I spent nearly a whole year saying NO. A whole darn year, with a lot of people encouraging me to SAY YES, but I wouldn’t. (They were smarter than I.) I didn’t want to like him. Every time I talked to him I did but I was NOT going to be hurt again, and I was NOT going to get serious about anyone. He was kind, and sincere, and that guy would show up or call (we still had landlines) EXACTLY when he said he would. (If you know anything about him now- that is UNREAL. I was not used to this kind of attention.) He threw me for a loop because he kept trying, despite my every effort to deter him. He even got on a stage or two and would sing and play, swoon (that made me close to saying yes a few times- STILL DOES). GIRLS LIKED HIM! So, what was I thinking? I dug my heels in and I persisted to say NO! (OUR KIDS LOVE THIS STORY BY THE WAY.)
I don’t know what changed but I think his persistence and sincere interest in what I thought changed my heart so I relented and gave him my first (of many) YES’… Yes I would go to ice cream with him, IF I could bring my friend. (I’ve always got to be difficult, so there you have it.) Sidenote: This whole bring a friend thing, although I find it a great idea NOW because I have my own kids and I know what kids do, was not all because I was sweet and innocent, I just wanted to keep guarding my heart, because I could feel it moving, and she was a great distraction!
Most of us have our little love story….and that’s how mine began. He was a gentleman; kind, attentive, protective, patient, and sweet. I was scared, unsure, guarded from past hurt, pretty much a stinker (I’m certain there is a more colorful word for it), and yet even when I told him NO I still wanted him around somewhere and he still wanted to be there. He’s hard not to like.
Why am I writing about a story that no one else needs to hear?
We are nearing our 20th Wedding Anniversary! I don’t even believe it. It feels like yesterday we were at a Kegs and Camping in College. How in the heck did we get here? Someone asked me the other day, I think she had been married for 5 years, how do you do it? How have you stayed married that long? (BTW that made me feel REALLY old. The emphasis was on 'that long.') She was clearly having some common marital issues. Although I felt for her, I laughed because the longer you’re married the more you realize it’s constant work, and we can ALL relate.
I have a few honest answers but no magic potion.
God. Truly I don’t know how people do it without faith. I’ve told Jon more than once- when we were joking and sometimes not so joking- that thank God I promised God and not just him to love, cherish, yada, yada, yada, otherwise…..I’m serious about this. Many of the things that I do, or don’t do, in and because of my marriage are because of my relationship with Jesus, not Jon. He gets it and I’m sure he feels the same way.
- KEEP SAYING YES. It’s truly that simple. He may not want to. You may not want to, but you keep saying YES. Yes I choose you. Yes I want this- even if you have to keep repeating it in your head until you believe it. We ALL have those days or maybe those seasons.
- JUST DON’T QUIT. When you were younger and you were practicing for your favorite sport, or studying for a test, most likely you were encouraged to keep going and just don’t quit. Marriage is NO different. Sometimes all you have left is the fact that you are still married and you haven’t quit yet….and then you build on that. It’s work and effort. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. This world has made it really easy to walk out the door and anyone who is honestly married would tell you most likely many times one or both of you has wanted to. DON’T walk out, lean in. It’s so worth it. When in doubt just hold their hand. (DISCLAIMER: There are reasons people should- no judgement- just talking about the marriages that can make it.)
- Date each other. Kids may come and distract you from why you two fell in love in the first place. Children are the greatest gift, but as far as the actual love affair part of your union… they don’t make it easier and I personally think they make that part a helluva lot harder. You must set time aside for JUST THE TWO OF YOU. No kids or friends allowed! In the beginning trust me, because I know, you SEARCHED for time ALONE… just the two of you….keep seeking out those times. The kids will be gone someday and you are going to want that conversation over dinner alone to flow like it did in the beginning! (You’re probably going to want other things to flow easily as well- just sayin’.) It can’t happen if you’re not working on it now- it’s not a switch.
- Watch your words. You know how you can’t unsee something that you have seen? That can be painful. Words are too. You can’t unsay something that you have said. Not that they can’t be forgiven but whenever possible remember that your spouse is a human being with feelings (yes even men have feelings, WINK). When in doubt don’t throw daggers or say things that you can’t take back. (I’m going to make myself sound crazy- but I would rather have a nasty conversation with him in my own head and be done with it, than say the words that could penetrate and open deep wounds in his soul.) Words are powerful and their impact can be very long lasting. Choose them wisely.
- Patience. We are all flawed. ALL FLAWED. Give grace and be patient with your spouse. We each brought a suitcase into this marriage full of stuff. As you rifle through your partner’s suitcase you’re going to find things you love and things you don’t care for. What we must remember is that that’s their stuff, and we have ours too. It’s a part of them, so even if it’s driving you crazy, be patient, kind and communicate. I promise they don’t like everything in your suitcase either and you want them to reciprocate the favor of patience and acceptance.
- HAVE FUN. I’m not the most fun person on the planet. Ask anyone who knows me, BUT, we laugh a lot in our house. Life is short, and although I get that sometimes you have to be serious, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy every single day! My kids have named me a butterfly, because no matter what’s going on I TRY to flutter through the house keeping it light. Be goofy, don’t be goofy. Be sexy, don’t be sexy. BE YOU- but be your version of fun. There is too much heavy in the world around us, try whenever possible, to keep your marriage light and fluffy.
- Be able to be wrong. GAHHHHHH... I’m always right so we don’t have this issue. Fake news. Say you're sorry. Hear the criticism. YOU ARE NOT always right and sometimes you need to hear from that person that is sharing your life that you are wrong, but that they love you anyway. Take it to heart, and genuinely work on it…remember that they see you at your ugliest… and we all have the ugly.
- Be Friends. Hang out together. Do the things that the other likes to do because you love THEM. I’ve gone hunting. (I’m pretty sure he made it miserable so I would never want to go again… sneaky devil!) He watches Hallmark…(even after I fall asleep)! It’s going to always be a give and take but make the effort to be buddies and like each other!
- Love. Being ‘in love’ in marriage is selfless not selfish. Whenever I’ve spoken to people about this I always have someone who talks about being a doormat. That’s not what I’m talking about at all. You share a life with someone. Keep working on pouring into their love languages. We don’t all speak the same love language so you need to learn what makes them feel loved and BE THAT/DO THAT. We all want what WE WANT…. But your spouse may want something a little different. Fill their bucket, and I’m certain they will want to fill yours too! Advice: be spontaneous and surprise them with a note, a gift, sweep the floor, or whatever speaks to their heart regularly. Make them feel like they are the MOST SPECIAL. IT WILL GO A LONG WAY.
When two flawed people come together in marriage there is bound to be twists and turns, bumps and bruises, love and laughter, and if given the chance, the most beautiful love story in between the reality of it all. YOURS. So many times we selfishly say ‘no’ in marriage, just like I did before we ever started dating, because of our own wants, needs, different desires, stubbornness, whatever, but I promise that once you stop saying NO and start saying YES...your marriage will be the treasure it is supposed to be. It will be your safe place, your serenity, your best friend, your greatest gift, your home, YOUR LIFE. It took him one year to get me to say it but every single day for the last 20 years has been made up of the best yes’ on both of our very best and very worst days. I hope he thinks it was worth the wait, I'm forever grateful he did.