How To Reach Another Year of Marriage

Standard

Next week, we will be celebrating 17 years of marriage. With so many marriages falling apart around me, I can’t help but wonder why mine is still going strong. The fact is, every couple has challenges. There will be good times, difficult times and those times that will certainly make or break you as a couple. There will be a flicker, moments when the spark you initially felt is very much alive and moments you can’t stand being in the same room. But why do some couples make it and other couples don’t?
If I had to pick just one determining factor that ultimately leads to the success of marriage, it would be commitment. Not the kind of commitment that keeps one faithful but rather a stronger commitment to the relationship and less commitment to self. It’s obvious that people have become very selfish. They want it all. The trick is wanting the relationship to work more than having a hot body or a successful career. It’s purposely choosing the relationship over a hobby or friends or anything else that can drive a wedge in between. Does that mean you shouldn’t go to the gym or take pride in your job? Does it mean you should give up your friends for the sake of your spouse? Of course it doesn’t. It just means that your main priority has got to be your relationship in a time of record divorce and infidelity. The key is putting the majority of time into your spouse and relationship and less time into the passions that drive you apart. When your time and focus is greater on any one thing more than it is your relationship, you can be sure the death of your relationship will soon be near.
I know many couples who get caught up in anniversary gifts. They want the fancy box and the pretty bow. They hold the value of their relationship dependent on whats in the box. For so many years, people will ask, what did he give you for your anniversary. I just smile to myself. The gifts we give each year can’t be put in a box. Every year we give the gift of respect, friendship, support, encouragement and the most important gift of all unconditional love. There is no greater, more satisfying feeling in the world than knowing someone loves you just the way you are, without conditions. There is no greater gift than knowing someone supports your dreams and works along side you to make them come true. There is nothing more special than knowing the person you married is the one who loves and accepts you more than anyone else in the great big world. Love says it’s okay when you make a mistake instead of listing the ways you create your own problems. Love listens and understands when everyone else tries to give advice. Love is there in the hard times and smiling along side you in the good times. Love is a gift that keeps on giving even when the relationship seems hopeless and lost. Love does not criticize, it emphathizes. Love does not blame, it searches for solution. Love does not resent, it always forgives regardless how big the offense. 

What do you think leads to a lasting relationship? What is most important to you?

One Sure Sign Your Relationship Will End Up A Disaster

Standard

There is one obvious sign in a relationship that almost always leads to failure, affairs and/or divorce. I can see it so clearly from where I stand and I wonder why on earth couples can’t figure this out on their own.  What exactly does this red flag look like? It looks exactly like it sounds, a gigantic red flag waving wildly in the air begging for someone to notice. That’s the first sign, not knowing or caring enough in the first place that the relationship has broken down. It’s a husband who goes to every basketball game alone because the wife really doesn’t like basketball. It’s that one female friend that shows up at couples event all by herself making excuses for why her husband isn’t there. It’s Tom going out with the boys and Jane going out with the girls. It’s one parent or the other showing up for Timmys football game but never seeing the parents sitting together on the same night. You cannot expect to have a relationship while living separate lives period. It may work for a little while but over time the relationship will be completely doomed. If your spouse loves something and you don’t, too bad, do it anyway. If it’s couples night and you would rather stay home and catch the latest episode of Bachelorete, too bad, record it and go anyway. Marriage is give and take. It’s compromise and caring enough to be at the side of the person you took a vow to love. Sometimes you have to give even when you don’t feel like it. If you don’t, your absence will eventually take a toll on your marriage and it will be well on its way to being over. You signed a contract, you made a verbal commitment so why do you think you can quietly back out of it? It’s like taking a job and expecting to be paid even when you don’t do any work.  The unfortunate thing is it takes committed people to make a relationship work. The most heartbreaking sight I ever see is one person giving all he or she has and the other physically and emotionally absent. There are all kinds of excuses like “I fell out of love”, “you put on too much weight”, “I’m just not happy anymore”. If you pay for a dinner and the waiter doesn’t serve you any food, how the hell could you ever be happy? You get out of something what you put into it but in a relationship that gets a little bit tricky. The most loving and successful relationships are the ones that truly master the art of balance when it comes to cashing in and making deposits. Maybe that’s the best way to explain relationships of all. If you don’t put money in the bank, there will be none there when you try and take it out. Go to the bank, make the deposit but don’t forget to leave a couple dollars in your pocket for date night.

To Stay or Leave

Standard

Every time I turn around I hear about another friend separated or getting a divorce. I am very naive because I believed if you could make it past 15 years and stay married into your fourties then the rest would be an easy glide downhill. What is it about this particular age that gives people the courage to separate? Is it that life is pretty much half over and we are looking for a new exciting adventure? Is it that the spark has gone out and we are searching to replace it with a new love disguised as lust and physical attraction? Is it that the relationship is disappointing and the only interaction is a chance passing in the hall and we cannot live like that anymore? Do we put our time and effort into someone we think is a better fit while we bide our time and get the courage to really go?

For the ones who do decide to stay, what is it that keeps them together? Does one think I’ve invested all these years so I cannot give up now? Does one decide that they will never be completely happy and it’s safer to stay in a mediocre relationship than starting over in a new one? Is it the guilt and obligation of having kids? Is it not believing you are lovable or deserving of someone who could really make you happy? Is it believing that okay is good enough?

The truth is, as we get older, most of us grow. The expectations we had in our early twenties change as time goes by. Our wants and our needs change also. We cannot easily overlook those things about our spouse that drive us crazy. We no longer appreciate the good qualities our partner brings to the relationship because we are so unhappy. We want to feel that we are the most important person in our partners life and not play second fiddle to a job or TV. We play our spouses flaws over and over in our mind until the list becomes too much to stand. Or we stay and simply give up the dream we once had of a perfect soulmate and a perfect marriage. We comfortably settle as time slowly ticks away. 

What do you think motivates someone to leave and someone to stay? What age is the most common time you see your friends move towards a divorce? Is marriage what you expected it to be? Are you truly happy? Do you secretly wonder what if? I’d love to hear your opinion.

Mums The Word

Standard

That’s what my brother ended his message with Friday night. My jaw dropped as I read the words. “I am getting married Tuesday, mums the word.”

Today I wrote a post about Monday. In it I said, expect the unexpected. Even as I wrote those words, I had no idea how they would dance into my story today. At noon I was sitting in my flannel pajama pants and by 2:15 I was on my way to the airport. How in the world could I miss such an important day? I made that flight and packed my clothes and now I am sitting on the plane for the last leg of my journey home. Oh, but don’t tell him because it’s a surprise. He has no idea I am on my way, shhh…mums the word!

The Truth About Marriage That Nobody Tells You

Standard

There is no notion that seems sillier than two imperfect people striving for perfection. The thought of it, the allure is tantalizing to say the least but the reality? The truth is, marriage disappoints even when you try your best. Where we get lost in the equation is sometimes, despite our best effort, we have different ideas about the way things should be. Our wants, our needs, our desires are just too diverse to ever land us on the same page. If we are lucky, at least we are looking in the same book but more often than not, we don’t even know the title we are searching for. We are lost, without a plan, muddling through the best we can. It’s not that anything specifically goes wrong, it’s just that nothing seems particularly right. There are jobs, worries, bills, responsibilities, children, challenges…. The list goes on and on and your marriage washes away somewhere among all those other things. We forget that marriage is a job too, a responsibility, a priority. It is like a delicate child who constantly needs love, attention, and nutrients to keep it healthy and growing. It is like a flower that we choose to ignore or water. The more time goes by that we neglect that flower, the more it dries up. It’s appearance is an obvious sign that it is starting to die but we are too busy to notice. Tomorrow I will give it some water, later I will tend to its needs. Right there in front of our eyes, it withers up and dies and last time I checked defibrillators didn’t work on flowers. Once they die, thats is, game over. Guess what? Defibrillators wont bring a marriage back to life either.

What is the answer then? Not allowing it to go beyond the point of no return. How in the world do we find the proper balance to keep our marriage functioning and satisfying? No one gets married to have a permanent roommate. We get married to have a partner, someone to share our life with, all of it… the good, the bad and everything in between. No one wants to be angry or disconnected or lonely when there is someone right there but has just stopped noticing we are sitting beside them in the same room.  Do you fight, do you throw in the towel or do you do what most couples do, nothing and pretend marriage is perfect just the way it is? Could we possibly be doomed to fail from very beginning? I don’t have many answers but I do know one thing, the time and effort you put into a relationship will be a direct result of what you get out of it. How much time and effort are you willing to put in? Be honest. What do you think? Is your relationship a result of care or neglect?

The Post Without A Name

Standard

We all have a daily routine. For most, we set an alarm, wake up, eat breakfast, shower, brush our teeth. You get the point. Do you ever sit down and think back over your day? Do you watch yourself go through the motions and ask yourself, do they even have any meaning? Are you even ever REALLY there? I think most of us become like robots. We mundanely move from one place to another but lacking any type of feeling or emotion behind the movement. Do you kiss your spouse goodbye with the same dedication and intensity you turn off a light switch at the end of a night? Think about it? What are you doing that has anything more than simple routine behind it? Do you sit in a room with someone or do you make eye contact and engage them in conversation? Do you make silly small talk just for the sake of attempting some type of effort while really putting in none at all?

I wonder if people think about things with the same intensity that I do. Sometimes it’s a blessing but it can also feel like an awful curse. It’s hard to be so aware and watch zombies moving all around me. Perhaps that is how they came up with this whole zombie apocalypse thing in the first place. Maybe it isn’t so outlandish after all. What do you think?

Woman Are Apples, Men Are Bananas

Standard

A funny thing happened today that reminded me how different men and woman really are, how different people are. We were at my daughters swim meet and my husband was trying to tell me something pretty important. He is important. What he has to say is important but the reality is 24 kids swim an event and only 16 advance to the finals and I couldn’t put the meet on pause. He got frustrated when I wasn’t looking at him and mid-sentence he started saying things like “and then he hit me with an ax and I started to bleed and….” I cut him off and told him I could hear every word he was speaking to me while I watched three heats of 8 kids swim, tabulated the times to see who would advance while listening to fans screaming in my ears and all at the same time paying attention to every detail. The fact is woman multi task. Seldom do we focus on any one thing at a time. Our minds are always racing while at the same time, we are performing several tasks simultaneously. I told him if I ever do stare at him while he is talking, I am either sleeping with my eyes open or meditating but definitely NOT listening. That is when he shared with me that if he is not looking directly at me when I talk and doing nothing else then he probably isn’t listening to a single word. No wonder he never hears me when he is driving or on his computer.

We learn something new every single day, even when we don’t think there’s anything more to learn about the person we love. The fact is men and women are just different and there would be a lot less frustration if we could really come to terms to that simple fact. We think different, we act different and eventually, like it or not, we learn to adapt.

Cinderella, Get Ready, It’s Valentines Day

Standard

Valentines Day comes the same time every year. I love chocolate and flowers and romantic dinners, what I don’t love is the lack I feel in my relationship this time of year. We grow up reading about love in fairytales. There is magic in the air, happy endings and life saving kisses. Then we get married. We realize that relationships don’t come with fairy godmothers. There are kids and bills and responsibilities that replace our light-up, dazzling ball gown with a pair of jeans that feel way too tight. The curls fall out of our hair and we are lucky if we find the time to get a shower and put some make-up on. We don’t feel like that beautiful girl at the end of the aisle. The excitement has started to fade as the lines appear on our face. We are tired, worn and not feeling so attractive these days. We don’t get excited for dates anymore because our clothes don’t seem to fit. Do we even have the energy to wash and do our hair? Life isn’t about getting ready for the ball, it is being ready to pick up kids from soccer and swim team, school or whatever. It is not about having romantic dinners by candlelight, it is about taking the time to prepare dinner for people who barely have time to sit down at the table and eat. Love isn’t about staring across the table lovingly into each other’s eyes, it’s about being patient while your spouse is responding to emails even though there’s so much you want to say.

Love happens and for awhile it feels good. Then life happens, kids happen, bills happen, jobs happen and somehow the love part gets pushed somewhere on the back burner. The problem is we forget to turn it on. It sits there until we don’t even notice it anymore and we forget exactly what it is. It is more than being a good parent or supporting your family. It is more than being a passing ship somewhere in the hall. We forget over time. Time is the enemy. We are always fighting for it but never quite grasping it. It slips through our fingers and the person we married begins to fade. It’s as if we are in a relationship with a shadow, impossible to touch, impossible to really see. Sure, we still love each other but we have forgotten exactly who we are. We love the father of our children and the man who sacrifices so much to pay the bills. But where is the man I used to laugh with, dance with, spend hours at dinner drinking bottles of wine just talking and laughing with? Where is the man that could console me across a room just by making eye contact? Do we even look at each other anymore? What has life done to us? What have we done to us?

Where is the woman he married? She is consumed in worry and thought over keeping schedules straight and making sure kids get to where they need to be. She is overwhelmed with washing clothes and cleaning up and making sure dinner gets on the table. Sometimes she forgets to look up. She seems distracted. She forgets to say hello, she’s too tired to kiss him good-night. Where is he? Sitting with his laptop and overwhelmed with the responsibility of keeping everything together with the bills and work. They are both right there but they are not connecting. They’ve forgotten how to put everything down and pick each other up. They are still the people they were years ago, they just need to be reminded.

Valentines Day is that reminder. It is that compass that screams WARNING! YOU ARE HEADED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION! Embrace that compass. Turn around, sit down for a romantic dinner and drink some wine. Look at each other, talk, and maybe make a new commitment to put your relationship first. Put the phones and the computers down and remember how it feels to look into one another’s eyes. Get to know that person you married all those years ago before the weeds of life started to take over your little garden. Reset your priorities and make sure you see your spouse more than once a year on Valentines Day. Make every day Valentines Day and your relationship will find the magic it needs to change. Magic does exist but you are the magician. There are no fairy godmothers, you are not Cinderella. You probably don’t own any magic slippers. You didn’t marry a prince. You married a man who doesn’t always seem charming. You probably lost all hope in fairytales and happily ever afters. You hold the magic wand deep in your heart. All you need to remember is this, your relationship is something you create. You are the artist. You have the power to mold and shape your marriage with your own two hands. The question is, what will you make with yours?

One Thing I learned From Each Year of Marriage

Standard

1) There is no amount of arguing that will convince your spouse you are right. Agree to disagree and respect each other’s differences.

2) Your relationship is NOT on a time frame. Just because you believe your spouse should do something right now does not mean he wants to do it right now. Be respectful of each other’s needs.

3) Fight, argue and let if go. Bringing things up over and over again is not healthy. It is your job to find a way to let things go. It is nOT your job to punish your spouse.

4) Playing together leads to staying together. Life is too serious. It doesn’t have to be that way at home too.

5) Always, always speak kindly to one another. Name calling and berating is disrespectful and you always have to rise above it. No- one deserves your disrespect.

6) Give each other space. You were individuals before you more married and you need to be individuals while you are married.

7) Find qualities in your spouse to be grateful for. If you focus on him always leaving the toilet seat up, eventually you will feel anger and frustration toward him. If you focus on him always being there to help with the kids, you will feel gratitude. It is your responsibility to choose wisely.

8) Never, ever place conditions on your relationship. How would you feel if someone only loved you conditionally? It’s degrading. Love each other just as you are.

9) Give each other a break. No- one is perfect all the time. It’s okay to have a bad day.

10) Be supportive not critical. We are hard enough on ourselves. Imagine how awful it would be if the person who is supposed to love us the most is critical of us too.

11) Remember you are both human. Don’t expect each other to be greater than that.

12) Remember that sometimes you have to choose to look the other way. When you call someone out on their every action, they will not be listening when you really need them to hear your words.

13) Don’t say everything you think. Words hurt, especially hateful ones. Some things should just be left to yourself.

14) Respect each other’s families. Period. A person should never have to defend where he comes from. Ever. It’s okay to be raised different ways. Embrace the differences.

15) Be affectionate. Everyone needs a soothing touch or a warm hug. We should treat our spouse with the same attention, love and affection we give to our pets.

16) Make time for each other. Sneak in an unplanned lunch and make sure you continue to date. Making each other feel important should always be a priority. Your time is the greatest gift you can give to someone else. Your spouse deserves it.

16 Years

Standard

Sometimes you make the right decision for the wrong reasons. Call it fate, luck or some old fashioned instinct. There are moments when you just know you are doing the right thing. Marriage is no exception. How can you possibly know who is the right person for you? How can you know with certainty that you will be able to live side by side year after year with the same person and maintain the respect and love necessary for a healthy relationship to survive? How will you know you will have the strength to forgive someone’s wrongs and move on without looking back or holding a grudge so that your relationship doesn’t end in a list of resentments but rather in an ongoing list of reasons to be grateful that leave you knowing without a doubt, that you have chosen a life partner and not a Mister Right now.

That first year of marriage is full of newness and hope and a misconception that paying loads of money to have a big party and a fancy dress will seal the deal for a happy life. Often times that isn’t the case. Marriage is hard and requires a great deal of time and effort. It requires discipline to never cross the lines that could damage the foundation the relationship is built on. It requires self control to not say the mean words that you are thinking in your mind. It requires room to allow each other space to grow as individuals as well as a couple.

Each year that goes by, I am more grateful. Today, marks the day I walked down the aisle 16 long years ago. Is my relationship perfect? Is it free of problems? Of course not. Like everyone else, we have had our share of ups and downs, of trials and tribulations that have tested whether our relationship would even survive. What is so special about my husband? It may not be specifically who he is but rather who we are together. He is the calm in my storm, the hope in my despair, the support when I am ready to give up. He is predictability in the uncertainty all around me, he is my anchor when I am drifting lost at sea. The last few years, he has been my safest place to fall. I am grateful for the moments, for the little memories that fill our lives with so much big. I am grateful for the friendship and the mutual respect we display toward one another. I am grateful for him loving me without conditions and accepting me exactly the way I am, perfectly flawed. I am grateful for his easy going nature and his display of strength in the times that are hard. I am grateful that he is gentle and respectful when we disagree. We do not compete for power. We do not have a competition of who is right. We are one team sticking together through thick and thin, never judging each other when one or the other doesn’t measure up to the fantasy we once thought the other would be.

We have learned from mistakes and loved through the pain and today we have learned to trust that no matter what happens in our lives, we will always be able to get through it hand in hand. Happy Anniversary to my husband. I hope we will have many more years together. I am looking forward to the adventures that wait in our future. Hopefully a haircut will be one of them. You are the sun in my sky and my life is so much brighter because you are in it. Thank you for loving and supporting me like only you can. I am so grateful to share my life with you. Together we have found a path that breathes life into our years and the view has been amazing.