March 21st: 10 Things Learned

Warning, this one’s a long one so please prepare to hunker down, maybe grab a cup of joe, and get cozy.

Last week, Tom and I celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary and 8 years of being together. It’s crazy to me that we’ve been celebrating 3-21 since we were teenagers and more crazy to me that we love each other more today than we did even on our wedding day. Now, by no means am I saying that we like each other every second, that we have the “perfect” relationship, or that our marriage is even anywhere close to problem-free. We have our deep struggles, days of wondering “who ARE you?“, and moments (or hours, or days) where we are often baffled by each other’s actions. We have, however, made promises to keep these vows spoken one year ago (and again last Wednesday) and have committed to keep our promises to “seek humility” and love each other. It’s incredible how much closer two people can grow together when you put aside your pride, ask for forgiveness and constantly make an effort to learn about each other. It’s certainly not easy (especially for the stubborn like myself), but the outcome is so much greater than the grudge.

One of my favorite things to do is look back at our relationship and have conversations about how much we’ve grown, matured and loved. Last week, Tom and I were talking about 10 things we’ve learned throughout our relationship and first year of marriage, and I wanted to share them in hopes to provide some encouragement.

1. The significance of love languages. If you are in a relationship (which is EVERYONE), with a spouse, parent, sister, fiance, son, daughter, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of understanding one another’s love languages. When I first heard of this concept and Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, I honestly thought it sounded pretty lame and cheesy. Love Languages? Really? But as I read the book, considered the people in my life and how accurately it applied to myself, to them, and to mine and Tom’s relationship, I really couldn’t argue. The idea is basically that every person has a specific way they feel loved and a way they show love which fall in one of five categories: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. It is explained that in order for a person to feel loved, that person must be fed into in accordance with their love language. My love language is quality time, specifically quality time with quality conversation. This means that Tom could shower me with compliments (words of affirmation) and buy me flowers every day (receiving gifts), but if we don’t spend any time engaged in meaningful conversation with each other, I don’t feel connected to him. Tom’s is word’s of affirmation, and I’ve learned to check myself constantly to try to ensure I am continually giving him words of encouragement and reassurance. The more we both feed into each other’s needs, the more we both feel loved. If you’ve never read the book, I highly recommend it. Just try to ignore the cheesy cover.

2. Nagging is the weakest form of motivation. Toilet seat wars, constant unnecessarily open cabinets, multiplying empty cups…I knew well before we would share a home that my husband’s habits of untidiness would drive me crazy. Now to give Tom credit, he IS a pretty amazing roommate. He helps cook delicious meals, does laundry, showers more than I do (often twice a day), and picks up after himself for the most part. However, there are those little things that sometimes just drive me insane even though they really shouldn’t in the grand scheme of life. I have learned that the “guhhhhh, Tom, why do you always forget to put a trash bag in? (after I’ve tossed in a yogurt lid, now splattered to the bottom of the bare bin) or the “why do you have 6 cups on your nightstand?” approach isn’t exactly one that will inspire any sort of change. None of us enjoyed when our parents would harp on us to clean our room, so why try to do the same thing with our spouse? Recognizing the times when he does do a, b, or c, appreciating it, and communicating that I genuinely love that he remembered to do that for me is much more encouraging and has a significantly higher chance for the action to be repeated.

3. Fact: relationships take work. I’m not sure at what year we realized that wow, this is really hard (maybe year 3?), but we have learned that not only does it take a lot of effort to have a healthy relationship, but that the effort is very much worth it. It was important for us to understand that just because our relationship was becoming much more difficult, didn’t mean that it was falling apart. In fact, as we worked through issues, discovered more about who we were as both individuals and who we were as a couple, we continued to make our relationship stronger. We’ve learned to never stop asking each other questions, figuring out how to make the other person smile, understanding how to better communicate, and to never quit dating.

4. S-P-E-L-L it out. Generally speaking, women have a tendency to not share truly what they are thinking in hopes that their guy will just magically figure it out. It can go something like this: “seriously, don’t call me”. The girl’s hope: that he will call her anyway because he cares about her sooooo much and wants to share that with her. The guy’s thought: man, she said not to call her so I guess I won’t. I don’t know where in life females learn that we should be so indirect with our communication, but really it just results in a lot of unnecessary heart ache on both ends. Ache on my side because I’m upset that Tom doesn’t understand me, and also on Tom’s side because he is trying to understand me, but what I speak doesn’t quite match what I feel so to him, I’m either crazy, complicated, confusing, or all three. Spell it out. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

5. Pray together daily. There is a specific closeness shared that can only be experienced when you pray together out loud. And I don’t mean praying “God is great, God is good…” simply for the sake of checking it off, but praying with broken down walls that we so often tend to put around ourselves and praying with openness.

6. Be honest with each other to work through problems. Great relationships aren’t great because they have no conflict. They are great because they work through conflict, learn from it, and become closer and stronger on the other side. Tom and I have learned to not hold back. At early stages in our relationship, there was a certain level of fear that if I said this or if he said that, we would really hurt the other person’s feelings. Seems logical, right? However, when words are left unspoken, resolution is impossible. Speak up, know at some point it’s going to hurt, and that the freedom and trust experienced through honesty is better than a facade of happiness.

7. The importance of respect.  Before this year, I mostly had a negative connotation of the word respect when it was associated with respecting your husband. I imagined the submissive wife role, bowing down to their husband’s every need and catering to their silly whims – a role that when I think about it, both annoys and angers me. But learning that to respect Tom parallels with how I approach Tom’s character as a man gave me a very different view. There’s so much more about this topic, and I definitely recommend Ralph Emerson’s book, Love and Respect - somewhat repetitive but very insightful.

8.  You are in control of your reactions. This is a big one. On a grand scale, your life is not defined by what happens to you – it’s defined by how you respond to it. In a relationship, you always have a choice in how you respond to the other person, in every situation. You can make the excuse that because he/she did this, it made me “blank”, but the truth is, no one can make you feel anything unless you let them.

9Believe in each other’s intensions. Men and women think very differently. This is obvious, but I still have to remind myself that Tom doesn’t think like I do. There are times when I wonder, why on earth would he do that when he HAS to know that it would upset me. And yes, there are times when he is in the wrong and my emotions can be justified, but there are also times that Tom – in sincerity – simply doesn’t connect one thing to another like I do. I have to remember in those situations that Tom’s intention was never to hurt me (even though from my view, it very much seems like it was), have understanding that again, he doesn’t think like I do, and believe in his intentions.

10. Put God first, even above each other. In high school (oh so many years ago), our pastor shared this quote with us: “two violins tuned to one piano will always remain in perfect harmony”.  It’s a quote that we had both always understood on a surface level – that when two people tune themselves to God instead of each other, they as a result will be harmonious.  Throughout our first year together, this quote has presented so much more truth and clarity. When I look to God to tune my character to His, to transform my heart to what His heart desires, I have the ability to love my husband with such a greater capacity than if I tried to simply tune myself to Tom. And just as two violins constantly need retuning if they are to remain in harmony, so do we each constantly require to connect with God to more fully be able to connect with each other.

Comments
5 Responses to “March 21st: 10 Things Learned”
  1. Jenny V says:

    I wish I could articulate my thoughts and feelings in the way that you have here. On our wedding day, our pastor said that we should pray together daily. It definitely helps to keep our hearts on track and to be reminded that each others’ intentions are good (#9).

    Thanks for this awesome post!

  2. Stacey says:

    I really enjoyed this, it is a nice reminder of how important our relationships are. Wish I could always remember some of these things. Thanks for sharing and congrats on your first year.

  3. Victoria says:

    Super inspiring and so right Maris! We miss you dearly <3

  4. Tealrunner says:

    I like the S-P-E-L-L it out bit. I agree as a female that sometimes women tend to think guys can read our minds and unfortunately (or fortunately!) that’s not true. That silent treatment/reverse psychology thing may work in high school, but as we get older, people no longer want to play games.
    And of course, the Love Languages is a favorite book of mine and hits home in lots of ways.
    In short, great list!

  5. Jen B. says:

    Marissa—

    You OHHHH so need to write a book my dear…God has anointed you with words of faith, grace and wonder!! I feel so blessed that God brought you and Tom into my life (now the whole fam’s life) in 2012…He had the plan…I just had to HEAR HIM!!! I pray that we will all continue to grow closer to one another in health and in Christ!

    Thank you for sharing these wonderfully honest words of advice and for sharing your heart!

    Love you both!

    Jen B

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