Tuesday, August 28, 2012

10 Lessons from 10 years of Marriage

James and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary soon. (I know I can't believe it either!) I've been reflecting a lot lately about our last 10 years together and what they have meant to me.

We got married really young without really knowing anything about each other. We basically learned the good, the bad, and the ugly during the years following our wedding day. We've had our share of ups and downs, but all together I think we are still best friends and have a deeper love and understanding for each other than we did in the first years of our life together.

As I've been thinking about our marriage, I've come to realize that I have learned 10 lessons (in no particular order) that I feel have made me a better, stronger person and spouse and therefore have strengthened our marriage. I want to point out that I am no where near an expert on marriage nor am I perfect in any of these lessons, but these are my opinions and observations.

#1- It's ok to fight. When we first got married, I had the naive notion that if we had an argument, we'd get divorced. I still occasionally feel this way, but I am starting to learn that fighting helps us grow stronger together. We learn what's expected and needed from the other person. There is also a right way and a wrong way to fight with your spouse. It is also important to never hold a grudge.  Relationships go in cycles with ups and downs. This is normal and healthy.

#2- Know your spouses love language. When we first got married, I wrote James love notes all the time and left them in places that I knew he'd find when I wasn't around. I'd get so upset when I didn't get an acknowledgment of these notes. A few years later, James suggested to me that I read a book called "The 5 Love Languages". I quickly learned that, all though it is nice in my eyes, James doesn't respond to notes the same way I do. I had to learn to show him love and appreciation in the ways he needed. This is something that I haven't perfected, but I am constantly working on it.

#3- Serve each other. Once again, I feel as though this is a work in progress, but to me it means putting James' needs before mine.When you get married, you become one. Even if James has a need that I don't, it is still my need because we are one. You need to serve your spouse because you love them, not because you feel obligated. Feeling obligated is a slippery slope that leads to grudges.

#4- Don't use sex as a weapon. Don't deny your husband sex because he did something to upset you. Intimacy is an act that draws a couple closer, by using it as weapon you open the door to resentment. This is not only a misuse of a God-given privilege, it shows great selfishness on the part of one or both partners and makes sexuality a destructive rather than a unifying element in marriage. In 1982, Spencer W. Kimball said, “if you study the divorces, as we have had to do in these past years, you will find there are one, two, three, four reasons. Generally sex is the first. They did not get along sexually. They may not say that in court. They may not even tell that to their attorneys, but that is the reason". For my LDS friends (and non, if you are interested), there is a wonderful article from the 1986 ensign titled They Twain Shall Be One: Thoughts on Intimacy in Marriage. I recommend every to read it whether or not this is an issue in your marriage.

#5 Be interested and invested in each other’s passions. Over the last 10 years, I have attended every one of James' basketball and softball games (except for a handful that happen to take place when I was out of town). At those games I have counted how many points he's scored and recently I have started keeping track of his assists and rebounds. Likewise, James has attended every race I have ran (except 1 because he had a basketball game at the same time) and has taken pictures of the whole event for me. This is not because we don't have a life, it's because we are invested in each other's interests. I did promise James when we first got married that I would come to every sporting event he was participating in that I could, but I knew that he would appreciate knowing his stats for each game so it became a priority for me to be there and let him know how he did. James knows that running is my passion so he supports me by waiting for me at the finish line with the camera ready. There are many other ways to support your spouse.

#6- Don't ever give the other person a reason not to trust you. Jealousy is a nasty feeling and I know personally how damaging it can be to any relationship. Don't give your spouse a reason to ever be jealous. James does a great job of this. I never question where he's been or what he's been doing. Also, it's not appropriate to continue talking with an ex. There is nothing you need out of that relationship.

#7- Say "I love you" every chance you get. Enough said! James and I never end a phone conversation or leave the house without first telling the other person, "I love you". Don't let him have a chance to forget!

#8- Be affectionate. Hold hands or put your arm around your spouse any opportunity you get, even in public. Let everyone know how much you love and adore your spouse. I look forward to church each sunday for many reasons, but one in particular is because James always has his arm around me or is holding my hand. There's been a few times that we have been upset at each other and I've been concerned that other people at church will know this because we aren't be as affectionate as usual.

#9- Don't let yourself go. Just because you are married and out of the dating scene doesn't mean you shouldn't continue to make yourself attractive and desirable to your spouse. Don't give your spouse a reason to lust after others. James and I joke about having a physical prenup. We don't technically have one, but we do make it a priority to make ourselves physically attractive for each other.

#10- Don't mind read. Just ask what's going on. An upset facial expression can mean he had a bad day at work not that he's angry with you for not making his favorite dinner. Unless you spend every waking moment with your spouse, you don't know what has happened to them during their day to cause their mood to be in whatever state it may be.



“[There are] no combination[s] of power [which] can destroy [a] marriage except the power within either or both of the spouses themselves.” ( Marriage and Divorce, Deseret Book, p. 17.)"