“And they lived happily ever after…” That phrase summarizes quite effectively what everyone, if they were completely honest, hopes to one day be said about their marriage. In so many marriage relationships, happiness seems to have divulged into ‘just getting by’ or ‘NOT fighting’. I’m so blessed that in my marriage that’s not the case.
“I’m so happy with you.” I find myself saying that to my husband at least once a week – sometimes in response to an extra-considerate gesture, and sometimes for no reason at all. But regardless of the reason I have in the moment, I say it because I want him to know. I want to make sure he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that our love can breach the chaos and even in the midst of all the craziness of life, I am happy and fulfilled in our relationship. Are you?
After writing 5 Words That Changed My Marriage and reading some of the responses I got, I realized that so many couples that would fall under the ‘happily married’ category really aren’t happily married. There are a million reasons why this could be, and I only have five things to try to combat it (no, I’m not fixated with the number five, it’s just a really good number of bullet points for a blog post. :)), but as in so many things in life, as you start chipping away at little ‘fixable’ problems, the bigger ones come to light and begin working themselves out.
I know this sounds obvious, but it’s so easy to fall in a communication rut and not even know you’re there until it’s too late to get out. My husband and I considered ourselves fairly good communicators until we got married. It’s not easy, but it’s vital to enjoying life together. Talk about everything – the big things and the little things. Make your conversations a priority. It’s hard, especially with little kiddos, to speak two complete sentences to each other sometimes, but fight through it to show your spouse that it’s a priority to you. Always practice good listening – no one wants to talk to someone that doesn’t want to listen. And, when necessary, resort to what my husband refers to as ‘bullet point talking’: just the basic, absolutely necessary information. However you find yourself needing to do it in the moment,the important thing is to do it.
Share everything. Your secrets. Your fears. Your M&M’s. Sharing invites closeness, intimacy and comradery. It breaks down walls, extends trust, and invites reciprocation. It might be just as hard as it used to be when you found yourself being selfish with your toys as a kid, but it’s well worth it and a very effective way to tighten up your relationship with your spouse.
- Laugh Together
I know, it sounds lame, but this is so important. How do you expect to be happy together if you can’t have fun together? And I’m NOT talking about sitting in separate recliners and watching a comedy. Remember how much fun you used to have when you were dating? Or even when you were first married without kids? When there was a little thing called ‘extra time‘ that enabled you to go on long walks, inspired you to laugh at his lame jokes, and made everything in your world seem fun and amusing because you were doing it together? Yes, that. Find ways to ‘go there’ when you’re together. Bring up old memories and make new ones – but make ‘being happy’ together a priority.
- Make Time
This one is perhaps the most important: time. Time for the Lord; time for yourself; time for each other. It’s nearly impossible in my world right now, but I fight every day for it because I know how crucial it is to a healthy, happy relationship. Time is the currency of relationships. It’s the thing that increases the ‘value’ or makes it depreciate. You can make ‘deposits’ into your relationship by investing time. Without a series of deposits to create a nice little nest egg, when you go to make a withdrawal (confrontation, argument or disagreement, or another strain on your relationship), the funds just aren’t there. Time is perhaps the most valuable thing we have to give and receive, so when you invest it in each other it goes a long way, but when you don’t it directly effects your relationship. The same is true with our relationships with God, our kids, and our friends.
- Choose Joy
We all have the power to choose to be joyful in all circumstances. The choices we make throughout the day usually dictate how happy we are in our relationships. If you’re struggling with negativity, he could bring home a dozen roses for no reason at all and you would still find yourself grumbling about something. On the other hand, he could come home in a form resembling a bear who’s hibernation has just been interrupted by an airstrike and your choice to love him, support him and have a positive attitude could turn the whole thing around. There are so many potentially hazardous circumstances that can be extinguished if we choose joy, patience, love, or selflessness. I am constantly reminding our 4-year-old as she’s mid-sentence/action to ‘make a good choice’. We’ve taught her that the power is in her hands: she has the choice to have a good day or a bad day, to have an enjoyable outcome or a less than desirable one, all based on the choices she makes. The same is true for us.
One other resource that changed our perspective on marriage is Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages. It opened our eyes to so many different ways to improve the quality of our relationship and to love each other better, the way we were created to give and receive love. It’s an excellent read! If you haven’t read it, visit the website at 5lovelanguages.com.
Here’s to your ‘happily ever after’ – may you find it sweeter than you ever dreamed it could be.