Today my husband and I celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary. Wow, I never anticipated what it would feel like to be this old, lol! I also never realized when I agreed to this marriage thing, lo those many years ago, what an amazing, joyous, challenging, and sometimes difficult ride it would be.
I’m not gonna go all mushy on y’all now and proclaim my husband’s perfections to the sky. He’s definitely a pretty neat guy – but he’s not perfect. Guess what? My marriage isn’t perfect. I know, shocker, right? 🙂
A friend of mine once said that marriage vows shouldn’t say “for better or for worse” but “for messy and for messier.” Cuz that’s what marriage often is. It’s two selfish people struggling for control – and that can get pretty messy. After 26 years, I’ve definitely contributed to, and been the receiver of, a bit of messiness.
But after 26 years I’ve also learned a few things. And relearned them, a few times over, lol. Today I’d like to share just one of the things that I try to keep in mind. I think it’s my best marriage advice, because if we can get this down, it has the potential to improve a lot of issues. It’s actually quite obvious, and we’ve all heard it before. But in these days of romance novels (even the Christian ones are unrealistic, y’all) and chick flicks (as much as I wish my hubby would sweet talk like Matthew McConaughey, he just doesn’t, lol), I think it bears repeating.
Here it is, my best marriage advice, and don’t blink cuz it’ll go by fast:
Make the most of the good stuff, and make light of the bad stuff.
Or in the words of the Bing Crosby song (I love me some old standards, y’all!): “Accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative.”
That’s it! This piece of advice is simple but potentially huge. It can turn a difficult day around very quickly; it can also transform a struggling season into one that’s not so bad. Let me elaborate.
1) First, make the most of the good stuff. This means to think about the positive aspects of your husband and your marriage. What does your husband do well? What are his gifts and talents? What are his admirable character traits? EVERYONE has them, y’all. If we are unable to see them, it may be because we are unwilling to see them. It’s too easy to build walls when we dwell on the negatives. Focus on the good things he is and does. Make much of them, to him and to others.
Sometimes the good things are the things he doesn’t do. I love feeling secure that my husband does not flirt with other women. He doesn’t come home drunk. He’s not into porn. In the difficult moments it can seem like this sort of thing is all we have to go on, but don’t discount its value.
Remember the good times of your relationship. Keep the sweet memories alive in your mind. Treat him as if those things happened just yesterday. Make more good moments today.
2) Also, make light of the bad stuff. This is a little harder to do, because the reality is that we women tend to have unrealistic expectations of our husbands. We want them to be unselfish towards us, to love us when we are ugly or angry or tired or PMS-ing; but we have a hard time even liking them when they reveal their less-than-perfect behaviors.
It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: always ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain…”
― Ruth Bell Graham
Instead, let’s give them permission to be human beings. In other words, let your husband be imperfect. Realize that he will have undesirable qualities – and let that be OK. You don’t have to pretend these negative traits don’t exist. But you don’t have to give them a lot of real estate in your mind, either. Nor do you have to be upset by them or try to change them (that one’s an ouch for me). You can like him anyway, even if he’s not always Prince Charming.
Some of his negative traits may be minor annoyances; others may be more significant. But the fact is, whatever negative qualities he has, we can probably find traits just as bad within ourselves. [Note: please understand that I am not talking about physical abuse, alcohol or drug addiction, or use of porn, or any other recurring behavior that we all know is out of bounds; I am not qualified to speak to any of those things, nor am I trying to address them here.]
I, for instance, have trouble with my temper. My husband could have made a big deal out of that over the years, but he hasn’t. He could have withheld trust and built walls to protect himself, but he didn’t. He knows I am a fallible human being. He doesn’t pretend I am sugar and spice and everything nice, but he also doesn’t give up on the relationship because of my poor behavior. He actually says he married me for my spunk. Although he probably got more than he bargained for… um…
Another friend’s husband tells her she was a “package deal.” In other words, he accepts the bad along with the good. I like that.
Giving your husband permission to be human means that you EXPECT the messiness. Because he is imperfect, and you are too, you know there will be difficult times. Times when you don’t communicate well. Times when you are frustrated by him, or he with you. Such instances will not surprise you when you’ve already decided that he’s imperfect but that you’ll take him as a package deal. Don’t overreact to these times. They’re all part of the process called marriage.
In Scripture we are told to think on what is pure and lovely and good (Philippians 4:8). Let’s do that in our marriages and for our husbands. Let’s also acknowledge that it’s ok that our man is flawed, and that the marriage will have difficult times. We don’t need to be unduly alarmed when things are not perfect.
We can just relax and keep going, for another 26 years – or more. I’m looking forward to it. 🙂
What’s your best marriage advice?