Natalie and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary!!! Woot woot! It was a fairy tale, whirlwind wedding. We literally got married within 2 months of meeting each other. (What!) I know. KA-RAZY. I’m not recommending that anyone do that —just saying that’s how it happened for us.
Newlyweds get all kinds of strange advice. I once told a man sitting next to me in an airport that I was going to get married. He was divorced and eager to give me a word or two of advice. He explained that his marriage fell apart when he and his ex started having different goals. Over time, this had moved them in different directions, and he attributed his divorce to this, 100%. Then and there, I determined to do everything in my power to not let “different directions” happen to Natalie and I. I determined that I would try to walk along the same path with Natalie forever.
Metaphorically, walking down the aisle together doesn’t end after you say “I do” or when you leave those chapel doors—I believe that aisle extends through eternity.
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER
The truth of the matter is that life has a way of changing ALL of your plans. Setting goals to achieve together are important, but don’t feel hopeless if you don’t always reach them. Learn, together. Feel disappointed, together. Pick up the pieces, together. Smile, together. And move on, TOGETHER. When it comes to marriage, goal setting is more about walking in the same direction than it is about reaching any one dream.
MY BIG EPIPHANY
In marriage, as long as you’re trying to walk in the same direction, you have reached the overarching goal.
10 TIPS TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE
I figured after ten years I should have learned at least ten lessons about marriage. So here they are: Ten ways Natalie and I have found to make sure we always “walk together.”
#10. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Life’s too short to be short-tempered. Don’t be prideful or rigidly committed to what YOU think, want, need.
#9. Let your spouse be imperfect.
Relax, man (or woman). You’re not perfect. Let your spouse be imperfect, too. Let little things be little things. Pick your battles carefully. If you can let something slide, let it. Love unconditionally.
#8. Do what you did in the beginning.
Whatever you did to woo your woman or man at the start—keep it up. For Nat and I, we met as counselors for a church youth camp. We fell in love dancing around like monkeys. I wrote songs for her on the guitar. We taught and inspired others (the youth at the camp) to live more meaningful lives—in many ways, we were brought together by this common purpose and passion. I always respected her, praised her in public and in private, appreciated her and made sure to always tell her, “I love you.” Any time we have hit a rocky patch over the last 10 years, if we just get back to doing the types of things that brought us together in the first place, despite the difficulty in our lives, our marriage gets stronger.
#7. Tell your spouse first.
I got this one from a nice old lady I met at church in the early years of our marriage. Her advice, “Whenever something good happens, tell your spouse before you tell anyone else.” I’ve worked hard to put this advice into practice— it’s an awesome way to remember who’s most important.
#6. Disagreements happen. Just don’t let a simple disagreement turn into an all out war.
I’d wager that no married couple, the world over, could honestly say they’ve never had a disagreement. Nat and I are no exception. We’re both first children in our respective families. We both have strong opinions. We both want to be right. This combination can be a recipe for World War III. To avoid a nuclear attack, we have determined preset rules for when we disagree: 1) We never fight if we’re tired or hungry, 2) Forgive and make up as quickly as possible, 3) Don’t hold a grudge—aka don’t dig up old issues every time we have a new disagreement.
Commit to not letting a bad moment become a bad day (or week, month, year), by keeping a healthy perspective about disagreements. As Mr. or Mrs. Unknown once said, “Breakdowns can create breakthroughs. Things fall apart so things can fall together.”
#5. Have fun together.
Never let too many days go by without having real fun together. Whatever if takes, make fun a life priority.
Make dates a weekly (or more than weekly) event. This goes along with #8. You courted each other in the beginning—it worked then, and it will work now.
#3. Look up to each other.
There is nothing like being told you’re looked up to. There is nothing like being genuinely admired. Magic happens when both husband and wife feel like their spouse stands on higher ground. Make the words “I love you” and “I respect you” and “I appreciate you” common, daily expressions.
#2. Don’t let bumps in the road tear you apart, let them bring you together.
When our son Gavin died, we knew that this tragedy could tear us apart. We promised each other that we wouldn’t let that happen. It took (and takes) a lot of work, but we’ve made an intentional effort to make Gavin’s death bring us closer together. It has.
When you face an obstacle, remember, you are on the same team! Allow the challenges of life to bring you closer together by working as a team to make things better.
#1. Be faithful.
Be faithful to your spouse in thought, word and deed — never stray. Don’t talk bad about your spouse to co-workers, neighbors, your mom or anyone else. Respect your spouse at all times and in all things and no matter what. Don’t say or do anything that your spouse would feel betrayed by in any way if he or she were to find out.
**If you are in a situation where you are in physical or emotional danger, talk to a trusted friend or family member. There are circumstances that warrant outside help, and there should be no shame in that.
- If you have kids, live by this mantra: “The most important thing a father [or mother] can do for his [or her] children is to love their mother [or father].” – Unknown
- Laugh, a lot.
- Go on vacations. (Lots and lots of them.)
- Love is overrated, work to like each other too.
- Live intentionally.
- Support one another.
- Be best friends.
- Go camping.
- Listen to music that makes you happy—everyday.
- Serve each other.
- Be interested and invested in each other’s projects.
- Be kind (in word, deed and facial expressions).
- Take lots and lots and lots of pictures.
One more from Natalie, “Take time for yourself. Commit to personal enrichment and continuous personal learning and growth. If each spouse would consistently put in the work to be the very best ‘version’ of themselves they can be—physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually—more marriages would not only survive, they’d thrive.”
No one corners the market on marriage advice. I’d love to hear what works for you (and what doesn’t).