Today's 10 Things post warms my heart in a way I so desperately needed! This week has been crazy cold and I haven't gone in to work because of icy roads, so reading Sam's take on marriage was SO refreshing at this stage of cabin fever. :) I just met Sam a few short weeks ago, but she is quickly becoming a sweet friend. And she and her husband Eric are one heck of a team! Daniel and I so look forward to spending more time with them.
10 Things I've Learned Since I Got Married
1. Pray together daily.
This is a habit that took longer for us to build than we expected, and it was frustrating to constantly recognize how we were neglecting this. It was hard to pin down the right time of day to do it, because I am a morning person and was able to focus before work, but Eric was more of a night owl at the time while I would fall asleep while we were sitting on the couch praying. But just like anything in the Christian life, it's not all on your shoulders to get it right, and the Lord was faithful to help train us in this area of our marriage. I feel like this really started to be a normal, consistent thing for us right after our first anniversary. This is when we started experiencing the most spiritual warfare specifically in our relationship, as opposed to in the outside pieces of our life (jobs, friends, etc.), and prayer was the only defense we knew. We became more passionate about praying for each other throughout the day, as well as praying together in the mornings before work. (Eric started getting up earlier so that he had more time to wake up - and get coffee in his system.)
2. Speak affirmatively about your husband in public – whether or not he is present.
It's easy to be around a group of people who complain about their spouses and just join in without thinking twice about it. No one is perfect, and I know my husband wouldn't claim to be so. However, when we are in groups together, or I am having a night with the girls, or even just one-on-one time with a friend, I don't want to use that time to vent about the annoying thing he did that morning, or I don't want to blatantly correct him if he has wrong information (which I have done, and I instantly regretted when I saw how it hurt him). I want my words to be positive. Even the funny stories I tell about him need to be ones that don't humiliate him, and if I share something about him that I haven't shared before, I try to ask him afterwards if that was okay or if it came across the wrong way. We both feel like we had some odd moments in our pasts (for example, our freshman years of college, he was addicted to weight lifting and protein shakes, while I had Spiderman sheets and wore boys' cargo shorts), and it's fun to laugh about with others, but make sure you do so in a way that still affirms your spouse and gives him respect.
In the words of John and Stasi Eldredge, "You need to do it. Often. In a way you both enjoy it. Immensely. If this isn't the case, then you need to deal with why it isn't. 'Cause you need to do it. Often. In a way you both enjoy it. Immensely." I have a feeling we will always be working on this aspect of our relationship. As incredible of a piece of the puzzle it is, it isn't easy, and the enemy (as well as our flesh and selfish desires) tends to interfere in every way possible. It's amazing how what happens in the bedroom affects so much of your relationship outside the bedroom. I feel like this topic isn't talked about enough in premarital situations, because sexual intimacy is so much harder than I ever anticipated or feel like I was warned about - but it also provides some of the sweetest moments in marriage and enhances our relationship in ways I could never have imagined.
4. Invest in your own personal walk with the Lord.
John and Stasi Eldredge say that this is the greatest gift you can give your spouse, and I 100% agree. Everything goes back to this - if you are walking with the Lord intimately, it will affect how you serve your spouse, and your motivations, and how you respond to conflict, etc. etc. P.S. I promise we have read marriage books besides Love and War; this one just seems to have some of the best quotes.
(Sam writes on this topic on her blog, also. Check it out HERE.)
5. Communicate expectations.
The most common source of tension for us is unmet expectations, whether it is what we are going to do on a date night or how we are going to spend our Saturday morning or even who is going to contact the landlord about the flooded basement. If we have a free night during the week, and especially when the weekend approaches, we intentionally ask each other what they had in mind for that space of time, and we share our goals with each other. This helps us solve any conflicting plans, as well as be able to encourage the other person to help them make time for something they really want to do.
6. Ask questions about each other.
We were told in premarital counseling, as well as in almost every marriage book we have read, to always be a student of your spouse. Always be learning. I know Jordan and Daniel found a cool Q&A journal they are doing together. For Eric and I, we have questions printed onto pieces of paper that I keep in a little zippered pouch in my purse, and we can randomly pull out questions while we are at dinner or on a road trip or whenever. Some are serious, some are funny, and they help us continually find out new things about each other, or discuss topics that we don't always think to talk about.
7. Find things to do together other than movies and going out to dinner.
It's easy for us to get in that rut, especially in the winter when it's cold outside, but one thing we do is make a bucket list of things we want to do during different seasons or times of the year. It's fun to cross things off our bucket list, and it provides some help for planning dates. For instance, we had some date plans fall through at the last minute in December, so I went to our Christmas bucket list and saw that we hadn't built gingerbread houses yet. We went to the store with a set, small budget and bought candy and graham crackers and frosting, then went home and put on Christmas music and built a gingerbread house together. Then we had to defend it from the dog, who was licking his lips the entire time we were working on it.
8. Keep track of what God has done for you.
In Joshua 4, God tells the Israelites to build a memorial of rocks taken from the Jordan River after He stopped the water's flow so that they could cross. He tells them that it will be a sign among the people, and when their children ask what the stones mean, they will have a chance to tell the story. In the two years that we have been married, God has done some incredible things. Some are as small as our kitchen table (which, was a big deal at the time, since we had previously been eating dinner on our rocking love seat and trying not to spill), and some are as big as Eric finding a job after a few months of unemployment. But we have them all written down in a little booklet, which we can look back through when we are discouraged to remember how God has shown up in the past and to remind us of His faithfulness.
9. Spend intentional time together during the week.
Between our jobs, and church events, and parties (and one day, kids), most of our intentional time happens on the weekends. Date night is Friday night, and during the week we can easily find ourselves brain-fried from the day, or too busy to even get one-on-one time. We started a habit of a Tuesday morning coffee date. The day of the week sometimes changes, but we get up a little earlier than normal and go to a coffee shop to have a mini-date before work one morning. This gives us a touch point during the week to know how the other person is really doing, and it's a fun way to start our day. Some of our best conversations have happened on these mornings, and depending on the time of year, we get to watch the sun rise together.
10. Don't be discouraged that romance is different when you get married.
When we were dating, Eric came up with some pretty amazing dates. However, since being married, it is harder for him to find time to plan and organize those dates - or he will plan them, but the execution will be off. One of us can be in a bad mood. Or sometimes it just feels "off."
We can get discouraged and feel like the romance is gone from our marriage, but it's not. Romance isn't just the fancy and creative dates - it also involves things like Eric surprising me by doing the dishes while I am in the shower (we don't have a dishwasher, so this is a big deal!) or me finding his car in the parking lot at his work and leaving him a note to discover after he gets off work. Once, he knew I was having a crazy day at work, and I wasn't sure that I could even get away for lunch, so he called in to order me a sandwich from my favorite restaurant and had them deliver it to my work, already paid for.
We do still have some pretty incredible dates (I am anxious to see how he will top last year's Valentines Day because it was awesome), but sometimes it's more of the daily things that prove to be the most romantic.
Thank you so much for being so transparent, Sam! Daniel and I have a lot to learn from you two. :)