Five Favorites: Marriage


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.

4). NFP

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.

5.) Prayer

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

20 thoughts on “Five Favorites: Marriage

  1. Oh Regina, I love your marriage advice and agree with all of the above. To answer your questions: 1) I knew I was in love when I looked at him one day during an ordinary conversation and asked him if he would be my best friend. Sounds a little silly, but I knew if I was going to marry someone they needed to be my best friend first. And I absolutely knew that he was the one I was going to marry when he said he wanted to take me somewhere special one night and it turned out to be at the foot of the cross (a part of the stations of the cross that surrounds a lake at Notre Dame.)
    2) To keep the love alive, we laugh and get silly (which usually involves our 2 babies) a lot. And we keep the lines of communication open at all times and not just about the kids or whose turn it is to do laundry- he talks about his work (although sometimes his sentences end in “I’d tell you more but it’s classified), I talk about mine (Dan could probably give skin care advice almost as well as some consultants!) and a host of other topics especially our dreams for the future. 🙂

    Hope that helps. I’ve only got 4.5 years in as a wife so I’m far from an expert but that’s what works for us!

    • Kelly! Thank you so much for your comment!!! I love how you knew you were in love. I really think people forget about how important the freindship aspect is in a marriage. and being silly with our kids is like #1 way we remind ourselves of how much fun this whole life is!! thank you, thank you!

  2. I’m also no expert as we just hit the big ol’ TWO year anniversary in September. But I really love what you had to say and completely agree with 4 & 5! Here are two things that I really think enhances our relationship and that I could see us looking back and being like, “Ya, that’s what got us through the hardest of times.”
    1) Go to bed at the same time. Now, I know this isn’t realistic for some couples. But the most fruitful, deep, compassionate, problem-solving and amazing conversations happen during pillow talk. There really is something to facing the same direction to have a difficult conversation–whether that means we’re spooning in bed or riding in the car. The other thing I love about going to bed together is that we always, always have the time and space to really pray together. And prayer is a crux of healthy marriages.
    2) Tell your spouse why you love them. My husband is super good at complimenting me. I make a point to return the gratitude and we also have a little board in our room that says, “I love you because…” We take turns using a white marker to fill in the blank. I’ve found that this is a fabulous, tangible way to continue to be thankful and show gratitude for your spouse.

    Also wanted to tell you that I’m a fairly recent follower of your blog but truly enjoy what you post! Thanks for being an inspiration as I attempt to put my reflections into words a bit more regularly 🙂

    • I absolutely LOVE the “I love you because…” board idea. I need one! Life is so fast paced sometimes and I think that would be awesome for me and my husband.

  3. Hi Regina!
    For marriage advice, I definitely have to agree with your #3! I think out of everything, that’s been one of the most helpful. Actually, I think your whole list is great! But I have noticed a huge difference once I started making the effort to take out absolutes. It changes everything! (Thanks, Dr. Nordling. Haha)
    And I love reading your blog, keep writing! : )

    • heather!! thank you so much for your comment and your motivation to keep writing! (i need it and it is so helpful) also, i miss you so much! how is your program?? do you and christrian implement any other RE into discussions? im so curious to see how many IPSers use it in real marriages. jim and i do, but sometimes in the heat of the moment, when jim is calm and I am not, he empathizes and i say “quit using the skills and yell at me!” he never does 🙂

  4. Play to your strengths and time requirements, and don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. If the wife is much better at running the finances (like in our house), let her! If the husband’s strong suit is vacuuming or organizing – don’t stop him! Just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you can’t mow the lawn if you have time and he doesn’t.

    There’s a lot of give and take, and a lot of times you have to do things you don’t want to do, but in a good relationship, there’s trust that you aren’t the only one doing things you don’t super love to do.

    Nagging does absolutely nothing other than make you a nag.

    In my experience, men are TERRIBLE at taking hints. I mean awful. In every aspect of life (including sex!). If you like something, TELL HIM. If you don’t like something, TELL HIM. Don’t hint around, unless he’s a super sleuth, he won’t get your subtle hint. Be direct, because all that huffery and puffery is only going to make you hyperventilate. You’ll get much better results and be happier if you just speak what’s on your mind.

    For the ladies: be submissive, but not a doormat. In an ideal trusting relationship, being submissive doesn’t mean that you don’t get to make any decisions, it means that you absolutely have a voice, but ultimately, your husband is the head of your home.

    I also have zero qualifications, so this may be terrible advice, but it’s worked for us!

    • thank you so much for your comment, anonymous! my mother in law always reminds me “men are not mind readers,” and it is so helpful! we just have to say it! they soooo dont get hints! and i notice myself getting passive agressive when i want him to notice me and he says, “please just tell me whats wrong” because he doesnt understand unless i just say it! thanks again for helping me with your advice 🙂 hope to connect more.

  5. Regina,

    Although I am not married yet, I loved reading your marriage advice. For someone like me, it is wonderful to read about how a married couple such as yourself and Jim make it work, work together, have fun, and love unconditionally. Yes, I have my parents to look up to, and admire their long (33 years and counting!) commitment to one another – the love they show one another, my sisters and I, and their granddaughter – but seeing it in such a young couple as well, brings hope and joy to someone like myself. Prayer and God is a big part of how I am raising my daughter – I want to instill in her the morals and beliefs of how powerful our Lord is. She and I also laugh a lot – which I feel is important not only in a marriage, but also in our relationship with our children. Some days, and how true it can be, if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry! As Moms especially, we have those days!

    I do love reading your blog by the way! As a Mom myself, and although she is already primary school age, it’s a job! BUT, it is fabulous, loving, and the most blessed job in the world. Lord knows I can relate sometimes to your stories!

    Hope this helps… Hoping all is well!

    • celeste! thank you so much for your comment! you are such a great mom 🙂 i so agree about laughing with the little ones. and i pray that that’s how they will remember their childhood. hopefully all the times i lose my patience will be forgotten and replaced with the laughing 😉 stop by sometime and play with us!

  6. Hey there! My husband and I have been married just over a year now. I knew I loved him on our 3rd date… we were getting ready for a hike and he came out dressed in a long sleeve shirt, cargo shorts, and trouser socks. I inquired about his socks and he said ‘If I wore pants, I’d sweat my face off…’ And he was serious! He knew he looked a little silly, but that wasn’t going to stop him from being comfy. I asked him about it right before we got married, and he said ‘you were either going to like me for me or not.’ Such a good attitude! He told me he loved me 2 months later, proposed to me about a year after that and we got married after a 6 month engagement, which felt way too long! My advice to young couples or engaged couples is to talk about everything!! And do it over a beer. If you are upset about something, it’s much easier to say ‘hey love, I’m feeling upset about something, let’s pour a beer and sort it out’ rather than holding it in until it becomes a yelling matter. Actually yelling in general is no good for any kind of relationship. The results are much better if the problem is approached from a rational conversational tone (and while enjoying a good brew). I also like what someone commented about going to bed at the same time. Snuggling does wonders for a relationship! As far as keeping the fire burning goes, I think the most helpful thing for us has been being really open about sex. I find myself saying ‘I really need some lovin!’ Also, I know this doesn’t sound very romantic, but having a schedule helps too. I know I start feeling upset if we don’t have some time under the covers at least once a week, but with work, tavel and social lives, we end up zonked out most nights! So catching eachother right after work, or in the morning works better for us. Hope that helps!

    • thank you so much for your comment!! love the sock story! and as “unromantic” as it may sound, the sex schedule is soooo true when other schedules get busy. its so important to keep it as a priority when we have energy, which with 3 kids, is seldom, so now we are more like Nike. this is actually a convo i think more women should have, so i might turn it into a blog post one day, maybe you can help! even though you are anonymous right now 🙂

  7. Awesome! That cracked me up….but it’s all so true!! Blessings to you and your family!! I’d love to hear your cassock & tears story! (and P.S. Anthony, who visited the seminary, is my brother in law) 🙂

  8. Hi! I’m loving your advice here a lot. Great stuff, as usual. I’ll answer your question about how we knew we were in love: Two or three weeks after our first date, I had told my husband something like “So listen… I don’t really do the ‘just for fun’ dating thing. I’m going out with you because I’m pretty sure I can see a long-term future with you” and he was on board with that. Our dating relationship was less than three months old when he brought up marriage. We were both 19-year-old college sophomores, though, so we didn’t announce our engagement to the world as such until senior year, but we were pretty deeply in love from the very beginning, and only had two or three serious moments of doubt (and one break-up lasting exactly 36 hours), and those doubts made our love even stronger when they passed.

    As for staying in love in marriage, I don’t have much to add to your post–you already said several things I would have thought of. One thing I might add is allowing your love to grow to embrace others. Since we got married, my husband has been a full-time grad student, and I have a pretty low-paying job, so kids have been out of the question so far 😦 . We decided to adopt a cat that needed a home, and we love that we are able to give her our home and our love, and provide for her needs. Our home is so much more homey with our furry little lap-warmer. I think the way we love her together speaks to the way married love is ordered towards the creation, nurturing and education of children, in its own way.

  9. Oh, we also fight really well, and that is a total marriage-saver. Learn to fight well, all ye couples. Always take the other person’s position seriously and assume they are arguing in good faith (even if they are being totally nuts, in your eyes), listen really well without thinking about your next rebuttal, and during an argument, remind yourself, over and over, to remain at least 3 levels calmer than the other person. (Reminding yourself to stay much calmer than the other person also works really well when you are holding a screaming baby)

  10. When Gregor and I got married 17 years ago, I received advice from two people. 1. My sister Aida who sadly divorced after 13 years of marriage….No TV in your bedroom and 2. From a nun friend of my mom, whom I had never met. My mom invited her to my wedding as they were friends and she sent me a beautiful letter with her regrets as she was not able to attend and two wise pieces of advice…”Never go to sleep mad at each other and Always say a prayer together before going to sleep.
    We have followed all advice so we do not have a TV in our bedroom and I will not allow Gregor to fall asleep until we’re at peace( sometimes it takes many hours to reach peace as I guess we are both strong minded….Taurus and Capricorn are a match made in heaven by our God who has the greatest sense of humor!!!! 😉

    • ursula! thank you so much for your comment and im just so happy and thankful that you read my blog! we don’t have a tv in our room either and i very much credit it to better before bed conversations!! i ABSOLUTELY CANNOT fall asleep angry, so sometimes jim has to stay up super late to deal haha. hope to connect more with you on the blog!!

  11. #5 – yes, so true. My husband and I began praying together when we were dating. When we married, we prayed right before turning out the lights. The first couple of years of marriage we had a few nights where we didn’t pray until 3am because we were mad at each other and you can’t pray when you are mad – you gotta work it out. It became such a habit and such a loving time together, that I couldn’t go to sleep until we’d prayed, even if he was traveling. We somehow figured out time zones and prayed. I would say that praying with him before bed goes on my list of top things that I have missed since he died 16 months ago. Pray that is the advice I give all young couples who are just starting out marriage.

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