surviving... i mean, thriving in marriage
If you're newly married or planning to get married, I'm about to bless your life. Can I get an amen? But before I get started, let's talk about the really really important stuff first. What's that you say? Duh, my outfit.
A week ago, my husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. (Insert praise break here.) I wore an amazing dress for our night out on Saturday, and then decided to wear it again the next morning for church. I wanted to have a classy look that evening, but with a little sexy, wexy for my man too. Here's that look:
Now, here's how I pulled off the same dress for church the next morning - minus the sexy, wexy. Cleavage gone. Listen, it's imperative that you learn how to pin a dress properly when you need to put the girls way way away. I'm sure there are YouTube videos, but the secret is to pin from the back of the top or dress and then follow the seam. If you can't get the pin right, then just throw a cute shell underneath. I decided to go for military style boots on Sunday to give it a more trendy feel, plus sometimes I just don't feel like wearing heels. I've provided links to the dress and shoes at the end of this post.
Now on to the good stuff... marital bliss.
Literally when I typed "bliss" just now, I looked up the definition, and let me tell y'all something; whoever decided to put the word "bliss" next to the word "marital" was on crack or maybe even worse. If not crack, then clearly they were never ever married.
complete happiness; utter joy or contentment:
That picture in the top left is our first date. He had invited me to his company's Christmas party. I accepted, we dated, we got married, had some kids, yada yada, and the rest is marital (cough) bliss history.
He and I are always learning and growing, just like we all should do in this life, but there are 10 things I've learned that I'm hoping will bless you and your marriage or future marriage. Sit back and take notes.
1. LISTEN TO JOYCE
I have an awful memory. It is out-right trash. When my husband is telling stories about our honeymoon and he mentions some of the things we did and places we went, I'll seriously be like, really, we did that? But some things haven't escaped me, like a few simple words I was given during my early teens. Joyce Thomas was one of the sisters at the congregation where I grew up. A lot of the ladies gave me advice back then, but something Joyce said always stuck with me. Here it goes: "Marry in the Lord." She'd say it when she taught our bible class. She'd say it at the end of our conversations. When I was dating, she'd always be sure and remind me - "Marry in the Lord." Joyce would have me imagine not having a spouse to pray with. She'd tell me how she woke up on Sunday mornings, and would have to motivate herself to get to worship on time. She'd explain how she raised children who had left the faith she fought so desperately to give them; but later abandoned because "Daddy said I didn't have to go". Single ladies. Engaged ladies. Dating ladies. Trust Joyce... Marry in the Lord.
2. TYPE TO ME
Communication is hard. Particularly those first few years. Once that honeymoon phase is over, figuring out how to effectively communicate is something that takes time. I don't know if there's anyone out there who can relate to this, but you can say almost whatever you want to me - anything; BUTTTTTTTT you better say it in the right tone, the right speed, using the right words, and you bet (not better) bet not raise your voice. If it comes out wrong, I shut down. It's just how I'm built. Problem is, I didn't know that when I got married. After figuring this out about myself, my husband and I figured out that we seemed to work things out quicker and easier if we simply moved our conversation away from each other. Email, instant message and texting saved us. Abandoning phone and face to face conversation helped me not to get tripped up by his tone or facial expressions. Taking our voices out of it, the eye-rolling, the disrespectful tone, the annoying sighs, really helped me be able to focus on his words by simply seeing them on a page in black and white. I also realized that I needed a little bit of space, peace, quiet and alone time before I could engage again. Figure out what works for you. There's a lot more I could say here, but I'll leave you with one more thing. Read this carefully: Sis. He. Cannot. Read. Your. Mind. I was watching my favorite counselor on TV, Iyanla, and she said something so good - How do you expect to receive what you need if you don't tell people the truth? If you don't tell people the truth, then you won't get what you need. I realized I was sometimes putting an expectation on my husband that he didn't even know about. The importance of communication seems so cliche' these days - but it's so important.
3. KEEP YOU BUSINESS OUT THE STREETS
How do you expect everyone to stay out of your business when you keep sharing it? Your mama shouldn't be in your marriage. Your daddy shouldn't be in your marriage. Your best friends shouldn't be in your marriage. Keep (hand clap) your (hand clap) business (hand clap) out (hand clap) the (hand clap) streets. Period. You going around telling your business leads to gossip, bad advice, other people being mad at your spouse, and worse yet, it leads to mistrust between you and your spouse. Just stop.
4. LEAVE AND CLEAVE
When reading Matthew 19:5 - "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?" - a lot of people think this scripture just means to get out your mama's house and move in with your new husband. Sure it means that, but in a nutshell what it also means is that you and your husband need to go start an entirely new life together. One of the best observations my husband and I received during a counseling session was how we and others go into a marriage fighting for how they grew up because they think how they grew up is right. To be honest, you have to abandon all of that. I grew up on Crest toothpaste. He grew up on Colgate. We now buy Arm & Hammer. You and your husband will have to figure out what's best for y'alls household together, and go with that. Lastly, the sooner you realize that you didn't marry your daddy (for those of you who have awesome fathers like I do), the better.
5. WHEN HE GOES LOW, I GO HIGH
Okay not always, but I try to go high a lot. During a fight, it's so hard to abandon the fighting when you know you're right. My husband has no idea how many times I make the hard choice to go high. If you could see into my brain, you'd see me wrestling with my ego usually because I know I'm right in the situation; however I then convince myself that these moments of fighting, or ignoring each other aren't worth it. If it's something that doesn't need a finite resolution, just apologize, come to an agreement and move on. There has to be at least one level-headed person in the fight and more often than not, that person might have to be you.
6. LET HIM BE THE MAN. NOT "A" MAN. "THE" MAN.
A couple of years after we got married, we bought our first house. I can't remember what, but something broke down. Instead of calling my new husband about the issue, I called my dad. (insert face palm here) My dad is a Mr. Fix It. For my entire life, if something broke down, I'd reach for my dad. I learned that this was a hug no no. Bypassing the man of the house is ultimately going to be a confidence killer. From now on, your husband isn't "A" man, he's "The" man. You might be able to figure out or get help somewhere else, but just trust me - give it to him. As women, we are masters of getting things done, but he wants you to need him! Enjoy things being moved off your plate, and let him be the man.
7. IT GETS BETTER
Some of the hardest years I experienced were right after the babies were born. Trying to love on my husband, take care of kids, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning, working 40+ hours a week, washing my hair sometimes, shaving my legs sometimes, exercising hardly ever, being nice to people when I'm in a bad mood, worshipping, making futile attempts at a social life, volunteering, sitting in traffic - all while getting practically no sleep - is why I've considered that drug life on a private island at least 20 times in my life. But I promise, it gets better. The kids get bigger. The husband starts figuring you out. Things will fall into place. Just hold on.
8. DON'T SLEEP ON THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about the very famous 5 Love Languages. I cannot express how important it is to understand your own personal love language as well as your spouse's. Typically they're different. My love language is acts of service. My husband has two - words of affirmation and gifts. Here's how it works in a nutshell. Let's pretend that in order for me to live, I have to be given coconut water. If I don't get coconut water, I'll die. However, my husband doesn't know a thing about coconut water because he needs milk to live. Without milk, he will ultimately die. So we get married, and because he needs milk, he assumes I need milk too. He's steady giving me milk thinking it's what I need, but in actuality I'm dying. I'm giving him coconut water daily and he dismisses it. When I try to sit him down to talk about the importance of coconut water, he sees it as a chore, unimportant, and says he will never give me coconut water because I'm not giving him milk! And I'm like, what's milk? It's an endless cycle. Knowing your spouse's love language and giving them what they need to survive is imperative, and vice versa. When everyone is getting what they need, the marriage will survive. (Honey if you're reading this, please hit those dishes. Thanks.)
9. WHAT YOU TALKIN' BOUT WILLIS?
Beware of talk too much marriage killers. Let's take this back to middle school. Remember that one girl who would talk bad about your best friend to you all with the hopes that you'll see things her way and ultimately get rid of your best friend? Surely I'm not the only one who's had a few messy back-stabbing friends in their day. If someone is talking bad about your spouse to you, let them go. If someone is disrespecting your husband in front of you, let them go. Not everyone means your marriage well. It really is true, misery loves company. Let those miserable people go! Friends come and go, you'll be fine. I promise.
10. YOU'RE WELCOME
I saved the best for last. (Honey, you can stop reading now.) Here's how to sneak new clothes in the house without your man noticing. Sis, go get you some of those clear dry cleaner bags. After you get some new stuff, take the tags off, put the new stuff on a hanger, place a dry cleaner bag over it and march in the house proudly with clothes he's going to say he's never seen before, but you've actually had forever because look you just picked them up from the dry cleaner. Then, berate him for not noticing you when you wore those clothes the first time.... cause remember they're old. Ladies, you're welcome.
Dress: Liquorish / ASOS located here.
Pumps: (Old) Steve Madden / Similar located here.
Boots: Zara located here.