Lyle and I have been married 7 years (ok, almost 8). I wish this were a sitcom so I could flash back for you 30 Rock style, but it’s just a blog, so allow me to summarize our married life in 10 sentences or less…
Year 1 – The honeymoon. Woo hoo!
Year 2 – Goodbye college, hello big city!
Year 3 – The death of a parent, job disappointments, and onset of depression for a jobless and motherless young man.
Year 4 – Breadwinning wife is FRUSTRATED. Credit card balance up, bank account balance down (like, way down).
Year 5 – Dual income again, but with a price – coworkers who negatively influence and SO MUCH PRESSURE to keep them happy.
Year 6 – New home, new (better) job, and pregnant – full of joy, and also every possible mood without any warning (Thank you, Little Macaroni in my womb).
Year 7 – Parenthood, postpartum depression due to both the wild hormone fluxes associated with breastfeeding, and finding I am the working mother I never ever planned to be. Yipes.
But this year feels different… We are changing. We are maturing. We are learning, with more perspective and grace. And instead of a “seven year itch,” we are experiencing the surprising bliss of a new honeymoon phase.
The world would like you to believe that your first year together is the most romantic and exciting time you’ll ever experience, and that it’s all downhill from there. Honestly, it has taken me by surprise how “in love” I’ve been feeling lately. I’m a teenager again, infatuated with my crush (who, by the way, I remember as a blue-haired, bass-playing teenager*), and I just want to spend every moment I can snuggling up to him.
Just like yours, our life has taken some rough turns (not as rough as many, but they were rough for us), and just like you, we have each had periods of being selfish jerks along the way. So where did this 7 year crush come from?
I think it was a choice. First to survive, then to thrive.
TO SURVIVE, we made these preliminary decisions as husband and wife:
- To never, ever, EVER use the 7-letter D-word, in speech or thought. Til death do us part, baby, whether you like it or not. Once, years ago, I nearly failed at this. I remember explaining to my husband that “most women wouldn’t stay through this.” I instantly regretted it 100% and decided I would never even imply it ever again.
- To prrrrrraaaaay, pray, pray… and ask others to pray… and not to pray for your spouse to do what you want him to do, because he’s likely praying for what he wants you to do too, and chances are good that neither of you have a clue what you really, truly need the way God does.
- To seek counsel and knowledge and wisdom about glorious relationships from the Bible, books, mentors, pastors (like our pastor in his Love Song series at itown church), and other happily married people seeking God.
We had to make sure our marriage SURVIVED to even get to a place where we could BEGIN to thrive… And recently, life has become even richer. I blame it on two tweaks:
He has been more intentional about caring for me.
About 6 months ago, Lyle started sharing thoughts about why he loved me, how he appreciates this and that about me, or what I do or even try to do… he’s been very specific, and also enduring in this practice. He offers me written words I can keep from an email or handwritten card mailed to my office… and even once displayed on Facebook for all to see (his sweet message of gratitude got him record likes!) He knows my love language is snuggling, holding hands, and any kind of tender touch – and he does that for me. He even offered me a back rub last week (whaaaaaat????) I could go on about how amazing he is with the
baby kiddo, and around the house… It all seems so very intentional. Most people complain about things, but don’t point out when things are good – Lyle does.
I have been more intentional about appreciating him.
Also about 6 months ago (maybe a correlation?), I had a question on my mind: “How much should I expect from my husband?” I had some expectations that I knew he could meet, so I automatically believed he should meet them! I began reading The Power of a Praying Wife. The author, Stormie Omartian, directly addressed my concern before Chapter 1 was over. In a nutshell, her answer was “Expect as little as possible.” This is really less about where the bar is set, and more about a heart of entitlement vs. gratitude. As Lyle’s wife, I’m not entitled to anything except what God commands of him as a husband! Anything beyond that is an overflow of surprise blessings that bring true joy. Once I realized this, the blessings my husband offered became overwhelmingly clear.
Now that I look at these… they are really the same. It’s intentional gratitude.
I want you to know that I’m not bragging about a perfect life. My life will never be perfect and neither will yours. I know that I will need to re-read this message many times in my future, but while I’m in a place of peace and joy, I desperately wanted to use it to offer you some hope – that’s my only goal in writing this week. Let’s just be honest, sometimes it feels nearly impossible to find even one reason to be grateful toward your spouse. But the more you do it, the more obvious it becomes, and the more you default to a positive marriage.
Are you missing the happy in your marriage? Got a 7 year itch you need to scratch out before you lose something you can’t replace? The solution isn’t in demanding what we “deserve.” It has to be about our lover. I’m so grateful that our family is experiencing a season of (relative) calm this year, but your life can be drama-free and still not be filled with romance that you could be having if you would be intentional. I know, it’s not always this simple, but often it is. Could it be up to you to start?
What can you find to praise about your spouse? How can you be intentional today?
*I know, you want to see it, but unfortunately, no suitable photograph of my blue-haired hunk could be located. Maybe someone can convince him that his non-profit colleagues would accept a 2014 replay of 2002. Yes?