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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