“Marriage isn’t always easy.” If you are an adult who has ever thought about getting married, you’ve probably heard that phrase a lot. But it doesn’t really do justice to what the person is trying to convey. What they really mean is that there may be seasons in your marriage that are more difficult then you can imagine, but there will also be seasons in marriage that are more amazing then you can ever imagine. The best thing that you can do in marriage is to talk through EVERYTHING. Share dreams with each other, make each other laugh, talk about your feelings, and listen intently.
What does a healthy marriage look like?
I know what you’re thinking. “I know that you have to talk to each other. I’ve heard it a million times.” Before you skip this section, hear me out. It’s not only what you need to talk about but how you need to talk. The way that you speak to your spouse is crucial in communication. A very small percentage of communication is actually the words that you say. The majority of communication comes from facial expression, body language, and tone of voice. You could say everything right in your head, but if it comes out in a cruel or demeaning tone, it’s not going to help anyone.
Communicating also involves how you fight. “What!? Married people fight?” yes. Knowing how to communicate your disagreements is crucial in having a healthy marriage. It can take a very short time or a very long time to know how the other person feels depending on how well you communicate. Letting things fester and build up can be poison to a marriage. You have to be able to talk to each other; even if you have to plan a time to sit down and let the other person about how they feel.
I remember at one point in our first year of marriage, after Katelyn and I had had several disagreements over the course of a few days. Through prayer and time with the Lord I realized that the cause of most of the disagreements was my big mouth. I walked into the room and told Katelyn that I had found the answer to our communication problems. I then proceeded to put a piece of tape over my mouth. We both laughed so that it made it impossible to finish the fight. Sometimes you have to come to the honest realization that you may be wrong.
I’ve heard several couples over the years say “We try not to ever fight in front of the kids.” While I agree that you shouldn’t have open discussions about money problems, sex, or politics in front of your kids, I don’t really like that statement in general. Your kids are learning what it means to be an adult though watching you. Their little brains are defining what a wife and husband look like through watching you. I know that this can be a terrifying thought, but it’s important that we also show them how a husband and wife communicate even when they don’t agree on things. There is a song by Brett Eldredge called Sunday Drive in which he talks about all that he learned though spending time in the car with his parents. In it, he says, “That’s where I learned it; all from them. To fight, to love, to laugh again. I thought that we were only wasting time, out on a Sunday drive.” Even during the most mundane tasks, your kids are learning what marriage is all about through the way that you communicate.
Companionship is not something we typically think about when we first begin to date. You’ve heard teenagers say (or you’ve said yourself) things like, “I just get butterfly’s when I’m around them” or “they make my heart skip a beat”. Well, woopty-do. Not to say that those crush feelings are bad, or that we can’t enjoy them, but the friendship is SO much more important than those excited feelings. Friendship in marriage is the part of marriage that lasts the longest. When you commit to marrying someone, it’s pretty important that you enjoy spending time with them and have some things in common (other than kissing holding hands).
There is a scene in Shenandoah from 1965 that explains this pretty well. Jimmy Stewart is sitting on his front porch with a young man named Sam. Sam has just asked Charlie (Jimmy Stewart) if he can marry his daughter. Charlie responds by saying, “Why do you want to marry her?” “Well, I love her,” Sam Replies. “That’s not good enough. Do you like her?” This father understands that it’s not good enough for two people to fall in love. Having a deep friendship is often more important than how deeply you “fall” for that person.
The memories that have brought me the most joy in Katelyn and I’s marriage are usually centered on our deep friendship. Sure, getting dressed up and going on a date, dancing together, snuggling up to watch a movie are all great things. But deep conversations on long drives, brainstorming business ideas, staying up too late laughing until we cry, losing at scrabble, winning at chess, sharing a whole pan of mini corn dogs while watching Parks and Rec on our wedding night; those are some special moments. In the words of Brad Paisley “I live for little moments like that.”
I think so many people wait to fall in love with someone and then gradually become friends with them. For some people, maybe that works out great. For us, it meant becoming best friends and then deciding to continue our friendship through dating and then marriage. Either way, being there for each other as best friends is the only way to enjoy marriage to the fullest. It’s pretty awesome to get to spend the rest of your life with your best friend. In the great words of the poet Winnie the Pooh, “A friend is someone who helps you up when you’re down, and if they can’t, they lay down beside you and listen.”
Written by: Will Workman