How to Stay Married 21 Years
The Handy Man woke me this morning at 5am. "We should be together today," he said between kisses. I agreed. He left for work and I laid awake. This is what you do when you have a big family and your anniversary is a couple weeks before Christmas.
I'll spend my day going to the laundromat and working on my book. Tonight, we'll have pizza with the kids and watch a movie on TV. (Don't worry, we'll get a real celebration after Christmas.)
As I curled up under my blanket, I thought about the last 21 years and what we have to show for it. No big house, fancy car or even a date to mark the day. What we do have is eight beautiful, healthy children who aren't bothered by things like saying 'I love you' to us and each other. We have more memories than I can count. And, the best thing? We're more in love than ever. We don't get those butterflies anymore, instead we have a familiar, comforting feeling of knowing that this person is there for us and doesn't want to be anywhere else.
In a world where divorce is rampant, I guess we've learned a few things about how to make a marriage last. When my children are getting ready to enter into their own marriages, these are the things I'll tell them.
1- Spend time together.
The man who performed our marriage gave us this sage advice. And, while it isn't reasonable to do everything together, we try to spend as much time as we can. The Handy Man introduced me to action movies and I've taken him to plays and dance performances. Even if it's just watching TV, we do it side by side.
With your spouse- because he's probably trying his best.
With yourself- because the only one who expects you to be perfect is you.
With life- the stage you're in may seem impossibly hard, but it will pass. (Quickly!) The time of having babies/toddlers when you get no sleep and never get to go out on dates won't last forever. Each stage is a growing time and each one has its own rewards.
3- Be forgiving.
None of us is perfect. He's going to make mistakes and so are you. Holding a grudge won't make either of you feel better. Forgive quickly and often.
4-Go to bed angry.
I know, this goes against what you always hear. Thing is, sometimes disagreements can't be resolved quickly. Sometimes what you need is to cool down. Go to bed. Get some sleep. The morning light can bring a calmer spirit and new perspective.
I was going to apologize to my mom (and my kids who read this) for mentioning it, but changed my mind. I'm married, we have sex. That isn't a surprise. And, the truth is, sex in marriage is important. The physical intimacy bonds you together. And, there's strength in knowing that this is something that you only share with each other. And, hey, it's fun.
That would be Home Displays of Affection. Let your kids see you hug and kiss. Yeah, they might cringe and say, "Gross!", but they'll grow up knowing their parents love each other. Also, hold hands. This has become such a habit with us that when we walk together, my hand automatically reaches out for his. We hold hands in church, in the car and at home.
I heard a quote in college that has always stayed with me- 'You love those you serve, You serve those you love.' Doing things, even little things, for each other will act like cement. Not the kind you make boots out of, the kind that binds you together.
7- Say It.
I love you. I love you. I love you. Do you ever get tired of that?
Give compliments. Tell him how hot he is. The Handy Man has told me I take his breath away. Think that didn't get him some love? Think again.
Say thank you. Say I'm sorry. And then say I love you some more.
There it is. The reasons we've made it this far. Money may be tight, but our cup of blessings and love runneth over.