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I read a statistic a few years ago that said that when marriages dissolve, they often do so around year seven of the marriage. That thought kind of frightened me. I kept seeing SEVEN looming in the distance, wondering if we would be able to make it over that hump or not.
This Saturday, we celebrate our 7th year of marriage. And I’ve been mulling over thoughts about our marriage for the last week. This post is my attempts to make some sense of those thoughts.
I feel like making it to our 7th anniversary is a Super Big Deal. And that I should be able to offer some tidy Pinnable bulleted list of tips of how we made it happen. Because, you know, the internet could use just one more tidy little post of how to have a happy, healthy marriage, (as we certainly don’t have enough of those).
But if there’s one and only one thing that I’ve learned in seven years of marriage, it’s that marriage is anything but tidy. Having a successful marriage takes more than easy, trite advice that you can read in a blog post. Marriage is messy. It’s gruesome. It’s work. It’s beautiful. It’s life.
Most of all, marriage is so individual. Because what works for 90% of the couples out there might not work for your marriage.
In our marriage, he does the dishes and I pay the bills. I don’t brush my hair or put on lipstick before he gets home from work, and most of the time I don’t hug or kiss him at the door. He could care less if I wear pajamas all day. Most days I don’t cook him breakfast. Our date nights aren’t interesting or spicy. Sex happens a lot less frequently than I ever imagined it would. We do a lot of things independently. We both need a lot of space.
See what we did there? We just broke a ton of “typical marriage advice” rules.
And you know what, it works for us. And when I was trying hard to do everything the “right” way according to all the good Christian marriage advice, all it did was frustrate both of us. Because it’s just not us.
So, the question hangs. If all of those “typical” ingredients for success haven’t worked for us, what has? What makes our marriage successful?
It’s a million little things, really. But if I had to narrow it down to some of the top ones…
No really – I’m not joking. I think that coffee could actually be officially categorized as a love language. Because when we want to say I love you, we make each other coffee. When we happen to find ourselves without a kid in tow, we head to the nearest coffee shop. And sometimes, we don’t have to say anything. The coffee says it all.
No really – I’m still not joking. I read this post the other day about how many hours it takes to marathon TV shows that basically implied that it was a waste because you could be spending that time in more productive ways. But when we watch TV shows together, (which is by far our favorite hobby, date activity, and marriage-bonding experience), we are doing life together. We are cuddling and touching. We spend hours discussing characters and why certain relationships fail or succeed. We learn about each other and ourselves through it. We laugh together. We are, most importantly, together. As relaxed, us, and one as we can be.
3) Capturing (and holding tightly to) all the little moments.
It’s selfies in the front seat when he’s annoyed that you want to take a picture. It’s all the million little inside jokes that we have that are totally inappropriate to share. It’s all the times he texted, “Hey, want to join me for lunch,” and I rearranged my busy day to make it happen. It’s breathing him in on those random mornings when the sun hits just right and you remember all the reasons you love him. It’s the times we are standing in church and he pulls me close and the world melts away. It’s the times we are in the drugstore and we randomly peruse the love cards and share them with each other without spending a cent.
It’s those moments that keep us together in the hardest of times.
4) Laughing together.
While we aren’t that stellar at date nights or romance, we sure do know how to have a good time. It helps when you are married to a goofball, but still…
5) Staying active together.
Sit in a romantic restaurant and try to have a heart-to-heart and it doesn’t work. Go hiking or to the zoo or take a random drive? We will talk a ton. It’s a lot less pressure and a lot more fun.
6) Supporting each other’s hobbies.
At one point I was so jealous of my husband’s hobbies that I viewed them as a mistress. Then I realized that hobbies in marriage aren’t just healthy, they are needed. So I got my own hobbies and friends and now we both have our things. We encourage each other in those things. We give each other space. We let each other talk about them, even when we don’t really “get it” or even care all that much. Because we are not just important together, we are important as individuals.
7) Letting each other be who we are, and letting us be us.
There’s a million things we would change about each other. And, while we sometimes tease, we’ve both realized that it’s better to love each other for who we are, not for who we want each other to be. We also don’t try to fit our marriage into some mold of what other people and Christians say that marriage should look like.
8) Lots of hugs.
Hugging is how our marriage is held together. It always has been, and always will be.
9) Marriage counseling.
Every couple needs a sounding board, a safe place to air grievances, a professional to provide gentle insight and correction. We have been in and out of marriage counseling since 2009, and I hope we never stop going. It’s like chiropractic, but for marriage.
(sometimes we color in counseling)
10) Never ever ever letting go.
Inscribed in Russell’s wedding band is this verse:
“I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him and would not let him go.” (Song of Solomon 3:4)
Our marriage hasn’t always been amazing. I haven’t always liked being with my husband. In fact, there have been moments where I wondered if I could go on in this marriage. In seven years of marriage, we have gone through miscarriage, two year-long combat deployments, a severe anxiety disorder, two cross-country moves, four different living spaces, several medication trials, dealing with a child with ADHD, three job changes, 2 months of unemployment, and so much more.
Call it tenacity, call it faith, call it the grace of God, call it whatever you want. We just simply haven’t given up. Not on each other, and not on us.
This is our list. This isn’t yours, and probably shouldn’t be. You’re going to have your own things that make your marriage a success. The key is to set aside the advice, open your eyes, and find them.