I just want to encourage those of you that may have lost hope in the idea or value of marriage. Whether you’re single and discouraged in the dating process or in a relationship and wondering if it will ever be worth the hassle.
I can tell you that while it may not be “easy” it is definitely worth it!
Stacy and I have been married for well over 28 years now and while it was rooted in love and passion, the first years were also full of broken expectations, hearts, and a few dishes! At one point we met with a professional counselor that did advanced level personality profiling that was so thorough it could be used in court. The test took hours to complete and when he compiled the results he was shocked we had not killed each other! He said in twenty years of doing this work he had never met a couple that was less compatible and more prone to conflict than us! Dang! Now we had professional documentation showing we were certifiably in trouble!
Since that time there has been a steady and ongoing plan that we have engaged in to create what has become a dream life. We have been broke, we have been prosperous, we have raised kids, watched kids move away, lived in 8 states and two countries, gained weight, lost weight, been busy, been bored, attended weddings, held each other through funerals, we’ve seen prayers answered, we’ve even wondered why God had gone silent...all...together.
Today I miss her while she sleeps, get excited when I hear the garage door, and find my deepest exhale in her arms.
Here are a few tips based on my personal experience.
Specific to young men. Find the best girl you possibly can. Sort through religious compatibility’s or politics or sports teams or whatever could be major deal-breakers if they carried over to your children down the road. Do this as young as possible, then simply spend the rest of your life serving her, caring for her, encouraging her, and generally working to make sure she has the best chance to be the best version of herself. Default to her instincts on all things domestic because her gut is probably right, but stay engaged mentally and physically in every phase. Who you become by being the man she deserves will boomerang back, helping you overcome your childish self and to find your way in this world. She will help you to move beyond a love that is a noun and turn it into a verb. That is something you do not even know you crave in your youth and you will never find it selfishly prowling around at the club.
Defend the third entity called “us” that is created when you come together. Like a house plant or a garden, the “us” is something we both care for and tend to and protect against anything that intends it harm. “Us” takes a front seat over ourselves as individuals, overwork, over family, and...drum roll... even kids!
One minute really makes a difference. That first minute when we come together or that last minute before we part is always the same. A big hug, a big kiss, and probably a kind word. Pause the tv, ask for a second to someone on the phone, one minute to reestablish that connection, and show honor and value to “us”. You may ask, “what if I don’t feel like it”? Then make it two minutes!
Feelings tend to follow actions in all things that bring value. We love our kids because we serve them so much, long before they can even talk. Serve one another as a way to prime the pump and increase your emotion of love. What would you do if you felt an overflow of love for your spouse? Then do that action and just watch the feeling follow!
Go to bed together at the same time if humanly possible.
Do not argue or fight in your bedroom.
Listen with your ears and your eyes! Put your phone face down or on the counter when your eating or talking to each other. There is probably nothing popping up on that device that’s more important than the one person who you expect to be by your side when your old and everyone else has forgotten you’re name.
Eliminate absolutes from your home, especially when arguing.
Pray together every day. You may say “hey we don’t even believe in God and I hate religion”! That’s a separate matter altogether. Find a language and intent that works for you, but connect on a level deeper than physical, and partner with what is unseen as you build your life together. You will never have the connection you crave unless it is intentionally rooted in Body + Mind + Spirit. This keeps you humble and at some point, there will be something you’re facing that’s beyond your control, so this is a boat that’s best built-in advance.
It’s not a weakness to apologize for your 10% of a mess first. Own your 10% or 5% or even 1%. There may even be seasons that you have to accept an apology that is not verbalized. There are things that I’ve had to go to Stacy (and even my kids) and ask for their forgiveness years later. I was not able to see it clearly until I had climbed a little higher up the hill. But you know what, that depth of respect I gained for them for the undeserved grace they allowed me is beyond words. Sometimes being right later is a richer currency than being right today.
Ladies. It can not be overstated how important your respect is to your man, and how badly he really wants to impress you. No matter what he looks like on the outside, inside there is still a scrawny kid who wants to show you his muscles. I still suck in a little when Stacy walks in the room or hope she sees me when I’m lifting something heavy! It’s funny how great it makes me feel when she says “wow, look how strong you are”! One compliment from her makes me feel like I’m really something special! (Hint, this is wood you might throw on the fire just based on faith, sometimes it was years before my skills caught up with her words)
Men. A wise man speaking to a group of us young married guys gave some funny advice once. He said, “do you know the best time to buy your wife gifts, send her flowers, and treat her like a queen”? We were like “no when”? He says, “before someone else does”! Lol! It’s a great point! Women need lots of things and if you’re not sure where to start, I’ve never seen one turn down a compliment or a pair of shoes! Treat her better than she thinks she deserves and never stop! Pretend it’s a football game. You hate when your team gets a lead and lets off the gas right? When it comes to pampering and spoiling your wife, run up the score dude!
I’m sure there are many more but you get the idea and this has become the longest post of my life! Stacy and I have poured concrete in children’s homes in Mexico and spoken on stage to thousands of people. We have donated blood and we have donated money. The pot that every plant has grown from, has been my marriage. My marriage is the source, the nutrients, the shelter, for every other accomplishment. It’s not another thing to do in addition to all the other stuff. It’s the thing that I spring from that makes all the other things possible!
It’s not easy but it is more than worth it!