I never thought I would say this, but...
I am thankful to have struggling with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder.
Because of the suffering, I realized what is most important in life.
It might seem like an obvious statement, nonetheless, I have realized that my marriage is really important to me. I don't know what I would do without my husband, Craig. He takes such good care of me and is such a good example of what it means to love your spouse no matter what happens - in good times and in bad.
Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know what you are thinking. (Did I mention I was a mind reader in addition to being a mental health blogger?)
I know you are saying, "How can she know anything about marriage? She's been married less than two years!" Well, yes, I might not have many years under my belt, you're right. In two brief years, however, Craig and I have climbed many mountains, figuratively and literally.
If you, or your spouse, have been struggling with a mental illness, keep reading. And if you and your spouse want to have a thriving relationship instead of just surviving one day at a time, continue reading.
Recently, this article, "16 ways I blew my marriage", has been floating around social media. In this article, the author attempts to give good marriage advice by stating what "not" to do. If nothing else, he certainly earned some funny points. I agree with most of his statements, yet what’s the point of having my own blog if I can’t make my own list.
First I have to write down the “givens”. There are the many marriage-retreat-type-tips like: saying “Thank You” every day, being the first one to say “I’m sorry”, hold your spouse’s hand, stop criticizing one another, etc. Those things are crucial in maintaining a good marriage – don’t get me wrong. For my marriage advice list, however, I want to get a little more philosophical by leaving out the “givens” for now.
Lifelong marriages are not the result of “true love”, “a match made in Heaven” or “falling in love”.
Would you agree that a commitment has little to do with feelings?
A great marriage is the result of good habits.
My husband and I try to follow this marriage advice in hopes to create good, lifelong habits. Like most habits, it will take time and practice.
Most of this advice came from our marriage prep classes with our parish priest. But our knowledge has been actualized during this past year’s trials.
So without further adieu, here is my TOP 8 COUNTDOWN to an awesome marriage.
8. Tell your spouse that you will pray for them – and then do it! Even if you just offer up a short prayer at the beginning of the day, it is still pleasing to the Lord. My husband and I like the big three: an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be.
Also, along the same lines, pray together as often as you can. Even if your prayer time is as short as a "Help Us, Jesus" at the end of the day, it is still good for your relationship with each other and your relationship with God.
You have to start somewhere, right? If you try to start a prayer routine with your spouse that includes a daily rosary, meditation, chaplet, gospel reflection, morning prayer, night prayer, and a daily catechism reading, you will be setting yourself up for failure.
Remember, one small prayer together is better than nothing at all.
7. Have regular Dream Sessions with your spouse. A Dream Session is a date centered on writing down your dreams and goals – long term and short term – and then sharing them with each other. Craig and I try to have a Dream Session once a month. When you share your dreams with another person, ingrained in human nature is the desire to help that person achieve their dreams. Make a Wish Foundation is popular because of this phenomenon.
Craig wants to help make my dreams a reality. In turn, when Craig tells me his dreams and goals, I want to help him accomplish them too.
Last year I had “Get a Piano” on my dream list. In a short amount of time, my husband found a piano from someone he worked with who didn’t want it anymore. The instrument was in amazing condition and was practically free. Had we not had our dream session discussions, Craig might not have known how cool it is for me to have a piano in our home.
You can read more about Dream sessions via Matthew Kelly and his foundation.
6. No TV in the bedroom. Craig and I don't have TV or Internet in the house at all, actually. I can go to the library to check my email and post a new blog, if I want. We listen to the Reds on the radio. And we have a television set in the living room with a DVD player to watch movies from time to time.
I believe TV is extremely harmful for your relationships. When you spend time with each other, do you like the fact that you sit and watch mindless television all the time? You turn on the TV because it’s easy.
It’s hard to give up TV because watching it is a habit. If you don’t want it a part of your life anymore, it will take time and practice to extract it from your daily schedule. But, it’s worth it. Fill in that time with other interactive relationship activities.
Instead of TV, Craig and I play cards, board games, Farkle, Dominos, we take walks, bike rides, or we just sit and chat in our free time together.
In my opinion, TV is not a moderation question. If you want to have a thriving marriage relationship, get rid of Cable, Digital, Antenna, or whatever channels you have. I think TV is especially harmful because of all the negative messages portrayed.
Sitcoms degrade the family, in particular, the father figure. News instills fear and panic in daily life instead of peace and calm. Do I have to talk about how dumb reality shows are? Commercials make you want to buy stuff you don't need. And there are constant subliminal messages on TV that looking young, thin, and beautiful are the most important things in life.
If you are constantly receiving these negative messages, eventually, you will be worn down. The more you are used to seeing something “bad” (or inconsistent with your beliefs), the less shocking it seems. I worked at a factory for a summer and, in the beginning, I was offended by the “f” word. However, by the end of the summer, it didn’t bother me anymore. I was desensitized to it. Do I still think that the “f” word is bad? Yes. But, I lowered my standards because I was conditioned to hearing it many times a day.
Recently, I watched TV for only a few minutes and I was immediately bombarded with messages of impurity, infidelity, despair, and scandal. Because I am not used to it, I what I saw on TV made me feel sick to my stomach. I don’t want to “get used to it” either. It’s not a world I want to be a part of.
What is more important, your primary vocation of marriage or who gets voted off American Idol?
I honestly believe that my marriage is stronger because we don’t have TV. I also believe that I recovered from my depression more effectively by not watching TV.
5. Stop the lazy yelling. (Stop all yelling.) But, especially stop the lazy kind of yelling that you do when you want to talk to your spouse from the other room. Get off your butt and go in the other room to ask the question. This advice seems insignificant but it can work miracles for your communication.
When you yell, you create an environment of stress. Loud noises cause the brain to go into “fight or flight” mode. Without knowing it, you only receive partial information because your brain thinks it is an emergency situation. Even if you are not angry, yelling causes the panic buttons in the brain to go off.
Also, it is more difficult to make decisions in loud situations. What is the first thing you do when you are lost? You turn down the radio. “Everyone quiet! I need to figure out where we are.”
4. Create a budget with your spouse. On a regular basis, manage the finances together. When you first start out, you might have to have a budget meeting once week. But once you get going, once a month would work just fine. Make sure you both know how and when to pay every bill. Rotate the responsibilities of managing the accounts.
Managing the money is not just one person’s job, even if there is just one income – you are in a marriage. Communicate with each other about saving and spending. Make lists of “dream stuff” or prioritize “home repair” items. Get on the same page about long-term and short-term money goals. The more you communicate about money and spending, the more peace you will have in your relationship.
3. Become familiar with your spouse’s and your own “Family of Origin”. The basic idea of the “Family of Origin” is to learn about how your home life and family life as a child can still affects you today.
The small habits that you find yourself doing during daily life come from your “Family of Origin”. Things like, how you wash the dishes, how you fold t-shirts, what causes you worry or stress, what type of vacations you take, your personal hygiene, etc. Most of these practices are learned from one’s parents, siblings, other relatives or foster parents, etc. Knowledge about your spouse’s and your family of origin is information every marriage should have. Knowing where some things come from can reduce miscommunications and minimize trivial arguments.
For example, my dad is an electrician and he is really picky about lights being left on. Because I grew up in his household, I learn to use the least amount of electricity as possible. I never thought that much of it until I got married. My husband, on the other hand, will leave a lamp on when we go somewhere so we don’t have to come back to a dark house. I noticed that his parents do the same thing. My family of origin taught me to turn off the lights. Craig’s family of origin taught him to leave one on. Neither is right or wrong, it’s just different. And knowing these things about yourself and your spouse can help enhance your communication. You can read more about the “Family of Origin” here: http://www.foryourmarriage.org/dating-engaged/marriage-readiness/family-of-origin/.
2. Don’t (Wait, take a deep breath. I mean, yes, take a deep breath because this one is really important, in my opinion.)
DO NOT use peer pressure on your husband or wife.
Spouse pressure is the worst kind of peer pressure. No matter how strong or weak your relationship currently is, your spouse will always try to impress you. Just as you want, your spouse wants to feel accepted and respected, loved and encouraged. Do not take advantage of the trust in your relationship just to manipulate them into doing something you want them to do.
It is tempting you try and get your way. Whether it is about money, house things, raising kids, what to do, where to go, just be open and honest. Keep building on the trust you have established and you will become more confident in your relationship.
1. Learn your love language and your spouse's love language. The Five Love Languages are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. It is important to learn how you give and receive love AND how your spouse gives and receives love.
My husband’s primary love language is acts of service. My love language is physical touch. If we didn’t know how each other received love then we would have a lot of miscommunication. Craig would do the dishes for me and, I would be thankful, but I wouldn’t feel as loved. He knows that in order for me to feel loved, I just need a hug. When Craig comes home from work, I want to give him hugs and kisses. He won’t reject my affection, but I know, because of knowing his love language, he feels more love from me when he comes home and I am almost finished mowing the lawn.
Sometimes the way you show love can be different than the way you receive love. For me, I like to give homemade gifts to those I care about. I like to make handmade cards. Occasionally, I give away paintings or knitted things.
Learning about the Five Love Languages will, not only, help your marriage, it can also help your other important relationships as well – like your relationship with your mom and dad, friends, coworkers, or other relatives. Click here to find out more about the Five Love Languages and how knowing them can benefit your relationships.
Try these eight tips and see how each one works for you. I hope you begin to enjoy a more nourishing life in the process.