Mate

8 Things I've Learned in 8 Years of Marriage

Today marks 8 years that I have been married. I’ll be honest and say there were many days, I wasn’t so sure about this marriage thing. But God. The number eight in spiritual terms represents new beginnings. So here I am celebrating our new beginning by sharing eight things I’ve learned, that I’ll take with me in the regeneration of our union.

1.       Marriage is not about love so much as it is about commitment. Yes, love plays a part, but love is a feeling, and our feelings change. (Sure, we could probably get all extra deep and argue that love is also an action – but it’s unnecessary right now. I’m in my happy place.) I wholeheartedly believe that marriage is a commitment. It is a commitment to our word and our intentions. The commitment is to say “yes, I do” daily to that one person. The commitment is choosing that person over and over again. The commitment is to the belief that you are better together than apart with that individual.

2.       Making marriage work is a choice. What does “marriage takes work” really mean? Work is defined as mental and physical activity done to achieve a purpose or result. This means that we can’t just go through the motions of being married, but we must lend mental space (i.e. thought, intention, focus) to it too. Many different things are vying for our attention and presence. However, we have the power to choose our thoughts and the choice to prioritize what gets our action.

3.       Marriage is an exercise in faith. Sure, I’ll commit the rest of my unknown life here on earth to you – one individual, as flawed as me. [Did you read that in your cynical, sarcastic voice? 😊] Faith teaches us to believe in/for things that we can’t see. We cannot see or know the number of our days. We don’t know what challenges we’ll face or the hurdles that we’ll overcome. Marriage is an exercise that declares, “This difficulty isn’t an ending to our relationship” and “I believe that we will continue to overcome together”.

4.       I can be a “good wife” but if I’m not good to my husband, it doesn’t matter. I have received praise for the efforts in my role of being a wife. However, if I’m not good to my husband, then, who is the effort benefitting? I have to be the wife MY husband needs.

5.       Things change. This has been a hard one for me. What worked for us in the beginning is not what works now. We have evolved individually and collectively, therefore our relationship must shift to accommodate the evolution. Acknowledging the changes and candidly speaking about them rather than avoiding them helps build better relationships.

6.       Prayer works. We are told to pray without ceasing. I’m guilty of just praying in the hard times. But I have found that praying throughout all seasons leaves us in a better space. It puts me in a place of deciding which things should be a shared burden and which things should just be laid at the altar. Doing this allows me to not overburden him or expect outcomes that aren’t his responsibility.

7.       Being fruitful is not just about kids. As couples, we must plant – plant in our relationship, our families, our work, etc. We must also understand that the harvest happens in seasons. 

8.       Clearly defined goals are necessary. We just wanted to live happily ever after. Taking the time to define what that looks like and setting goals for getting there is essential.

Words That Impact Marriages

When getting married our reasoning is usually something like “we’re really in love” or “we want to take our relationship to the next level”. However, once we cross over into marriage a couple of things are to be considered – (1) love is there, but it takes work to maintain those loving feelings and (2) marriage can be seen as the final stage of a relationship. Yes, we add children and later grandchildren, but the relationship between the two individuals, that’s it. Most of us get married aiming to not be with anyone else. We are partnering with the person that we hope to spend the rest of our lives with. [Can I take a transparency break and acknowledge how scary that commitment sounds to me considering that I intend to live a long life? Eek!] And in spending a lifetime with someone we become creatures of habit and live life in cycles. Our spouses are predictable and our lives become routine. We are talking to the same person day in and day out and those conversations follow a pattern. We wake in the morning and say “I love you”. We exchange the sentiment again as we part ways, and once more as we prepare to rest for the night. The in between is filled with chatter of our day, responsibilities and if we’re lucky, a bit of laughter and daydreaming too. But what if there was a way to create a brief marriage battery boost? I’m thinking along the lines of changing our dialogue to acknowledge, encourage and inspire our mates. A few words inserted to change the course of routine that remind them that they still do it for you and vice versa. Some phrases to insert into your marriage vocabulary beyond “I love you” are:

1.       Thank you.

2.       I support you.

3.       I trust you.

4.       I respect you.

5.       I appreciate you.

6.       I think you’re…

7.       You inspire me.

8.       You can…

9.       You are…

10.   I believe in you.

11.   I believe in your ability to…

12.   How can I help you accomplish…?

13.   What do you need from me today?

14.   I’m available to you.

15.   I feel most connected to you when…

16.   The last time we… it was…

17.   Your touch makes me feel…

18.   I’m attracted to your…

19.   I still want you.

20.   I still choose you.

 

Keep variety in your vocabulary so that the pulse of your love beats strong. May your voice ever be in the ear of your love, and not in the nagging way. 😉

10 Ways to Leave a Legacy with Your Spouse

Some people will tell you that marriage is about love. I challenge that notion severely. Marriage is about commitment – to your word, each other and your cause. In many ways marriage can be seen as a business, very similar to a corporate merger. As corporations grow, the leadership put together succession and scalability plans. Our succession and scalability as couples lie in our ability to leave a legacy, whether for our children, family or community. Often times that word ‘legacy’ seems really daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 10 ways that you and your spouse can begin building your legacy:

1.       Provide a family history. Help the generations behind you know where they came from, even if the tree starts with you two due to unknowns beyond your control.

2.       Start a savings account for your children. College costs. Starting a business costs. Traveling costs. Moving out of your house costs. Everything costs. Don’t make them start from scratch.

3.       Give the gift of financial literacy. Talk to your children (and family/community) about finances, early on.  If they’re older, talk them about it NOW!

4.       Secure life insurance for yourself – and I’m not talking about just enough to cover the funeral expenses. You don’t have to be selfish unto death! Leave a little extra money for those that are mourning your loss. After all, they’re likely going to have to suffer through planning your celebration of life AND deal with all the random drama that arises when people die.

5.       Buy property. No, not shoes and clothes. Actual property, land, something with a deed that appreciates in value. Trust me, your loved ones will appreciate you for it later (unless of course you fail to leave your paperwork in order and the property has to be probated but that’s a different blog for a different day).

6.       Purchase stocks and bonds that can be passed down and later cashed in.

7.       Sponsor a community event annually. Partner with a local organization and put your money and name where your mouth is if need be.

8.       Donate books and resources to a local community center. Make it a regular show of support.

9.       Create a scholarship fund in your name at your local high school. You can maintain $250 a year skip eating out once every other week and it’s done! It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to make a difference and start leaving a legacy.

10.   Become a mentor. Don’t keep all your knowledge to yourself. Spend time with someone. Influence them to know better, do better, be better. Encourage them to return the favor and keep giving the gift of mentorship.

As a couple, you’re here to do more than just keep each other warm. You came together to do something, so do it! Leaving a legacy doesn’t have to be difficult. Start small and snowball it into something larger.  You’ve got this! Now go, be great as a couple!

Love Bank Activity: Bliss List

We each have a love bank. Similar to an actual bank account it requires regular deposits to grow. If the withdrawals exceed the deposit amounts we are left empty and often with other consequences. In order to avoid these deficits in our relationships, it is necessary to make consistent deposits into our mate’s love bank. Likewise, we are also responsible for making deposits into our own love banks. The Bliss List covers both.

The Bliss List concept is a two-fold deposit. It credits your mate for deposits while also giving you something to draw from as well. The Bliss List is simple and executed just as the name implies. Make a list of all of the blissful moments you’ve had with your mate. If the thought of it makes you smile, no matter how small, add it! With this exercise you’ll realize (hopefully) that there are more occurrences of joy than you may typically give credit for. The Bliss List offers perspective and illuminates things that we may take for granted. For instance, my Bliss List includes something as monumental as the time Babe drove 3 hours to spend the last hour of a day with me. But it also includes something as simple as us confessing that we’ve used each other’s deodorant before. (I’m smiling extra hard at that one. LOL.)  The Bliss List should celebrate the goodness of your partner and highlight the joy you feel when you all are engaged with one another.

Your Bliss List is a growing document. Set aside time to add to it. You may do this once a year on a special anniversary, quarterly or monthly. In fact, you may be one of those people with the capacity to keep it regularly updated as things happen – If that’s the case, go you! Whatever your approach, just be sure to find your Bliss List rhythm and make it work for you.

Now that you have your Bliss List put together here are a few ways to put it to good use.

1.       Anniversary Reading – Each anniversary sit down with your mate and read through the list. Or if you’re like me, read the list alone. I read the list alone and remind myself of why I’m happy to be connected to Babe.

2.       Fire Extinguisher – Intense moments of fellowship are inevitable. When your love bank account has taken a hit from a major (or minor) encounter, take some time to reset. Read a few items off of your list until you get to a place of feeling more positive and replenished.

3.       Looking Ahead – Undoubtedly you and your Honey have built an arsenal of memories. Look at your list and determine which items and experiences you’d like to recreate. Do any of your encounters spark an idea of something to try in the future? Go for it.

4.       Just Because – We are bombarded with messaging, positive and negative, throughout our daily lives. Take a moment to intentionally reconnect by sharing an item from your Bliss List unexpectedly. This periodic check-in will serve as a simple, yet thoughtful, indicator to your mate that you don’t take them and the life you’re sharing for granted.