So, though I'm a little late, I thought I'd join the ladies in the Happy Wives Club and write about the secrets to a happy marriage. Just to clarify, is our marriage perfect? Absolutely not. Are we happy? Yes. It's a journey. Sometimes it's an uphill battle, while other times we glide along in bliss. One thing for sure though, it is NOT a 50/50 type of deal. We each are required to give 100% of ourselves to the other in order to have a fighting chance. Marriage is not always easy, but it is worth it.
Let me just tell you a little bit about our story. Prince Charming and I met when he was a sophomore in college and I was a senior in high school visiting his college for a weekend. Well, we didn't actually meet. I saw him and was mentally drooling while he wouldn't give me the time of day because he was in a relationship. I didn't forget him though. He was the one guy on the entire campus that I remembered. On our way home, I even told my girlfriend, "Wouldn't it be funny if I went back to school there and we ended up meeting and getting married one day?" Well, the next year I became friends with him and the last two weeks of school we started dating. A year and a half later, we were married.
And they lived happily ever after...
Or something like that. No, in actuality marriage has been one of the hardest yet most rewarding journeys in my life (other than parenthood). We've had our ups and downs, highs and lows. Fourteen years, three kids, a mortgage and one of us becoming a student again, it's not all been easy. It's taken a LOT of work....
Did she just say "WORK"?? What? You thought you'd say "I do" and it'd all magically fall into place? You thought it'd be like one of those awesome chick flicks you love to watch? Hmmm??...Not so much. Sorry if that burst your bubble!
We were merely babies when we got married. I was 20 and he was 23. Boy we thought we knew it all. Know anyone like that? Luckily, we met some people who had the foresight to steer us in the right direction. Both of us were screwed up in different ways. We were very insecure people who put too much of our own self worth in the eyes of others. (I still struggle with that occasionally). From probably our third year of marriage on we began to read books. Lots of books! The Five Love Languages, Personality Plus, Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem, Sheet Music, really the list goes on. (I will have a more thorough book list at the end of this post.)A lot of it has to do with understanding your self worth through God's eyes. But ultimately, how can you love someone else when you can't even love yourself? Really. How? So through this journey, I came to realize how special I am in God's eyes. He is the King of kings and I am his daughter, a princess. Anyway, we learned about selfless love and the differences between men and women and how to attempt to meet each other's needs. So, from my on-the-job education as a wife, I am going to impart some of my little nuggets of wisdom to all of you. So, here you go. In no particular order. The secrets to a happy marriage:
1. Hold hands- Yes, hold hands. Something so simple, yet so profound. We've been married 14 years and when we walk anywhere, or even sit in the car, we hold hands. It's something I always saw my parents do and they've been happily in love for the past 35 years. Like, sickeningly in love...ha ha! That little physical connection can make a huge difference, especially if you're upset with one another.
2. Kiss each other hello and goodbye- We have a "30 second rule" in our home. If 30 seconds pass after either of us have given a goodbye kiss before the other has walked out the door, another kiss is required. It should be the last thing one does before leaving the house. Who knows what the future holds, the last thing I know is that I kissed my husband and said "I love you".
3. Say I Love you- Some people (like me) need to hear the words "I love you". It should be the last thing your spouse hears out of your mouth before they leave or hang up the phone. These words should not be held back stingily in fear of over use. I never EVER want my children OR husband to wonder if I love them.
4. Find Out Each Other's Love Language and Personality- My husband and I agree that one of the biggest reasons for arguments are perceptions. "She doesn't love me because she doesn't do FILL IN THE BLANK." "He doesn't love me because he doesn't FILL IN THE BLANK." We have discovered that every person has a different way that they look at life (ie personality traits) and they have different needs that make them feel loved (ie love language) I'd most definitely recommend the books at the end of this post. My love language is mostly Words of Affirmation and quality time. I need my husband to tell me why he loves me and to verbally show me his appreciation, and to be specific. He is Physical Touch. He needs hugs and holding hands but he also needs me to tell him thank you and show him appreciation. Understanding each other and what makes you tick has been the NUMBER 2 MOST IMPORTANT THING to our marriage...bar none.
5. Put Each Other's Needs First- As a result of knowing each other's needs/personalities, then make every effort to put their needs first. Your husband calls and asks you to make him a sandwich and you're in the middle of something, stop what you're doing and put him first. Your wife wants a night out with the girls and you're dog tired and don't feel like flying solo with the kids...put her first and send her off without complaining or making her feel guilty. "Love each other as I have loved you" John 15:12
6. Kiss Passionately- As I said before, my parents are sickeningly "in love". They have been this way since I was a kid... to the point my aunts and uncles used to tease them. They'll kiss each other no matter who's around! Now, my personality doesn't like to do that publicly, but Prince Charming and I find ways often to steal kisses....real kisses. Keep that spice alive baby!
7. Grow- I can't stand when people say "Well, that's just the way I am." Baloney! That may explain why you are the way you are up to this point in life, but what it doesn't explain is why you choose to STAY the way you are. We are ALL capable of changing and growing, but many of us CHOOSE NOT TO. Take a good long look at yourself. Look at yourself through the eyes of your spouse. Do you like what you see? Because honestly, ain't nobody perfect! Me especially! I STILL have a ways to go! But I can tell you one thing, I'm not that stupid little silly 20 year old that he married 14 years ago. That's for dang sure! I swear, each year we find something new about ourselves that we need to change or work on. (THIS IS PROBABLY THE 3RD MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW/DO)
8. Talk to each other and Listen- Find times to talk about your day and the issues that may bother you or make you happy. Be specific in your questions. Rather than "How was your day?" Ask specific questions that show you want more than the daily platitudes. Reminisce about the days of dating and the early years. Enjoy each other's company and make sure you get to know each other daily. Like I said before, I am not the person I was when we said "I do" 14 years ago. We are always changing and growing.
9. Go On Dates With Your Spouse...Yes, you must date your husband or wife. Get all dolled up, get a sitter. Go somewhere with no distractions or somewhere you both enjoy (We enjoy Phillies games during the warmer weather so that's good for us). Be just a man and a woman who love each other and love spending time together. Don't forget to hold hands and kiss!
10. Wives- Respect Your Husband! - I think that this is probably the biggest thing my husband needs. What's funny is that it's even written in the Bible for wives to respect their husbands while husbands are to LOVE their wives. Do your best to watch your 'tone'. That's one of my husband's complaints...my tone of voice. Don't talk down to him, especially in front of others. Show that you respect him and do your best to submit to his authority. Does this mean I have no opinion? Absolutely not! Does this mean he doesn't heed my opinion? No. Like I said, we are a team, but I let him be the head of our household and try my hardest at it...I AM a bit of a control freak. He ultimately answers to God for our family. I know this isn't 21st century thinking, but if you think about it...anything with two heads is considered a monster, right? In all honesty, the biggest thing I submit to is finances. He takes care of the budget and I listen to his decision, whether I like it or not. Sometimes we may have 'discussions' about it, but again, ultimately he makes the decision that is best for us. Other than that, what is there to fight about? Usually finances are the biggest reason for arguments anyway.
11. Be Intimate- Okay, so this one will be short. I know you may be busy, but seriously...make time for your husband. We need that physical connection whether we know it at the time or not. Don't make him wait weeks at a time. That is a NEED that men have. I'm sorry, but it's true. You don't want him finding someone or something else to fill his needs do you? My advice...read Sheet Music by Kevin Lehman or His Needs Her Needs...and you'll "get it".
12. Husbands- Love Your Wife! Seriously, WHY do you think women love chick flicks?? I know, I know, they're not exactly realistic...but the whole reason a woman watches it is because she wants romance. She wants to feel that she is the center of her husband's universe and that he loves everything about her. (he may not always like everything about her, but he loves her, flaws and all) Be spontaneous once in awhile! Buy her flowers for no reason, send her a card (with more than one sentence in it!) Make her feel like a princess. My husband knows I can do things myself. (mostly because I can be a stubborn brat) but that I enjoy having him take care of me. I like for him to open doors for me and jars. I like that he fills my van with gas and does all the 'manly' things. Again, this is in the Bible. Women need to feel loved. Period. Figure out how she feels loved and do your best to fulfill her needs.
13. Be a Team- Alright, so we do not live in the '50s anymore. I'm a working mom who is also in school part-time. The wife shouldn't have to do it all. Find what works with you and be a team. For us, having defined roles is extremely helpful and eliminates a lot of fighting. My prince charming now does all the laundry and even mops the kitchen! He also goes grocery shopping often! (I'm a lucky girl!) My responsibility is the deep cleaning and cooking. He does vacuuming too :) We finally came to realize that I simply cannot do it all. I have too much on my plate, so he helps pick up the slack, and I'm extremely grateful for it. I know, some of you husbands work all day while your wives stay home all day with the kids (I'm so jealous!) Though you may think she should be responsible for ALL the cleaning...let me ask you...spend a Saturday watching your kids and cleaning and tell me how long the house stays clean. It's enough to make you want to pull your hair out...or at least sit on the back porch drinking a glass of wine. ha ha! After-hours for you is after-hours for her. Taking care of kids all day is not easy. Rewarding, yes, exhausting, yes. Be a team in the evenings so you both can relax together much more quickly. Enough chauvinism! Trust me, just like author Kevin Lehman's book says..."Sex Begins in the Kitchen" so it'll only do you favors to do her some favors. Nothin' sexier than a man who helps around the house! Just sayin'!
14. Take care of yourself- Okay you stay at home mommies...this is for you! Trust me, I've been a stay at home mommy at several different occasions. I unfortunately am not as blessed at this time, but I DO feel your pain. It's very hard to be motivated to get yourself dolled up for little kids. However, after reading several books, AND knowing my husband (despite what they 'say' to make you feel better) Husbands are very visual. Period. It makes my husband very happy to come home and see me dressed with make-up and jewelry on. Again, trust me, I have days when I don't have to go to work and I just throw my hair in my mommy pony tail and throw on a t-shirt and jeans and call it a day. I'm not saying once in awhile that's not okay, but I strongly recommend you make sure that before your prince charming comes home, look like you care about what you look like! My husband loves me no matter what I dress like, but let me tell you, he loves when I look nice. I'm not saying get all fancy like you're going out. Just get dressed in something fairly stylish, fix your hair, put your make-up, jewelry and perfume on, and make an effort. Truthfully, I feel like crap when I don't do this. When I DO look decent though, I feel better about my self and more confident. And Men love confident women.
Men, women like when you look nice too...and smell nice. So if you have a messy job, clean yourself up! Don't lay around looking all nasty griming up your furniture. She'll appreciate it.
15. Say I'm Sorry and Forgive-Alright, I know. Humility is hard. REALLY hard. But honestly, a simple "I'm sorry" speaks volumes to lessen tension and anger and hurt feelings. Saying I'm sorry tells your spouse that you care more about them than being right or being stubborn. My husband and I have both had to learn this the hard way. This even works in the rest of the world. Saying I'm sorry is like diffusing a bomb. Just get over yourself and admit when you messed up. But also, be willing to forgive each other. Holding grudges will never do you any favors and will only cause walls to build up making a relationship harder and harder.
16. Compromise- Again, this takes humility. No one should ever feel like their opinion doesn't matter. Make sure that you both are willing to compromise and that no one person is always right. This one may be tough, but is necessary.
17. Laugh and Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously- Make sure you smile and laugh. Did you know, the wife/mother sets the thermostat of the home? If you're happy, everyone else is happy. If you're upset, it affects everyone else. Find ways to laugh. Goof off, act silly. Play around and don't take yourself too seriously. My husband is the biggest goofball. He loves to make jokes (especially "that's what she said" jokes) and play around. I, on the other hand, seem to have a stick up my butt half the time. Thanks goodness he pulls me back so I can laugh and relax. I don't know what I'd do without him. Life always needs a little levity and laughter is good for the soul!
18. God- This is THE NUMBER 1 MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF OUR MARRIAGE. As I said before, we were both screwed up, insecure people. Had we not had God as the center of our lives, I'm telling you right now that we probably wouldn't have made it. We would have called it quits the minute it got difficult and blamed our problems on the other one. Having a relationship with our Creator and knowing how He feels about us and marriage has made ALL the difference. If you don't know Him, I encourage you to find someone who does and ask them to tell you about Him.
So, now you know what has helped us through the years. We've learned SO much and come so far in the past decade and a half. I know it may seem overwhelming to do all of these things. Maybe you do all of them, maybe just one or two. Perhaps you don't do any of these. I would encourage you to just take one or two things and start off small. Maybe it's as simple as fixing yourself up before your husband comes home, or maybe you just grab his/or her hand while walking through the grocery store. Make the effort. If you've ever loved your spouse, you can always get that love back. You just need to make an effort. You need to show AGAPE love. This is LOVE as an ACTION not a feeling. The more you act loving the more you will begin to feel love.
Let me ask you...What has helped YOU have a happy marriage??
Book List Has Helped Us/Me:
Some have links but if you Google the title you should be able to find the others.
The Five Love Languages- Gary Chapman
Personality Plus- Florence Littauer
His Needs Her Needs
Mars and Venus in the Bedroom
Sheet Music- Kevin Lehman
Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem
Sex Begins in the Kitchen- Kevin Lehman
The Princess Within- Serita Jakes
Captivating- Staci Eldredge
Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman- Anne Ortlund
Battlefield of the Mind- Joyce Meyer
The Bait of Satan- John Bevere
The Power of a Praying Wife
Who You are When No One's Looking
Beside Every Good Man- Serita Jakes
The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord- T.D. Jakes
Finding the Hero in Your Husband-
Lord Change Me
The Surrendered Wife
Woman Thou Art Loosed
Do You Think I'm Beautiful?
Wild At Heart- John Eldredge
I know there are more...I just can't think of them right now.
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