Relationships

Every Day Should Be Valentine’s Day

Ah, love. Something we all want, whether we admit it or not, and only about half of people truly find.

Kevin and I will have been married nearly 31 years this May. We knew, right away, that we were right for each other. However, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that it hasn’t always been chocolate kisses and sparkly jewelry throughout our marriage – mainly because of my issues.

More on that later.

Sure. We all love at some point in our lives, but is it true love?

What does that even mean?

What does true love really mean? In order to figure out if you’ve found true love, it’s important to first understand what true love actually entails. Essentially, true love means that you have an unwavering, unbreakable and unparalleled fondness and devotion for your partner. It’s also defined by an emotional as well as physical connection with him or her that runs immeasurably deep, and life without your significant other would be practically unthinkable. Source

According to liveabout.com, here are some signs that you have found true love:

1. You care about this person unconditionally. A tell-tale sign that you’ve found true love is that you absolutely and undeniably adore your partner with no strings attached. In other words, no matter what circumstances may befall you and through good times as well as bad, you support and deeply care for this person. Unconditional love is at the very heart of what true love means and entails.

I’ll talk about each of these points as they apply to my life. I can only speak to my own experiences, everyone has slightly different definitions and vastly different opinions largely dependent on how you were raised to view love and who you are as a person – your genetic makeup, I suppose.

Take everything I say with a grain of salt, again, this has been my experience as an old, *ahem*, married woman.

Obviously, I love Kevin. I wouldn’t have married him and produced two sons with him if I didn’t love him. But I don’t think I TRULY recognized or understood what that meant until he had his motorcycle accident.

That was a coming to Jesus moment for me. I could have lost him! I will never, NEVER, forget the overwhelming feeling of panic and fear I experienced when I got that voicemail, from a perfect stranger, mind you, that Kevin had been involved in a motorcycle accident and they were taking him to our local hospital.  I remember standing there, listening to this strange man’s voice, coaxing me into a personal nightmare and thinking, “I should take a shower.” I had been cleaning house when I listened to that voicemail and I don’t know about you, but I’m not a 50’s kind of woman where I clean house in a frou-four dress and lipstick- I tend to look like something that a dog dragged out of a grave when I clean house, because dude, I’m cleaning house with a purpose, not to go through the motions. At any rate, I looked ROUGH.

I actually made it to the bedroom and was starting to shed my clothes when reality took me by the baby hairs and said, “WAKE UP WOMAN! Get to the hospital NOW.” The man on the message said it was a bad accident, was he close to death? What if I was in the shower and he died? So many horrific thoughts went through my head and I finally punctured the shock bubble I had surrounded myself with and grabbed my keys. Screw it, I needed to find out what was going on.

Long story short, he was badly injured. His pelvis “was a bag of glass,” according to the ER doctor. (I will NEVER forget he said that). And he needed to be transferred to a university hospital where they could put him back together. (Anyone else thinking Humpty Dumpty? You’re welcome).

Again, long story short, I lived at the university hospital for two weeks, then he was shipped back to our hometown and had another week (? I forget because that whole time frame was a blur) of rehab before we could bring him home. He was in a wheelchair for weeks because he had to be non-weight bearing while he healed. He, in essence, had to learn to walk again.

All of this to say, I didn’t REALLY appreciate him being in my life until that accident. I took him for granted. I’m not proud of that admission, but it’s the truth. Suddenly, our relationship dynamic switched. He needed me more than I needed him. You don’t fully know how much you love someone until you have to wipe their butt. Just sayin’.

That, my friends, is unconditional love. That was the moment I knew, I don’t want to live my life without him.

2. You fully accept your partner. An additional indicator of true love is that you understand and accept your partner for the person who he or she truly is. You’re not trying to change your mate, fix him or her and/or turn him or her into a different person. Rather, you fully accept, appreciate and adore your partner, flaws and all. 

I feel like this applies more to Kevin, than to me. Yes, he has flaws but I feel like I have more. And he’s endured a lot, A LOT, from me over the years. Contrary to popular belief, (or maybe not), I’m not the easiest person to get to know. I am very guarded and cautious when it comes to fully sharing myself and to be honest, I don’t fully share myself, even with him. But he has stuck it out and there are times I look back and shake my head – I can’t believe he stuck around, quite honestly. To me, that shows me he truly loves me because I think the majority of men would have said, “bye.”

3. You can talk about anything. When you’ve found true love, it means that you can candidly and honestly discuss anything with this person. True love implies that you’re completely truthful with your mate, aren’t holding back different aspects of your past and are able to fully open up to him or her. You share an intimacy that’s emotional as well as physical, and your loving connection is stronger because of your willingness and ability to be open and vulnerable around each other.

Agreed. Sort of. I tell Kevin … most things. To be honest, I don’t tell him everything. Not because I have anything to hide but because he’s a man and he’s genuinely not interested in some of the things I talk about. However, I have told him things I have NEVER told anyone else. It started with being honest with myself and then sharing a part of myself that I guard closely and in doing that, I think that helped Kevin understand me more. I trust him and know that he would never tell anyone else and never use that part of me as leverage. Again, it took many years to build that level of trust but we endured and I think those are the keys to any relationship – time and endurance.

4. You’re completely yourself with this person. When you’ve found true love, you’re able to be totally authentic with your partner. You’re not pretending to be someone you’re not, feigning interests, passions or pastimes and/or acting in a way that doesn’t reflect the real you. Being yourself in your relationship is essential to experiencing true love. 

Yes and no. I am myself around him, we burp, fart and are occasionally gross with one another because we ARE comfortable with one another but I wouldn’t say I’m 100% myself around him 100% of the time. I will sometimes feign passions and pastimes because I know NOT doing those things would hurt his feelings. Besides, just because I’m not interested in whatever he’s selling doesn’t make it okay for me to act like a jerk and not pay attention to him. I will say though, after being married for nearly 31 years, we generally do our own thing most of the time. He has his interests, I have my interests and we do things together every week – like a standing date night(s) and doing our podcast together. We enjoy and respect our space and time and we need that to fully appreciate one another when we ARE together, if that makes sense.

5. You respect each other. In order to experience true love, it also means that there’s a high level of respect, kindness and compassion between you and your partner. You can empathize with one another, see each other’s point of view and are able to resolve conflicts and squabbles in a way that’s constructive and respectful of each other’s well-being.

Yes, but it’s not easy and doesn’t happen over night. I used to pick fights with him – not intentionally, though there were moments … but again, after being together for so long, we have LEARNED to agree to disagree. I have to constantly tell myself, “pick your battles.” And often times, our “battles” aren’t bad enough to really make it into a “thing.” I’m not into drama – I can’t stand it, I don’t have the energy for it and I don’t care to participate in it. That not only applies to marriage but outside marriage.

6. You have similar values. In order to experience true love, your morals and values have to be aligned with those of your partner. While you may have your differences, such as where you grew up, your religious background or simply your obsession with football, true love means that you’re on the same page when it comes to distinguishing right from wrong. In a word, having similar principles is a principle component of true love.

Oh, 100%. I think this aspect of “true love” is CRUCIAL. If you and your partner aren’t on the same page when it comes to politics, religion and basic beliefs then I feel like that can often times set you up for failure. And kudos to any couples out there there that can maintain a marriage and NOT be on the same page with this stuff, I know for me, I couldn’t do it. I think finding that balance, all the time, with every situation, day-to-day life, working life, parenting, would just be too exhausting for me. I don’t mind a spirited debate now and again but to consistently have that disagreement 24/7 … nope. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want that in my life. And I hope if/when our boys find partners that they understand and actively seek someone who is like minded. I’m not saying I wish them to end up with a female clone of themselves, but it truly helps a relationship when your partner agrees on the BIG things in life.

7. Your happiness levels feed off of each other. If you’re wondering if you’ve found true love, it’s important to pay close attention to your true feelings and emotions. Does making this person happy make you happy in return? Does surprising him or her or doing favors for your partner give you a rush of joy as well? When you and your partner both have a mutual desire to bring happiness and contentment to one another, you should be happy to know that you’re experiencing true love.

Yes. When your partner is happy, YOU’RE happy. Doing things for your partner is part of showing your love for him/her. True love is loving someone OUTSIDE yourself. When he’s hurting, I hurt. When he’s feeling sick, I feel sick, etc.

8. You’re a team. When you’ve found true love, it means that you’re fully committed, dedicated and devoted to each other. With true love, you and your partner work together as one unit to enrich each other’s lives for the better. And rather than behaving in a selfish or egotistical way, you think in terms of “we” instead of “me.” When it comes to true love, your mate is really your teammate. 

Again, yes. We are definitely a team. We are working together for a future. We are working together to be good parents to our sons. There is no “i” in TEAM. And that’s really true. I will, however, confess that I am selfish with my time. I have talked about this before – I don’t feel like my time is my own, the majority of the time, so the time I do have to myself, I am very selfish with it. I need to work on that.

Here are a couple of more tips that I feel are worth mentioning from this site:

9. True love is not about finding yourself in another. Don’t fall in love, or think you’re in love, just because you want to find yourself. Your identity is not to be someone’s other half‒it’s to be yourself! Don’t get so swept up in your partner that you become them. You don’t need to be the number one fan of their favorite band or read all the books they read. Keep your interests and hobbies and you’ll be more interesting to, and interested in, your partner.

Oh, 100% agree with this!

As RuPaul says, “if you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love someone else?” And that’s absolutely true. You need to know yourself, be honest with yourself and accept yourself before you can successfully participate in a relationship. If you’re looking for your partner to define you, you have failed before you have begun. You have to be comfortable in your skin before you can be comfortable allowing someone in your life. And if the person you love doesn’t accept you for you? Then that’s not the person for you. Period.

10. True love is not demanding. Your partner should never ask you to change if you’re truly loved. And if you truly love your partner, you shouldn’t expect him to change. You got into a relationship because you liked each other, and you grew to love each other as you are. Why would you need to change someone you love so deeply? Accept them as they are, and you’ll get that consideration in return.

This goes back to knowing and accepting yourself for who you are. If you’ve done that, you won’t ask, or expect, someone to change for you. What you see is what you get. Don’t like it? Move on.

11. True love comes naturally. Do you have doubts about your partner? Are you not sure they’re right for you? If you’re asking yourself too many questions about your partner, your relationship, and your future together, then you’re probably not in love. When you’re truly in love, you don’t question anything. It feels natural to be with your partner, and you know you can work through anything to achieve that future you’re dreaming of.

We all have to work on our relationships, that’s a given. But if you have to work TOO hard, if you have to change who you are or it feels forced when you’re together, the relationship may not be for you. True love should come easily .. if you’re forcing it to fit your expectations, the relationship will always feel forced.

12. To get love, you must give love. You can’t be in a loving relationship if you hold back. You can’t use love as a bargaining chip. Don’t tell your partner you love him only when he does something good around the house. Don’t give him the cold shoulder if he makes a mistake. You have to love him all the time, regardless of his words or actions, because true love is unconditional. If you give your partner this much love, you’ll get it‒and more!‒in return.

To me, this sounds like emotional blackmail. I only love you when you do something for me and I will withhold my love when you don’t do as I say. I hear this a lot. Your partner is not a dog, do not treat him/her like one. There are no treats for being good, there shouldn’t be disciplinary actions for being bad. You’re two adults that have the ability to communicate with one another. Don’t be shy to tell your partner what he/she did bothered you, or was disrespectful. Chances are, he/she didn’t eve realize their actions were construed that way. Someone who loves you will be willing to hear constructive criticism and will want to do better. I’m not saying it’s always easy to hear that, but out of respect for one another, it’s a conversation that must be had if you two hope to grow together as a couple. And if your partner is not willing, nor has any desire to change his/her behavior, or at least have a conversation about it, then again, you must ask yourself, is this the person for me?

13. True love is based on friendship. So many TV show relationships are based on friends who fall in love over time. It’s a great premise, and a nice daydream, but life isn’t TV. You don’t need to be best friends with your partner since kindergarten for love to last. But you need to be friends with your partner. You need to be able to talk, to share jokes, and to enjoy each others’ company. Over time, the physical passion may fade, but true friendship will last forever.

Again, 100% agree with this. You should not only love your partner but LIKE him/her. In fact, it’s crucial. If you don’t like your partner for who he/she is, how can you build a relationship that will stand the test of time? Forever is a LONG time to be with someone you don’t even LIKE.

14. True love is committed. It’s human nature to be attracted to other people, to allow your head to be turned by an attractive passerby. Don’t let this make you feel guilty. As long as you’re committed to your partner, your relationship is fine. When you’re truly in love, you don’t want to be with anyone else. You can’t imagine spending your time without your sweetheart.

It’s okay to find someone other than your partner to be attractive. You’re human. There are a lot of attractive human beings in this world. However, what is NOT okay is to act on that attraction. You made a commitment to your partner – respect your partner enough to resist the temptation. You’re an adult, not an animal in heat.

And no, I don’t believe someone falls out of love with someone. I think that’s an excuse people come up with to justify bad decisions. I think people get bored with one another. There’s a difference. If that’s the case, talk to your partner about it. Chances are, your partner feels the same. Come up with ways to re-ignite that spark between you. And no, it doesn’t always have to be about sex. Spend time with each other. Find something you can do together. When you’ve been married for as long as I have been, you’re not even the same person you were when you got married. Your partner is not the same person he/she was when you got married. Together, it’s time to rediscover yourself and your partner. Marriage is almost fluid in that respect. You have to both be willing to grow and change together.

Is any of this stuff easy? Hell no. However, anything worth working for is worth having. If you can survive rough patches, and there will be rough patches – think of them as growing pains because honestly, they are, then you can handle anything. I promise you, you will make your relationship stronger. But it takes two to make this work. You can’t improve your relationship all by your lonesome. Sometimes it takes outside help, like a marriage counselor, to help you and your partner to see things clearly. Not everyone is a good communicator but if your partner really wants it to work between the two of you, that person will at least TRY. And it’s hard to accept one’s own weaknesses and flaws. I’m certainly no Betty Crocker – heck, I’m not even that great of a human being most of the time, but I love my husband and I truly, genuinely, can’t imagine my life without him in it.

I can honestly say, the majority of our problems over the years have stemmed from me. I’m woman enough to admit that. I have issues. I’m a cold fish. I’m not very affectionate and I certainly don’t allow anyone into my heart. Kevin has made it past many obstacles and gates but I haven’t allowed him all the way in – there is something deep within me, something I don’t acknowledge and won’t examine closely enough, to let that happen. However, that’s not Kevin’s fault, it’s mine. So I have had to learn to deal with my short comings and be honest with myself and with him, to work through these issues and come up with compromises we can both live with.

And just so we’re clear, Kevin is not perfect either. But we both made the decision, early on, to never bring up the “D” word. (Divorce). It simply wasn’t an option with us. And because neither one of us allowed the “D” word to be an option, or an out, it made us that much more determined to work it out. It wasn’t easy. And it was down right ugly at times, but we made it through and we understand each other more because of it.

So no, I don’t like Valentine’s Day. Because to me, it sets people up for false expectations. You should show your partner that you love him/her every day, not just ONE day of the year. Yes, love is pretty awesome, but it’s also a lot of work.

Relationships

Twenty-Six Years of Married Bliss and Counting

We celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary on May 26th. Actually, we didn’t celebrate it, we were both too busy working to really acknowledge the actual day, but we did go out and eat at Outback Steakhouse the day after our anniversary.

(Side note: We took a  cruise around the Hawaiian Islands last year for our 25th wedding anniversary – no, I haven’t written about that time yet … stop nagging).

And we used half of the gift card that the doctor I work for gave me for Christmas two years ago. (I had actually forgotten I had it. We used half of it so it would give us an excuse to go back a second time – we smart!)

It was a great dinner. I had steak tips and Kevin had a Ribeye, I think. We talked about possibly going somewhere for vacation this year  but I think I have him convinced to just keep it low key this time, stay home, save some money, pay off our homequity loan. This is going to make me sound spoiled, and I guess, since we’re being honest here, I AM spoiled, but I’m burned out on cruises. We’ve taken a cruise for the past seven (?) years straight – I need a break. Let’s stay on land for a bit.

I’m not going to say our marriage is perfect, how nauseating would that be, but we have a pretty great relationship. He spoils me and in exchange, I pretty much let him do anything he wants. Now that he has Roy to hang out with and who never tells him no, (and who worships the ground he walks on), he has a buddy to go do things with – go to garage sales, fix things around the house, projects, go fishing … everything that I hate to do. lol

In return, I get to do what I want to do on the weekends – keep myself company, read, write, take naps, it’s a win-win situation, to be honest.

Our wedding was pretty low key. Since neither one of us belong to a church, I shopped around for churches until I found a really pretty one and we rented it. We paid for our own wedding and we kept it cheap. (Side note: my mom made my dress – isn’t it pretty!?) But we couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars on something that would last two hours and be over with. We preferred to save our money and spend it on the honeymoon (Cozumel Mexico).

A friend of mine did my makeup and hair, we drank punch out of  fancy paper cups and I wore ballet slippers because I didn’t want to be taller than Kevin. Kevin forgot to wear black socks with his tux so the photographer, (who nearly had a heart attack), had to put my bouquet of flowers in front of him to disguise his white basketball socks when he sat on the pew steps for pictures – good times.

I knew he was the one as soon as I met him. I didn’t think about marriage when I met him, but I knew what I felt for him was different than what I felt for any other guy. He made me laugh, he made me want to be a better person. He was frugal (he was going to school to be an accountant – DREAM MAN), resourceful, smart and sweet.

Our marriage has not been perfect, we’ve had our shares of ups and downs (7-year itch – that was a really tough, unpleasant year and that’s all I’ll say about that), but we grew, we changed, we adapted. I can honestly say we’re not the same people we were when we got married, we’re better.

What’s the secret to our successful marriage? Patience. Respect. Communication. Carving out time for each other. Really, what I’m telling you is nothing new. All of the marriage advice sites you read tips on are right – it’s about listening and appreciating each other and not taking each other for granted though I confess, we do that sometimes.

I can’t imagine sharing my life with anyone else. I have a very difficult time allowing anyone close to my heart, but I can honestly say that Kevin is near and dear to me and that scares me a bit. I was reading back when he had his motorcycle accident in 2010 and I can’t begin to describe to you the debilitating fear I felt when went to the hospital for the first time and saw him lying there so helpless – he’s the least helpless person I’ve ever known in my life. I think that accident also brought us closer – how can you not be drawn closer to a person when he relies on you to help him poop?

I think people regard marriage as throwaway events nowadays. “Well, if this doesn’t work out, we’ll just get divorced.” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people say that and it horrifies me. If you honestly think that, then do yourself, your partner, and any future children a favor, don’t get married. If you’re already looking for ways to get out of a serious commitment before it even begins, there’s your sign – don’t go down that road.

We made a pact, we would never mention the “D” word. And we haven’t, save for that patchy 7-year itch period of time. Any fights we had, we cooled down, we listened to each other, we owned up to our own shortcomings and assumptions and we compromised. You have to be willing to swallow a bitter humility pill once, twice, a hundred times, when you’re married for the long haul.

I found this interesting bit on how to have a successful relationship from Tech Insider. Watch, learn, absorb, practice.

 

Relationships

Daring to Love: How to Repair, or Sustain, a Marriage

Want to know how to make your marriage stronger? The answer is not for the weak-minded – it takes strength, courage and determination. Are you up to the challenge? Read on …

THE SCRIPTURES SAY that God designed and created marriage as a good thing. It is a beautiful, priceless gift. He uses marriage to help us eliminate loneliness, multiply our effectiveness, establish families, raise children, enjoy life, and bless us with relational intimacy. But beyond this, marriage also shows us our need to grow and deal with our own issues and self-centeredness through the help of a lifelong partner. If we are teachable, we will learn to do the one thing that is most important in marriage—to love. This powerful union provides the path for you to learn how to love another imperfect person unconditionally. It is wonderful. It is difficult. It is life changing.

(Love is) about learning and daring to live a life filled with loving relationships. And this journey begins with the person who is closest to you: your spouse. May God bless you as you begin this adventure.

But be sure of this: it will take courage. If you accept this dare, you must take the view that instead of following your heart, you are choosing to lead it. The world says to follow your heart, but if you are not leading it, then someone or something else is. The Bible says that “the heart is more deceitful than all else” (Jeremiah 17:9), and it will always pursue that which feels right at the moment.

We dare you to think differently—choosing instead to lead your heart toward that which is best in the long run. This is a key to lasting, fulfilling relationships.

The Love Dare journey is not a process of trying to change your spouse to be the person you want them to be. You’ve no doubt already discovered that efforts to change your husband or wife have ended in failure and frustration. Rather, this is a journey of exploring and demonstrating genuine love, even when your desire is dry and your motives are low. The truth is, love is a decision and not just a feeling. It is selfless, sacrificial, and transformational. (emphasis added) And when love is truly demonstrated as it was intended, your relationship is more likely to change for the better.

Remember, you have the responsibility to protect and guide your heart. Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Resolve to lead your heart and to make it through to the end. Learning to truly love is one of the most important things you will ever do.

Powerful stuff, right? This excerpt is from the introduction of “The Love Dare” and I think it epitomizes the essence of marriage. Love is about so much more than just feelings – it’s about sacrifices, humility, giving, it’s about tolerance, compromise … geez, the list just goes on and on.

What is The Love Dare? Let’s find out …

Too many marriages end when someone says “I’ve fallen out of love with you” or “I don’t love you anymore.” In reality, such statements reveal a lack of understanding about the fundamental nature of true love.

The Love Dare, as featured in the new movie Fireproof (starring Kirk Cameron and from the team that brought us the #1 best selling DVD Facing the Giants), is a forty-day guided devotional experience that will lead your heart back to truly loving your spouse while learning more about the design, nature, and source of true love.

Each day’s entry discusses a unique aspect of love, presents a specific “dare” to do for your spouse (some will be very easy, others very challenging), and gives you a journaling area to chart the progress that you will be making.

It’s time to learn the keys to finding true intimacy and developing a dynamic marriage. Take the dare!

I first watched Fireproof by myself and on the treadmill. I could barely maintain my speed because I was crying so hard. It’s a touching, Christian-based movie about the courage it takes to keep a marriage intact. And I think with so many marriages ending in divorce nowadays, it’s more crucial than ever to help and teach people to love – we all have preconceived notions of what love is, but I would like to boldly state that most of us don’t truly understand what it is to love someone else, not really.

Myself included. But I’m learning.

I told Kevin about the movie and we sat and watched it together. By the end of the movie, he even had tears in his eyes. The reason the movie is so emotional is because it dares us to explore our most secret, carefully guarded hearts. It challenges us to look honestly at ourselves, and to re-evaluate our behaviors and expectations about relationships.

Even though my marriage to Kevin is stronger than it has ever been, I think I’m still going to go out and buy this book because I think the lessons it teaches is a good reminder, to me specifically, about how important my relationship with Kevin truly is.

Here are the first five days’ assignments:

Day One: Love is patient. Love works. It is life’s most powerful motivator and has far greater depth and meaning than most people realize. It always does what is best for others and can empower us to face the greatest of problems. We are born with a lifelong thirst for love. Our hearts desperately need it like our lungs need oxygen. Love changes our motivation for living. Relationships become meaningful with it. No marriage is successful without it.

Love is built on two pillars that best define what it is. Those pillars are patience and kindness. All other characteristics of love are extensions of these two attributes. And that’s where your dare will begin. With patience.

The dare asks participants to refrain from saying anything negative to one’s spouse for the entire day – that it’s best to hold one’s tongue and say nothing as opposed to saying something one will regret later on. It’s taken me YEARS to learn this lesson, but I learned it, and I apply it today and it really does work wonders.

Day Two: Love is kind. Kindness is love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive. These two sides of love are the cornerstones on which many of the other attributes we will discuss are built.

Love makes you kind. And kindness makes you likeable. When you’re kind, people want to be around you. They see you as being good to them and good for them.

The dare asks that one do at least one unexpected gesture – and I’m assuming this doesn’t mean buying gifts but rather, fold the laundry, or wash dishes, or take out the trash, or cook dinner, all without being asked and all without expecting a “reward” for doing so. I think this lesson might be harder for the men because women naturally NOTICE that these little things need to be done. Men often times simply don’t notice these things. Patience ladies. 🙂

Day Three: Love is not selfish. We live in a world that is enamored with “self.” The culture around us teaches us to focus on our appearance, feelings, and personal desires as the top priority. The goal, it seems, is to chase the highest level of happiness possible. The danger from this kind of thinking, however, becomes painfully apparent once inside a marriage relationship.

If there were ever a word that basically means the opposite of love, it is selfishness. Unfortunately it is something that is ingrained into every person from birth. You can see it in the way young children act, and often in the way adults mistreat one another. Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves. Yet you cannot point out the many ways your spouse is selfish without admitting that you can be selfish too. That would be hypocritical.

Why do we have such low standards for ourselves but high expectations for our mate? The answer is a painful pill to swallow. We are all selfish.

If you’re not invested in something, you naturally won’t care about it as much. The dare asks one to buy a little something-something for the spouse. Again, nothing too expensive. Maybe just a lone flower. Or a thoughtful card. Or a gift certificate to his/her favorite store. I often put goodies into Kevin’s lunch, without him knowing it, so when he opens his bag at work, there’s my materialistic reminder that I love him and I’m thinking about him.

Day Four: Love is thoughtful. Love thinks. It’s not a mindless feeling that rides on waves of emotion and falls asleep mentally. It keeps busy in thought, knowing that loving thoughts precede loving actions.

When you first fell in love, being thoughtful came quite naturally. You spent hours dreaming of what your loved one looked like, wondering what he or she was doing, rehearsing impressive things to say, then enjoying sweet memories of the time you spent together. You honestly confessed, “I can’t stop thinking about you.”

But for most couples, things begin to change after marriage. The wife finally has her man; the husband has his trophy. The hunt is over and the pursuing done. Sparks of romance slowly burn into grey embers, and the motivation for thoughtfulness cools. You drift into focusing on your job, your friends, your problems, your personal desires, yourself. After a while, you unintentionally begin to ignore the needs of your mate.

The dare asks one to contact his/her spouse during the day, with no agenda other than asking if he/she is okay and if he/she can do anything for the spouse. Kevin and I email silly little nothings back and forth a lot of days. I’ve learned that he’s quite funny and he’s learned that I can be quite the flirt. *wink*

Day Five: Love is not rude. Nothing irritates others as quickly as being rude. Rudeness is unnecessarily saying or doing things that are unpleasant for another person to be around. To be rude is to act unbecoming, embarrassing, or irritating. In marriage, this could be a foul mouth, poor table manners, or a habit of making sarcastic quips. However you look at it, no one enjoys being around a rude person. Rude behavior may seem insignificant to the person doing it, but it’s unpleasant to those on the receiving end.

As always, love has something to say about this. When a man is driven by love, he intentionally behaves in a way that’s more pleasant for his wife to be around. If she desires to love him, she purposefully avoids things that frustrate him or cause him discomfort.

The bottom line is that genuine love minds its manners.

Man, can I relate to this one. I have such a mouth on me – Kevin calls it “sassy.’ He hates it when I get sassy. I hate it when I get sassy. I know I’m doing it, and yet, I keep right on being mouthy and stupid. I’m usually sassy when I’m feeling cranky, or tired, or frustrated, or hurt or … heck, I’m sassy pretty much all the time. I’ve learned, through some pretty hefty fights, that I need to just shut up and stop taking my feelings out on my husband. Most times, it’s not even his fault I’m feeling a certain way. It’s not fair and it’s selfish.

Reading over those first five days makes me want to know what the other 35 days say.

I was drawn to this idea from the very beginning. I mean, how many times have you heard someone lament over the fact that there’s not a parenting manual, or a marriage manual, etc. out there? Well guess what, there’s a marital manual out there and I think it would be a shame to just ignore it or not even take a look at what it suggests, don’t you?

Love is a state of mind. It’s about acting, not just about feeling.

Good luck and don’t give up. I truly mean that.

Monday Stuff

Marriage – For Real

This Monday’s writing prompt is from Absolutely Bananas and man, is it a doozy. Are you ready to hear about REAL LIFE marriage? Excellent, then take off your rose-colored glasses and let’s get started.

First of all, I’m not an expert on marriage. I’ve been married for 18 1/2 years and though we’re very happy now, we have traveled down some really bumpy roads to reach this level of happiness. The advice and experiences I share with you are my own – every relationship is different – but if you learn anything from my advice and/or mistakes, then my job here is done. 🙂

The Prowl – Stage One

Though not technically in the marriage realm, searching for a perfect suitable mate is crucial to a happy marriage. And for those careful readers out there that noticed I crossed out “perfect?” You get a gold star for the day. *slaps a gold star on readers’ forehead*

Repeat after me: There is no such thing as a perfect mate.

Did you say that out loud? No? Then do it now … I’ll wait.

Excellent. Now let me explain. Potential mates are human. Potential mates change over time. Potential mates assume a persona when it suits him/her. Potential mates are moody. Potential mates …

Well, you get the idea. Everyone has “days.” When you’re on the prowl, you must accept the fact that your potential mate is very, very, VERY human and he/she will have faults – it’s guaranteed. The question is, can you LIVE with those faults for like, the rest of your life? Choose wisely, we’re talking about your future here. If you can’t live with this person’s faults? Break it off and look elsewhere. Seriously. It’s not WORTH being saddled with someone who makes you unhappy – move on to the next potential mate candidate.

And just for the record? People may change their behaviors over time, but overall? People do not change. If he’s a deadbeat boyfriend while you’re dating, you can pretty much guarantee he’ll be a deadbeat husband/father. Is that what you really want?

And for Pete’s sake, if you can’t laugh with the man/woman, then move on. Because later on, down the marital road when the passion ebbs and you’ve settled into a comfortable existence, humor is the only thing that keeps you going.

(Case in point from my past: I dated my “best friend” in high school for a time. We certainly got along well and I was comfortable being around him. BUT, the guy had no sense of humor at all – none. And in fact, lost his temper over the stupidest things. After a while, it depressed me and I couldn’t stand being around him any longer. But rather than stick it out with him because I was worried that no one better would come along? I broke it off. And guess what? Someone better DID come along and I thank God for him every day).

The Early Years – Stage Two

Congratulations! You’ve found someone you love; someone you can be yourself with; someone who makes you laugh and who shares the same interests as you. And you marry. And it’s a glorious day – one of the best in your life (as it should be). The first two years are (typically) the best years of your marriage. You’re in that euphoric stage where everything is “cute” and seemingly nothing bothers you. The fact that he kicks his shoes off wherever he feels like it? Adorable. The fact that he drinks the milk straight from the jug? Sweet – now you can share even more germs together. How romantic.

Enjoy these years. Enjoy each other. And remember this happiness because you will be forced to draw upon those happy years, perhaps even analyze them later, in your marital life. (This is assuming, of course, that they are happy years to begin with. If they are not … well, that goes beyond the scope of this post. But keep one thing in mind – if the beginning years are not happy, chances are, later years will be worse. There are exceptions, but the vast percentage is not looking good).

You’re laughing, you’re having a good time. Live it up.

The Children – Stage Three

(This is assuming you have children. If you choose not to, or it doesn’t happen for whatever reason, then you can pretty much skip the next few stages).

Here’s where it gets sticky (or stinky, whichever applies).

Pay attention: CHILDREN CHANGE EVERYTHING. They change who YOU are. They change your STATUS. They change your PRIORITIES. They change your MARRIAGE … they REALLY change your marriage.

Having children is not like having a pet. When they are babies, they will suck every last ounce of strength from you. They will tire you out. They will demand your attention. They will command your heart. They will be the center of your universe for a while.

That’s normal. But in the meantime? You have a spouse. A person who was used to your attention, your energy, your presence BEFORE the kid came along. It would really behoove you to remember that, AND to share each other’s strength. You will both need it.

Children are worth the pain, the sacrifices, the adjustments. And both you and your spouse will absolutely, positively HAVE to support each other, both physically and emotionally, during the children’s early years. You’re both adjusting and trying to juggle several things at once. In addition, your sense of self has just split into a whole new existence – you’re now more than YOU, or someone’s HUSBAND/WIFE, you’re now someone’s MOTHER/FATHER.

You can not be selfish during this time period. You can not be lazy during this time period. You must pick up where your partner has left off or someone is going to be left out in the cold; it’s just a fact of life.

Men – your sex life will change. Accept it. If you will support your wives during this VERY TRAMATIC emotional/physical shift in her life, it will be worth it. She will appreciate you in more ways than you can imagine.

Women – though he didn’t give birth to the child, he’s still struggling to handle the change. He’s not sure what to do with this little person – be patient with him. A lot of men aren’t programmed with the maternal instinct. You must teach him what to do. You must ALLOW him to do things his own way. You must respect the fact that he’s confused and feeling awkward. Belittling him, chastising him or goading him will only drive him further away. He will help, if you will show him how to help.

Again, I’m speaking from experience here. And don’t forget, you have a sense of humor buried under the diapers and fatigue – find it and use it – use it often.

The School Years – Stage Four

Things tend to level off at this stage. Your children are beginning to develop their own interests and don’t need you quite so much. (Note to parents: this is normal. LET GO).

You now have the energy and the time for you and your spouse. Use it wisely. Plan a weekly lunch/dinner date. Spend some time together. Get re-acquainted. I’m betting you’ll be surprised by the shift in attitudes and interests while you were consumed with your babies/toddlers.

The trick, at this stage, is to adjust to these changes in attitudes and interests. As mentioned, people change over time. What once used to bother them, doesn’t anymore. Or vice versa. Whether you agree with these changes is rather a moot point. Your spouse is interested and you must respect, and support that. (Assuming of course, it’s nothing perverted or potentially dangerous – use common sense, for Pete’s sake). And above all, never, ever, EVER, tell your spouse that his/her ideas are stupid. Trust me – NOT a good move. In essence, you’re calling that person stupid for feeling/thinking that way. If you disagree, say so, but don’t belittle him/her.

Again, speaking from experience here.

The school years are another time you must make adjustments. They may not be as big as the children years, but trust me, you will be forced to adapt to yet more changes. Be flexible. Be fair. Be respectful.

And don’t forget that sense of humor thing!

The Middle-Age Years – Stage Five

The kids are now teenagers, and though there are still problems and issues that must be addressed, they are problems and issues that will most likely involve your teenage children. THESE are issues and problems you can address together. However, be careful. You must agree on these issues and solutions to problems together or your very clever teenage children will use that disagreement as a wedge to pry you apart.

Do not let them.

You must remain a united front at this stage. It’s crucial for your marriage and it’s crucial as parents.

However, life has now become more comfortable. You’re still responsible for caring for your children, but not on the same levels as before. (Hence the beauty of cell phones and Facebook accounts – you can keep track of your offspring without exerting all of your energy. *grin*)

But your relationship has mellowed by this time. You’re now quite used to each other and your comfortable being around one another. You finish each other’s sentences. You develop a sixth sense and find yourselves calling each other at the same time. You start thinking alike and your sense of humor becomes a private joke that leaves outsiders scratching their heads.

Life is good once more. Your relationship has developed that soft, supple feel to it – like a wallet that has been carried around in a back pocket for years. It’s comfortable. It’s fulfilling. And your happy.

But bored.

Be careful not to allow things to settle into too much of a routine. Shake things up once in a while. And I’m not just talking about in the bedroom. Write an occasional love note and stick it in your spouse’s purse/wallet/car. Tell each other that you love one another – a lot. Show your appreciation for the things he/she does around the house.

And laugh – a lot.

The Twilight Years – Stage Six

I’m afraid I must stop at this stage; we haven’t reached it yet. Therefore, I do not have any wisdom to share with you. But my marriage so far? Has been WORTH the sacrifices, worth the good times and bad. My husband is my lover, my best friend and quite possibly the only man on this planet who had the balls to put up with me through all of these stages.

I thank God for him every day; I truly do. And I pray each and every one of you find the happiness that I’ve been blessed with, too.

Good luck.


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