Marriage advice

Today marks 8 years of marriage (to each other) for Dixie and I.  It’s kind of a bittersweet day: our anniversary, Dixie’s granny’s funeral.  We got married in the same church as where Granny’s funeral will be held.  20 years ago this year, when Dixie was 9 years old, Granny gave Dixie a journal of pictures and memories.  In that journal, Granny said that one day she would see Dixie walk down the aisle.  Dixie always remembered that line, worried that maybe Granny would never see that day.  But she did.  Dixie remembered those words as she walked down the aisle.  She looked at Granny as she passed her by; Granny winked.

* * *

I know 8 years is not all that long as these things go—Granny and Grandpa were married 67 years!—so this might be premature, but I feel it incumbent upon me to share some wisdom for a lasting marriage.  At least, a marriage that lasts 8 years and counting.  (And it’s not my intention to put a damper on the bittersweetness that pervades this day.)

In no particular order:

1. Assume there is no such thing as an irreconcilable difference.  How many times have you heard this: “Star A and Star B cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for their divorce”?  It’s a catch-all cop-out.  I realize that there are legitimate grounds for divorce, but we shouldn’t look for them.  Divorce shouldn’t be an option going into marriage.  Assume your marriage will be life-long and work at it being so.

2. Forgive.  Forgive.  Forgive.  Forgive.  Forgive.  And so on.  (It is my understanding that healing is possible even in a marriage where the worst has happened.)

3. Be patient.  Especially if your spouse is slow or reluctant to forgive.

4. Say, “I love you” daily.  Multiple times, if you like.  It doesn’t get old.

5. Laugh.  Joke around.  Tease each other.  Allow yourself to be made fun of.  Give each other nicknames.  Try to find common interests—watch movies together.  Have a regular TV night to watch a particular show you both like together.

6. Be affectionate.  Hug, kiss, snuggle, spoon, hold hands, etc. (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more)

7. That old saying, “Don’t go to sleep angry”?  Rubbish.  Go to sleep angry.  In the morning you’re likely to feel much better and, in fact, a little silly for being so angry in the first place.

8. Open up to each other: share your feelings, dreams, loves, joys, passions, fears, struggles, mistakes, failures.  (And see numbers 2 and 3 above.)

I’m sure there are more—I should probably ask Grandpa—but there you have it as I see it after 8 years.

13 thoughts on “Marriage advice

  1. Jyl

    I was a big believer in points #1 and #2 until a couple of weeks ago. I was having a discussion with my new sister-in-law and I said there is nothing so terrible that could happen in a marriage that you wouldn’t be able to bounce back from.

    My sister-in-law then informed me that her friend’s husband’s sister’s boyfriend (I’ll give you a moment to follow that path) had just been busted with child pornography video tapes. And they had only been married for three weeks.

    I really don’t think their relationship is salvageable (sp?) at this point. Yikes.

    As for all your other points, spot on!!

  2. Collette

    having been married for four years (together for 6.5), separated for a 1.5 years, and officially divorced for six months, I could not agree more.

    if only someone could have explained to my ex-husband the importance of numbers 2, 3, and 8 in particular, he might still be my husband and not my ex.

    I really believed in marriage. I meant it. my ex, however, apparently did not. in a counselling session he once said “when I said ‘I do’ I meant that I loved you at that moment. I didn’t mean that I’d love you forever.” ouch.

    if I do get married again (and I hope to, although I’ll never again change my name), I will have a very long, serious talk with whoever I’m to marry and make sure he gets it. because almost two years after my breakup (it’s exactly 23 months today), I’m still struggling. it’s not something I want to go through again.

    in fact, if anyone is contemplating divorce, call me!! I will tell you in great detail how awful it’s been. and I’m still bitter about it, so I’ll really paint you a graphic picture that will terrify you back to your senses 🙂

  3. Marc

    Collette: Thanks for your comments. I believe #1 to be true, but I was a little worried that my friends who have been divorced (including you) would find it insensitive. It says a lot about you that you can still feel that way in spite of going through a divorce yourself.

    Jyl: I certainly don’t want to downplay some of the horrible things that will (legitimately?) break up marriages.

    However, I do believe that forgiveness and healing can happen. That certainly doesn’t mean that the pain and sadness will disappear or that the horror will be forgotten, but that people move forward together in forgiveness in spite of that pain. I’ve seen it happen.

    I’m not a marriage counselor or any sort of marriage expert, but I think the decisive factor seems to be willingness in both partners to work at it—it requires #2 and #3 in both partners. I can’t imagine that it would be easy and it probably seems downright realistic, but I believe and I hope—I have to—that forgiveness is possible.

  4. Collette

    definitely not insensitive! no worries.

    I agree – both people have to have the same willingness to work at it. my ex did not. I could give example after example of his total unwillingness to even try. he was so, so angry at me. he couldn’t even really explain why he was angry. he does not know what forgiveness is, and he loves placing blame – two things I could never, ever overcome.

    watching my dad fight leukemia last year, I learned the meaning of forgiveness. my dad isn’t perfect – nobody is – and my parents made lots of mistakes with us kids. they were really young (only 20) when they had my older sister. I spent countless hours in that hospital and I had a lot of time to think. I absolutely forgive my parents for the mistakes they made. they were so young, and parenting is hard, and they did their best.

    I haven’t been able to forgive my sister for the state of our relationship, though. I’m not sure how to forgive someone who makes no attempt to be even somewhat kind to me. my parents, at least, tried.

  5. Jyl

    Oh, I totally agree with you Marc. I knew that wasn’t your intention. I believe there are many marriages which could be salvaged if, like Collette and you have both stated, both parties are willing and committed to saving the relationship.

    The intention of my comment was just to highlight that I feel like I have been naively skipping along through life feeling like there is no problem so huge that a marriage couldn’t survive it (even adultery). I had just never considered the shock of finding out your husband collects child pornography.

  6. Tammy

    Congratulations you guys on your anniversary! Your relationship is a beautiful thing to see. You are fortunate to have those feelings and commitment to your marriage. God bless and comfort you this tough, emotional week.

  7. Toni

    Good thoughts Marc.

    On forgiveness, I wonder if the western world has made child porn the unforgivable sin? Rather than categorically state that being caught like that is entirely reasonable grounds for divorce, it might be much better to consider whether the ‘sinner’ is repentant and seeking forgiveness. Unforgiveness and unrepentance are the destroyer of marriage.

    And on ‘not going to sleep angry’, it’s a principle instead of a law. Marc – if you and Dixie can wake up next morning and laugh about it then you’re a lucky and highly unusual couple. For many it builds in a pattern of separation and acceptance of failure to forgive and repent. I’m not at all sure we’d still be married if I took the advice of line 7.

    In 1.5 months it will be 27 years for us.

    Probably the most difficult time for us was after Sarah Died. Not arguments etc, but the desire to get away from the pain, to start fresh was strong and for me, a little unexpected.

  8. Marc

    Toni: Naturally people shouldn’t take these points as Gospel. They’ve worked for us so far. Some of them are unquestionably necessary, but I’m willing to bend on the going to sleep angry one.

    It seems to me that point (7) won’t really work without point 2.

    And thanks for mentioning repentance. That’s one I definitely missed. #2 sort of implies repentance, but it should be specifically mentioned.

    9. Be willing to repent, to admit you’re wrong, to ask your spouse for forgiveness, be willing to change.

  9. Toni

    10. Assume if there’s been an argument that you were probably wrong, despite all evidence to the contrary. Then you can discuss things with your other half, and if you conclude together that you were correct after all, so much the better.


  10. Jaison Williams

    In my opinion, tell him how you feel,that you expected more from him,if he can’t deliver can you carry on like this,good luck.looks like it’s time to move on,he doesn’t deserve you.

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