Marriage is one of the most beautiful, and yet most challenging of experiences. Nowadays, marriage seems to become more and more difficult for a lot of younger couples. So I listed a few things I’ve observed during my (almost) seven years of marriage.
As cliche as this may sound, your definition of love or being in love affects your subconscious. Media nowadays has portrayed love as passionate and inspiring. I, for one, am a sucker for a really good romantic film. My husband Ian even appreciates a good Nicolas Sparks movie once in a while. We love the idea of love. But love is far from just being romantic, inspiring, or passionate. And to be honest, a lot of people “fall out” of love because those words I previously mentioned have been long gone in their relationship. While love was designed to be those things, there are other words that make up a marriage. Commitment, sacrifice, humility, and effort are also key terms that love is associated with. Knowing what love really is allows you to properly participate in your marriage.
Now this is a very general statement. But let me talk about it in the angle of pride and humility. More often than not, we are naturally drawn to think that we are better than other people. I would normally catch myself thinking that my ways were better than my husband’s ways (especially with the kids!). As a mom, I would find myself reasoning out that I knew the kids better, that I analyzed the situation better than he did, that my plan was always way better than his. He just didn’t think of the situation as much as I had thought about it! Now the problem with thinking of yourself as better than the other person is that the other person will actually feel it one way or another. And sadly, they either start resenting you for it or they actually start believing it themselves. Your partner can either find their confidence or insecurities by the way you see them–which one are you building on?
Both of you grew up in different homes, and you had different parents who handled home life differently. Whether you like it or not, your personal experiences before marriage will influence how you act towards your spouse. I grew up in a home where we rarely confronted anyone when there was conflict. So my initial reaction when Ian and I encountered disagreement was to clam up and shut down. He, on the other hand, wanted to talk about things immediately. You can imagine how difficult that was!
No matter how you look at it, money will play a huge role in your marriage. Often times, monetary problems put a lot of pressure and strain on marriages. I’m not claiming to be a financial expert, but how you see, save, and spend your money, will have a big impact on your marriage. For example, if you see money as just the most important thing you need, then you might prioritize making money instead of investing in your spouse.
There are so many topics on finances that both of you can find challenging. When Ian and I got married, we made a conscious effort to be very transparent about our money. We decided what our budgets were for everything and tried to stay within those parameters. There was never a purchase we hid from each other and we strived to consult each other about things we needed or wanted to spend on. I think that saved us a lot of conflict. We knew we couldn’t put our security in money, but being aware that each of us was striving to be prudent about it helped us in trusting each other.
Now this, I think, is one of the biggest challenges that most couples face. The tendency is to want to address the needs of the little ones because they seem to really do need us more. I’m not talking about not taking care of our kids all together, but in a culture that has celebrated child-centricity (focus on the child), we have allowed marriage to take the biggest blow. We make excuses that our spouses will understand, and that everything else needs to be addressed before their needs. However, the message we are actually bringing across, is that “You are not the most important thing to me. You just have to wait for your turn.” The effect of this isn’t seen overnight, but believe it or not, it will come one day.
Husbands and wives need this. I REPEAT: HUSBANDS AND WIVES NEED THIS. If you couldn’t get your hands off each other when you were dating, the opposite seems to happen after marriage. I think responsibilities, life pressures, comfortability, and other things can make you think that physical intimacy is not THAT important. But marriage was designed to have it. It is passion and connection that needs to be cultivated in every marriage. You need to make your husband or wife feel that they are still desirable. Cheesy, but so true.
One of the greatest competitors your spouse has today is technology. The need to communicate and talk has been diminished because of the distraction and the easy out of your mobile phone and other similar gadgets. Couples are talking less because they can easily bury themselves in the endless accessibility of entertainment. And just like that, you find yourself too busy to even get to know your partner, their aspirations, their fears, and their accomplishments.
Now if you can’t seem to find time to talk about life with your partner, the opposite happens when you’re arguing. Words don’t seem to end, even when they are already damaging, painful, and destructive. Remember that anything you choose to say to your spouse is forever said and remembered. Words bring life or death. You have to agree that whenever anyone says something painful to you, it leaves a scar. In my first year of marriage, I didn’t care to filter my words. I felt my husband needed to understand everything I felt at that moment. The result was a terrible year of marriage, with me second-guessing if I married the right person. Then I realized how my words were crushing him; and on days when we were already ok, the pain sometimes lingered. From that moment on, I knew that if I didn’t make a conscious effort to hold my tongue and really think about what I wanted to say and the best way to say it, then chances were he would have walked away from me at one point or another.
Now if you read this and you’re thinking that you’ve made quite a few mistakes already, the point is not to bring yourself down. I just want to go back to the beauty and realness of marriage. It will certainly take an extra effort to do things right. But I still believe that the effort is always worth it. Stay tuned as I talk about this more soon!