My husband and I recently celebrated our 16th anniversary and I wanted to write a deep post about cultivating the perfect relationship, or something profound like that. But in all honesty, even after 16 years of marriage, I still know diddly squat about relationships. They can be messy and complicated and hard to navigate. And if you tell me that yours isn’t, I’d say you’re lying to yourself.
While I still feel like I am blindly swimming through this, I do feel like I have learned a few things that I can share.
Conflict is OK
We rarely fight. But that’s not to say we don’t disagree (because we suuuuuure do). Conflict is a part of any relationship between two people. And its healthy to get it out in the open and communicate your feelings, instead of sweeping them under the rug, letting them fester and boil. It can be hard – really hard – to discuss things and listen to things that your spouse has to say to or about you. But its important to listen and digest them. And sometimes, apologize or change a behavior.
The Ebb and Flow
I’ve noticed that, at least with my marriage, our relationship seems to ebb and flow. We will enter a busy season of our lives and only see each other in passing. When we manage to sit down to dinner together, we barely say a word. At the end of the evening, we go our separate ways, he for the television, me for a book in a quiet room. We sleep next to each other, but don’t even touch. We talk about how we need to go out on a date or do some sort of activity, just the two of us, but we never do. This goes on for weeks. Months, even. I can see how relationships fail —it’s certainly easy to just let it go on like this forever. But eventually, one (or perhaps both) of us will make that move. Whether it be real eye contact when we are talking, grabbing the other’s hand while walking somewhere, a long kiss versus a peck on the lips, a flirty text, or the scheduling of an actual date. We will have an actual 2 hour conversation (and not about the kids). One of us will make the other laugh. And its good again. I’ve come to accept that this happens. Marriage is not perfect and you have got to constantly work on it.
As a newlywed, I would have laughed and rolled my eyes if someone had suggested I look into The 5 Love Languages. But now I am a believer. For many years, my husband felt like I didn’t appreciate him, because I simply didn’t say it. Whereas, I felt like I was being taken advantage of and not being appreciated, because he would never do anything for me. I never realized that words were what he needed to feel loved, because they were not important to me. Instead, I made him his favorite meals and I always made sure the house was clean and his shirts were picked up from the cleaners. Whereas he never realized that small acts of service would show me how much he appreciated me. He thought just telling me was enough, because after all, that’s what he would have wanted. By simply discovering that there was this thing called a love language and we had two different languages, we learned how to get over that hump.
Pick Your Battles
I will be the first to admit that I am particular. About many things. And its something I am working on. My husband is not particular about things. So loading the dishwasher? Sure, he may not do it
right how I do it, but he does it. The same goes for about 10 other tasks. I’ve learned not to belittle him and to bite my tongue. Its important to show your spouse that you respect them.
Put Each Other First
It isn’t that the kids matter less. Its that your marriage is the backbone of the family. The kids need to know and feel it. And if you don’t spend time cultivating your marriage now, when those kids are grown and out of the house, what will be left of your marriage? Of course, this is easier said than done. Often times, my husband comes in the door and makes a beeline for the kids and I have to remind him that I’m not chopped liver. There are many times our kids want to interrupt us as we are trying to conversate, and we have to remind them that they are not the be-all and end-all and need to wait their turn.
While nothing in life is guaranteed, I think we are finally starting to get the hang of things and maybe (just maybe) we may have gotten this thing down.