Friday, 10 August 2018

love and marriage : my relationship advice

hey all, today i'm sharing something close to my heart - i'm talking about marriage, my tips and advice from all the things i've learnt these last crazy 6 years!

if you're new to this blog, my name is Alissa and i'm married to a guy named Pete, and our story is not super typical (but then whose is?). we got married 11 months after we met, and we planned the wedding in a short 11 weeks. we didn't live together, and he was my first ever boyfriend - it was a steep learning curve for me in particular, and i think a lot of people thought we were crazy! but we were madly in love, and we still are, praise God!

honestly, the first year of marriage in particular was tremendously difficult for me, because there was a lot of new things to learn about living with a man, about living with Pete and about what marriage meant. i even honestly had a very real moment where i almost packed my bags to leave, because it was all too much for me... but i stayed and fought, because that's a big part of being married, fighting for each other. 

so here goes on my list of marriage tips for you. please read them all, take those that are helpful and discard the rest - not all of these will be relevant for all of you, and some you may already have learnt or not be ready to learn, or maybe they just don't relate to how you see marriage... anyhow, here goes!

1. put yourself in their shoes.
the surefire best way to end an argument is to throw away your pride and your way of seeing things and try to see things from the other persons point of view. maybe they're tired from a long day and they aren't thinking clearly, maybe they were taught a different way to handle that situation as a child and they've never seen it another way.

i reckon if you take the time to see things from their angle you'll feel both empathy and understanding and solve your argument much more quickly. that doesn't mean that you tell them how you think they're seeing it (although sometimes that is appropriate), instead it means just accepting their perspective and gracefully sharing your own or trying things from a new angle. 

         “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 
– Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2. don't always listen to the world around you. 
no-one knows your marriage like you two. you are the only two people in this marriage and whilst outside advice is sometimes helpful, you shouldn't take it from every single source. everyone's understanding of the inner workings of marriage is different, because every person is different and every couple has a different way of working things out.

even family can get it wrong too, and they're often the first to give you their opinion on the way you do things. but you need to be wise and thoughtfully weigh up the opinions you take on board, because sometimes they can be damaging to your relationship.

i've found the best advice we get is from other married couples, especially those that have been married for longer and/or are similar personality types to us. make sure you make time to ask those people for advice when you're having a more serious issue or you need some tips.

3. figure out what your expectations are/were of marriage.
with marriage comes a lot of expectation and assumption of how things should and shouldn't be. and for me, a lot of that came from movies that i'd watched - and it is so funny to catch myself almost playing out a scene from a movie but in real life. you know what i mean, when something cliche in life happens, say the man has left his dirty clothes in a heap on the floor, we have a lot of movie reference guides for how that scene should play out...

instead, every time you assume your partner should be doing a particular thing in a particular way, or your marriage should resemble something else, ask yourself why? where did that assumption come from? try and eradicate those expectations from your marriage and start in a fresh way - do things the way you two would do them, don't copy other people!

4. be endlessly forgiving. 
a major life lesson, especially within marriage, is to not set a limit on how much forgiveness you will show your spouse. just keep on forgiving them, keep on showing them love, and keep on being understanding. it's emotionally exhausting sometimes, and often involves you laying down your own pride, but isn't that what we should do for our spouses? lay down our lives for theirs? 

this goes especially for those little things that annoy you about them, those little irritating habits that can build resentment in you over time. we have a choice in marriage - we can either be the typical wife that moans about her husband coming home late after work all the time or we can chose to not let it bother us, accept our situation, forgive him and move on with a smile on our face (a real one).

      "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth.…"
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

if you saw the video i did about resenting my husband then you'll have more of an understanding on this point, and if you haven't seen it yet i'd recommend to because there's been a lot of positive feedback from it...

5. serve each other, in ways you each appreciate.
if you've not read the 5 love languages (US/UK) then why not? it's a really helpful book that can help you understand how every single person sees love in a different way, and it has really helped our marriage, because quite often we find that we're trying to show love using the wrong sort of language - say Pete says "i love you" but doesn't hug me, then i think that he is lying. or for him if he comes home and i give him a hug but then he sees that the house is a mess then he thinks i don't love him. we all have different ways to understand and appreciate love, and they're not wrong, they're just different. 

and when we choose to accept these differences and show each other love in ways we understand then marriage is SO much sweeter. 

      “A good marriage is a contest of generosity.”
-Diane Sawyer

also, please note, that these "love languages" change over time and with different seasons of life, so make sure you're always communicating if something isn't working for you and you need something different.

6. understand that men and women are different. 
last night we watched The Female Brain (see trailer) which was actually a really funny comedy movie about how our brains are wired differently and it reminded Pete and i of some important truths.

sometimes we come from different angles because we're wired differently - and we have different emotional attachments to different scenarios. and that's ok! accepting these differences is part of the battle, and then you can communicate in a different way about them.

7. TALK!
lack of communication is the reason that marriage counseling exists. you need to make space to talk with each other, share not just problems, but share your life with each other. don't hide things, always be open and 100% honest, even to the point of embarrassment or an argument. remember that its better to say it than not say it... however difficult.

8. be naked!
if we're ever struggling to communicate then one of the easiest ways to resolve an issue or think more clearly is to get naked. this may just be in our marriage this one, but we often find it helps! generally we just lie naked in bed with the sheets over us, and we end up having a much better discussion than we would've done clothed on the sofa. sometimes anyway. but if the conversation doesn't happen, then something else might, and that's also helpful in a marriage ;)

9. don't gossip about your spouse.
respect your partner by addressing them directly with the issues you have with them. i think i used to think it was normal to talk about problems with my spouse with my family and friends, but then referring back to point #2, not everyone has helpful advice.

also it wrecks trust and makes them respect you less. and breeds resentment towards your husband in other people, which isn't great as the years go on and your still married to them. i know this one first hand, and i wish i could go back in time and not say bad things about him to my family and friends.

      “The best thing we can do with the failures of the past is to let them be history.” 
― Gary Chapman

10. do stuff together.
when you got married you wanted to spend your lives together, doing stuff together right? but then life happens and it's all too easy to get swept up in careers or children, and forget the importance of doing life together. so make time for each other in whatever way suits you both - for us its going out to lunch at the weekends with our son, or just cooking a special meal for each other in the week. making time to do thing together is so key.

11. accept change in each other. grow together.
one of the things we're learning right now in our marriage, during this period in our lives where a lot of major things have happened (see here and here), we've both been learning a lot about ourselves and the world around us, seeing things more clearly and sometimes seeing things differently. one of the things we've made sure to do is to talk to each other about these things, go on the journey together, talk about how we're feeling, help each other through it, and repair together.

i think it can often happen that people drift apart as the years go on, and i think that's because it actively takes effort to bother to share stuff with each other over time, because you can assume you already know how the other person is feeling or what they're thinking. but however well you know someone, they will probably still surprise you. share you personal journey together.

so there you have it, my marriage advice!

now really quickly i want to address those people who aren't married but are thinking about getting married, wondering 'should i get married?' ...

1. don't settle! 
only marry someone you think is smoking hot inside and out. AND that you honestly love like the love in the movies, that proper head over heels thing is REAL people, i live it and i see it all around me. and without that passion, marriage can work, but it's not as fun.

2. don't marry because you think you 'should', because you think 'it's time' or because you think that's just the next step in your relationship. 
marriage is HARD and should be entered into lightly or for the wrong reasons. the only reason to marry someone is if you LOVE them and you GENUINELY want to spend your life with them, however hard it gets. and seriously think about if you should really get married if you're doing it so you can have kids or because your parents want you to or because you think you're getting too old!

and for the guys in particular:
 - run after her, especially when she wants to run the other way. women are more flight than fight. be persistent, it's heroic!
 - listen to her, even when you have no idea what she's saying. don't try to "fix" it, just listen.
 - work on your physical spacing in an argument, it's taken 5 years but finally i realised the best place for my husband when i'm annoyed with him isn't cuddling me, it isn't the other side of the room, it's sat right next to me. 

and lastly,
      "In marriage, each partner is to be an encourager rather than a critic, a forgiver rather than a collector of hurts, an enabler rather than a reformer."
 - Norman Wright and Gary Oliver

thank you so much for reading - please ask if you have any questions - i'm here x

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