12 Reasons We're Still Married
I've loved just about every minute of it, but it takes work. And we still have a ton to learn, but I wanted to jot down some thoughts about our marriage at this point in time. Please know that foremost, I'm writing this post for myself, because I need reminders. Eric and I will not deny that we had a couple rocky years (I used to be much more selfish and immature, and will share more about that some other day). Maybe you'll learn something from this, and I hope that you'll share your own lessons with us as well.
What I know is that these 12 things have made the past couple years easier than the first two. Here's to hoping that we keep learning and making our marriage stronger.
1. Financial Peace University. For us, this class was more marriage counseling than financial planning. We didn't realize how many stresses, discussions and arguments were rooted in our fears or differing opinions about money. Uncle Dave helped us get on the same page.
2. We don't say the "D" word. I learned this from talking with a friend, who has the same rule in her marriage. There were a few times early in our marriage where we would joke that we were going to "get the papers." It was 100% a joke. But it felt weird. So we made a pact to stay away from that language at all times.
3. We took a marriage course. No one teaches you how to be married. We both came into it with different views of how it should look, so we took a class at our church a year after we got married and it opened our eyes to a lot of things. I hope that we take a parenting course when the time comes, and we also plan to do a marriage retreat this fall to celebrate our five-year anniversary.
4. We talk about everything. If I buy a candy bar out of the vending machine at work, I tell Eric about it. Not because he needs to track every dollar I spend, but because I want him to know everything about me. And if we get huffy with each other, we try to figure out what we're really upset about. We learned in our marriage course that if you don't get to the bottom of it, it may leave scars that pile on top of each other and years down the road you are so lost and disconnected that you don't know how to get it back.
5. We learn together. Eric is very much a lover of learning, and always trying to become a better version of himself. I joke that I feel about one year behind him (he is so intentionally driven!), but as of recently I'm making strides. We try to be intentional about making ourselves better people each and every day. One easy way we learn together is by listening to audiobooks on road trips longer than an hour. We listen, I take notes and then we discuss what we both think. It helps us grow in our understanding of a particular subject (money, faith, etc.), and we feel stronger and closer than we did before.
6. We have the same goals. Each year, typically at the end of the year, we have an annual family meeting. We talk about finances, plan for the upcoming year (budget, vacations, etc.), reflect on the past year and set goals.
7. We take vacations. It's important to take time away from everyday life and renew your spirit--within a budget, of course. We love going to Okoboji for a week during the summer months, and last year we kept it local and also did a staycation to explore our city. We have taken a big trip (flying or driving out of state) each year we've been married, but we understand this will get tougher after we have kids. We know we want to go to family camp when we have kids.
8. We take walks together. Some of our best conversations happen when we get out of the house and take a stroll. This is when our minds are free to dream about what we really want to do with our lives. It's hard to do that when I'm sitting in our living room, because I'm so focused on the day-to-day operations of our house. For example, it was hard for me to think about selling our house when I was sitting in it. If we take a stroll around the block, though, and talk about our bigger dreams, it doesn't seem quite as scary--and I know we're in it together.
9. We're honest and open with each other. Can you think of an instance when being dishonest has paid off? I can't. Secrets don't make friends. It doesn't come easy to me, but over-communicating can be a really powerful way to earn trust in your marriage. One night, after attending church where the message was about pornography, Eric told me, "I don't download pornography and hide it from you." Now, this wasn't something he had to tell me. I was sure that he didn't. But, his openness really meant a lot to me, and it got the ball rolling for a very open and honest conversation between us.
10. We don't take ourselves too seriously. A lot of little snags could turn into arguments if we weren't able to laugh them off. I failed miserably at this for a couple years. When Eric would make a joke about me, I would get embarrassed or defensive. Then I realized that we weren't competing with each other; we are on the same team! And marriage is funny! Now we take time to laugh about it.
11. We love God more than we love our spouse. This is something I have to remind myself daily. It is not easy to spend more time with God than I spend with Eric, because I spend almost every waking minute with him. But it's our goal that God is No. 1, and our spouse comes second. Family is third. Mixing up this order is dangerous.
12. We pray together. You can read about our bedtime routine in depth, but praying is a solid piece of it. We take turns praying out loud together. We thank God for each other, and ask Him to fill us with His spirit and lead us on the path He's set out for us.
Obviously, we don’t know everything about this marriage thing--we're just learning (and documenting here) as we go. Rules get broken from time to time. This is part of being human. We try our hardest to talk things out, and forgiveness is abundant in our family.
What tips do you have for a healthy marriage? We are still very young, have lots to learn and (hopefully) a future family to raise, so we want to learn from you all as well.