Picture in Central Park in May 2016 of our 12 year old son taking a picture of us. Picture Credit: Cardon Norton, our 11 year old son. Not pictured is Lincoln, our 9 year old son running around under the bridge near those steps. :-)
How could we already be into this marriage of ours FOURTEEN years?! Cray. Time doesn’t stop for anyone.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that every year for the last four years, on our anniversary, I like to share some things my wife and I have learned about cultivating a happy marriage. That said, if there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that we’re certainly not perfect and we’ve got to be patient with our imperfections.
This post is coming up a little later (our anniversary is in August), but we’ve been having the time of our lives and I just didn’t have time to pause and write is all down…until now that my ankle is broken (story to come!). :-)
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Note: This is more of a post for me and Nat. I’m not being “preachy.” I’m not a marriage counselor. I don’t have a degree in family therapy. I’m just a happily married dude, and this post is a reflection of my experience, well. . . as a happily married dude. Of course, we have our own set of problems. EVERY couple does, and I would certainly never try to hide that fact. But this isn’t a post about what hasn’t worked for Nat and I, it’s a post about what has. And I sincerely hope that what I share here can help you reflect on your own life and work toward creating a strong, happy marriage as well!
14 TIPS TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE
#14. Life is CRAZY.
Life is just crazy…married or not. The craziness of life can help or hurt your marriage. We’ve had foster kids the last two years and nothing hurt more than when they left. It was similar to the pain of Nat’s brother Gavin passing and also our baby son Gavin passing. However, these three babies of ours are still out there somewhere and we can’t protect them any more. This experience is hard. Hard times infinity. People don’t see it like a death, yet in many ways, it is worse. So we push on and rely on each others as opposed to relying on the world and pushing away each other.
#13. Take a pilgrimage.
After our babies left, we went on a pilgrimage. We flew to NYC and have been traveling now for almost five months. We needed to huddle our kids together after so much loss and just be. Whatever your circumstance, take a moment to go on a pilgrimage that will center your soul, bind your marriage and free your mind from the every day troubles of every day life.
#12. Be grateful for your health (and take care of your mind and body).
Natalie had a scare on our way to the airport to NYC when something happened and she couldn’t speak or remember certain things. Read about it here and here as Nat describes her feeling as her “mind started to slip.” I say “be grateful” because some things (most things!) are completely out of your control, so enjoy the good while you have it. I say “take care” because there are many things within your control that you can do to enhance your life’s enjoyment and best utilize the health you’ve been given. Many of the people in retirement that I interviewed personally (hundreds) have told me how they spend on their wealth on health and they’d do anything to have their health back.
#11. Act now…or forever miss your moment.
Many of the same retirees that I have interviewed over the years (for my books and serving or working with them in one way or another) say something like this: “I waited my whole life to do what I really had in mind to do when I would finally have more time, more education, more experience and more money…only to find that when I got there…I still needed more time, more education, more experience and more money.” In other words, the moral of the story is that you’ll never have enough. That being true, act now and leverage existing resources or you will miss your moment to build something great. You’ll miss the chance to “start stupid,” gain experience and become and expert. You’ll miss it. You will. ACT NOW with whatever you have. No waiting. Now. Natalie and I and our pilgrimage is an example of living in the now.
#10. Learn how to make money that is not tied to an employer.
Nat and I are entrepreneurs. It’s been feast of famine over the years. One of the greatest blessings in our lives is that when times get tough, we are willing to do the hard and necessary…even if that means digging out cans from the trash can at the park to recycle them for money and use the change to get gas to drive into town to buy groceries (true story). As a result, Natalie and I have spent time learning business models, pricing strategies, coaching skills and useful talents that we can sell to our target markets. In fact, this entire road trip from New York to California to Mexico and now on to Canada has been funded by making our money on the road. Take the time to protect yourself from a bad employer/employee situation (which will come) by learning how to make money. Watch this (link available for a limited time — it’s a free training on how to make money by doing high-value projects).
#9. Choose happiness.
You will get frustrated. You will break your ankle (I did climbing in Yosemite a couple weeks ago). It will be hard. You will disagree. It’s okay. Don’t use a bazooka to kill a fly. Choose happiness despite hardship. Choosing happiness doesn’t mean things are always good. Choosing happiness means you choose to find knowledge and to apply it to create a better life especially during challenges. My wife’s favorite book (aside from scripture) is Man’s Search for Meaning. We love these quotes from that book and hope to test our choices: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” and ““When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” (Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning).
#8. Like each other.
One of the best compliments Natalie and I received when we were getting our pictures taken after our wedding was this: “You like each other. Many couples I photograph love each other but don’t like each other.” Do you love your spouse but have a hard time liking him or her? Change that.
It’s been said that a sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice when you get back more than you give; it’s an investment. I’ve also received the advice to sacrifice until it hurts and then sacrifice more. There is a sanctification in sacrifice–that’s where the Greek word comes from. Now whether you take that sanctification (or holiness) literally or figuratively, there is a glow about people who serve and give and sacrifice for others. Nat and I have found that the more we give the more we get. However, we don’t give to get. That would destroy the purpose of sacrifice. We give to serve and we are blessed in return in ways we can’t imagine. Sacrifice will bless you. Look for ways to serve others. It’s not a sacrifice if it doesn’t hurt.
#6. Talk about it.
Sometimes people let things simmer until they boil over. Why? An explosion of anger creates more problems than talking about it. Talk straight. Be kind. Don’t be a door mat, but don’t be a bulldozer either. It’s about respect. Respect your spouse and have an agreement that you’ll be able to talk about hard things without fear of the other getting mad. Talk about how you will talk about the tough stuff.
#5. End E.G.O.
Natalie calls ego “E.G.O. = Edging God Out.” Yep. She invented that one. So smart that girl. :-) Don’t edge God out. Pray. Ask for help. Receive with gratitude and move forward. You’re a son or daughter of a loving Heavenly Father and He hears you and answers.
#4. Take T.I.M.E.
TIME is an acronym I created for Today Is My Everything. You could say that TIME is our Norton family anthem. Simply put: You can’t do anything tomorrow. Nothing. Today is today. In fact, today IS yesterday’s tomorrow. Take TIME with your spouse, your family, for yourself and to focus on the important stuff. Click here for a cool, free TIME Mantra poster.
#3. Be cool.
Not like “cool” cool. But, cool. Be kind. Be generous. Take it easy. Cool people are understanding, forgiving, fun, serious (when needed), don’t take themselves too seriously and take care of others. Be cool and prosper.
#2. Bring out the best in your spouse.
Like siblings, spouses know how to push buttons. They know the worst thing to say at the worst moment to get the worst out of their spouse. It’s easy. Instead, take time to bring out the best in your husband or wife. It doesn’t take much to say the best thing at the best time to get the best out of your spouse. Just make up your mind to bring out the best in your spouse and watch the magic happen.
#1. Bring out your best self.
When you want to impress someone in life or business, you bring out your best self. The day-to-day grind makes it easy to be meanest to the people you care about the most. Do a little experiment. Bring out your best self today and for the next 21 days. One day isn’t enough. So over these 22 days, watch what happens as you act your best, bring out the best in your spouse, be cool, take T.I.M.E., end E.G.O., talk about the hard stuff with your spouse, sacrifice, like your spouse (not just love), choose to be happy, learn to earn additional income as a solopreneur / entrepreneur, act now, be grateful, take a pilgrimage and accept that life is often crazy…you’ll discover an entirely new world and wonder why the rest of life couldn’t always be this way. It can. Now go.
– We’ve created a new project called the #Ruckuslist –it’s better than a bucket list because you do it now, not later, and it’s about becoming (not just doing). Check out our new YouTube channel (nothing is there yet) and subscribe for some amazing new and prizes and videos coming soon!!! Click here: https://www.youtube.com/c/ruckuslist
– I’ve created a 37-page action guide to help you get a personal project going. Consider applying the steps I outline to a “marriage project.” You can work on something fun that brings you and your spouse closer together!
– Get your free action guide here.