This week I accomplished something wonderful. Something that I feel is worth celebrating. Something that took more work, patience, and self-sacrifice than I thought possible. Something that has brought me more joy, happiness, and peace than I thought possible.
Aaron and I celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary.
Isn’t it funny how the things that bring us the greatest joy often bring us the most frustration?
I’m just glad that my joy easily surpasses my moments of frustration.
I’ve always had an easy time loving my husband. However, after my recent experience with Postpartum Depression, I found that I had to make a conscious effort to love him at times.
It wasn’t that he was doing anything different. It was purely me.
My experience with postpartum depression taught me a valuable lesson about choosing to love. As a result, I’ve thought a lot about this concept over the last few months.
As parents, our time isn’t our own. Every bit of extra energy gets sucked out of us by kids, jobs, school, friends, church and all the other responsibilities we have.
Our spouse is often the last person on our list to get the love and respect they need.
It is too easy to keep them at the bottom because we know that they love us.
There are many times when I’ve found myself thinking about everyone else but my husband’s feelings when making decisions.
I’ve heard over and over that we need to put our spouse first. It is great to hear and I think most people would agree it needs to happen, but how do we actually put our spouse first?
5 Things To Do To Strengthen Your Marriage
1. Putting our spouse first is a decision
I know it sounds simple, but it really is a choice. When everything else starts to pile up and your to-do list gets out of control, you definitely have to choose your husband first.
I’m not talking about letting your kids starve because your husband needed you to run an errand. There are times when all the other stuff will come first.
I’m talking about the simple things. When Aaron gets home from work, I try and give him a few minutes to unwind before I start asking for help or dumping the problems of the day on him.
If I get invited to do activities with friends, I discuss it with Aaron before committing. 99.9% of the time, he could care less if I’m meeting the girls to go hiking or play at the splash pad, but I want to include him in decisions and feel that he deserves a say in how I spend my day.
I know I want a say in how he spends his free time, so I need to give him the same courtesy.
Ultimately it comes down to respect. When you respect someone you treat them differently.
2. Your spouse is an adult, not your child.
It is very easy to start treating your spouse like another child when you get into parenting mode. I know most people think that only the mother falls into this trap, but I’ve seen father’s do it as well.
I personally feel that my job isn’t to mother my husband. One of the best ways I put him first is to treat him like the adult he is.
This one hasn’t been a huge issue for me, probably because Aaron tends to act like an adult. What I struggle with, is keeping my mouth shut when he parents our daughter Ella differently than I do.
I have my routine with Ella and expect him to do what works for me.
I’ve learned that one of the best ways I can show him respect is to let him do task his own way. Amazingly enough, I’ve learned some valuable parenting skills from watching him take care of Ella.
PS. If you want an amazing book on this subject check out – The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage
3. Be realistic in your expectations of your spouse
Your spouse is human. They are going to make mistakes and do stupid stuff. Like the time I flooded our bathroom. (Check out – Why Losing Your Temper Is So Damaging To Your Marriage)
I know it is stupid, but I may occasionally expect Aaron to read my mind. For some reason, he always fails miserably. You would think after seven years of marriage that I would be a bit more realistic, but I still have my dohh moments.
I’ve found that I’m significantly happier when I have realistic expectations and don’t expect my husband to do everything perfectly.
It is probably a good thing I remember this most of the time since I’ve got a lot of self-perfecting to work on.
I’ve found that when I communicate clearly this issue tends to resolve itself.
Communication is critical for marriage.
I’ve also learned that just because I believe I’ve articulated a point doesn’t mean that my husband has heard the same thing. Sometimes I’m not as clear as I think I am and sometimes he just isn’t paying attention.
I’ve noticed that it is a two way street on this one.
- I need to take the time to fully explain myself, rather than just assume that he is reading my mind and getting everything I’m not saying.
- I also need to make sure that if I’m sharing important information he is actually paying attention and not distracted by his phone, the tv, the kids, work . . . . you get the point.
I tend to get just as distracted and there are times when I have to consciously remind myself to listen to what Aaron is saying. There are many times when he tells me something and I realize I only listened to about half of what he said.
Part of it can be blamed on old age – my hearing is not what it used to be.
We’ve both learned through trial and error to clearly communicate the important stuff and make sure the other person is actually listening and hearing what we have to say.
Doing this one simple thing has made a huge difference in our marriage.
4. Being married means being courteous and kind
This is a personal pet peeve of mine. It really bugs me when I have friends who treat their spouses negatively or take advantage of them. It is even worse when I hear them speak negatively about a spouse that I know is trying their best.
It is so easy to take advantage of the people who love us the most. I think there is some internal voice, that constantly whispers, “he loves me regardless of how crazy I am.”
Just because our spouse loves us doesn’t mean we get to treat them with disrespect. If anything we should be treating them with more love and kindness than strangers.
For the most part, I’m pretty good at being kind to everyone, including Aaron. I’m generally a nice person. However, I’ve noticed that when I do get annoyed with my husband, I’m a lot more likely to be unkind than I would be to anyone else.
My husband doesn’t deserve to be treated worse than others just because I know he’ll take it. And shame on me for even thinking that way.
The easiest way I’ve found to treat Aaron with kindness is to consistently thank him for all of the stuff that he does for me. It is hard to be upset with someone when you are reminding yourself of their good qualities on a regular basis.
5. Give more than just 100% in your marriage
I’m all for giving more than 100% so that on the times when I fail miserably and feel lucky to give 30% it is okay. Everyone has their down days, so when you are having good days go the extra mile and do something above average for your spouse.
So what does giving more than 100% look like?
I personally believe it goes back to the little things. I know it sounds stupid, but I take out the trash and help with the little chores that Aaron typically handles.
My goal is to do little acts of service for my husband on a daily basis.
Every family’s chore chart is different, but I’ve found that when I do small acts of service for Aaron (typically stuff he never even notices) I feel better about myself.
When I feel better about myself, I tend to naturally give more than 100%.
There are also days when giving a little extra just doesn’t happen. We’ve had company in town for the last few days which means Ella is sleeping in our bedroom in her pack and play.
She hates sleeping in her pack and play, and for the last three nights has been up in the middle of the night for a minimum of 2 hours (typically from 12:30-2:30). I’m exhausted.
I’ve got a ton of cleaning and household stuff I need to do. Today is a 30% day. I’m getting the minimum done and am happy to be functional.
The best part about giving extra on other days is Aaron totally gets it. He’ll appreciate the fact that I made dinner (thank goodness for meal planning – my saving grace) and took care of Ella. He isn’t going to complain at all about all of the other stuff that didn’t get done.
Little Positive Choices Will Strengthen Your Marriage Exponentially
I can guarantee I’ll look back on this post in a few years and laugh. There 5 things to do to strengthen your marriage are so simple.
I have so much to learn about marriage. What I do know is that I’m proud of my seven years of marriage. During the last few years, we’ve managed to pay off $293,000 in debt together. Working towards a common goal has strengthened us in ways I couldn’t have understood when we started our journey to become debt free.
It hasn’t all been easy and there are times when I’ve been less than proud of my actions.
However, I’m proud to say, that I always try. Aaron and I committed to making our marriage work. There are days when I fail and days when Aaron fails. What matters though is that we keep trying and moving forward.
We are going to continue to make mistakes and at times will be frustrated and angry with each other. That is married life.
Underneath it all, we love each other and in the end, that love and our desire to make each other happy is what will continue to make our marriage work.
For additional advice on strengthening your marriage check out these posts – All based on my mistakes:
- Why Losing Your Temper is so Damaging to Your Marriage
- Three Keys to a Loving Marriage
- Marriage Isn’t for you, but Commitment is
PS. If you are looking for awesome marriage books I recommend the following:
- The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
- Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, PhD
- The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
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