Taped to our wall. On watercolor blue lined paper. Are the "Precepts of Our Marriage". To put it simply, we wanted something more fancy than RULES. It's basically goals, expectations, and guidelines Karl and I have decided on together in our marriage. A framework to lean in to, and hold each other accountable with.
We created it at the beginning of the year. Every New Years we talk through the last year, what worked and didn't, and dream up the next year. We talk about our desires and goals, and action steps we can take. Something Karl and I are very aware of is that a happy and healthy marriage is not something that just happens, but it's something that's built.
I'm not your modern day builder, but I do know that to build anything worth something it takes a plan, a strong foundation, showing up to the construction site, working hard even when it rains and everything gets muddy, some professional help once in a while, and ongoing maintenance even when it's finished or else it just falls apart. Do you ever drive past fallen homes and wonder about its history? Do you imagine the first family that lived there, or why it was abandoned to leave in its decayed state.
I picture the once colored walls that surrounded love and laughter. The secured windows, roof and doors that gave shelter and safety. The smooth wooden floors that supported dancing feet through life's humdrum.
When Karl and I exchanged wedding vows, we weren't just promising our love. We promised a life including the other. We made a promise cause feelings fade and people change, and we needed something stronger than a state of mind to lean on when we want another way. When we made vows, we created a new North, a new compass. One that points us towards Christ and each other. That's what we chose when we said, "I do."
This marriage will be the first thing I give to for the rest of my life. And if it's going to consume so much of me, I don't want want it to be mediocre. I want it to be something extraordinary! Something that's breathes life, purpose, and devotion. Something good and strong. Something meaningful.
For the goal oriented, if you envision purpose in your marriage, it starts today. It starts with action steps. So what are things you and your spouse, or spouse to be, can lay out together to work on today. I want to be very clear that Karl and I are far from arriving in our marriage. I am not speaking from a place of having it all figured out. I am the first to admit I do not have all the answers. Relationships are complex and what works for me may not work for you. However my hope in sharing is to spark further thought for yourself and your relationship. To keep what works and leave what doesn't. So with that said, here a few things Karl and I have learned to better practice.
Bedroom is a No Phone Zone: It's 2018, I know, this may seem strange. But removing our electronic devices (phones, tvs, computers, etc.) has limited the distractions in our bedroom which has promoted better rest and sense of togetherness. Karl and I agreed from day one we wanted our bedroom to be a safe and cherished space that we share. It's not for work, it's not for watching tv (unless we're sick that is), and it's not for the energy our phone's take.
Nurture Intimacy: Intimacy is experienced beyond what's physical. And that will look different for each person and couple, but all it’s forms are vital in a marriage and it’s important to make time for it. Sharing your day during dinner, confessing your dreams during pillow talk, massages before bed, admitting your wrongs, cuddling on the couch, kissing good night. Our days are not static, feelings are real, and hormones are everything. There's a lot that goes on to promote or prevent intimacy, every day will not look the same. It’s important to ask your partner and discuss your expectations with one another. And honesty is key! What’s the minimum he/she needs to feel loved? What do you need to feel loved. Come back to this question often, and commit to its answers.
Counseling is a Good Resource: Some of the best advice Karl and I received when we were engaged was to not wait to ask for help. Humans are broken people. We've got baggage and we've got issues. And sometimes we need a professional to work that out. Sometimes we get stuck and we need a new perspective to move forward. And that's more than okay. That's terrific. Humans need help. It's part of our DNA. We weren't meant to do this life alone, so we need to stop the stigma that getting help is bad. It's not. It's often more necessary than we think.
Mutual Respect: Something quite toxic, that many people don't think twice about cause it seems so normal, is putting each other down in public. Since our dating days we've practiced this discipline because we knew how important respect is in any relationship. Without respect one can lack feelings of safety, confidence, and trust. Every form of bond requires it. I am Karl's biggest champion, and my words and actions hold a lot of power to raise him up or tear him down. I want to see the best in him, and to encourage the best out of him. To breed this respect I must encourage Karl's own experiences, perspectives, and thoughts that lead to his feelings and reactions. What's obvious to me, is obvious to me and to assume anything otherwise helps no one and can prove to be more disrespectful than intended
Monthly Budget Meeting: Finances are a common area of aches for many couples. Why not get ahead of it the and get on the same page. Communicate your financial goals and expectations, and set standards for yourself as a couple. Karl and I are working towards getting out of all debt and for over a year now switched to cash only. Once a month we withdraw the cash for our envelopes and that's that. That's our budget for food, gas, toiletries, gifts, etc. And we 'meet' every month to talk through any upcoming needs and where we are in our goals.
Take a Vacation: We need to stop the mindset that vacations are a luxury The definition of vacation is "planned time spent not working". If you ask me, they are a necessity. We are too stressed, too busy, too tired, and our health is paying for it. A getaway doesn't need to be far, it doesn't need to be expensive. The key is to not work. To take an adventure, unplug, and spend some uninterrupted time with each other. Determine together what you need and commit to it.