Today, Dave and I celebrate five years of marriage. When we were engaged, people gave us a lot of advice, and it often was overwhelming to try to factor it all into a married life we hadn’t even started yet. There seemed to be so many things people said were integral to a great marriage, and I often struggled to sift through it all and discern which pieces of advice were actually important. So one day, I decided to mostly just pay close attention to advice from people whose marriages I admired – and to actively seek out advice from them.
After five years, you’ll be happy to hear that: you’re all right! All those things you said are true. So, today, that is always my marriage advice for engaged people: look at married couples you want to be like, and ask them.
Here are the three pieces that have made the biggest difference in our marriage:
My dad said: don’t keep score. Oh boy – this is a big one. I didn’t know how big of a deal this would be. Throughout a marriage, one person will – (for seasons or maybe for your entire marriage): work more, earn more, spend more, do more around the house, socialize more, forget things more often, require more emotional support… the list goes on. In many ways, in various seasons, you might have different roles, and one of you will do more or less of any number of things. And unless it’s really getting to a point where your marriage is hurting, it’s OK! Don’t keep a tally of who does what. When you start to compare and keep track of every little thing, you de-value what the other person brings to your relationship. The tendency to keep score is strong, but refusing to give in to it has done so much good for our marriage. Seeing each other as partners instead of competitors is huge.
My mom said: know when to hold your tongue. There is a fine line between saying something during an argument because it needs to be said for the health of your marriage (however hard it may be to say/hear), and blurting something out that will make you feel really good for the following five seconds but that will ultimately lead to more pain and hurt. And knowing the difference is key. Taking a second to ask yourself, does this really need to be said, or will it just make me feel like I’ve won an argument? eliminates a lot of unnecessary pain.
My friend said: be considerate and kind. When I first heard that advice, I thought, are you serious? That’s your best marriage advice? I’m going to build a strong marriage based on whether or not I remember to put his phone charger back after I borrow it? And yet, these little tiny acts of kindness are actually so important. When taken individually, they may not seem to be of much importance, but years of being considerate to each other both builds your love for each other and strengthens your marriage. When you feel loved in little ways, you love back in little ways, and the cycle keeps going. Little things like, asking him if he needs anything when you’re stopping at the store on the way home from work, greeting the other person with a smile and genuine warmth after work, filling up the gas tank when you’re driving the other person’s car and it’s getting low, treating each other with kindness at a friend’s house even though you were fighting on the drive over. We are certainly not perfect at being kind, but we both try to be considerate in all of the little ways, because after five years, it’s mostly the little things that make the difference.
These are my best pieces of advice, passed down to me from others. I’ve learned that they are the best both by practicing them and seeing the positive effect they’ve had on us, and also by sometimes not following them and learning the hard way. Today, my heart is so full – of love and thankfulness for the gift of marriage to my favorite person, and of gratitude for the people who love us enough to guide, support, and encourage us. Here’s to five years, and hopefully many, many more.