As a young girl, I dreamed of my wedding day. I'd wear a big white dress, my Daddy would walk me down the isle and my new husband and I would live happily ever after. Thankfully, I found that man at the car wash. Our story is truly fate. The week before, we both were at the airport. I was picking up my best friend and he was getting onto the plane she was getting off of. This was before 9/11, so I was waiting for my friend at the gate. Brandon was dressed in his uniform looking very nice. We stared at each other, smiled and flirted. I wanted to say something to him so bad, but he was in a uniform and at the airport. Surely he was leaving. So off I went, we didn't even say a word to each other. The next week we were both at the car wash, doing the same thing...flirting. Again, I wanted to approach him, but wanted him to make the first move. He drove off and then turned back around and said, "I know this sounds like a line, but do I know you from somewhere?" That was it! We have been inseparable ever since. We knew very very early that we would be married, but to avoid freaking everyone out, we waited...just a little while. Brandon proposed to me in a very romantic rose garden on Valentines day in 2000, just six months after we met. And on January 6, 2001, I became his wife. Thank you God for marriage!
Brandon and I have a strong marriage. We aren't perfect, we don't always get along, and we have fights. But we have a solid foundation, that always brings us back together. We have to thank God for giving us that, and of course our Texas church pastor and his wife for being awesome examples and mentors to us in our dating years. I wish everyone could have that foundation or beginning in their relationships. It sure would save a lot of hurting couples.
Over the last ten years, I have learned a lot about marriage and being a wife. While we aren't quite experts on the topic, I feel that after this length of time, we do have some idea of what makes a marriage work and what doesn't.
I would like to share the top ten things that have helped our marriage to be strong and to thrive:
1. Never, EVER use the "D" word. Threatening or joking about divorce only creates insecurity in a marriage. If you are already married and have already broken this rule, start over today! Come together and agree that neither one of you will ever use this word, ever! By the way, by doing this, it will also take divorce out as an option.
2. Date. Make dating a priority in your lives, real dating, no matter what your circumstances. Date if your happy or not, if you have kids or no kids, if you are broke or wealthy. We try to date two to three times a month. We make this a priority in our schedules and our budget.
3. My money is our money. Money and money related issues are the number one reason couples divorce. When you are married, you should have one account. If you don't feel comfortable with combining your money and bills, you have other issues and marriage will not make them better. Having his and hers bank accounts and his and hers bills makes you more of room mates with benefits than a married couple. Debt is also shared. I was honest with Brandon about the debt I was bringing into our marriage, as he was with me. We agreed that even though I was the one bringing in the most amount of debt, it was still our debt. It was something we tackled together. Obviously, marrying with no debt is the best, and should be a goal all engaged couples should make. Who wouldn't want to start a new life with no debt?
4. Be on guard. Your marriage should be your highest priority next to your relationship with God. Protect it. Don't put yourself in compromising situations that would make your spouse angry, jealous, or question your integrity. Avoid being alone with a person of the opposite sex. Don't go on lunch dates or give rides to a coworker of the opposite sex. Don't make or take phone calls, emails or social network messages from ex's. Guard your marriage with all your might. While some of these suggestions may sound silly to you, you would be surprised what may start an argument or create a wedge. Temptations are out there. We all know that a simple, innocent compliment from a coworker of the opposite sex can turn into an affair under the right circumstances. If you aren't sure what boundaries to cross, ask your spouse. While me and Brandon haven't always been the best at this, we are getting better. There was a lot of tension in our marriage early on because of simple calls from coworkers. There are ways to avoid them. You shouldn't be worried about your friends, coworkers, or ex's feelings. You should be concerned about your spouse.
5. Lift each other up. Praise your spouse, even when you can't think of anything nice to say. I'm sure he smelled good after he showered, right? There you go, tell him. Thank him if he took out the trash. Remember what it was that attracted you to him in the first place. Try not to put him down in front of your friends or his. Actually, bragging about him will do wonders if it gets back to him. Men like to be respected and to feel needed. If you aren't the one lifting up your spouse, someone else will. It's hard at times, I KNOW!
6. Define your roles. It's very important to discuss the roles each of you will have in your marriage and the expectations you have of each other as spouses. By discussing how you see your role as a wife before you become one will help your husband picture his own role in the marriage. For example, before Brandon and I got engaged, we had conversations about what our lives would look like. I always wanted to be a stay at home mom. I didn't want to marry a man who didn't understand that. We also talked about how our plans may change, but that I would take on the primary role of taking care of the home and the children. While this may seem very 1950s for your family, it works for ours. My point is, discuss what role you want to take in your marriage, and what you expect from one another. It's never too late. If you and your spouse are butting heads on the matter, sit down when you both are calm and define your roles. Who's going to be responsible for providing for the family? Who's going to be the one that cooks? Who's going to be the one that handles the money? If you both agree on the roles and expectations you have, you are less likely to disagree on them later.
7. Forgive. We are forgiven by our God if we ask for forgiveness. Yet, it is one of the most difficult things to do, and even more difficult for a spouse. Why is it that it is so hard for us to forgive? It seems that sometimes we treat our husbands worse than our enemies. I'm sure you have things that you think are unforgivable. But if your husband shows true remorse, you have to forgive! On the other end, if you have done something that you regret and your came clean and asked for forgiveness from your spouse, you have to understand that you may have broken the trust. That is something that is hard to regain. You have to understand that if you broke the trust in your marriage, you have to work to allow your spouse to regain it. Don't expect it to be over night, but you have to prove that you are sorry.
8. Don't get complacent. I can remember how long it used to take me to get ready for Brandon to pick me up for a date. I would shower, shave, do my hair, and make up, find the perfect perfume, make sure my nails were done. I would try on 10 outfits to make sure I looked just right. And then I'd change again, just to make sure. It's unrealistic to say that I get dolled up everyday, actually it would be a lie. I try to get dolled up for Brandon, but the reality is that being a mom takes over a lot of times. I do try to take the time to put on my best for our dates. It really makes me feel better about myself and well, my husband gets pretty excited! As for the men, well you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself too. We don't get turned on by wholly knee high socks and sandals. And remember what you did to win us over when we were dating? Court us, open doors, tell us we are beautiful, hold our hand!
9. Communication. First, communicate with your Father together in prayer. Praying together isn't always the easiest, especially if you aren't accustom to praying out loud, but there are ways to work up to it. There was a study once that said that married couples that attended church together on a regular basis and prayed together had a 2% divorce rate, wow! Second, be honest with your spouse and communicate. We have a recap of our day at the dinner table. We do what we call "highs and lows." It helps us to talk about our day and what's going on in our lives. When there are difficult conversations, listen to what the other person is saying. I know easier said than done, but for some people just talking is a start.
10. Sex. I saved the best for last. Sex is fun, it's satisfying, it's beautiful, it feels good and our God designed it for marriage. He wanted us to enjoy it. I know you're thinking TMI, but seriously, this is a big issue and I don't feel like people talk about it enough. First, we know that men need sex. I am not a man, but I am married to a very manly man and I know that men need sex. Second, being a woman and knowing many that feel the same way, women don't NEED sex, but they enjoy it. Here's the thing, we are commanded to not put anything before sex besides prayer. I know, I don't really like that scripture either. But for whatever reason, my husband craves it. And while I enjoy it too, I don't throw fits if I don't have it. But as a wife, I need to make sure my husband's needs are met, just as he should be making sure my needs are met in other areas. So if sexing up my man means that he is happy, not dipping in other areas, and is loving me and taking care of my needs, then sex it is. I think too many women take their marriages for granted and let this area go. Get your sexy on ladies!!!
Many other married couples have made it much longer than we have and probably have their own list of things that make it work for them. This is our list. This is what has made our marriage work. I hope that by sharing this, someone is able to have a long lived and healthy marriage as we have so far!