Hello world! Today is a good day. It's usually a good day here at The Justet's but today I have only felt sick a little bit and that hopefully means morning sickness is on it's way out the door! Hallelujah!
Today I bring you a topic that's been on my mind a lot lately. There are varying reasons as to why but none that I necessarily feel compelled to share since they are not mine to share. I think a lot of people get married and think that love makes it so you don't need to work on marriage; love will make a marriage stay strong and healthy. I just want to say, thank you Hollywood, for painting that unrealistic image. Marriage is hard work and takes a daily commitment in order to improve it. It is certainly worth it, let me just say, but with roughly 60% of spouses cheating within their marriage at some point and 50% of marriage ending in divorce (so I've heard, I couldn't actually find a reliable source to confirm this), it's no wonder why people might disagree with me. Whether you're happily married, in a struggling marriage, not married but hope to one day, here are some tips that have helped strengthen Jesse and I's marriage over the years.
Before you proceed, read the disclaimer.
Did you read the disclaimer? If not, seriously go read the disclaimer.
Okay, here we go:
*Speak Kindly of One Another
There's a reason you never see me on Facebook or on my blog bashing my husband. It doesn't mean we have a perfect marriage and that we never get frustrated or angry with one another. It means we hold our marriage sacred and talking badly of one another to the world is not something that would make it feel as such. This was, hands down, the most valuable piece of marital advice we ever received. We were two weeks away from our marriage when our stake president gave us the counsel to not talk poorly of one another to friends and social media and to avoid hurtful teasing.
He told us a story about a young newly wed couple who were out with a big group of friends. Jokingly the husband made a comment about a skill that his wife needed improvement in. The wife, clearly embarrassed then commented on things he wasn't so great at. Soon joking turned into some real hurt feelings and a lot of awkward tension amongst the group. Not only had the couple hurt each other's feelings in a rather embarrassing way, but the friends now had opinions about each other as well. The wife isn't good at this the husband's friends thought, the husband isn't good at that, the wife's friends thought.
No one wants their weaknesses laid out for everyone to see, and as such it's our duty to protect one another. In addition to talking poorly on social media and to groups of friends, he suggested we not talk poorly about your spouse with family. His reasoning was since there are always two sides to every story, going to your siblings or parents with your marital problem could paint a bad and unrealistic picture to them and cause animosity with the parent and their child in law. Simarly, though he didn't say this, Jesse and I have also agreed to not talk poorly of each other to our children for the same reasons. He suggested since sometimes venting is necessary, to have one not mutual friend who you can talk to (still doing so respectfully), or even to write about it in a journal. It's important to remember that even when we're mad, we love and respect our spouse and we show them that by keeping private matters private (with the exception to dangerous or harmful behaviors, obviously). And in the 4 and a half years of my marriage, I can honestly say I haven't needed to do much venting or journal writing (again, not because our marriage is perfect) but because the counsel has motivated us to work through things together and often times has strengthened us and helped us better communicate with each other.
**Help One Another
Recently in a mom group I'm apart of on Facebook, I watched a working mom talk about her frustrations with her stay at home husband. She couldn't understand how her husband only took care of their small infant everyday and almost never accomplished anything around the house. What she, and many other working people don't understand, is that being a stay at home parent is not like what you might of seen in an episode of Leave it to Beaver. It's amazing how little time you have to get things done (especially in those first few months). Even now, Penelope is two and I find myself accomplishing one chore, just to realize while I'm doing so, our daughter is in the other room making a disaster of another chore I had just previously or recently done. And any stay at home parent knows the daily struggle of trying to make dinner on time while caring for or entertaining their children. Occasionally there are super moms our there that manage to have a spotless home and dinner hot on the table for their spouse as he walks in the door. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most of us stay at home parents are not supermoms. I am grateful for a husband who understands this and knows that I'm (usually) doing my best and not just sitting around eating bonbons and watching TV all day long. He doesn't come home angry or upset that barely anything is done or I've accomplished so little, instead he asks, "What can I do to help?" Even though he works all day long, he comes home and throws on his husband and dad hat. He doesn't feel entitled to "him time" (though if he wanted it I'd let him have it--the man's a machine!) and I appreciate every day that I have a husband who has a desire to help. And this goes both ways. Though I don't provide financially for our family, I try (though this pregnancy has me failing at this lately) to make him lunches everyday, I often look up what needs to be done for his school stuff so he doesn't have to, respond to emails for him, and spend some of my free time doing surveys to make extra Christmas money. We are a partnership, we are helpmates, and as such we should help one another when we can. It would be selfish of us to say it's not our job. Marriage is our job and marriage means helping lift one another's burdens however small they might be. If this is something you struggle with start by finding one thing each day you can do for your spouse that you know they would appreciate,
I don't know about you but I don't have some special ability to read minds. That being said, if I want my husband to know what I want or need, I need to communicate that to him and vice versa. I think this is especially a problem amongst women, myself included. Women are natural helpers and so when we see something that needs to be done, we usually do it without being asked. Men on the other hand...they're usually gracious helpers when asked, but you've got to ask. Here is an example to illustrate what I'm getting at: I've had our heavy luggage sitting in front of Penelope's closet since we've been home from New Hampshire (over a month now) and it's still sitting out. Me being a woman here this might be my train of thought: "Obviously the suitcase is heavy. I can't lift it because I'm pregnant and have a torn placenta. He's walked by it a million times. It's sitting out for him to put away. Why hasn't he put it away?" Going out on a limb here, I think this is probably really what my husband is thinking: "Oh. Toni hasn't put that luggage away. There must be a reason she has left it out." You see, in the past that'd have really annoyed me but once I accepted that men and women think differently, and that I was being silly to just assume he should be psychic , I stopped assuming and started choosing to communicate what I wanted. And no surprise here, I found I was less frustrated and we had completely avoided a pointless argument! (For the record,the luggage is really still out because I keep forgetting to ask him to put it away but I just asked him and he did it right away, no complaint ;)).
Marriage is all about communicating. Communicating how you feel, what you think, what're you're doing. The more communicating that's happening, the less likely you are to assume which leads to less frustration. In marriage you need to be on the same page in regards to parenting, how to spend money, what to do with your time, what you want in the future. Communicating allows you to be on the same page, have common goals and work together to accomplish them. It unites you and allows for a healthy relationship to talk about feelings and concerns. Learning to communicate well early on will dispel many arguments and truly help you feel like each other's best friends. It is in my opinion, one of the hardest things in marriage to become good at. And while we are no where near perfect at it, we've gotten better over the years and has strengthened our marriage.
*Don't Stop Dating
Alone. Away from your children (assuming you have some). And make it a priority. Also, tight fiances are never an excuse. There are many affordable, even free dates that one can go on (a picnic and geocaching were some of our favorites even before we had kids and those were back in the days we actually had money!). Another thing to keep in mind, I can't remember who said it and I'm sure I'm butchering it a bit but I once heard someone say, "going on dates is a lot less expensive than a divorce." Making time for each other will strength your relationship and help it from getting to a place where you might say, "I don't know you anymore!" I know couples who go weekly, bi weekly, and monthly. Do whatever works for you and your spouse. Personally, what works for us is bi-weekly dates (a temple date--more on that later--and a regular date). We also try to schedule an "at home date" which is aka for having a date after the little one is down for bed.
So why is dating important? I mean marriage means you know everything about that person right? You see each other everyday right? Wrong. I am constantly learning new things about Jesse and dates are an opportunity to learn those thing. And while we might see each other every day, dates allow us alone time together to talk and communicate and show affection to one another. With school, jobs, and children you'd be amazed how many days go by that you realize you've maybe only talked to your spouse for a total of 20 minutes. Dating is time to focus on one another and continue to build on your marriage. Because if your marriage is not getting better, it's getting worse. Don't let your love life become monotonous.
*Go to the Temple Together Often (assuming you're LDS)
Jesse and I made the decision to attend the temple once a month as a new years resolution after we realized how little we attended in 2014. Now it's a tradition we hope to continue for the rest of our lives. I have personally seen how doing work for the Lord in His house has strengthened our marriage and brought more peace into our lives. It is our time together to renew ourselves and our relationship and pray together in a holy place. I always spend a certain amount of time in the Celestial room to specifically pray for our marriage and I have seen the ways the Lords has blessed me to be a better wife (and mother too) by committing that time to Him.
*Pray To Be A Better Spouse & Pray For Your Spouse's Happiness To Be Your Own
I usually include in my daily prayers for the Lord to help me improve my weaknesses as a mother, and I certainly pray for my spouse to have a good day or be safe as he travels, but I never considered how little I actually prayed daily to strength our marriage until I read this quote a few weeks ago:
"I give counsel to husbands and wives. Pray for the love which allows you to see the good in your companion. Pray for the love that makes weaknesses and mistakes seem small. Pray for the love to make your companion’s joy your own. Pray for the love to want to lessen the load and soften the sorrows of your companion."--President Henry B. Eyring.
Ever since then, I have been trying to pray for these exact things and I can honestly say I have been more conscious of my husband's needs and the ways I can help his day be easier. I've also been less agitated about those annoying traits that all of our spouses (and us included) have and have been able to focus more on the fact that he's human, he does more good than bad, and that ultimately I love him. The other day Penelope and I were watching Wreck-It-Ralph for the first time and I heard this quote:
"I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me."
Initially it had me laughing (I mean the movie is really funny) but later on while I was thinking about that line, it made me realize how it can kind of be applied to spouses. Maybe this is a stretch but this is what I had changed it to:
"(Spouse's name) is human, and that's good. He will never be perfect, and that's not bad. There's no one I'd rather be with than him."
It has kind of become somewhat of my mantra for when I do feel a little frustrated. I'm grateful the Lord has answered my prayers and helped me to be more mindful of him and helped me to love him for who he is.
I hope that these tips might be something you choose to implement in your marriage. And as always, I'm interested in hearing what tips have worked for you. I'm sure there are many good ideas that I've never considered!