WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Jim and I have once again been asked to present our “marriage advice” to a group of lovey dovey dating and engaged couples. While popular demand may be one reason to be asked back, it’s more like ‘we have lots of siblings/close family members’ that are priests and looking for willing speakers and nothing says “baby of eight siblings” like “yes I’ll give a talk.”
So I have a poll for you kind and generous readers that are married or soon to be. When did you know you were in love? And how do you keep the fire burning?
My favorite of answers to the first question comes from my good friend Kristi. Asked by a young girl confused about where her relationship was going, Kristi, engaged and convinced, said the following: “It’s just that I’ve always hated vomit. Like HATE. It makes me puke. One time Patrick was puking and needed my help and I was able to help him. That’s when I knew I was in love.” (This answer was given about 8 years ago and she has 3 boys and has been happily married for 6 years, so he had her at throw up.)
Her answer has always stuck with me because 1) its disgusting 2) its pretty hilarious 3) there is actually some truth underneath all the bile: love gets us to do crazy things, things that we thought we were very much incapable, and if it had been just feelings or infatuation? Poor Patrick may have been alone in his gross sickness.
So in preparation for our presentation, I’m writing my five favorite ways that we keep our marriage in love as a brainstorming exercise/desperate plea to poll my 7 readers. And since we have almost zero marriage professional credentials and even less expertise it would be fine to ignore it all, except #5, that one is true. And also #4, I’m positive that one’s awesome too. And maybe one day I’ll share the details of the moment I knew that I really loved Jim. It involves a cassock and a few billion tears.
Feedback would be most appreciative, especially for the sake of the poor souls signed up to hear us talk!
My five favorite practical Marriage tips that work for us:
1.) Keep a hobby, Grant a Hobby, Find a Hobby
For us, this one is paramount. We both have hobbies that the other does not enjoy, or in my case, is incapable in participating due to the likelihood of enduring serious injury and/or debilitating embarrassment.
I run and swim, he plays hockey and soccer. I shop, he gardens. I watch Project Runway, he would rather eat sand.
My non-point, ramble is this: maintaining personal hobbies is important, and granting spouses time to do them is vital. Marriage, kids, jobs etc can be overwhelming, and maintaining the sense of self that I was before I giddy upped down the aisle and popped out these babies is essential to my sanity, and his. Not all of our hobbies are enjoyed each week, but, I make sure he plays some type of sport alone, and if I forget to, he kindly asks permission and I grant it and vice versa. While certain moments in our marriage have put some of these things on a burner far far in the back, knowing that he is the first one who will say, “why don’t you go out to dinner with a friend or for a run, or something,” and maybe its because I’m driving him crazy, but its so nice. And since, for the most part, our alone time is spent playing sports (a generous term in my case since I only possess skills to do exercise alone and no one would ever want me on any type of team) there are physical and mental benefits, including serotonin, time to think, burn off steam, and in his case, a chance to see his friends.
And finally for this point, choose a hobby together. Ideally, we would ski, but since that’s a hard one with kids that are still on a bunny trail and harder not living on a mountain and best at most quickly draining a bank account, we now do CrossFit. It’s new to both of us and it’s a fun date on which we both agree. Before we discovered a new hobby on which we agreed, we took turns planning hobby dates for each other. Sometimes it is a matter of taking turns to pick restaurants based on each other’s tastes, or generously driving 70 minutes to attend a boxing match for 4 hours (it was actually really cool), or going to a concert of a band not particularly liked. And since quality time is my love language, I’m allll about this point.
2.) Find something to laugh about
It was two nights before we were married. The older and wiser siblings on his side each gave us one piece of advice before we hitched it. “In serious times, find something to laugh about. See the humor God has for you to enjoy,” his oldest sister said. I’ve never forgotten it, and in the times we’ve missed a flight, encountered mess and frustration, ran 2-3 hours behind schedule, and I just about what to scream…Ok I usually scream, but it IS VERY HELPFUL to try and laugh once the yelling is over. God is funny, and takes himself lightly, and spouses should too!
3) Never say never, always avoid always
Instead of being just another Regina ramble, this one is actually based in the science of Relationship Enhancement Therapy and I love it because it is so true for us. Never and Always are absolute terms and they are hardly ever (never!) true. They isolate, shutdown, and hurt. And since they are just two words, removing them from normal vocabularly, or at the very least, becoming increasingly aware of when they are used and how they could hurt or distort the real meaning of things is not ultra difficult.
For instance; “You NEVER take out the trash! You Never spend time with me! You never do this, that, and the other…”
Actually, he probably took out the trash yesterday its just that my two year old stuffed it with who knows what all day, and we went on a date two days ago, and I’m just feeling frustrated and making very unfair statements that I don’t actually mean.
A better version: “the trash is full, could you help me?” “I’d like to spend more time with you.” And maybe the halo angel speak won’t come out right away, but, the man deserves some credit for completing a chore last week or even last month.
Always statements: “You always choose hockey over me!” (wink, wink)
Better version: “I’d like to spend more time with you.” (this is usually the root)
And jim’s: “You are always on your phone!” translation “this is a really bad time to be on the phone, please call back your sister who is 10 feet away from you after dinner.”
“You never put the laundry away!” and while its mostly true, sometimes a sock actually makes it to a drawer and I’m positive it was hard to get it there so skip the absolutes.
One day I’ll elaborate on the skills of Relationship Enhancement Empathy because it is the best and does wonders in the learning how to express actually feelings category.
While this one may be a bit of a hot button, I’d like the internet to know I approach it with no judgment, just a personal experience that makes me oh so very happy.
And I’ll skip reasons #1-100 why I think it’s the best because this post is a novel and just give this tid bit. Yahoonews and Cosmo-trash publish approximately 10 billion (massive exaggeration) articles each year of ways to keep your sex life interesting after ‘all those years’ with just one person. “Doesn’t it get boring?” they ask. No! it doesn’t, and NFP is, in my opinion, the main reason why. The time of abstaining, if child spacing is desired, is a great opportunity. Sure, it sucks at moments, but there is something very incredible about learning to slow down and just enjoy holding hands or a kiss. It becomes a constant rediscovery of each other. A new, and exciting, constant rediscovery, and I just love it.
Just try saying a Hail Mary and continuing to yell. Its almost impossible. Fall in love with God, fall deeper in love with the one he asked you to marry. Laugh with God, laugh harder with your spouse. Its almost like magic.
This marriage prep series at which we are presenting is part of a movement to remind couples that marriage is hard and is a lifetime long, so its best to be ready. I would like to add, however, that with 5 ½ years and three children to show for our 8 year relationship, hard is never the first word I would use to describe our commitment. It’s not even the 10th word I would use. Fun is #1, and I have so much of it that I might say it three times in a row, even in moments when he asks if he can finish watching “Are you Smarter than a 5th grader” when I’m absolutely positive we should have started driving to the hospital to deliver a baby two hours before.
And as a bonus objective truth of a happy marriage: NEVER, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, EVER, USE THE WORD FAT.
Happy Wednesday, Happy Marriage. Send me some of your favorite marriage tips and moments you knew you were in love! Pretty please!
now go see Hallie