Friday, August 5, 2011

Seven Years: What We Did Right

On Sunday Brian and I will celebrate our seven-year wedding anniversary.  They call this the seven-year-itch.  Bored.  Unhappy.  Discontent.  Unfulfilled.  Under-appreciated.  They say all those feelings start rearing their ugly heads by the time you're seven years in to a marriage.  But Brian and I have found that to be completely untrue.  For us, anyway.  And yes, I talked with him about it first to confirm he really feels this way.  He does. And I didn't really have to ask him to know the truth.

Looking back, here are the top 10 reasons the Nash union is stronger than ever.

1. We genuinely like each other.  If I weren't married to him, I'd be seeking out his friendship anyway.  He's a fun and funny person to be around.  But he's sensitive and a good-listener too.

2.  We're almost never jealous.  Of each other or of people of the opposite gender we might befriend.  I know this is a controversial one.  Common marital advice says you shouldn't open yourself up to a serious friendship with someone of the opposite sex.  But both Brian and I can list good friends that are of the opposite gender.  For us it works.  And it really just boils down to trust.

3. S-E-X.  I'm an old-fashioned lady so I don't like talking about this in a public forum.  But the truth is, if you don't do it or don't do it often enough, there's nothing unique that distinguishes your union from mere roommates.

4. We have shared interests.  Some of these were apparent right away and others were developed over time as we came to love or appreciate the interests of each other.  Beer.  Coffee.  College football.  Movies and television.  Travel.  Music.  Fun in the sun.  Food.  We get excited about doing all these things and seek out activities that let us do them together.

5. We communicate with inside jokes.  Brian and I have an inside joke for almost every memorable experience we've had.  We also have a multitude of pet names we call each other.  It brings laughter into our relationship and gives us a feeling of exclusivity.

6. We have a shared faith.  I'm not going to lie.  Brian and I are not the type of couple who prays together.  Maybe we should be but thus far it hasn't been for us.  That said, we still do lots of things that connect us in our Catholic faith.  We go to church every week without fail.  We like going to adoration together and sometimes confession too.  When we make decisions we always try to tie it back to Catholic teaching.  And we always keep each other in check when we feel the other isn't following their spiritual path to the best of his/her ability.

7. Our marriage has a higher priority than our children.  Throughout the day I often shush my kids or say, "Just a minute" with a tinge of guilt.  But I never feel this way when I'm talking to Brian and one of the kids interrupts us.  "I'm talking to Daddy right now, I'll be with you in a second."  I think this is the best gift we've given our children.  It makes them feel secure in our family unit and it gives them a good foundation of what to expect and how to act in their own marriages some day.  By putting your marriage first, you're simultaneously putting your children first too.
8. We spend a lot of time together.  Sure, I have girls nights and trips away by myself.  And yes, he has happy hours and bachelor parties.  But these nights away are few and far between.  I look forward to 6 o'clock when his car pulls in the driveway.  And Saturday and Sunday are all about family affairs.  We are together more often than we're not.  And when we're not it's always a countdown until we're reunited again.

9. We know each other's love language.  I think it should be a requirement that every married person read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  We have a tendency to show love for our spouse in the way that we want to be loved.  But your spouse's love language is often very different from your own.  Ever since we read this book and realized each other's love language, it's been easy to correct a path toward being unfulfilled or under appreciated.

10. I go to bed angry.  Sometimes.  After an unresolved argument I can hold a mean grudge.  No one knows this better than Brian and I readily admit it as one of my biggest faults.  But I've found that arguing in circles until we're both blue in the face usually doesn't lead to any sort of a good outcome.  But after a night of sleep I find I can usually wake with a new sense of perspective.  It doesn't mean I've forgotten everything but it usually means I can communicate my position in a more calm, loving and clear way.
Bonus Item: We say the words.  We don't underestimate the power of saying "I love you."  Off to work, before bed, after a phone call, in a text message.  We say these words tens of times a day.

My biggest lesson learned thus far: I will never badmouth Brian or talk about an unresolved argument in an attempt to get people on my side.  I did this once early in our marriage and it is still one of the biggest regrets I have today.  You still may find me playfully complaining about a pet peeve I have about him but it will always been done in an endearing way.  The married couples I most admire all have one thing in common: They brag about their spouse to others.  I want to be like that.

Things we're working on: We're not perfect.  No marriage is.  So in order to demystify the idea that everything is coming up roses over here, I'll let you in on one of our struggles.  It has to do with serving each other.  Often, after a long, grueling day of many butt-wiping sessions and lots of whining, I'll take out my frustrations on Brian.  He got to be at the office all day.  He got to talk to real, live adults.  He didn't change a single poopy diaper.  And he didn't have to think about what was for dinner.  I need to do a better job at realizing this is my vocation.  This is how I'm called to serve our family.  His calling is different and he, too, likely gets just as frustrated from time to time.

What things have you done right in your marriage?  What lessons have you learned and what are you striving to do better?

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