photo: J. Alex Brinson
There is trepidation in writing this post so i need to start with a disclaimer: Let it be known that i am not a marriage therapist, counsellor or expert. I can only speak from my own personal experience…and i SO know that marriage is not always a bed of roses. Frankly, some times it more resembles a pile of steaming..umm..er..poop. Marriage is hard work. Simple as that. So i hope that you can take this post in the spirit with which it is written. This summer has found me in a more reflective mood…maybe because i feel like my perspectives have shifted over the past year. One point that i keep circling back to is gratitude. I am more grateful today to be married to Scott than my naive 23 year old self could have ever dreamt possible on my wedding day.
In thinking about what has allowed our marriage to continue to grow despite the glaring fact that we are two incredibly imperfect humans, i started to jot down the different things that i feel have contributed. I credit many of these points to Scott. I hope some of these resound with you:
1. Value the differences. I married someone who was everything i wasn’t. It was seriously bad boy meets good girl. Prissy vs Rebellious. Over-analzyer vs over-simplifier. Emotional vs Practical. i could go on! Often the opposite qualities that are attractive at the beginning become sticking points down the road. It is a constant exercise to look at those qualities and see what value they bring to the table. Scott’s boldness has encouraged me to push myself much further than i could have done on my own. Over the years, i like to think that we have mellowed each other out a bit..i’ve toughened up some and he has softened in many ways.
2. Time together. Alone. We have made it a practice to go away once a year, just the two of us. In short, it is time spent in each other’s company without distraction. The wonderful by-product is that i think we come home refreshed and better parents. Whether it’s a weekly coffee, a monthly date, a yearly trip…it is so important. We are able to commit to tons of things on a daily basis, so this should be no different, right?
3. Be spontaneous. Scott has had to teach me this one! Sometimes you can’t wait for opportunities to arise..you have to make them yourself. A couple of years ago, i was lamenting that it was June and the weather was terrible. I had such a bad attitude that i was whiling the day away looking for flight/hotel packages to anywhere hot. Scott happened to look over my shoulder and said “Let’s do it…. press enter on the keyboard. Don’t think about it, just do it!” I will never forget the look on the kids’ faces when we told them they had to pack their bags…we were going to Vegas and leaving in 30 minutes! It was crazy… so crazy. And so SO much fun. I will never forget it. Big or little, being spontaneous is the best antidote to battle marital “ruts”.
4. Have fun with the kids. How does this make our marriage better? Simple. Seeing Scott build into the kids’ lives and have unapologetic fun with them just makes me love him more. Practical jokes run rampant in our home.. baby powder in hairdryers, deodorant on toothbrushes, crushed crackers in beds…there are a lot of laughs. Which is so necessary, because some days are harder than others. Make your fun.
5. Faith. Well this really is the anchor. As different as Scott and i are, our faith in God is mutual. His promises and His love never change and so even as time goes on, the anchor of our marriage never changes. It is because God loves us (despite all of our warty imperfections) that we can continue to love each other despite the idiosyncrasies that threaten to tear down our marriage.
6. Do something that your spouse loves. For years, Scott has been begging me to golf with him. To no avail. So, i will admit i did a little eye roll when i saw that his summer bucket list included a family golf game. How could i avoid this? This last week, we took on that challenge and something happened that i didn’t anticipate. A normally competitive guy, Scott became incredibly encouraging and exceedingly patient with us. We were engaging in something he very much desired to share with us. His appreciation was evident. While i was terrible, i had a great time. And knowing that he wanted us there…unskilled and slow as we were, was a showing of his love.
7. Cook together. Over the past year, we have started spending more time in the kitchen. Together. Scott will get some tunes started and pour us each a glass of wine. I’ll admit it has taken some time to figure out how to work as a pair. But, wow, it has changed the dinner scene around our house. So often dinner time is akin to a pack of coyotes in a feeding frenzy which is kind of disappointing. Realistically, there are still many nights like that but slowing things down when time allows and working together provides a relaxing atmosphere where we can decompress from the day.
8. Apologize. When you’re wrong. Just suck up your pride and do it.
9. Be transparent. No pretending. We both are terrible at it anyways. We have been pretty transparent in front of our kids. Without them having to know details, they are often privy when we are having disagreements BUT ALSO when we work through them. Again, all in age appropriate doses! Our kids keep us humble and i am not above having one of my kids tell me that i might want to think about apologizing to their dad. I also think it’s ok to realize when you might need some outside help. A number of years ago, Scott and i found ourselves struggling with the same issues…over and over again we would argue about the same points of contention. The lack of progress brought us to a real low. It was both humbling and freeing to make the decision to go talk to someone about it. In retrospect, it was the best thing we could have done. Not a failure at all. Rather a victory in giving us tools to smooth off some of the rough edges in our marriage.
10. Embrace the rough patches together, but in your own way. Have i confused you? When i was diagnosed with breast cancer in December, i was an emotional mess…tears, fear, anxiety, worry. Basically i was freaking out. Scott instantly went into #dragonslayer mode. Whether or not that was bravado, “I am man, hear me roar” (i really don’t think so), it was very different than how i was reacting. My way wasn’t wrong and neither was his. It’s a little bit of what i was talking about with point #1. Different. In saying this, we were a team and i never doubted his love or protective nature for me. His pragmatic ways balanced my emotional ways and we both took on cancer with a expanded, stronger arsenal of tools than we could have done on our own.
I hope some of these points may encourage you. Scott and i are certainly a work in progress. There have been many ups and downs and if i know anything, i know that there will be more of both in our future. So we work at it one day at a time and feel grateful to be doing it together. xo