Someone recently asked me to write a post on marriage. My immediate thought was, “Me? But I’ve never been married. I’m nowhere near marriage. I don’t know the first thing about marriage, including how to have a happy marriage!” But this person said they needed some sunshine in that area of their life, and I feel like God’s given me this job of helping others see sunshine.
Plus, I also thought about Moses, and how he felt totally inadequate for saving the Israelites, but God was like, “Yo Moses, I’m a burning bush. Take off your sandals, and go do what I tell you to do because I AM.” Something like that … So I prayed that God would speak to my heart so that my post on having a happy marriage could speak to this woman or any one else needing some of God’s sunshine.
Even though I have never experienced marriage myself, I have seen a few incredible examples of committed, faithful, loving, and even happy marriage. I am also a huge Karen Kingsbury fan, and many of her books include characters that have strong marriages or struggling marriages that become strong. In one of her books, a character shares 10 secrets to a happy marriage. I breathed in these tips and lessons so that one day I would be prepared in my own marriage. I wrote them down in a special journal so I would never forget.
Because I have never experienced marriage yet, I would like to share Karen’s advice (in bold) because she seems to have a strong marriage and a happy family. I will also share my own commentary, because, well, this is my blog. (Update: This post was written a couple years before I was married, but now as a wife I still agree with these secrets!)
Secrets to a Happy Marriage
1. God has you here to serve one another. Love acted out is serving. This is very general, but I definitely agree with it. Marriage isn’t about yourself. You must be focused on your partner’s needs and wants. It’s difficult to put another above yourself, but that is servant-hood. Love is serving your spouse in whatever way needed.
2. Women need respect and nurturing. Love your wife so she knows you’d lay down your life for her. Continue to date her and admire her. Share a hobby — find something you can do together and have fun. That’s a lot of advice wrapped into #2. Sorry husbands. It’s about sacrifice and serving. She needs to know you still think she’s beautiful after she’s spent all day changing diapers and wiping off little dirty hands and mouths. She needs to feel appreciated for cleaning the toilets and washing your dirty underwear. Romance her even after you are married and have won her heart. And that last part, share a hobby. Marriage can be such a struggle because all of a sudden you have a million things you are responsible for — the house, the bills, the kids, the cars, the pets, the cleaning, the insurance, the finances, and oh, that little thing called love. It’s important to spend time having fun together so all of that stuff above doesn’t become so overwhelming that you forget you like each other — a lot.
3. Laugh often. We went from a really complicated #2 to a really simple #3. Take time to laugh. I think it is so important to laugh at all the mess ups and mishaps and oh no’s. You get lost on the interstate? Laugh with each other about it rather than blaming each other and getting mad. Your daughter just pooped her pants in public? Hilarious. Take those moments that could make you want to cry and instead laugh about them. In the big picture, those moments are not the end of the world. Instead, find the humor in it and enjoy a good snort and knee-slap together.
4. Be patient. Love crumbles quickly under the weight of unmet expectations. I think this is what I will struggle with most. Because I am such a planner, I tend to constantly have expectations about everything. And they are usually too high. Meaning, I get left disappointed. Don’t expect too much from your wife or husband. The best way to do that is to communicate and talk with each other about your expectations. And be patient with them. Whew, that can be a doozy too!
5. Spend more time trying to fix yourself than your spouse. What a wake up call this one is. I feel like everyone struggles with this. We all assume what is wrong is all their fault or something they need to change. We want to fix them, because, well, we are completely fine. We do everything right. We are perfect. Ha! Yeah right. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with our spouse or what they need to change, we need to be looking at the “man in the mirror.” (RIP Michael Jackson) Take a look at yourself and try to fix any possible issues you have that could be harming the marriage. When you focus on bettering yourself, you are ultimately bettering your marriage.
6. Keep short accounts. The Bible says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are angry.” Make it a habit to forgive. For wives, this can be especially difficult. For women in general, married or not, this can be hard. We hold grudges. It’s like sewn into us to be mad for a long time. Even if we say we forgive someone, it can be easy to still hold that wrong over their heads. Once something has been forgiven and worked through, forget it. Don’t bring it up months later during the next fight. That’s completely unfair to the other person. If you have trouble forgiving completely, you need to work that issue out with God.
7. Determine up front that divorce is not an option. I love this one. Boom baby! What’s divorce? That’s what I say. You and your spouse need to decide from the get-go that divorce will never be an option. No matter what issues you go through, what struggles you have or how angry you are at one another, you will promise to work through them and love one another. Love is a choice, so is divorce. And whatever trials you and your spouse go through, it can make the marriage stronger. Or if you let it be an option, it can destroy it.
8. Learn about love languages. Not all people show love or receive it the same way. You want a back rub and your spouse wants a clean kitchen. The love languages are fairly simple: acts of service, time, physical touch, gifts and words of affirmation. Learn them. Love is better received when it’s in the language that person speaks. I cannot tell you how much I love the concept of love languages or how strongly I believe they exist. Once I learned my own love languages and the love languages of some of my loved ones, I understood our relationship so much better. It is so true that people have different ways for showing and receiving love. My top two are tied: Quality Time and Words of Affirmation. Once you understand each other’s, it makes showing love to that person easier and really helps you understand when they are trying to show you love. I encourage you to take the test and find out what your languages are, and then have your spouse take it. There’s also a whole book called The 5 Love Languages if you are interested in learning more.
9. Words of affirmation are a love language for all men. Men need to know they are appreciated. Men need to know they are respected. Men need to know they are attractive. Men need to know they are needed. Men need to know you love them. Tell them. It’s as easy as that. You don’t even have to tell them straight to their face. You can also write them an email, a note, a letter, a card, a Facebook message — nowadays, the list goes on and on.
10. Men are born to be leaders. He cannot lead unless she gives him the confidence to do so. If you love your husband, build him up. Confident men do not seek love outside the home. You must build your husband up so that he knows you see him as the leader and man of the house. He needs respect and confidence, and you are the one to give it to him. Make him feel wanted and needed because you know you do want him and need him. Throw your pride aside, anger means danger and begin to peel so you can show him how you feel. (Like that rhyming? I know, lame. I’m just trying to spice it up, work with me.) Point is, be real with your man. Show him how much you care for him and how much you love his manly beard and smelly armpit hair. Show him you need him around to kill the bugs and mow the lawn, and most importantly to love you — in every sense of the word.
Those are the 10 secrets to a happy marriage thanks to my favorite author. I really hope these help those of you who are married — struggling or strong. What other secrets do you have for a happy marriage?