other’s most important personal goals part of the plan and support each other. Some days are like magic. Others, not so much, but in a good marriage the good times always come back around. The long-term vision helps us not freak about the low times.
- Know why you’re together. Why is this person the one you want with you on your journey? We try to keep these things at the forefront of our minds and refer to them when, say, the sound of someone’s chewing becomes a homicidal trigger. These are the reasons we stick through the rough patches along the way.
- Guard your marriage against poisonous influences. We are all human. We are susceptible to weakness and mistakes and dead-end paths. We try to sort out what constitutes a poisonous influence for our relationship and agree on how / when to avoid these.
- Have a support structure. Who and/or where do you turn when things are hard or uncertain? When you just need to vent or get some advice? Ours is God, first and always, our source of faith and strength when we feel what is needed is beyond our current human capabilities. Next, we have our parents and friends, the ones who view and value marriage / partnerships the way we do. Knowing we have these to turn help make struggles less frightening.
Okay – that’s all I’ve got. These are ways we try. Who has something to add? What am I missing? No doubt I’ve A LOT more to learn on this crazy ride. Anyone want to share input / advice about what you’ve learned through your relationships, the good and the bad?
Image Credit: Photo at our wedding taken by the very talented Brett Hansbauer of Bh Photography –> https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bh-Photography/115660811801230