Last week all the women in my family had a meal together for the first time. I mean we’ve had meals together before but it was the first time we were all alone, no men, no kids, just peace and food! Amazing. We all got together to celebrate my cousin and her engagement. So my mom kicked off lunch with a killer toast, because that’s how my mom rolls, and then asked us to each share our advice for marriage. Six of the 11 women were married and one was divorced. Between these seven women there was 116 years of marriage experience and wisdom.
I know people offer up marriage advice to newly engaged couples all the time, but this was really special because it wasn’t random advice from an acquaintance or lame advice about putting the seat down or whatever. This advice was heartfelt, deep, meaty, helpful and so supportive of my cousin and her upcoming marriage.
I want to pass this advice along to you. It’s just too good to miss. So here we go, the 11 nuggets of marriage wisdom from the ladies in my family!
1) Do your prep work before you walk down the aisle. So this is a piece of advice that many would say, yeah duh, but think about if you’ve really put the work in. Be honest with yourself. Have you asked the tough questions? Have you sought out premarital counseling? Advice? Mentorship? Anything? This is so important because changes are more easily made before marriage than after marriage.
2) Laugh often. My husband is one of the funniest people I know and we laugh together all the time. I can’t tell you how many times we have broken the tension of a serious talk with humor. This is a simple thing but oh so powerful.
3) Do stuff together. Seriously! Some couples have their own thing but don’t have a together thing. Have something that is yours that you like to do together. Life gets really busy and it is so necessary to have something that keeps you connected during those times and bolsters your compatibility. Plus it’s fun.
4) Close the bathroom door. Ok so this sounds a bit like put the seat down, but it’s not. This means leave a bit of mystery in your marriage. Yes, be comfortable around one another, and of course be yourself. But please leave a little to the imagination.
5) Work as a team, but don’t always keep score or expect a tie. I love this advice, because it is so true. So many times in marriage one spouse is picking up some of the other’s slack. So work together as a team. In fact, be proud of your team.
Just know that sometimes things won’t be “even” or “tied.” Sometimes you may give 80% and your partner 20%; other times your partner may give 95% to your 5%. But you are still a team, all the time. Part of the beauty of marriage is having one another to share the load. Sometimes you will be giving more and sometimes taking more, but that’s how it goes. Work hard to avoid resenting this and instead take pride in lifting one another up along the way.
6) Take comfort that ups and downs are normal. During our first year of marriage, my husband and I had a huge fight on Easter. I don’t really remember what it was about, but I remember going out to the car to cry and thinking, crap, I can’t break up with him, now what? I don’t mean that I wanted a divorce or anything but the realization of the permanence of our relationship sunk in very hard at that moment. When we married, I vowed forever and I meant it. That day forever felt like… well… forever!
So the advice here is that there will be times when marriage feels hard and that is NORMAL! And there will be times where you are humming along and that’s also NORMAL! Marriage requires work and you will be thrown off your game from time to time but do not fret, just reset! And be careful of getting stuck in a dark hole where you feel like your marriage will be hard forever. Just because something is hard today, doesn’t mean it will be hard every day. Work through it, talk, compromise, apologize, forgive and move on!
7) Be on a steady diet of humble pie. This one is hard to swallow sometimes, but a little humility goes a long way. So, yes, you may always be right but try being humble instead. It will really go over much better. I promise.
8) Shift your perspective. Take time to get in your partner’s shoes. Actually, do this everyday, and hopefully your partner will too. Spend a few minutes everyday thinking about what they’re doing, what their day is like and how they may be feeling. When you argue, challenge yourself to get in their world and see their side. Your partner will appreciate it and you definitely will too.
9) R-E-S-P-E-C-T. So there are two pieces of advice in this one. First, men love to feel respected. This respect may look different to different men, so get to know how your partner likes to feel respected. Then DO IT!
Second, make a vow to never talk disrespectfully to each other in front of other people. Obviously it’s best if you just never talk that way to each other, ever, but make a commitment to always treat one another with dignity and care in front of others. You chose your spouse, so honor them and treat them with respect. Obviously this goes both ways!
10) If you have nothing nice to say, then shut up! Words matter and when they leave your mouth you cannot take them back. So think before you speak. Take a second to collect your thoughts or calm down, or whatever works for you. Just be sure to think about your words before speaking.
11) *Remove the D word from your vocabulary. This was a heavy, but powerful, piece of advice from my divorced aunt. Her words were to take divorce off the table and vow to never go there during an argument. She talked about the pain that it caused her and her children (as she sat across the table from her daughter) and the lasting impact that it has had on them. This is wise advice, and something my husband and I also promised one another when we got married. Yes, there will be heated fights and tough times, but don’t go there.
So, after lunch, my cousin called off her wedding. Nah, just kidding, but what was so cool about this day was that this advice wasn’t fluff. It was real and based on decades of personal experience. We ended the day by telling her that we are all resources to her, people she can come to with the good, the bad and the ugly and that we will lift her and her marriage up however we can.
Hopefully you found all of this advice helpful. In the spirit of our lunch, I want to end on this question: Who can you go to when you and your marriage need lifted up?
*If you are in a dangerous or abusive relationship, this does not apply to you. Divorce should definitely be in your vocabulary and please seek professional support and help.