“Mawwage. Mawwage is what bwings us togethaw today.” (This is one of my favorite movie quotes! Show of hands, any other Princess Bride fans out there? If you haven’t watched it, stop reading right now, go watch it, and then come back. I’ll wait.)
OK, now that we’ve got true love on our minds, lets talk about marriage. I love being married. Living life with my best friend by my side, it’s more wonderful than I could have ever dreamed. But don’t misunderstand me. Just like every other thing that makes life worth living, marriage takes effort, intention, and commitment.
Marriage Isn’t Always a Bed of Roses
All relationships take some work. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, husbands, wives, friends. If we don’t make the effort to cultivate our relationships to be strong in the good times, how are they to survive the tough ones?
Experts say there are three things that couples tend to argue about – money, kids, and sex. We’ve had our struggles with all three, that’s for sure. Then, there’s dealing with the unexpected life events that occur – illness, death, miscarriage, anxiety, depression. We’ve had all these thrown our way in 12 years of marriage, and I believe we’re stronger together today because of what we’ve been through.
I Don’t Like You Right Now
I won’t lie. There have been many times in our marriage that Gaby and I have told each other “I don’t like you right now!”. Notice I used the word “like”. We believe that love is not a feeling. Feelings are fleeting – here one moment, gone the next. Love is a commitment. So, while we may not like each other every now and then, we always know that we love each other.
Strategies for Keeping Our Marriage Strong
Strategy #1 – Communication
When Gaby and I need to talk about something, we head out for a drive. Family drives are one of our favorite things to do – head out down the country roads, see what wildlife we can spot, and have a heart-to-heart. It’s not unheard of for us to be gone for two or three hours at a time.
We prefer to do our talking in the car because no matter how heated things might get, it’s impossible to walk away. We’ve always had our best conversations in a vehicle. One of my favorite memories of working in Calgary was the drive to and from work. Gaby and I carpooled, so every morning, we’d leave the house, usually grab coffee at Timmie’s (Tim Hortons), and chat all the way to work.
Strategy #2 – Showing Love
I read a book during our first few months of marriage that I would recommend to any couple – married or not. It’s called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.
The theory behind “The 5 Love Languages” is that we have an emotional tank that needs to be full for us to feel loved. Everyone gives and receives love in different ways, and what works for one person may not work for another. Gaby and I have two different primary love languages, and our relationship thrives when we speak to each other’s hearts. Full love tanks make for happy spouses, and happy spouses make for happy marriages!
Another resource I would recommend, especially to the ladies, is Sheila Wray Gregoire’s blog – https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/. Sheila is a fantastic author and speaker on all subjects of marriage, sex, parenting and faith, and reading her works has given me new perspective about my husband. I have quite a few of her books, and would recommend them to anyone looking to improve their marriage.
Strategy #3 – Priorities
Another way that we keep our marriage strong is by making each other a priority – yes, even above the kids. We love our children very much, but we’re careful to make sure that they come in second to our relationship. Because one day, they will grow up, leave home, get married and have families of their own. Who will we be left with when that time comes? We want a marriage that will survive past our children’s growing years, and for that to happen, we need to put each other first.
In 2011, we attended a Birth and Babies class prior to the arrival of Katrina. The instructor said something profound to us that has stuck with me all these years. “When you get home at the end of the day, kiss the adult first.” This is tough sometimes, especially when the little ones are excited to see you when you walk in the door. But when you kiss the adult first, it provides tangible proof to the whole family that you love each other enough to put each other first.
Strategy #4 – Marriage Isn’t 50-50
I read an article a few years ago that showed up in my Facebook feed from the Huffington Post, “The Myth of the 50-50 Marriage”, that really struck a chord. Think about it – if each person is only putting 50% into their marriage, there are bound to be struggles and arguments. And if you’re keeping score, or doing “tit-for-tat” as Gaby and I call it, troubles are going to abound. This is something that we struggle with, especially when it comes to the mundane, such as, “I did the dishes last night, it’s your turn!” and “It’s your turn to change the poopy diaper – I already did one this morning!”. When the tit-for-tat starts to happen, we become roommates instead of a married couple. Our marriage is a lot happier when we give 100% every day and work until the jobs are done together.
Strategy #5 – Forgiveness
The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines forgive as “to give up resentment of or claim to requital”. Forgiving someone is an intentional act to let go of the bitterness and anger towards them or an act that was committed. Forgiveness can occur whether or not there’s an apology.
It’s been said that you should never go to bed angry. While this strategy doesn’t always work, Gaby and I try to resolve our issues in a timely fashion, and we try not to bottle in our emotions, know that we’ll feel better once the argument is resolved. (If things are getting to the point where one person wants to walk away from the “discussion”, see strategy #1. Get in the car and drive until the issues are resolved, or you’ve at least concluded to agree to disagree.) Holding on to anger and bitterness only brings the same arguments around and around, because if there’s still anger, it means that those discussions were never resolved.
**DISCLAIMER: We are not relationship experts. If you are in an abusive relationship (physical, mental, or emotional), seek help immediately. Talk to someone you trust, get a counselor involved, or if the situation warrants it, call the local authorities. Forgiveness does not mean that the abuse should be allowed to continue.
Do These Strategies Work?
For us, absolutely. But, our marriage isn’t perfect. We can both be very stubborn, and when it comes to discussions, they do tend to get loud (blame it on our French roots!). But we love each other and are committed to being together. This isn’t to say that there haven’t been compromises over the years (read about Fun Funds in our Financial Freedom – 7 Tips that We Used to Help Get Us Out of Debt post for a good marriage saver when it comes to money disagreements). However, as long as we keep our priorities straight, talk to each other, and give each other our all, I know that our marriage will make it, no matter what comes our way.
Every marriage is different, and what works for us may not work for others. How do you keep your marriage strong? Drop us a comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
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