when i was growing up, i thought my parents had the best marriage. well, i guess i shouldn't say that. what i really mean is that my parents, i thought, had such a stable marriage that i just didn't think about it. i took it for granted. i was happy and sheltered away from divorce and custody issues. my parents held hands when we went shopping, held hands in the car. my sister and i would be happily in the middle of reciting a movie or tv show in the back seat of the car while mom and dad had "grown up" discussions up front, holding hands. i can remember my parents arguing maybe a handful of times the whole time that i grew up. and i never remember any slamming doors or outright yelling. they picked and teased, never maliciously, and laughed a lot.
as i grew older, i remember my dad telling me that marriage took a lot of work. i wasn't sure how this was really possible, since it didn't seem like it was all that hard for them. it seemed like the easiest thing in the world. i remember him telling me that when couples fail to work on the marriage, that's when they fall apart. turns out, he was right. before mom passed away, i think mom went through a mid-life crisis of sorts, and she and dad got divorced. though, they got back together before she passed, and i fully believe that had she not been ill and had she not passed on, they'd be back together today.
knowing this things, and having these things happen prior to jay and i getting married was probably meant to help us in our marriage. i'm thinking. when jay and i first got together, we laid out some ground rules for each other.
1. no name calling.
2. no words can be said that "i'm sorry" doesn't cover.
3. honesty, above all else.
now that we've been together almost 10 years, and we've been married almost 5, there are a variety of other rules that we've instated. well, i don't know that they're "rules," per se, but a variety of guidelines that we've built into our marriage. i won't number them, only because i think they're equally important to each other.
marriage is a lot of work.
marriage requires open and honest communication.
never say the word "divorce" in the middle of an argument.
loyalty and chivalry are not lost arts, and should be employed at all times.
marriage should be defended the way one defends their own life or their children's lives.
always make your spouse feel like the most important thing in your life, because they ARE one of the most important things in your life.
arguments are good...healthy, even. they clear the air and keep dialogue going.
ask your spouse their thoughts on any and every decision you make.
every day, ask how your spouse's day has been.
tell your spouse how you feel about everything...from clothing, to television shows, to meals.
tell your spouse you love them every night before you go to sleep.
ruminate on disagreements. the bigger the disagreement, the longer one should ponder it.
say thank you, good job, and that you're proud of your spouse every day.
pray with/about/around your spouse.
say you're sorry when you should, and mean it. say you're sorry when it counts.
laugh together. and pick on each other.
be the spouse you'd be glad to have your children have.
don't be afraid of conflict. everyone has a right to their opinion, but has a right to be respected at the same time.
above all...i think it's important to realize that the wedding begins it, but the marriage is what is cultivated, groomed, pruned, and ultimately blooms the fruit of all that hard work. it's what nourishes our children, and helps them grow into independent people with values and ethics. it is the most difficult, heart-wrenching, bewitching, fulfilling investment that a person can make, next to having children. and in the end, it's part of God's design, and part of making our lives holy.