23 October 2015

five things i have learned in marriage

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the other day i was talking with a friend who is struggling with making a decision about marriage. she is (so understandably!) a bit paralyzed by worry about the unknown and unknowable details of an extremely long-term future with someone. i shared my belief that yes, marriage can be super hard in many ways, but also that it can be genuinely awesome. it’s a huuuuge leap of faith that is thrilling and ennobling.

i told this friend that one benefit, among others, that i have experienced in marriage is the powerful refining that comes from sharing your life completely with another human being that is different than you. i have learned so many things about myself and ways i need and want to be better, and about humanity generally, in the last year – things i fundamentally could not have learned if i wasn’t married to the boy. that process, which is ongoing, can be painful but also really beautiful.

indeed, ian has taught me so much about awareness, about discerning and choosing what really matters, about economics and politics and sports, about self-control and self-reliance, about faith, and most poignantly about myself and human relationships. this morning i made a list of (perhaps the top) five things i have learned so far in marriage in that last category. i find these lessons tremendously valuable. i felt it worthwhile to share in case they ring valuable to others.

so here’s a countdown…!

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5. my ability to be rational and productive markedly decreases after 10pm.
the old adage about never going to bed upset at/about your spouse is basically total crap to me. i’ve found that when i/we shut down difficult conversations or thoughts once it gets past bedtime, things are always better – clearer and calmer – in the morning. i think i can apply this to other relationships and responsibilities in my life. taking a break, stepping away, clearing your mind is very often a really good idea.

4. it is important to act rather than react. i have learned a lot about my immature impulses in marriage. recognizing these for what they are, and controlling them, is really powerful in building relationships and finding wisdom rather than resentment in challenges. when i take the time to control myself and be slow and measured in how i respond to situations, there is so much more capacity for peace, joy and love. relaxing and letting things go is choosing to act rather than react.

3. there is great power in listening and seeking to understand.
i have discovered in sharing my life completely with someone else that the way that i process emotions and the world around me isn’t always the norm and isn’t always the best. the effort that it takes to separate myself from my own distinct and real experience and try to understand another’s is great but also so worthwhile. when i get out of my own head and really listen, the ensuing feeling of being understood that is evoked can heal and expand hearts.

2. the best way to make changes in a relationship is to focus on changing myself.
in specific and general challenges, it is so, so easy to place blame and need for change on another person – and to feel conversely that others are doing the same to us. taking responsibility, accepting blame, apologizing, and summoning enough humility to actively change ourselves allows for real and meaningful improvements on both sides of the relationship to follow.

1. i am in charge of my happiness. (my spouse is not.)
to me, marriage is about totally intertwining lives and hearts, and about developing a type of unity that at its peak is complete oneness. but i think i got ahead of myself on unity in marriage – subconsciously i expected that my sense of self would be regulated in some ways by my marriage and that my happiness would be irrevocably interwoven with another’s. this was wrong. yes, our choices and our moods affect each other in marriage, but the reality is that no one else is actually responsible for my emotions – only me. therefore, i should not require or demand or expect anything of another, including and especially my spouse. in some weird but beautiful way, when we let go and compel less, we are actually able to grab on and receive more.

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this scripture is our mantra. i love it:
charity {true love} suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

true love is awesome.

23 comments :

  1. I feel the same way. The first year was harder for us for many of the reasons it was for you two (as I can deduce from your posts). And because I was pregnant...yeesh. But I have to recommend the most empowering marriage book I've ever read. It completely echoes, and adds on to, everything you just wrote. It's by an lads author Ramona zabriskie and is called "Wife for Life" I seriously cannot recommend it enough! I feel from reading your blog I have a small grasp of who you are, and I feel like you and I are similar in many ways ie- intense "feelers" who can sometimes react instead of act ;) this book has changed my life and marriage (along with many amazing conference talks and scriptures). Just thought I'd share the love.:)

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  2. First, gorgeous gorgeous wedding pics! Second, good for you for figuring these things out! It took me 7 years of marriage to realize numbers 1 and 2. :) And regarding #5 -- we have an unspoken rule that serious/difficult conversations do not happen within an hour of bedtime (if we can avoid it). And if we break that rule, and the "discussion" isn't going well, we either table it til the morning (I completely agree - everything seems better in the light of day) or talk it through if it seems one or both of us won't be able to sleep until we've reached some kind of resolution.

    Your reflections called to mind this excerpt of a poem by Khalil Gibran:
    You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
    You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
    Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
    But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
    And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
    Love one another but make not a bond of love:
    Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

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    1. thank you so much for sharing this! i absolutely looooove this poem!

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  3. Spot on. Beautiful insight. You have discovered 5 marriage gems that a lot of couples take years if not decades to figure out. Good for you!

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  4. Yes to #1 especially! No matter how interconnected our lived become we are each adults responsible for our how behavior and happiness. Seems so obvious but after 13 years of marriage it's one I still need to remind myself.

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  5. Wow...I got married a few weeks before you and YES to everything on this list!!!

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  6. I feel the same way about #5. It's taken us a long time to realize, together, that I often need more than an hour or few to cool down. We've come to an understanding that I just have to tell him I need more time and we're done until I can calmly explain my frustrations and feelings.

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    1. heather, we often reflect on how amazed we are that you guys told us you've had about two big fights in your marriage! :) it's crazy how different every relationship can be, but yet we learn some of the same really important lessons.

      we love and miss you guys!

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  7. Those same verses from 1 Corinthians were a guiding force for me my first year of marriage. Now celebrating 10 years, I am so happy that we stuck with it!!

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  8. This post could not have come at a better time for me, I am currently in a Valley of my marriage and this post spoke directly to my heart. I appreciate the way you have tied it all into a "pretty bow" - as these are reminders I need daily. It has taken me a very long time to truly understand #1, but once you get there it is a bright new World! Thank you!

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  9. I truly love hearing your thoughts on marriage - they bring SUCH a comfort to me as a newlywed going thru many of the same things. Thank you!

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  10. #5!! And I have always been so thankful to have a mom who taught me, both in word and action, #1. Great list!

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  11. That is a great list. I have totally found the same thing with #5. It took me a while to work it out because we are often taught the opposite, but I have found I am not rational past my bed time or even close to it. Neither of us are. So when we leave it we often find that we have made it into something that it never was, or that's is easier to work out with clear heads and less emotion.
    I really appreciate your honesty and your point of view. I love that you are unashamedly you. That's exactly who you should be! Thanks for sharing. Your honest insight makes me happy and want to enjoy the now of my life more.

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  12. Thoughtful post (I've been married for coming up on 33 years!). It took us many years to adopt the rule of "don't talk about anything important after 9 pm". We had believed that nonsense of don't go to bed angry and it created so many problems! There's always better perspective in the morning! What would Ian say are the 5 things he's learned? A book we found very helpful was Love and Respect. Best wishes for your next year of marriage.

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    1. thanks for the book tip and the kind words! i would love for ian to do a guest post about what he has learned!! thanks for the idea.

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    2. I would also love a guest post from Ian! I adore your blog, all that you share with us as readers, and your point of view. So appreciative for your honesty and perspective.

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  13. Try voicing detailed appreciation for your spouse at least 3 times EVERY day. Things like "I so appreciate when you drop what you are reading and focus on me when I have something I need to share with you." or "I really love how when you walk in the room.. I get a warm glow in my chest.... just to see your smiling face." Try doing this for at least a week. Look for what they are doing RIGHT at least 3 times a day. (and saying "Thanks for taking out the garbage" is good.. but does not count. They must be 3 DETAILED specific things they did RIGHT) Then watch how you start to JUST see all the GREAT things they do every day. It is tough to be mad at your mate when all you focus on is the GOOD things and discuss "Course corrections" with all the good things about them in mind. Guess what? You will experience a joyful connection daily. Kindness is a choice.

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    1. this is an awesome idea that i am going to try out. thank you!!

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    2. How did it go Charity? I started doing this 6 years ago..and it was such a wonderful result..I continue to do so every day. It is just habit now. Looking at my husband with total gratitude and looking for what he does RIGHT every day...and then expressing it to him. I didn't have to tell him what I was doing and he started doing it back to me unconsciously. The energy and bond has total changed in our relationship. What felt like "work" to Love each other has been replaced with and exciting joy to be together. As I wrote before... it is nearly impossible to get mad at someone when all you focus on is what they are doing RIGHT. Try it for a month and see what happens! (then... keep doing it!)

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  14. Thank you so much for these very helpful tips! But, more importantly, thank you for sharing. This blog is pretty amazing :) I'm not married but will def. keep them in mind when I do embark on that adventure. On a side note, I feel like our generation is lucky to have access to advice and information through bloggers like yourself since it allows us to combine that with the knowledge gained from our parents and their experiences.

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  15. I'm surprised how many people feel the same about #5, because this is something my husband and I had to figure out after many painful fights that wouldn't stop or have any closure. That is until the next morning when we both had become more polite and calm again.

    As for #2: I don't want to read too much into your wording, so I'm just voicing my opinion concerning the word "change". I agree that for a growing relationship one needs to work together and discuss issues that have an influence on your marriage. I'm not so keen on the word "change" however. This is something I have learnt in my relationship. I try to avoid to change my husband and myself, because we are the people that we fell in love with after all. This doesn't mean that we will stay the same all the years. I prefer the word "develop" over "change", because it still includes the persons we were. Does that make sense?

    #1: Not so much an opinion on your #1, but rather on the term "complete oneness". I believe that my husband and I are a type of unity. We have actually chosen "So that they are no longer two, but one flesh." as our wedding verse. But I personally have learnt that it's not about oneness. I still learn this constantly as I have to remind myself that it's okay to have a different taste from time to time. Just a little example: We both would love to be together all the time, but it probably is okay that my husband doesn't like to go swimming (as weird as that is!) and that I find someone else for it.

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