By Mariel Gutierrez
FAF – Blogs – March, 03, 2017
12 Tips for the First 12 Years
“Wait ‘til you become best friends,” my new cousin-in-law said to me. I smiled politely but secretly I was furious. We JUST got married; we were floating towards happily ever after on cloud nine –what a thing to say! But working towards our twelfth year of marriage, I get it now and spoiler alert: being best friends with your spouse is the best feeling ever! But the road towards BFF can be tumultuous so here are some things you might learn in your first 12 years as a spouse!
Do, Change –You know the song ‘Don’t Change’ by Musiq Soulchild? Look it up, it’s a great song. Chances are even if you think you don’t know it, you probably have heard it played in every wedding since 2002. It paints a beautiful picture of an unchanged love despite the challenges that a couple face throughout the years. Guess what? In real life, people change. So the truth is, your love will also change. You have promised to love each other forever but as you both grow as people, you will find yourselves constantly redefining what your love is. The process can be scary because there will be moments you miss what it all used to be. But aside from shedding old bad habits, as you mature, the way you express your love will also change. You’ll learn quirks about each other that you’ll learn to love. Maybe what used to mean so much were large gestures and expensive gifts (nothing wrong with that!), but now the smaller moments and thoughtful gestures will mean much more to you both. Therefore, keep an open mind that positive change must occur.
You’re Probably Wrong –It’s hour three since you brought up –no, suggested –how your spouse could better do a chore. No harm intended, right? Well now you’re sweating from your eyes and steaming from your ears thinking that despite you explaining, they are misunderstanding you. Could it be? Could you actually be wrong? Probably. And it’s ok! Like most things, apologizing and owning up to misspoken words or misunderstandings take practice –the more you do it, the easier it gets! I promise. You lose nothing by putting aside your ego.
Always Have a List –Neither of us are culinary experts, so tell me why our first grocery trip cost us $250 dollars? For two people, this can only mean that we either got too many things, got the wrong things, or went into the market without a plan! We did all those things the first time and what’s funny is that neither of us knew how to cook. This advice of course extends past shopping carts and automatic doors. Have a list, have a plan. When you think about the things that need to happen, if you have a list of the things that you need to do or obtain for all of it to come together, then you save time, resources and money. Planning things out will help you organize your movements and guide you both in reaching goals.
Fight –But not with each other. You’re thinking, wait, we just talked about this, I thought I was wrong? A fight is more serious than an argument. In an argument or misunderstanding you could apologize and even agree to disagree. But a fight usually emerges from an issue deeper than a misspoken word. So fight… but fight against your issues, together. Once you are able to really get to the issue, remove the emotions, remove the blame and start talking about solutions. Get in the habit of fighting for the marriage, fighting to keep the love, and not merely fighting for yourself. The love between a husband and a wife is definitely something to fight for.
Have Kids –Life is so much fun with kids in it! But of course take this advice with a grain of salt, after all there is not ctrl + alt + del on kids. You can’t ‘return’ them to the store when they’re making noise or dripping (hint: when this happens, they’re not actually broken!). Having kids teaches you how to value life in all its facets as a blessing. It may be terrifying to some having children in this day and age, but that’s an opportunity to really leap into the abyss so to speak, understanding that God will be your children’s safety net when they encounter the world.
Leave the bathroom door open! Ok, or not, but just create another level of intimacy. If there are unmarried people reading this –LOOK AWAY! There are many… flavors of intimacy, and you and your spouse will create your own recipe for it. Maybe it’s not leaving the bathroom door open while in use, maybe it’s cuddling on the couch after a long day and watching mind-numbing television; maybe it’s tickling each other when no one’s looking; maybe it’s demanding a kiss every three seconds! Intimacy is something that has to be honed. It isn’t simply what non-married people think it is (wink wink), it’s about sharing something together that is exclusive to only you both. So humor your spouse and indulge in that intimacy!
Surprise each other – Trying to top off ‘last year’s birthday gift’ or ‘last year’s anniversary trip’ is nice but don’t think that that’s the only thing that will work in terms of surprising and impressing your spouse. Never underestimate the power of ‘little things.’ Maybe it’s not your turn to do the dishes or to fold the clothes, maybe you haven’t ironed a shirt since the 80’s –quick, now’s your chance! What may seem miniscule in the grand span of your marriage may contribute to deeper feelings of gratitude and appreciation. Try an unprompted massage once in a while and see your spouse’s face light up!
Invest in experiences, not things –This one is a hard pill to swallow. For many couples and parents it’s normal to want to give the things you always wanted or never had to your spouse and children. While it’s good to aspire to wealth and be financially stable enough to own a car or a house – don’t let this be the measuring stick of your marriage or family’s success. You can have the white picket fence and not know the people that live within it! Appoint traditions for your family, pick a favorite park, cook together, travel together, and create those memories! As a parent, it’s hard to believe that those things will be what your kids value or will remember when they’re older especially when they’re young and needy – but it’s true. Your time with them is much more valuable than any material thing!
Love God more than your spouse –You may love every bit of your spouse – even the unsavory ones – but don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Whoa, whoa, whoa… downer alert! “My husband is the one I will love above all,” you say. Sure. We even vowed that before God… to love our spouse above anyone. But God isn’t just anyone, He’s THE ONE. The hard truth: your spouse will disappoint you from time to time AND VICE VERSA. We’re human and that’s just how it is. When you place your spouse at the top center of your life, when misunderstandings or bad things happen it can feel like the world is crashing down on you. Sometimes the one you usually run to becomes the one you want to run from… that’s why you should run to God. Practice actively putting Him before your marriage as a team: worship together, hold offices in the Church together, attend activities together, pray together. You’ll find that in the tricycle that is marriage, God isn’t the ‘third wheel.’ You and your spouse are merely the two little wheels in the back and He’s the big leading wheel in the front – without whom there would be no harmony or balance. Put into practice His instructions. God is really the One we should love first above anyone else. You might wonder how prioritizing Him over your spouse would affect your marriage. The answer is: it will not only improve it, it will make it successful.
Mariel Gutierrez is a staff writer for INCMEDIA.ORG and hosts the Faith and Family podcast, Tired Moms. She recently celebrated her 12th year anniversary with husband, EJ Gutierrez.