I started and deleted this one a few times. Because I never want to come off as preachy, or perfect. Whose marriage is perfect anyway? It’s work. The best, most loving, rewarding work. But there are certain “vows” per se that really work for us and our little family unit. This post is not a one fits all; but if even one tweak helps you in some way, I’ll be so glad we put this out in our corner of the internet. Here are our marriage musts, and some new ones we’re striving for:
Get to know the love languages. I can’t stress this one enough. I really loved the book (would make a great V-day gift!) because it goes into each category in-depth, but if you want to get started right away, you can take the free quiz here. My love language is “words of affirmation”. You might have guessed that one since my posts are so long winded 😉, but I love to dote on my loved ones. I live for deep, meaningful conversations, and usually take up every centimeter of space in a greeting card with handwritten sentiments. I had Jon take the quiz again and his results came through with a resounding “quality time” (which I really need to make a priority since it’s been far too long since we had a one on one date).
Sweat the small stuff. Jon is the King of this bullet. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve taken the garbage out, or filled up the gas tank. When I’m giving Grey his bath at night, he even sneaks into our room, places a water on the bedside table, pulls back the covers and puts the heating pad on my side to warm it up. I feel like when we’re 90 and someone asks how we stayed married so long, that’s what I’d say. Being mindful, and thoughtful enough to do little things like that makes me feel like the center of his world; and for that I am so grateful.
Mat Talk. If you haven’t seen Cheer on Netflix yet, please stop what you’re doing and watch it right now. I identify with Jerry so hard – he is the champion of every single member of his team. When our marriage is in the best place, it’s because we feel wholly supported by the other partner. Something I do want to work on though, is varying the “mat talk”. If you constantly hear, “thank you for all you do for us”, “I’m so proud of you”, “you’re such a hard worker”…they start to lose their strength. So I’m putting into practice getting more specific – “You were such a strong leader today.”, “You had such empathy for your co-worker, and helped her work through X like a boss”. “I loved the way you read the goodnight stories tonight. Grey was looking at you with all the heart eyes”. I parent by this quote I read before Grey was born. Something along the lines of “speak to your child as if they are the kindest, smartest, most loving human. For that is what they will become”. What if we spoke to our person like that too?
Truth-telling house. That’s how we refer to it with Grey anyway. But since the very beginning we have made a pact not to keep secrets from each other. No matter how small. Jon jokes I can’t even sneak an extra cookie without fessing up about it. And it isn’t even that I have to, or feel guilty about it. But small truths equal big ones, and foster a triangle of trust. We always say, if it’s the truth, we won’t get mad – we’ll figure it out. And even if that means hurting the other one’s feelings with an “I feel disconnected right now”, we work together to get back on track. Which brings me to the next point…
Overtalk it. My Dad wrote in our wedding book to never go to bed angry (though we’ve done that a few times), and to over-communicate because no one is a mind reader. It’s advice you hear over and over again, but putting it into practice is harder than it seems. Especially as you clock more and more years together. You assume your other half knows what you’re worried about, or obsessing over. My favorite arguments are the really constructive ones, where we’ve stayed up most of the night talking in hushed voices to fix the problem before we all wake up and start fresh the next day.
Take ten for clarity. Something we’re always working on. I have a sharp tongue and say lots of things I regret if I’m overly defensive and worked up. Jon gets a stone cold look about him and that triggers me into thinking that he doesn’t care how I feel. It doesn’t get better from there unless we take a minute. I say take ten, but sometimes you need an hour, or the day to nail down exactly how you can communicate the problem. We started using a code word which can actually help solve the issue right then. Because it’s something silly (like “Bob Ross”) which can cause a giggle, that cracks your ready to rumble exterior and opens it up for a hug; which leads to how the heck did we get here in the first place?
Choose your battles. This is kind of life in general advice and really works across the board; but wasn’t something I had applied to our marriage until recently. Jon had been exceedingly stressed with work, and I made a very conscious effort to not contribute to the strain he was already dealing with. This was a hard one for me because one of my flaws is being a wee bit naggy, and this strong desire to earn a gold star. So little things I might have had a snarky comment for, like leaving all his whiskers in the sink after shaving, or the dishes on the counter, or his closet being so unorganized it spilled out into the hallway; I just took care of. And here’s the follow-up key: I did not take credit for them. Just silent offerings from a wife who wants to love him through it. I noticed less tension between us, fewer arguments, and that is surely gold star enough for me.
If you made it this far, gosh do we love you. I did say I have a tendency to be long winded 😬, and I know your time is precious. We’ll leave it with this – studies show a 12 second hug has the power to alter your state. The endorphins and serotonin it produces can completely change your mood and your energy. How magical is that?! So if all else fails; hug it out.
Proof of sweating the small stuff. As I sit in a toasty car on a frigid day. So grateful for this guy. Happy Valentine’s Day!!