My Marriage Top 10's

by 10:16 AM 2 comments
This morning several friends posted an article from the San Francisco Globe called "10 Habits of Happy Couples".  It is an interesting read and makes some great points.  Click here to read the full article. Hubby and I have been married for 12 years this September.  We've almost divorced several times and we're not afraid to admit that it's gotten that bad.  What has saved our marriage nearly every time is a combination of divine intervention and good, old fashioned stubbornness.  I began to wonder, if I had a top 10 list of what I've found can keep a marriage happy or start to heal a broken one, what would it be?  Here's my attempt at that list:


1. A marriage filled with the Holy Spirit is far more fulfilling.
When we eloped, hubby and I were not real Christians.  We would say we were Christian, but we were not disciples of Jesus Christ and there is a huge difference.  Can a marriage work outside of the will of God?  Sometimes, but not very well.  As my husband says, "Square peg. Round hole."  It doesn't ever seem to "fit" the way you thought it would.  It doesn't work as well as you anticipated.  The simplest of things become so much harder.  It's like living your life in a thick sludge that you are constantly struggling to move around in.  You don't get very far and you never get there very fast.  When hubby and I became Christians we started to notice that even though marriage didn't become "easier" our focus had shifted.  The selfish approach we had always known dissolved into a Christ centered approach to things.  We suddenly realized that the sludge was gone and getting to where we wanted to be as a couple was a lot easier and a lot faster.  Engines need oil to run or eventually they will seize.  Marriages need God to run or eventually they will seize.  

2. Do not put your children before your relationship.
I am thankful for a friend who helped me understand this early in my marriage, shortly after our oldest was born.  She explained it so well, I'm just going to share what she told me (or how I remember it at least).  It's easy to let your children become your main priority because they demand so much of your time, focus, and effort; but your marriage came first, they came second.  Eventually, you become so focused on your kids as a couple that you completely forget to work on the relationship with each other.  One day though, your kids will leave home - college, marriage, travel, whatever it may be.  When all your kids are gone and you are just staring at each other, what kind of relationship will you have?  If you never worked on it, you are two strangers with familiar faces.  You don't know who you are anymore as individuals or a couple.  Or will yhou have worked on your relationship?  Still be madly in love with each other, ready to embrace this shift back to "just the two of us"?  That's where I want to be when we are empty-nest-ers.  

3. Divorce was never an option.
I cannot emphasize this enough. When you got married, did you really feel like you were together until you couldn't stand it anymore or did you approach this thing as together forever?  With a few exceptions, almost everyone goes into marriage with the idea of forever, but at some point they become so bitter that divorce becomes an option.  It was the wrong person, wrong time, too much water under the bridge, etc.  The truth is that marriage is a choice.  Sometimes you have to wake up in the morning and decide to continue to be in love with the person you married.  Marriage does not come naturally to us for a variety of reasons (but that's another post all together).  We have to work at it, choose to maintain it, and work to get through it.  Set it up from the beginning that divorce is not an option and mean it.  Hubby and I joke, "divorce is not an option, I'd kill him/her first."  Although he says, "divorce is not an option, she'll kill me first."  LOL  

4. Have "safe" friends.
This one may seem strange but go with me here.  All of us probably have a person (or many people, I don't know) that you go to when you have a problem/concern, need advice, need perspective.  Sometimes though, the people we turn to are not wise counsel.  The "safe" friends are people who can be objective and you will listen to because you trust and respect them.  If they tell you that you've made a mistake, you need to be willing/able to listen to them and make decisions based on that feedback.  They don't get angry for you or lash out for you, but they help you see the situation for what it is and help you identify what to do next.  If your friends promote walking away rather than fixing what's broken - they're probably not safe friends.  This is where having a community of Christian friends really comes in handy!  See #1.  By the way - FACEBOOK POSTS ARE NEVER SAFE!  EVER.   If you message a safe friend, great; but don't air your marital problems all over social media. 

5. When things are at their worst, you be the difference.
I know two things about marriage for sure: (1) things never stay the same and (2) husbands and wives antagonize each other like boss-level experts.   You know that phrase "Be the change you want to see in others"?  Yeah, be that.  If you are fighting, you need to stop the cycle and use kind words.  You can be the one who does something meaningful.  Change the direction and environment yourself, don't wait for them to do it.  Everybody talks about the "love dare", and it works because changes in YOUR behavior are the focus.  You have to be the difference.  Even though you feel angry, wronged, and hurt; you have to be willing to initiate the change.  Even if you don't get the response you are looking for in return.  

6. The blame game will never get you anywhere but mad.
We learned this one during our myriad of military training operations and deployments.  One consistent difference we noticed from other couples was we didn't argue about who had it worse or who's job was harder.  The fact of the matter is it's hard if you are the one being sent out or the one left behind - each job is incredibly difficult and challenging in it's own way.  You can't play the blame game or determine that you have it harder.  The truth is, each of us has a tough role in a marriage to fulfill.  Respect that about your partner and don't decide yours is harder.  You have no idea how hard it is to love you sometimes!  Just think about it - how hard is it to love your significant other sometimes? You don't think it's hard for them like that too?  Yeah, it is.  Maybe harder, but they chose you.  Remember that.

7. Respect and understand your significant other's triggers.
Knowing and loving so many people with PTSD makes this one a lot clearer for me than it might for you.  Each of us as a trigger - that thing that immediately sets me off or puts me in a bad mood. For example, if I am hungry or tired, forget about it!  I'm not going to be any use to you at all until those needs are met.  One that is new for me is if it gets too loud, I get a terrible headache and get very ill.  Those are my triggers and not only do I have to be aware of them, so does my husband.  On the flip side, my husband has triggers.  Crowds are a big one for him, he gets agitated and aggressive.  We try to avoid them, but when we can't I do the best I can to counter those feelings for him.  I can rub his back, re-direct his attention, try to downplay the size of the crowd or the level of noise.  Sometimes, all I can do is find an escape plan and make it happen.  If you know something will trigger your significant other, find a way to avoid it, deal with it, or escape from it because once that switch is flipped, your other half cannot do it for themselves and will lash out sending you back to #5 and #6.

8. Be proactive, not reactive.
This one is a little redundant, but I wanted to be sure I made it clear.  A reactive marriage is one where your behavior is based on what your significant other does and they behave based on what you have done.  If you are already in a negative cycle, you are just going to continue to swirl the bowl until you finally decide to just let everything go down the drain.  A proactive person should recognize the cause (their husband/wife is tired, depressed, anxious, etc.) and respond accordingly.  Is your husband upset because something is stressing him out at work?  Plan a quiet evening of movies or games, make a favorite meal, treat him to a massage - give him a place to relax and let go of the stress even when he comes home fuming and stomping around.  It's not personal, he's just unloading.   The opposite is true, maybe your wife is feeling overwhelmed and tired.  Do something meaningful - write her a note, buy her a "Just because" gift, get a baby sitter; whatever helps her counteract what she's going through.  And never underestimate the power of a conversation, sometimes just talking about it makes all the difference in the world.

9. Say "I love you", no matter how mad you are.
Sometimes we go to bed angry; we have to give each other time to cool down before we can rationally talk things through.  The difference is that I will always grab his hand and tell him that I love him even when I'm angry.  My Mother has always told me that we always hurt the ones we love the most.  Why?  Because we can, and it's so easy because we know exactly how to push those buttons.  So take a moment, step outside of your current situation and remind that person that you love them and you aren't going anywhere, even if you aren't currently getting along. This also is part of #5.

10.  Fight naked.  
My favorite marital advice ever!  Here is where it came from.  Before deployments, emotions understandably run very high.  There is a fear of so many things, including your loved one not coming back home.  It's easy to get caught up in those feelings and fight like cats and dogs, and for marriages to fall apart.  One thing I told people was when they fought like that they should fight naked.  In the middle of yelling at each other, just start stripping down. I don't care what you're fighting about - it throws off the momentum of the argument completely and you get distracted. Plus you can get to the making up a whole lot easier.  And let's face it, fellas you are visual creatures.  As hubby put it in his best man speech for a friend "He will completely lose focus, She wins, and you can fast forward to the making up."  It works - test me on this!  


What would you add to the list?

Jodi @ God Still Speaks

Head Writer

Boy mom of three. Married to the same man since 2002. Former working mom turned stay-at-home mom. I love my faith, family, and coffee.

2 comments:

  1. I absolutely agree with your list! The marriage has to come first, and you have to respect each other's differences. It can be hard to "be the difference," especially when you're both feeling in the right, but you have to decide if your issue is really important enough to go to bed angry. Great tips!

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  2. Wow. Number 7. Knowing each others triggers is so true. Be sensitive to each others weaknesses makes you both stronger

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Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests to made known to God. — Philippians 4:6