After "I Do"
The ceremony is finally a collection of overpriced pictures in a pristine photo album. The cake has been cut, the birdseed thrown at the running couple (because rice kills birds, I’m told) and the happy couple has driven off in a car covered with condoms and white hearts dragging a bunch of cans announcing to the world that their parents now approve of them having sex. It’s the happiest day of their lives, at least until Avengers 2 comes out, and their excited about their future together. And they should be. Sharing your life with someone is an exhilarating feeling. You are deeply in love with that person, when you’re not wanting to wring their neck, that is. At times the union is blissfully easy, but it also requires a lot of work.
Having already discussed five don’ts that you want to avoid in a new marriage, I thought it would be good to follow up with five do’s, positive steps to help reduce the friction that sometimes crops up after the honeymoon. There’s no guarantee that these suggestions will keep the home fires burning, but they are steps in the right direction to keep those embers glowing brightly.
Always Support Each Other
We all have dreams and goals, things that we want to accomplish while walking this planet. Each person needs to be a source of encouragement to their partner as they strive to achieve their goals or to take a chance on a new job or career path. While I believe we need to do this with all the people in our lives, it’s a necessity for the married couple. If it wasn’t for the constant source of encouragement I received at home, I never would have achieved as much as I have with my writing.
Supporting someone means more than just being their cheerleader. You may have to pick up some extra chores such as dishes, laundry, or driving the kids to and from their many dozen activities, so that your spouse can get some homework done. It may mean freeing up some space in the house for an office, art studio or those cases of Premier Jewelry. For us, when one person goes on a diet, we all suffer together and joining that gym was a group effort. Being the support you need to be may mean making some sacrifices, but when you see the person you love succeed those sacrifices won’t seem so important. Be the cheerleader your partner needs in order to thrive. You’ll glow with pride as you watch them soar.
Always Defend Each Other
I get irritated when I watch one partner allow the other to get run through the wringer. To stand there and listen to someone slander your spouse, defaming their character and criticize their conduct reeks of cowardice and disloyalty. It doesn’t matter if what’s being said is true or not; you always stand by your partner and never - NEVER - join in the lynching.
It may not always be easy. The stereotype of the overbearing mother-in-law exists because sometimes it’s true. However, it doesn’t matter if it’s your mom or his mom, a sibling, grandparent, father or that best friend since kindergarten, no one should feel they have the right to criticize your spouse in front of you and get away with it. Stand up for your partner and wait until you’re alone to tell him he’s behaving like a jack ass.
This rule matches up nicely with my other rule, don’t fight in public. I’ve watched too many couples berate each other in front of an audience, allowing their tempers to spin out of control and leave those around them with a nasty image. While we may disagree, the masses will never know. In the public eye we’re united and have each other’s back. They’ll tell me what I did wrong once we’re home.
Talk about Everything
It doesn’t matter how trivial or boring you think it might be, talk about it. Share each other’s dreams, fantasies, and disappointments. Talk about each other and gossip about your friends. The topics don’t really matter; the communication does.
Furthermore, don’t keep secrets, especially those of other people. My friends have always known that if I know it, the girls will know it. They no longer come to me and say, “Just between us,” because they know it’s going to get shared once I’m home. We share, we talk, and because of that we grow. I’ve also learned that most times they have advice for me to offer my friends that I haven’t even thought of. As the saying goes, “Wisdom comes from a multitude of counselors.”
My heart saddens whenever I go into a restaurant and there’s a couple sitting there spooning food into their mouths while both are absorbed in a book or the newspaper ignoring each other. Now, there’s nothing wrong with sitting together each getting lost in a great novel, but at dinner? There is so much of ourselves to share that a lifespan just isn’t enough time, so why waste a valuable moment such as dinner out? Together, we share our pasts, dreams of the future, and savor our present. There’s a lot to talk about, so keep yakking.
Listen and Hear
This is a skill worth cultivating and I may actually make it a whole writing at one point. They are not the same. Sometimes we listen without really hearing what the other person is saying. We need to do both at the same time and it’s more than just the words coming out of their mouth. We need to focus on what the other person is saying, but also hear what it is they’re not saying. Eventually, you will hear those silent cries that tell you not everything is as it should be. Sometimes the person giving the signal doesn’t even know they’re doing it. We discovered this about me a few years ago when the girls noticed my index finger tapping. On the outside, I was smiling and cheerful, but on the inside I was a tornado searching for a trailer park. The finger warned those paying attention that I was about to blow through.
Pay close attention to body language as it’s all part of communication. Are they relaxed or tense? Are their arms crossed over their chest? Are they shaking their fist at you? All are signs that something is being said even if there are no words spoken.
We all want to be heard, but rarely do we care to listen. However, in order to have a successful relationship you need to hear every word. Don’t anticipate what they are going to say and then tune out no matter how many times it may sound as if they’re saying the same thing. It’s good practice for when you get older and everything has to be repeated due to faulty memory anyway.
Furthermore, listen without judgment and don’t interrupt regardless of how bad you may want to. You’ll get your chance to talk and you’ll want them to listen to you. Your partner trusts you with their deepest inner feelings. Be someone worthy of that trust.
Hold Hands Often
I know it sounds corny, but have you ever had a fight with someone while you were holding their hand? Never. When you’re fighting you don’t want to touch them because it’s not their hand you want to hold. It’s their throat.
Whether it’s walking through the mall, along the beach, or while sitting on the couch watching While You were Sleeping for the 100th time that simple connection of intertwined fingers helps maintain an intimate contact. It’s a simple joy that has deep and lasting results. You can feel the warmth of the person’s love flow between the two of you, drawing you closer. It’s a serene gesture that breeds intimacy while eroding a tense moment.
Holding hands is also a declaration to the world stating that the two of you are connected and united. Life can hurl whatever it wants at you because you are not alone and together you will face it. Furthermore, you will succeed. Nothing will break the bond you have forged.
Five suggestions that I strongly recommend to you to help keep the relationship waters calm. Just like the don’ts in my previous article, there are other do’s that you can add to your relationship to help navigate those rapids of matrimony. Do pick up your dirty underwear and please aim properly when going to the bathroom. I’m not going to give advice on the toilet seat lid, because when you almost fall in during the middle of the night, you tend to keep it down anyway.
As I said, there is more I could suggest, but I see no reason to deprive you the rush of discovery. Some things are just part of the journey, and if you ask those who have survived the years, the journey is the fun part.
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