My husband and I have always used traditional anniversary gift ideas as inspiration for our presents. For example, on year 4, the gift is fruit…so I gave my husband Fruit of the Loom underpants. Naturally. On year 10 , it’s tin, so of course I made him a homemade TINfoil photo book. (Clever, right?). And for this year (year 11), the gift is steel…so I gave him a giant picture of the BLUE steel. (Because who doesn’t want THAT?!)
Obviously we are the biggest dorks around, and we clearly think romance looks more like Ben Stiller than a bouquet of flowers, but that’s just how we roll. That’s also how we’ve made it through — by laughing, a LOT.
Because marriage is hard!
Balls get thrown at you from every direction–constantly–and even though you know you shouldn’t take your eye off the ball, you can’t help but hear your kids screaming for more hot dogs while your “mind’s eye” tells you that if you could just “rip and grip” faster you might actually enjoy baseball AND lose 10 pounds.
Gah! It’s just all so intense.
But I’ll be honest with you. For the past 10 1/2 years, my marriage has felt pretty easy. It seemed like things kept getting better with each kid we added on (I know, right?) so I guess that’s why we let our guards down. And then faster than we thought possible, the balls of life shot straight at us.
Depression, anxiety, and yuck hit us in the chest, the gut, until eventually we felt trapped and tied with our hands behind our backs.
On the good days, I felt like I was on a looooooong road trip; on the bad days, I just didn’t feel like “this” was what I had signed up for. I prayed, of course, but when things didn’t get better right away I started questioning the very foundation I was standing on. This is NOT a funny place to be in, mind you. No matter how much you like Zoolander.
BUT, I do believe that God can use our hardship for good, so naturally he has taught me a few things. And while I still haven’t figured it all out, I would like to humbly share what I’ve learned anyway. I pray it may be an encouragement to you and your spouse.
1. You need to know what you’re fighting for.
Go back to the basics. Ask yourselves: Why did we get married in the first place? What brought us together? Write everything down and then share it with each other. Frequently.
For me this meant revisiting my vows and marriage scripture (Ecclesiastes 4:12). When I did that, God spoke to me right away: Trust, he said, is the #1 reason you married your husband. After that, everything else clicked into place too: intellect, humor, compassion, chemistry — oh the chemistry! It was like I was experiencing these reasons for the first time! I felt so in love with my husband in that moment until eventually I was weeping and repenting and ready to sign on for another 60 years, no matter the strife.
2. You have to date each other.
When things got hard for us we just stopped prioritizing each other. Unfortunately this is what usually happens when things get so hard you just try to survive, right?! I want to encourage you, though, to push into the exhaustion and get creative anyway. Go back to the basics: What did you like to do together BEFORE having children? Then DO some of those things!
For me and Peter this has meant taking bike rides together, going to concerts, and cooking new recipes — all after the kids have gone to bed! This has saved us tons of money AND has allowed us to date outside our living room. (NOTE: Living room dating is awesome. It served a great purpose for us during the past 8 years, but right now we’ve needed something more. So we’re pushing ourselves outside our living room and into the great wide open. I know, scary, right?! If we can do it, though, so can you.)
3. You have to stay intimate.
I can’t emphasize this enough. Otherwise you’ll end up with a roommate! (and no one wants to kiss their roommate).
Staying intimate means different things to different people, but the bottom line is……….you have to touch each other! I know. Shocking. But seriously ladies, there is SO MUCH power in skin-to-skin contact! And I know you know this because that’s how you bonded with your newborn baby!
So get naked. End of story.
And if tackling this topic seems like the LAST thing you’d rather do, then consider signing up for an Awaken-Love sex class — it will change your life!!!!
4. You have to seek help from others.
You can’t do marriage in a vacuum; it just wasn’t designed to flourish that way. During hard times seek out trusted friends, therapists, prayer warriors, or pastors. Maybe even consider hiring someone like Annie Purdue-Olson who specializes in Myers Briggs! She will teach you how to communicate effectively based on both of your personality preferences — a great first step for someone who might not be interested in traditional therapy.)
It also should be said that you should seek each other out too! Don’t avoid one another because you’re angry; that just creates bitterness. Apologize early and do it even when you don’t want to! (Believe me. I am NOT great at this. But when I do apologize quickly, grace overwhelms me and affects my entire perspective!).
5. You have to laugh!
This tip really should be #1, it’s THAT awesome for marriages. Therefore, instead of ripping your spouse a new one, try watching a funny YouTube video like the “Tiny Hands” one first. Laughing releases “happy hormones” that will bring you peace and restoration. It also makes the hard times bearable and the good times even better.
So thank you, Peter, for always making me laugh! You’re the funniest person I know, next to Kristen Wiig.
In the end, know that every marriage is hard (not just yours) and that they ALL require work. That’s why “love” should be spelled W.O.R.K and “work” should be spelled C.H.O.I.C.E., right?
So choose love. Choose your marriage. Choose it over your kids, your job, and even your volunteerism. If you do, you just might find what God (and Mick Jagger) have known all along: you don’t always get what you want, but you always get what you need……….like a box of “silk” soy milk for year 12. (Because year 12 is silk. Get it?)
You’re welcome, Peter.