Marriage is hard. Period. I'm sure that is not new to anyone under the sun who is currently in or has been in one. It takes a ton of patience, a lot of self control, and constant love (love is after all a choice not just a feeling). Marriage by itself is challenge enough, but then throw a few kids and couple of babies to the mix. It can feel completely exhausting. It can at times be the last thing I want to focus on but it needs to be the first (after my relationship with God). I've been married coming up on seven years, which sadly is the national average of marriage in the United States. Garet and I obviously don't have a perfect marriage (who does?) but I consider our marriage a good one.
Here are a few things we DON'T do that make it so good:
1) We don't make threats of leaving or divorce
In my opinion, that is a sign of immaturity. If you are in a covenant relationship and in it for life, tossing marriage around like it doesn't mean anything is not healthy.
2) We don't call each other names
I've tried to recall a time Garet has called me a name, and he never has. I unfortunately am the guilty one here. I've only done it a few times, and jerk was the extent of it, but still it shouldn't have been done. There is no need for it, and the more you do it the easier it becomes.
3) We don't put our kids first
For clarity, this doesn't mean I let my children starve or show them a lack of attention. It just means, my husband comes first. I have to admit this is a hard one for me. I love to co-sleep, nurse them for at least a year if not two, and I have trouble leaving them until they can talk. But I've stepped out of my comfort a few times because I knew my husband needed me. I've left the kids over night with grandparents and started using the crib at least half the time. As long as my little ones are happy and loved, there is no reason to throw my husband to the side as an after thought until they go to college.
4) We don't blame the other for our lack of closeness to God
I have heard this from many people, "I'm not where I should be spiritually because my husband/wife doesn't help me". I get it, a godly husband or wife is a blessing. But just because you don't have that, doesn't mean you can't grow close to Christ. We all have ups and downs when it comes to reading the word, or having a prayer filled life. There have been months when I barely touched my bible, but I don't blame Garet for that. I am proactive now because I know I need that accountability even when Garet isn't asking me or initiating a devotion in the morning. I go to a ladies' community bible study every Thursday morning, we go to a small group together about every other Sunday night, and I have some great friends who are constantly encouraging me.
5) We don't make purchases without talking to each other first
Yes, we are on a mega tight budget since I stay home with the kids along with Garet being in grad school but we try to call one another if we are buying anything, even as little as $5. He rarely tells me no, and when he does I know it's because he's being realistic with our finances and I'm not.
6) We don't have separate checking accounts
I know people that swear by it, won't do it any other way and it works for them. But for us, it just doesn't make sense. Even when I was working and making almost as much as him, our money was "ours". One of us is always in charge of our money (paying bills and saving), and at some point in our marriage, each of us has been that person. It keeps us accountable to each other. I can honestly say, we have never had a fight about money.
7) We don't talk about one another negatively to our kids
If I'm not happy with Garet, I tell Garet. I do not, nor will I ever, say negative things to my children about my husband. There is absolutely no need to drag children into a marital disagreement.
8) We don't make each other's every little flaw public knowledge
This is simple, I make mistakes and he makes mistakes, but there is no reason to air his dirty laundry on Facebook. Or even to your inner circles just to make yourself feel good. There have been times I have sought counsel from close friends who had godly wisdom. There is a difference between the two. I wouldn't want Garet to tell his friends my every flaw, so I show him the same respect.
9) We don't have close friends of the opposite sex
Adultery isn't something that just happens, usually. It is a relationship that develops over time. It begins as a friendship, becomes emotionally attaching and then physical. I have a couple of guy friends that I had before I got married and I didn't drop them, I developed friendships with their wives and we all hang out. We've never had a jealousy issue because we haven't given each other a reason to be jealous. If we ever got to the point when we couldn't confide in each other, and felt the need to reach outside the marriage, it's at that point we would get counseling.
10) We don't compare each other to another's spouse
I'm also more guilty of this than Garet, although I haven't done it in a while because I made the conscious choice not to do it. All people are different, and that includes husbands. Some are more hands on with the kids, some enjoy cooking dinner every night, and some wash the dishes. Others work very hard 50 or 60 hour weeks to provide for their family. And there are those that are in school and use most of their mental capacity writing papers and taking exams. To compare is unfair and unrealistic since we have no idea what really goes on behind closed doors.
Marriage is a beautiful thing. It's worth all the work, sacrifice, and forgiveness.
*I wrote this post a year ago, but it is still true today. Also, just because you might do some of the things I mentioned doesn't mean your marriage isn't good. This is what works best for us and our marriage.