I don’t usually offer such advice. I’m aware of some of the challenges in our marriage journey. My friend might have laughed to know that we spent this past anniversary by exchanging cards, going to church, eating with family, and watching our kittens play that evening. We are deep into companionship, well past the early stages of romantic pretensions. Yet sweet surprises still exist.
My Advice for Marriage
After several days’ of pondering the question, I answered my friend. So I will expound a little:
* Don’t expect a happy marriage all the time. That’s simply not realistic, and it certainly doesn’t work for roommates of any kind. I really didn’t want to marry a copy of myself. Relationships are messy and people make mistakes and have their own personal issues. Many of us have experienced some form of childhood trauma or previous relationship that has not been resolved at wedding day.
* Marriage takes a lot of willingness to apologize and forgive–not just the other person but also yourself. That often requires unselfish listening, along with negotiations for needs. This can seem like hard work.
* Have patience for each other’s personality traits and relatives. Patience while God works through something with one or both of us. This is not for the faint of heart. And as we age, developing patience with physical limitations and health problems in each other is needed. How many times a day have we each answered, “What?”
* A stubborn sense of commitment helps. We will not give up on each other (with certain temporary or permanent exceptions for abuse, neglect and other painful boundary issues). Perhaps this borders on intense curiosity to see how each of us develops over the years.
* The humbling acknowledgement of the occasional need for professional input, reality check, or help with coping strategies– whether spiritual or mental health. We cannot always figure this out ourselves, even as mental health professionals.
* Most importantly, the sharing of a similar worldview with key values: how we see God and practice worshiping Him, being No. 1. Respect and personal integrity flows from this love stream, along with the details of handling finances, parenting, and politics. We may not literally be on the “same page” at times. We often read the same devotional book at different times, on different pages, yet we enjoy discussing it together. Nothing has helped my sense of security as the awareness that “we” are connected to God first, creating a safe space for all further discussions or disagreements. That makes my spouse seem very attractive too!
* Growing comfortable with companionship while continuing to explore and expand knowledge and interests. I don’t require “going out’ on Saturday nights, however, as finances allow we plan trips and attend conferences and share new insights. An interest in learning and helping others invigorates our time together. Change is another side effect of becoming engaged with learning and interactions, leading to moments of, “Wait, I thought I knew what you like, want, eat, etc.!” Back to patience.
* I know that my spouse cannot meet all my relationship needs. We belong to separate and shared groups. Frankly, I need some women friends at times. We enjoy the company of other couples too. Community and social relationships are so important for the health of people as we grow older. Friends of various ages and cultures are the spice of life. When we hit hard times, we can ask for prayers or help or company from those who know us, and offer the same to others.
Our Marriage Journey
Life is an education so I keep discovering and learning. Sometimes I wish there was an Auto-Correct button but I’m thankful that I have choices along the way. With God’s help, all of our journey together is not wasted but redeemed.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up? Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV).
Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:
- What insights into relationships have you gathered from relatives or personal experience?
- Which item or concept do you find most challenging from the list?
Karen Spruill writes from Orlando, Florida.
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