Hey! Get comfy. This one’s sweet, but it’s not short. Marriage is too important to skimp on!
Cullen and I celebrated our second anniversary last week, so I thought no better time to share a few words on marriage. When I dreamed up this business, I told myself it wasn’t going to just be about weddings – but a way to set a good example for and speak life into marriages as well. For a topic I’m so passionate about, I was a little surprised at how much resistance and hesitation surfaced with this post. I wrestled with feelings of inadequacy and inexperience. I mean come on, this is year two not twenty. Who am I to write about marriage? Y’all, I’m no expert. But I’m not going to let that keep me from sharing my truth. I’ve learned to lead from where I’m at. We don’t have a perfect marriage, but we’ve got it pretty dang good. Today I’m sharing 11 of Cullen and I’s marriage musts aka what’s working for us! I hope you get at least one little truth nugget that will impact you and/or your marriage for the better. I’m rooting for you!
1. Seek wise counsel.
We need help. And not from people that are only going to tell us what we want to hear. Read that again. Stop running to people that only validate every negative feeling towards your spouse and start moving towards those that are going to punch you in the gut with truth when you need it. Those that will tell you when you’re being stubborn and selfish. Those that will cause you to step back and see the situation from a different perspective. Those that will remind you that your spouses’ intention was good, but that maybe his delivery or method caused a misinterpretation. Those that root louder for your success as a couple than your success as an individual. Find a couple that has gone before you to lead you in wisdom and maturity. Find a couple that’s doing marriage alongside you that you can turn to for sound, unbiased advice. Join a small group through church where you can be surrounded by other couples going through similar seasons. And for the love, crack open your bible. It kind of has an entire manual, cheat sheet for marriage. Who doesn’t take advantage of the note card offer from teachers on test day?! We have one of those for all of life’s tests! It just has a few more pages. Use it.
Pray together. Cullen and I’s development as a couple and in our relationship with God can be directly correlated to the development of our prayer life. We had always prayed silently as individuals (which we still continue to do!), but beginning to pray together out loud was a game changer. I’ll never forget the first night Culled led us in prayer at the dinner table. And I’ll never forget the first morning Cullen prayed over me before he left for work. Talk about a happy heart! And welcoming vulnerability. It wasn’t always this way, y’all. And I want to address that. God calls men to be the spiritual leader of the family. If I’m being completely honest and Cullen would say the same, I couldn’t say that of him in 100% confidence before we were married. Thankfully, we had great premarital counselors that brought the importance of this to light and Cullen has been actively pursuing and owning that role since. This is also something I prayed about, so it works y’all. In His time! Pray for one another. Often. And check yourself if the only thing you’re praying for is for your spouse to change. Praying for change in your spouse is not wrong, but I’ve found there’s more power in praying for my own heart to be softened towards my spouse in times of waiting for change. Because at the end of the day, we can’t change our spouse. That’s God-size work. Pray for others. When you tell someone they’re in your prayers, they dang sure better be. Share what’s going on in your world and join together to lift those up around you. When in doubt, pray it out!
3. Raise your standards above the world’s.
*Gets engaged. *Hears “Oh no, your life is over” or something similar 139,347,292 times. Can we not? Can we stop with these discouraging stereotypical comments? We couldn’t believe how normal this was after we got engaged. We vowed to be the kind of people like one of Cullen’s former bosses, who said “Getting married to the right woman is the best decision you’ll ever make.” But we also knew to say this and believe it, we’d have to work hard to live out a marriage that’s different than most. Different than what the world says marriage is or has to be. Our standards have to be better than the status quo. We have to invest more time and energy into ourselves and relationship. We have to welcome accountability without defensiveness. We have to communicate like our marriage depends on it. We have to shed our pride and live for each other before self. Ditch the stereotypes. Ditch your skewed pop-culture view of marriage. And raise your standards.
4. Treat your spouse how you want your future son-in-law or daughter-in-law to treat your kid.
Ooooooh things get real when you bring your babies into it. When I heard someone put it this way for the first time, it hit me like a ton of bricks! I don’t have kids yet, but I know for certain that I want them to be loved, adored, cherished and respected in marriage. And one of the best ways to ensure that happens is by living it out in my own. How you treat your spouse is going to have more of an impact on your kids’ future relationships than you might realize. Kids learn what to expect and accept from a spouse largely by observing their own parents. If you’re a mom of a son, ask yourself, “Would I be okay with my son’s future wife treating him the same way I treat my husband?” If you’re a dad of a daughter, ask yourself, “Am I modeling the same love I believe my daughter deserves to my wife on a daily basis?”
5. Make no room for past wrongs (or as we like to call them “p-dubs”).
If Cullen starts bringing up a past wrong of mine, I will usually stop him and say, “Woah woah woah. Is this a p-dub?” And he does the same to me. We set a standard early on, maybe even before we were married, that p-dubs aren’t welcome. As it says in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-5, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” We see this verse all the time, but I think this point on keeping no record of wrongs gets overlooked. We aren’t perfect people. We bring baggage, mistakes and past sin to relationships and we continue to make missteps. Stop keeping track. Stop tallying up wrongs. Stop taking petty mental notes to use in a fight later. Stop allowing something from years, days or minutes ago to prevent loving in the now. P-dubs have got to go!
6. Love her, respect him.
Oh lawwwwddddd. THIS. I could write a book on this concept, but thankfully someone already did! Stop what you’re doing and order Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs now! I’ll wait……..great, go you! You’re on your way to breakthrough. Okay, this little blurb is for the ladies. Not that men are innocent, don’t have things to work on or aren’t equally responsible, but because us gals have been missing something BIG (arguably superpower level). Would you believe me if I said your man would rather feel respected than loved? Go ahead, ask him. That’s hard for us women to grasp because we’re natural lovers. We’d be appalled if our husband said, “I don’t love you, but I respect you.” All we want is to be loved and cherished. And all men want is to be respected. Unconditionally. Wooooof. Yep, unconditionally. We want to be loved even when we suck. And men want to be respected even when they falter. So, how can you respect your husband? Stop being disrespectful. Ok, duh. What does disrespect look like? It looks like putting your husband down in front of a crowd. It looks like ragging on your husband on social media. It looks like calling him whipped instead of thanking him for his devotion to you. It looks like constantly dissing his family. It looks like making big decisions without him. It looks like laughing at his expense. It looks like causing a scene leaving him to guess what’s wrong instead of communicating like a grown adult. It looks like using the worst of words to cut him down in a fight. If you really want to know specifics, ask your husband! Start asking yourself this question before you act and speak: Will this make my husband feel respected? If the answer is no, find a different way. So often women are hoping to see change in their husbands. Start looking through the lens of respect and see what happens! And heck, try saying, “I respect you” the next chance you get and you might just be shocked at his reaction. P.S. There is so so much more to this concept. Strongly strongly encourage you and the hubs to read the book. The earlier you both get this down, the better!
7. Don’t go to bed angry.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are angry.” This one is pretty cut and dry. Sometimes conflict can’t be resolved right away and sometimes it is good to take a break and come back to it, but don’t let it sneak into the next day. Life is too short.
8. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Hey. I’ve got some big news. Did you know that humans can’t read minds? Yep, that’s right and your spouse is not the exception. If you don’t tell your spouse how you feel, he or she WILL. NOT. KNOW. Enough with the guesswork, people. No one enjoys it and it simply doesn’t work. Men and women communicate in completely different languages and see life through completely different lenses. We need to remind ourselves of this daily and we need to help each other out! While it can be frustrating when your spouse isn’t catching your drift, choose to react in love instead of anger. After all, you may be speaking English, but they could be hearing Chinese. And stop making up stories in your head about what you think he or she meant. Ask! The stories and assumptions we make up are always worse than reality. Try the ol’ “This is how it came through to me. Is that what you meant to say?” Often times, he will say no and have an opportunity to explain. If you choose to believe your spouses intent is not to harm, it’s a lot easier to brush things off, not allow yourself to be offended and get to the true decoded answer. Quality communication is the key. Make it a goal to be more intentional, more clear, more active and more loving in the way you communicate.
9. Do not put your spouse down in front of other people. Or really ever.
I know this could probably be lumped into the love and respect blurb, but I think it’s important enough to get its own paragraph. Seeing and hearing spouses put each other down in front of other people makes me cringe something FIERCE. Not only does it make those around you super uncomfortable, it does major damage. And often leads to either an equally harsh response or your spouse completely withdrawing with feelings of betrayal, defeat and embarrassment. Thankfully, Cullen and I agreed very early on that that would not fly in our family. We believe so strongly in this that even if we make a joke that might toe the line, we’ll often apologize or make sure it didn’t strike a chord as soon as we get in the car or home. Notice I said in the car or home. When your spouse messes up, as mad as you might be, wait to hash it out in private! Ask them to come into the other room, step outside or wait until you leave. Don’t air your dirty laundry in front of everyone. And let me get something straight, we don’t do this because we’re snowflakes and get our feelings hurt super easily. It’s because we love each other so much and believe each other deserves the utmost respect. And on our wedding day, we said “with all that I am and with all that I have, I honor you.” Bashing Cullen isn’t what I’d call honorable. I strongly encourage you to set the same standard! Your relationship will be better for it!
10. Put God first. And at the center.
Gooood golly Miss. Molly. I’ve tried to write this one over and over and over. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I will dive much deeper into this in a future post! For now, let me tell you this. Cullen and I would not be where we are or who we are without God. Our marriage is as strong as it is because it is founded on the rock of God. Because our standards are based on His word. Because we have surrendered to Him and have wholeheartedly invited him into our relationship. We have accepted that we can’t (and don’t want to) do it on our own. We know that we’re better with him at our side because we’ve seen the before and after changes. Friends, the day you say “I do” is the day the devil switches from a part-timer to a full-timer plus overtime. And he comes to steal, kill and destroy. Every chance he has to drive a wedge between you and your spouse, he will. You’re going to want God fighting for you and with you. Put God first and at the center. You’ll find that if you and your spouse are both pursuing God, you’ll not only grow closer to Him, but also to each other.
11. Don’t lose your goof. Or your youth.
Laugh, laugh and laugh some more. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Moon each other. Makeout at the stoplight. Pull pranks. Take spontaneous trips. Try new things. Look for the good in the sucky. Be big kids. Don’t stop having fun! Age is just a number.
Wowsers. Thanks for hanging with me!
Dotted & Crossed,
P.S. There’s a couple points I pulled out to feature in future posts of their own. Hint: Realistic sexpectations. Yeah, I’m going there. And Cullen is going to weigh in too! Stay tuned!
Photo by Tracy Routh Photography