Thanksgiving is tomorrow and while I’m very excited about all that entails – I’m equally, if not more excited about something else: this weekend is also my 16th wedding anniversary! It’s Thanksaversary! I thought, what a great time to talk about my secrets to a strong and happy marriage!
Now, I’m not going to pretend that our marriage is perfect. Because it’s not. But we have been married (almost) 16 years, and we definitely have a happy relationship!
When we were married all those many years ago it wasn’t ON Thanksgiving day but it was Thanksgiving weekend. We spent the holiday and had our wedding in the small Indiana town where Sam’s extended family lived. It was an amazing experience to have a wedding weekend and not just a wedding day.
I was 24 when we got married. Just a wee little thing who was head over heels in love and knew there had to be a different way to be married than the broken, abusive patterns set before me. I come from an abusive birth father, an alcoholic stepfather and a mother who was just trying to survive.
It was at that Thanksgiving table that I learned what family could look like. I received my new family’s love and acceptance and gratitude. My tiny family (mother, brother and sister) were all present for this Thanksgiving meal. We all smushed together with Sam’s mom’s SEVEN siblings and all of their families.
As my 40-year-old self looks back, I realize now what a gift this was to me. What an amazing first step out on when you’re newly married – and have NO idea how to do this marriage thing.
So, I thought, this Thanksaversary, I’d talk about the things I now know about marriage and how to continue to make it happy and amazing. I’m not talking about just tolerating a marriage – I’m talking about a fulfilling, challenging, comforting, awesome-sex, thriving, happy marriage!
1. LEARN HOW TO SAY “I’M SORRY.”
This is something I have struggled with for a long time in our marriage. Really, it’s still a struggle for me. But, I’m working on it.
Like I said earlier, I came from a family that didn’t teach empathy or apologizing or even how to have healthy arguments. It was all hard edges and arbitrary, inconsistent absolutes. So, saying sorry does NOT come easily for me. But, I’ve realized that when things get really heated the best thing for me is to take a break and spend some time with my journal.
I write it all out – all of the confusion and anger and frustration – and then I’m much more able to have a healthy discussion on the topic. One that is built on mutual respect rather than mutual defensiveness. I’m able to say “I’m sorry” and mean it, open to accepting ownership in the part I play.
It’s OK to be wrong. It’s OK to make a mistake. Just say you’re sorry, let your spouse feel their feels and then move on. No biggie.
2. MAKE TIME FOR EACH OTHER.
This one is pretty easy to overlook.
I know I get into a pattern and it’s hard to break. Especially when the only YOU time is the same time you’re trying to use for your spouse.
Get up earlier in the morning to make time for you and sit down with each other every night reconnecting.
For us, this has led to some of our most wild dreams and our biggest fights. No matter how you look at it, it’s made us closer.
Also, don’t forget to plan a date night here and there. Get dressed up so you feel your most beautiful, let the kids eat pizza and watch a movie with the babysitter. Don’t worry about the domestic things. Be sexy and in love. Because you are.
Sidenote: If you’re in Asheville, go here. I am NEVER disappointed.
OH. One more thing! Organize a Marriage Retreat. We do this twice a year and it’s SO fun! (I know, dorky). I even created an agenda for you to work through when you plan one! Fill out the form below to get yours delivered to your inbox for FREE!
3. SUPPORT EACH OTHER’S DREAMS.
I believe we were put on this earth to create, to be authentic to who we are and live fully. So, support each other in that. Support each other’s dreams!
The first time you talk about a dream it may seem like a silly little notion. Nothing to actually chase after. But, the more you both talk about it, the more it becomes part of both of your plans. Now you BOTH want to make it happen.
Go after things. Support each other. Remember that failure isn’t actually failure.
Dave Burgess says, “The key to failing without quitting is to shift your paradigm to believe there is no such thing as failure-only feedback.”
Life changer right there. Something we try might lead to some “feedback” which encourages us to pivot and change directions. But, we’re always learning and moving forward. Support each other’s dreams. It’s really the only way to live.
4. NEVER STOP LEARNING.
Sam is SO good at this. He is the most curious person I know. He is always trying new things and wanting to do things differently. It drives me a little bit crazy but also keeps our marriage very exciting.
Take time to build learning into your life. What is something you’ve been wanting to learn but have never taken the time to do? Do you want to know how to cook better? Have you always wanted to be able to swim in the open ocean? Are you interested in belly dancing? Do you want to have financial freedom?!
Yes friends. Figure out what you’re interested in and make time for it. Our time on this planet is short. Make time in your life for your passions – maybe even do them together!
5. FIGURE OUT SPIRITUALITY TOGETHER.
The type, or form of spirituality doesn’t matter, but figuring out how to be the best version of yourself does.
We are more than just body. More than just mind. More than just spirit. We are all three, and the whole is much, much greater than the sum of the parts.
Our distraction-driven days make it easy to gloss over the spirit, and its requisite need for presence and introspection and stillness.
Wrestle with those big life questions like “why are we here?” or “what is my purpose?” Wrestle with them together, remembering that you may have different answers. But, it’s critical to know those answers so that you can support your partner, and so that YOU can be supported.
Define your values as a couple. (Still haven’t done this, fill out the form below!) Find some spiritual guides you resonate with and learn more about them. Find a faith community that you can join and find support.
6. ASK FOR HELP.
This one took me a while.
I thought, if I’m struggling that means we don’t understand each other, and we weren’t meant to be and it was all a lie and we should get divorced. Wow. Drama. Looking back, I see the inevitability of not understanding each other. We were babies when we got married, and it takes lots of practice and deep understanding to fully embrace someone else. Besides that, we are not static things, but dynamic, changing forces and desires, demands and callings.
I am not who I was, and not who I will be. How can I expect my spouse to be any different? Marriage counseling is not just for people about to get divorced. It has changed our marriage multiple times and moved us to a deep understanding of each other that could not have happened without an objective person guiding us.
Ask for help and be open to the advice not being what you want to hear but exactly what you need to hear.
7. FIGURE OUT EACH OTHER’S LOVE LANGUAGES. (And, more importantly, speak them to each other.)
We read “The Five Love Languages” early in our marriage. Like it or not, sometimes the simple, even cliche Sunday School answers are the best.
This book distills five basic ways that we give and receive love, and shows how we usually give love in the same way we’d like to receive it. The twist is, though, your partner may need love delivered in a different way. You have the opportunity to communicate clearly what is best for each of you.
Drop the presumption and the mythical belief that your partner SHOULD KNOW YOU, and have a conversation. Then, have it again. Then, again.
Give each other examples of when you felt loved with specifics of the why and how behind the moment. Be vulnerable. Be true. Then, choose, again and again and again, to speak that language on a regular basis.
There’s no way around it – this is work, a choice and, at times, a challenge. You can choose to see the beautiful opportunity in the work, or you can choose to be consumed with the weighty burden of it, but it’s YOUR choice. Choose the former.
8. HAVE SEX.
I know you’re likely now shifting uncomfortably in your seat because of the whole S-E-X word so, I’ll keep this brief.
Have sex with each other. Figure out a way to psych yourself up to get in the mood. Or, have your partner give you a massage or something that helps you get in the mood. Just have sex.
Again, we are mind, body and spirit – this act of intimate connection is a tangible way to explore all three with your partner, and with yourself.
I get it…sometimes you’re tired or frumpy or Just. Not. Interested.
That’s ok. Sometimes.
But, challenge yourself to lean into the mysterious connection of connecting. Be open to trying something new. Be adventurous. Get a book if you’re not sure how. Ask for help – there are lots of amazing, trained professionals (therapists, that is… geeze) who can help you sort out the blocks and obstacles.
I’m just gonna say it’s easy to neglect this area of a relationship. Don’t. It will keep that spark blazing and honestly, with some practice and openness, it’s incredible. On so many levels.
OK, it wasn’t that brief. Sorry!
OK. I’m done now.
Last, but most definitely not least,
9. LOVE YOURSELF. FULLY.
When someone is strong in their self-love, it’s contagious and attractive (and, very sexy). While this is also important for your spouse, I’m mostly talking to you.
Us ladies, we grow up focused on the things we dislike about ourselves, comparing and contrasting like a fourth grade English assignment:
I would kill for your hair.
My eyebrows are too bushy.
I wish I didn’t have these hips.
She likes her more than me.
I’m just not cool enough.
My ankles are too big
I can’t stand these freckles.
Seriously. How does this remind us of the truth that we are worthy and beautiful? I’ll tell you how, IT DOESN’T!!
If you struggle in this area, try this affirmation for the next week and see how it changes your view of yourself: “I am sexy. I am magnetic. I am amazing and [insert spouse’s name] chose me and I chose [spouse’s name].”
Boom. That’s the truth, dear one. Write it out 10 times each morning. Tape it to your mirror. Be super brave and say it out loud. Let it seep into your bones.
This one thing will change everything. I’m sure of it. It did for me.
There you have it. Nine strategies we’ve used to create an awesome, happy marriage for the past 16 years!
If you have any tips you’ve used for your happy marriage please share them in the comments below so we can ALL benefit!
Rooting for you!
P.S. Do you want to know more of what this whole “Defining Your Values” thing is all about? Fill out the form below and get your FREE workbook sent to your inbox instantly!