Stop comparing and start celebrating what's good in your relationship.
My marriage story is an unconventional one — to say the least.
I dated my husband, graduated from college, got engaged and married in the same year. How we met is another story, perhaps for another time, but I’ll keep things moving along.
We got married Dec. 5, 2009, and at the time I was a budding reporter in Shreveport, Louisiana. I had been on the job less than a month when my new work family planned my entire wedding — in a week. I’m talking about booking the venue, doing my makeup, taking amazing photos, buying a wedding cake, sending invitations and more. The pastor who married us is the father of one of my very close former colleagues! Yes, these people were (and still are) amazing! I love them dearly, and I truly believe that they are expressions of God’s love toward me.
There are a lot more intricate and beautiful details about how everything came together, but I don’t want to stray too far from the meat of this post. I just wanted to sprinkle in some color to set the scene.
When I consider the past decade with my husband, that day marked an extremely significant moment in our lives. But, in terms of time, it represents a tiny fraction of our marriage journey.
What I want to share isn’t about a single day, but about the 3,676 days or 120 months (and counting) that have shaped my views and understanding about the depths, surfaces, highs, lows and commitment of healthy relationships — periodt (the “t” isn’t silent). Also, notice I said relationships, plural and not singular.
The lessons learned that I’m sharing have shaped my relationships with colleagues, friends, family and even myself. So to get to the real reason why you’ve read this far, here are 10 things I’ve learned about healthy relationships after a decade of marriage. They are in no particular order, and this list is by no means exhaustive.
1. Don’t settle for a relationship that looks good, invest in a relationship that is good. When the comments on your #relationshipgoals photos on social media stop rolling in and you are face to face with your spouse, friend, yourself, or whomever, are you truly happy and fulfilled in that relationship? What needs to change?
2. This leads me to my second point: Live your marriage for you and your spouse, not for people and not to meet an ideal of marriage. I am all for the beautiful photos and happy memories that my close friends and extended online community share. I was ecstatic about sharing photos from our first family photoshoot. But what you must protect your heart from is the trap of comparison. Relationships are like fingerprints, and no two are the same. I challenge you to identify and celebrate the quirks and uniqueness of YOUR relationship rather than chasing what you saw online, read about or heard through the grapevine.
3. Check your feelings — often. Having alone time with yourself and your thoughts is vital. Having an outlet for sharing those thoughts to help you process them also has huge benefits. I had an intimate relationship with God before I got married, and I have benefited greatly from His guidance and wisdom to navigate my own feelings and responses to situations. He has also sent amazing people in my life who support me and my husband. The big takeaway here is to check your intentions and ask if what you are saying and doing in your relationship is born out of love or fear and hurt.
4. Communicate. Don’t let the little disappointments and unmet expectations build up. Cultivate a safe space where intimate feelings can be shared. Remind yourself and each other often that you are on the same team. And act like it!
5. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. This doesn’t mean be a doormat or be seen and not heard. My point here is to listen with your whole body (ears, eyes and heart), and listen to understand, not to respond. One of my favorite words from Proverbs is Selah, which means pause and think about it. Selah moments have saved me in many of my relationships.
6. Being right doesn’t carry as much weight as you think it does, especially if it comes at a steep cost. I’m specifically talking about petty arguments. I could make this point a separate story, but I’ll sum things up with this question: Are you more interested in being right or getting things right with your spouse? Make a joint decision to come together, clear up misunderstandings and do whatever else needs to be done to restore peace and joy.
7. Hug each other! You will be amazed at what even the smallest touch can do. While you share hugs, also share your fears. Allow and encourage each other to be vulnerable.
8. Pray for and with each other. I have seen the fruits of God’s words manifest in ways I could never have imagined. I’m just telling y’all what I know for a fact.
9. Speak life over your partner, especially when you don’t feel like it. Words are powerful. I’m not asking you to tell a lie, but don’t be surprised when you have exactly what you’ve said. What are you saying about yourself, your spouse and your marriage?
10. Be visionaries together. Nurture the passions in each other. Be a fan and a student of what drives your spouse. Invest in each other.
Bonus tidbit: Play on each other’s strengths, and don’t disparage weaknesses. What makes your union dynamic is that you both bring amazing things to the marriage table. Explore what those are and be open to learning.
I’m still learning, and I don’t always get it right. But marriage is about growth, not perfection. Take it one day, one moment at a time.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite scriptures about relationships from Amos 3:3 (NIV): “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” When two people choose to invest in a healthy relationship, the power of that union has a positive and lifelong impact on families, communities and the world.
Photo by One zone Studio on Unsplash