Love & Marriage – Go Together Like a Horse & Carriage, Right?

by Nikky Manausa on February 15, 2014

The BundysHollywood Did Get Something Right

What do Marge and Homer Simpson, Cliff and Clair Huxtable, Al and Peggy Bundy, and Lucy and Ricky Ricardo all have in common? These couples all drive each other completely crazy, but at the end of the day, they recognize how lucky they are to be together.

 

10 Years and Counting Bo and Nikky Wedding Picture

My husband, Bo, and I have been married for 10 years, 9 months, and 5 days, but who’s counting? We began dating when I was 18 (he was 20), married when I was 21 (we were such babies, but we didn’t think so!), and had our first child four years later. Two years after that, we had our second child. We have survived my first year teaching, Bo’s medical school and residency, living in two different countries out of only 6 bags, and so far, 7 years of parenting. I’d love to tell you we have never had a disagreement, never hurt each other’s feelings, or felt annoyed for one reason or another, but that just isn’t the truth. What I can tell you is that it is through our squabbles, tears, and irritated feelings that we have grown closer together.

Some Facts on Marriage

You have probably heard that 50% of all marriages fail. That is a really scary statistic to me! This “rumor” is fairly accurate when you look at the facts from the CDC’s publication in the National Health Statistics Reports, Number 49, issued on March 22, 2012, titled First Marriages in the United States: Data From the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth (pg. 7):

Statistics on First Marriage & Divorce Rate

The U.S. Census’s article Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 2009 from May 2011 (pg. 11) support that about only 50% of marriages will ever make it to celebrate their 30th anniversary:

US Census findings on Divorce Rate over Time

Naturally, it is expected that we would see a decline of couples making it to 40+ years because the average life expectancy in the United States for a man is 77 and for a woman is 82.

Divorce is Depressing, Why am I Writing About It?

First of all, let it be known that I am a child of divorce. Not only did my mom divorce my biological father, who I have never had a relationship with (he is now deceased), she also divorced a second time before she met, and married, my Dad (I will never refer to him as my step-dad). I was only a toddler when she divorced my biological father and have no memory of that, but I clearly remember when she divorced the second time. I was 7-years-old and in second grade. It was a cut-all-ties divorce. We moved away and I never saw her second husband again.  Honestly, I don’t recall it being all that painful to me, just confusing. Her second husband was not a nice man, so I think I was just as relieved as she was that he was out of our life!

Three good things came out of these divorces: 1) I met my Dad, 2) I knew very young that I never wanted to put my own kids through divorce, and 3) I would only marry someone I knew I would want to be with FOREVER. (That’s a really long time, or at least I hope so!)

This entire post came about from a recent conversation I was having with a friend. She was concerned because a friend of hers, a young mother of two children, was feeling “unhappy” in her marriage. Her friend had received some “advice” from a co-worker that suggested she consider divorcing her husband because, “She is too young to go through life unhappy.” WHOA, Nelly! Hold your horses!

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going

Successful people do not give up. They do not walk away because something is hard. They do not make excuses for their failures, and they are most certainly part of the solution, not the problem. Further, they recognize their own strengths and the strengths of others, too.

If I stopped running every time it felt hard, I would never cross a finish line. If my daughter, Maddie, stopped trying every time she fell in gymnastics, she’d never advance in the sport. If teachers gave up on a child because they didn’t get “it” the first time, most of us would be illiterate.

Marriage takes work! Just like with anything, the harder you work at something, the more successful the outcome will be.

Find Your Happy Place

If I could talk with the young woman who feels “unhappy” about her marriage, I would tell her to find her own happy place. To keep things simple, I will refer to her as Grace.

If I had to guess, Grace is probably unhappy with herself. In my post, It’s Time to Re-Prioritize Your Health, I discuss the importance of making your own health a top priority. Maybe Grace feels insecure about her own post-baby body. Perhaps she feels resentment towards her husband because she believes he does not do enough to help with the children. If Grace and her husband were to commit to each other that they would each be guaranteed a 30-60 minute “health break” most days of the week, I would be willing to bet their state of unhappiness would improve. That hour a day would allow them both time to unwind and clear their thoughts (exercise is really good for this!). Some days they could get fit as a family together. They can take evening walks through the neighborhood. As the kids get older, they can go on bike rides together. They might even participate in a cheesy exercise DVD as a family in their living room (this doubles as exercise and entertainment!).

Grace would start to feel better about her body, and her increased self-image would make her feel more confident. Men like confident (and happy!) woman. Her husband would find Grace’s confidence attractive. The two of them would reconnect and find their happy place together. This isn’t one of those bits of advice that sound easier than it really is. It is not about finding the time, it is about making the time.

Why We Will Beat the Odds – The Basic Rules of Marriage

1. Communicate regularly. Bo and I never leave the house without telling each other where we are going and when we will be back. We check in periodically throughout the day, too. Is it really necessary for me to tell Bo everything that I am doing? Probably not, but then it never leaves the other person guessing. Plus, you are setting a good example for your children. I grew up telling my parents every detail about what I was doing, from “I’m taking a shower,” to “I’m going to the movies with my girl friend. Oh, and my new boyfriend, too.” It keeps the line of communication open.

  • Communicate about spending. It is probably not a good idea to “ask for forgiveness” later about making expensive purchases. Take the time, regularly, to make sure you both agree about your finances.
  • Communicate about responsibilities. I would bet most married people feel like they “do more” than their spouse. Talk about your expectations and share responsibilities. I handle most of the housework inside our house, but Bo takes care of outside duties like yard work. Because of Bo’s work schedule, I do all the meal planning, get the kids to school and their activities, and handle maintenance requests (like calling the plumber); but, Bo pays the bills and puts in a lot of hours at work. We feel our responsibilities are pretty evenly split which helps to maintain the peace in our marriage.

2. Say “I love you” every day, even when you are angry. We say these three simple words every time we depart, each time we get off the phone and text, and before we shut our eyes for the night. When you are mad, it can be hard to say these words, but saying “I love you” does act as a reminder that yes, you really do love each other even if you are not loving that particular moment. Practice this with your children, too. When they screw up, because Lord knows they do (lots!), they still want to know that you love them. Finally, if you get in a spat with your spouse in front of your children (something we try to avoid), it’s important for them to see that you can have a disagreement, yet still love each other.

3. Respect. This is perhaps the most important and takes conscious practice. The basic principle is The Golden Rule. If you don’t want your spouse to yell at you, then don’t yell at your spouse. If you want time to yourself, then allow your spouse to have his or her own time, too. Be kind to each other!

4. Accept your spouse as they are. Hopefully someone told you before you got married that you cannot change people. There are some personality traits that are just part of who we are. I am not the best “house wife.” I hate laundry, and I suck at keeping up with it, but I have mastered ironing (using the dryer, of course).

  • For my young love bird friends who are not married yet, read my words: YOU CANNOT CHANGE PEOPLE. I really will call you out later if warranted and say, “I told you so.”

The Unwritten Rules

  • Men, put the toilet seat down. My husband would say, “Women, put the toilet seat back up.”
  • Agree to disagree (see above).
  • If you finish the toilet paper, change the roll.
  • Don’t drink out of the milk container, unless of course this is something you both practice (ewe).
  • Either finish the box of cereal or throw it away, but don’t leave a spoonful of cereal in the bag. (I’m laughing at myself, because I do this!)
  • Learn to love your in-laws. They are sticking around, plus, they can provide free babysitting!
  • If your spouse tells you that you snore, you do. No sense arguing about it.
  • If your spouse says, “I don’t want anything for my birthday,” they only half-way meant it. Definitely still recognize the day with at least a card and a special dinner in or out.
  • Don’t sleep on the couch because you are angry. I just don’t get why people do this. Does it actually accomplish anything except more hurt feelings? Now falling asleep on the couch during a movie, that’s just normal parenting behavior.
  • Men, recognize that your wife just got a haircut and tell her it looks good. Women, thank your husband for shaving.
  • Speaking of shaving, ladies, shave your legs, and your armpits. It may be winter, but it’s not winter under the sheets.
  • Never, ever, EVER say yes to the question, “Do these jeans make me look fat?”
  • Tell your spouse find them attractive. Women love hearing they are pretty, I promise it never gets old. Men probably want to be told they are “the sexiest man on Earth.”
  • Go on date nights regularly.
  • Make a decision already. If your spouse asks if you want steak or chicken, say what you really want. Your spouse can’t decide, so that is why he or she is asking you.
  • When your spouse talks to you, whether you care about the subject or not, pretend like you do. Poor Bo, he has to listen to a lot of “running” talk. And boy, I just love hearing about the greatest and latest new fishing boat available for purchase. :)
  • Kiss and “make-up”… lots. Even when you don’t have a “reason” to.

Do you have marriage advice to add? Share it with us all and leave a comment!

I Just Won’t Give Up

One of my favorite songs is Jason Mraz’s, I Won’t Give UpThis is a song for marriages to live by.

When I look into your eyes
It’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise
There’s so much they hold
And just like them old stars
I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up

And when you’re needing your space
to do some navigating
I’ll be here patiently waiting
To see what you find

‘Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We’ve got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it
no I wont give up

I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use the tools and gifts
Yeah we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn’t break, we didn’t burn
We had to learn, how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I got, and what I’m not
And who I am

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up
Still looking up

Until Death Do Us Part

I recognize that there are times that divorce is inevitable. Infidelity and abuse are problems that are really hard to overcome and sometimes divorce is the best option.

For the rest of us, we can live with the “day-to-day” problems. Pick your battles because most things can be worked out. Remind yourself of the vows you told each other, because the Beetles had the right idea, All You Need is Love.

Manausa Christmas Card 2013

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