So...25 years ago today, on a rainy Colorado afternoon, two very young and hopeful people got married.
Today, the same two people, a little older (but still hopeful!) went out to lunch and decided to write down what we think we have figured out...so far...about this marriage thing.
[Disclaimer: we do not do everything on this list 100% of the time. Some of this we are just now realizing after all these years! Lots of figuring out what works and what doesn't. ALSO: we recognize that some of this applies to OUR marriage. We don't know if it applies to YOUR marriage. Maybe your marriage could benefit from considering some of what we have to share. Maybe not. Every marriage is as unique as the two people in it, and only the two people in it can decide what their marriage will be and how to create that.]
1. Only one person can be crazy at a time.
We cannot stress this enough. You get to take turns, but somebody has to choose sanity when somebody else hops on the crazy train. When we talked about this idea, The Hubby said: "And it is awesome how that seems to work out all the time for us." He's right. It is almost like a switch kicks on and we are able to know when it's time for us to be the voice of reason, or when it's our turn to lose it, knowing that our partner will hold it together.
2) Laugh at life together.
There's a line in an old movie (Mr. Mom) where Michael Keaton says, "Never lose your sense of humor! It's critical!" There are times when you need to laugh your way through something...and times like that come along a LOT in 25 years. There have been times when I have been at my darkest, and Edward will make me laugh and then I know that no matter what, it is going to be okay. There is such comfort in going through a tough time and knowing he can still make me smile. I know I have returned the favor to him over the years, and it bonds you together as a couple.
3) Two heads are better than one.
In almost every way, things end up better when we make a plan together, rather than alone. I think all of our home improvement projects around the house are a testament to this. I have an idea, and as I bring that idea to my husband, he offers insight and suggestions and "what if we..." and the finished product is far better than if I had just done it the way that I thought it should be done. I do the same for him when he has dreams and plans about career or education or whatever. Having a trusted friend to run things by is one of the sweetest gifts of marriage, and we are stronger together than we could ever be alone.
4) You can't forget about each other.
The Hubby put it this way, and I love it. What he meant was: you can't ever stop seeing each other, loving each other, watching out for each other and being each other's friend. Life can and will get in the way if you let it. You have to remember that this is the single most important relationship you will ever be in, outside of your relationship with God, and you cannot neglect it. Even if you feel like you are neglecting it for good things.
5) Never line up your troubles.
In 25 years we have had our share of challenges. We have had broken hearts and worn out spirits from time to time. One thing we have figured out is that it is never a good idea to "line up your troubles." One day, many years ago, Ed came home and just looked like he had battled the day and the day had kicked his butt. I asked him what was going on, and he started to list off all the things that were causing us pain at that particular time. I immediately started laughing (again with the humor) and said, "Well, there's your problem! You never, ever line up your troubles like that...that is WAY too overwhelming! Sometimes you just have to put your head down and get through it without thinking too much."
6) Go ahead and go to bed angry.
Sometimes you are tired and stuck in the fight and you just need to find neutral corners and come back later. We are not saying run away, we are not saying ignore it and never come back to talk...what we are saying is that if you never go to bed angry, then here is what you have: two angry people, up late, exhausted, trying to work out emotional things. That's just not smart. Call a truce. It will all look different in the morning.
7) Play to your strengths.
When we got married in the temple (about 3 years after we were married civilly) we got great advice from the sealer. He told us to figure out what each of us is good at, and then let the strong person take the lead in those things, and also teach the other one as they go. There are things I am better at, and the same is true for my husband. It is just plain silly to have me take the lead in something when I am not good at it, just so I can prove something or feel in charge. That doesn't serve our best interests as a couple.
8) Learn with each other about how to parent your children.
This goes along with playing to your strengths. We have 7 children, and while they are similar in some ways, they are also quite different and they need to be parented with that in mind. Some of our children we understand better than others. It is a huge asset when you can listen to your partner when they just have a better "feel" for one of your children, and how to best help them. No one parent has all the answers on how to best parent every child.
9) To men, from the hubby: Trust your wife's instincts.
Learn to listen to the feelings, thoughts, and ideas that your wife has and trust her when she says she "just knows" something.
10) To women, from the wife (me): Get over yourself and how you feel about your body.
If you are lucky enough to have a husband who wants to get close to you physically...don't push him away because you are tired or you feel annoyed. It is a gift to have a man that knows you very, very well and is still somehow attracted to you. It not only can bring the two of you together, it can teach you something about accepting yourself.
11) You don't have to agree on everything.
As long as the big, life changing things are on the same page. And please note: most things are NOT big and life changing, they are just preference and personality.
12) Help each other succeed.
We can go a long way to creating the marriage we want if we give each other chances to succeed at it. Just coming right out and asking for what you want is a good strategy, rather than falling into the "if you loved me then you'd know" trap. If I don't tell my husband what I want, I am setting him up to fail. Same goes for him. It has been my experience that if you are married to a decent person, and you tell them that you want something, and the "something" you want is reasonable, then they will do it. Problem solved.
13) Remember that you are the center of your children's universe for a very short time.
Always try to make your marriage a priority. This is SO hard for moms of little ones, but it is really important. Have date nights. Or afternoons. Or date "hour after the kids finally go to sleep and before we drop dead." Your marriage started before the children came, and if you are lucky, it will last for much much longer than after the children leave. Nurture it.
14) Plans change, and that's okay.
One of the things that happens in life is that sometimes, things don't work out the way we planned. Or hoped. Or dreamed. It really is okay, as long as you remember that a different plan or a different hope or a different dream is still a plan, hope, or dream. And it is still just as valid. You may not end up where you thought you would, but if you are there--still together, still liking each other--that's a win.
15) It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.
This is a quote from a great blogger that I love (The Nester), and it goes along with the last one. Your marriage doesn't have to be perfect to be a good marriage. It doesn't have to look like a romantic comedy or an epic love story to be of value. Yes, you will let each other down. Yes, you will say and do thoughtless things over the years...but that doesn't mean that you don't still have something beautiful. I think about pictures of people that are scarred and worn and wrinkled and aged...they are beautiful because life has made it's mark and they reflect that. Marriages that last a long time can be beautiful because the two people in it have the battle scars and they reflect them because they fought those battles and came out of it wiser and stronger.
16) You don't have to like all the things your partner likes, as long as you can appreciate them.
This blog post is the perfect example of this. My husband abhors the internet and blogs and all things like unto it. However, he gamely worked on this list with me because he knows that as much as he hates the internet, I love it. I do the same thing for him, with Duck Dynasty and the band KISS.
17) There may be "divorced" times.
I remember reading a marriage book a jillion years ago that said this. And we believe it to be true for many marriages. There will be times when you feel disconnected. There may be times when you don't know how to talk about anything real. There may be times when you feel like glorified roommates. If it happens, that doesn't mean that your marriage is over. It might mean that your marriage needs to be reborn and re-created, because something is not working. You can find each other again. We promise.
18) Respect each other's efforts to show love.
Call it love language, call it Mars and Venus, call it whatever you want. Sometimes we just don't communicate or love each other in the "right" way according to our partner. If you can figure out how your partner shows their love for you, you can come to appreciate and respect it, even if it isn't the way that might be your first choice. My husband loves me with service. He hears me complain of a headache and brings me Tylenol and water. He sees me get super excited about projects around the house and he somehow finds the time and energy to do them for me. My first choice might be to have flowery and romantic words from my man, but that doesn't make how he shows his love for me any less powerful or important. Don't ignore the love that is coming your way just because it isn't dressed up the way you imagine it.
19) Batten down the hatches and wait out the storm.
A dear woman, Marjorie Hinckley, once said, "There are years in our lives that we would not wish to live over again." Kids have issues, jobs come and go, health problems blindside you...some years are just tough. We have come to learn that you just have to secure the ship by doing the things that you know will help you, and then ride it out. The storm will pass.
20) Say thank you.
For everything. Big and small. Often.
21) Give the gift of loving them where they are.
Since we all have weaknesses and faults, chances are at some point in your marriage, you are going to wish that your partner would change. And they will wish the same of you. The only real and lasting change that we have ever seen with each other has been when we have been kind enough to just love the person where they are, as they are, and worked on ourselves rather than trying to make "fixing" them our project. Control and improve who you can: yourself. People who feel loved right where they are feel safe. And people who feel safe feel the room that is needed to change and become their best selves.
22) Remember that you are teaching your children what marriage looks like.
Husbands, your sons are watching you for how to treat the girl they fall in love with. Wives, your daughters are watching how you treat your husband, to figure out how to be a wife. Please don't let this scare you too much. You are going to make mistakes and you are going to be a bad example sometimes. They will learn from how you handle that, too.
23) Have a vision for your marriage that goes beyond today.
We can see why people end marriages. If you aren't happy, if you feel disconnected, and your marriage is just about today, or even this month or this year, then why wouldn't you end it and move on? We have a vision for our marriage that goes beyond this life. It goes beyond just us. We believe that we have made promises not just to each other and to our children, but to our God...and that is heavy stuff. But knowing that turns every obstacle and situation into a stepping stone and learning experience, rather than just a bunch of things that just happen. It also gives us strength beyond our own. If God is for us, who can be against us? And we know that God wants our marriage to succeed.
24) Be generous.
With your forgiveness. With your kindness. With your service for each other. With your praise. Give more than is deserved, because you will never keep accurate score and the truth is that you shouldn't ever try.
25) Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, what do we do? We swim, swim, swim.
This is a favorite quote of mine, and Ed thinks we should end with this. (okay, babe.) Whatever is going on, whatever is coming your way--both individually and as couple--just stay in there. Don't give up. Keep at it. Good times will come and go and so will the bad. Love each other enough to keep swimming.