Today is Ray’s and my 19th wedding anniversary (20 years of dating), and this week I’m reminded of the 1970’s Almond Joy and Mounds commercial jingle:
“Sometimes you feel like a nut,
Sometimes you don’t,
Almond Joy’s got nuts
Except our jingle would go:
“Sometimes you feel like you’re rich,
Sometimes you’re broke,
Next week we’ll have money to blow,
This week we don’t!”
We weren’t able to go out for a nice steak dinner this week to celebrate our anniversary, but we plan to go next week on payday. Ray did buy me a beautiful, long-stemmed red rose (my favorite flower) with baby’s breath, and I bought him a funny card and since he’s at work today, I posted a country music video on his Facebook wall today, Honeybee by Blake Shelton (Ray loves country.) I’m also baking him a carrot cake (his favorite cake).
I thought I’d share 20 Things I’ve Learned from our twenty years together. Some of these may be already obvious to you, but I’ve had to learn them the hard way. 🙂
- Love is a decision. When Ray and I first dated, I thought love was that heart-racing, can’t-wait-to-see-you-again, romantic feeling, and Ray taught me differently. He showed me a video series by Dr. Gary Smalley called Love Is A Decision. The longer Ray and I are married, the more I am beginning to understand this concept. It’s been tested many times in our marriage. Sometimes those feelings of love are definitely NOT there! Love is a choice you must make in marriage; it’s a day-to-day, staying-no-matter-what commitment.
- You can NOT change your spouse! Oh, believe you me, I have tried: professional nagging, manipulating, begging, crying, ordering, demanding, threatening ~ none of which work, by the way. What I HAVE found to work is prayer. God is so much better at convincing Ray to do things than I am. Probably the worst threat I could make to Ray is, “Okay, I am going to pray about that!” Hahaha. Of course, what Ray doesn’t know is that often when I have the intent to pray for him, I have found what Stormie Omartian, author of The Power of a Praying Wife, discovered when she began praying for her husband: that as she prayed, God began dealing with her heart and changed her instead. No, you will not change your husband. I have tried for 20 years to change Ray from being a “messy” who won’t throw anything away to an organized clean-freak who throws everything away, like me. It hasn’t happened and I don’t think it ever will, barring a flood that carries all his junk away or an earthquake that swallows it alive in the ground. (There’s always hope!) He isn’t a hoarder, at least, but his “cherished belongings” have been an issue between us our entire marriage…and between him and his friends, each time we have to move to a new place (they don’t want to move all that stuff!). Likewise, there are things about me that Ray wants to change, too. (He probably has a very long list! See #3 below to start.)
- Cooking good and frequent meals is important. Actually, I still haven’t learned this lesson because I don’t like to cook, but I’m working on it. My mom always shooed us kids out of the kitchen when I was growing up, so I never learned how to cook well. When Ray married me, I could boil a hot dog, cook grilled cheese sandwiches and tuna melts, and fix tacos. Come to think of it, I still cook a lot of tacos. But Ray is a meat-and-potatoes man. Mostly meat. THE MAN ALWAYS WANTS MEAT. If I set down a dish of vegetables or a salad in front of him for dinner, he’d just look at me like, “What is THIS?” This year I’ve been working with my health coach Bess Blanco to learn quick, easy, healthy meals WHICH INCLUDE MEAT that taste delicious, so this is really helping this area of our marriage.
- You’re not clones, for heaven’s sake! The Bible says the man and the woman will leave their parents, cleave to each other (stay with each other, join each other), and will become one flesh. The original Greek word for flesh is basar, which means body. It doesn’t mean you become the same person who thinks the same thoughts all the time and likes everything the same all the time. You’re still an individual. God created each of us uniquely for a specific purpose, with unique spiritual gifts, personalities, intelligence, talents, callings, tastes, preferences, etc. You and your husband won’t be clones of each other. For example, Ray enjoys watching sci-fi movies with our daughter Leah; I love chic flics. I love Mexican and Mediterranean food; he prefers spicy Thai and sushi. I am an introvert who needs solitude and quiet to refill; he enjoys being around crowds of people. It’s okay that we’re different, and we can celebrate those differences.
- Respect each other. Men want respect more than anything else, and women desire love. But respect should be mutual in marriage. Your children are watching you each day (and your neighbors can hear you!), and they will grow up to treat their spouses the way you and your husband treat one another. Scary thought, isn’t it? 🙂 Show kindness and respect to one another. Arguments are inevitable in marriage at times, but marriage counselors have a rule that is wisdom: “Fight fair.” No name-calling, blaming, screaming, cursing, or using “you always” or “you never” statements. If you just can’t agree on something and emotions are getting out of control, agree to disagree ~ and come back later to discuss it when tempers are cooled.
- Give and take. Marriage is one of the greatest tests of selflessness. One example would be for Ray to not make a lot of noise in the morning to be more sensitive to my need for peace and quiet, especially in the early morning. Sometimes it’s hard to give to your spouse. We all want our way, don’t we? But remember that God blesses givers. Proverbs 22:9 says, “He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.” Learn to be a giver in your relationship, not just a taker, and God will reward you. When I have done something for Ray, especially something that he has not asked me to do, I have felt such a peace from God flooding my soul, and sensed God smiling upon me.
- Don’t let the kids divide you; present a united front. Yes, kids know how to work this one! They will take full advantage of it. Ray and I are a blended family; we were both previously married before and had a child from those marriages. All families have issues to work through, but stepparenting has even more challenges. Stepchildren may resent the stepparent and want their parents to get back together again, doing all they can to break up your marriage. Be on guard against this. Protect your marriage through prayer and daily communication with each other and the kids. Eventually, your children and/or stepchildren will fly the nest, and it will just be the two of you. Don’t let yourselves become strangers staring across the table at each other, not having anything in common or wondering what to say to each other – or even looking at your spouse and asking, “Who are you?” Cultivate unity in your marriage by frequent dates, pleasurable sex, and talking each day.
- It matters how you look. I’m not sure where we sometimes get the idea that it’s okay to become dumpy looking after the wedding! Your husband knows that it’s inevitable that you’re going to age, but that is not a license to stop caring about your appearance. When you dated, you looked your best for him, didn’t you? I always bought a new outfit with matching accessories (shoes, jewelry, etc.) and made sure my hair and makeup looked good before I went out with Ray on dates. Yes, I wanted to seduce that man and make him mine! So why stop after the honeymoon? Listen to me! There are PLENTY of women out there who do NOT care if your husband is married or not. They will be glad to take him away from you. As a Christian woman, we know that there is much more to our value than our appearance, but we still shouldn’t neglect it. Men are visually attracted to beauty; this is one of the reasons why pornography is rampant everywhere and has trapped even God-fearing, Christian men and why Christian marriages are being destroyed by affairs. I am working now on getting fit and losing weight. Through the years my weight has gone up and down like a yo-yo, and I am tired of the extra pounds. Ray has not TOLD me to lose weight, but I want to look good for him and for him to find me as attractive as possible. I still want to turn his head when I walk into the room! I also have my hair highlighted and cut regularly, and keep the length long because Ray likes it that way. I wear makeup, even when I am staying home ~because I want to look my best for him. The same goes for men with their wives. They should do what they can to be as attractive as possible to their wives. If she wants him clean-shaven because his moustache or beard hurts her tender skin, then so be it. If he needs to exercise or work out, then he should, not just to sexually attract her, but for his health’s sake. Each spouse should continue to make their appearance a priority to please their spouse. Now that I’ve written about this topic, I think it’s a great excuse to go shopping now for a new outfit, LOL! I will just tell Ray that I’m doing it for HIM! 😉
- Sometimes listening is all that’s required. I talk to Ray about EVERYTHING. Yes, I’m sure he gets sick of it sometimes. But he is my best sounding board, about our kids, our finances, my business, my relationship with God, etc. Sometimes when I am sharing problems with him, due to his spiritual giftings and the way God wired men, he wants to “fix” the problem ~ even when I don’t necessarily want him to fix it. I am just wanting him to listen. This reminds me of the movie White Men Don’t Jump that Ray, our friend Pat, and I saw years ago. The character Gloria woke up in the middle of her sleep and said to Billy, who’s sleeping next to her: “Honey? My mouth is dry. Honey, I’m thirsty.” He gets up to get her a glass of water and says, “There you go, honey.” Gloria now responds in an angry tone, “When I said I was thirsty, it doesn’t mean I want a glass of water.” Of course Billy is confused now and said, “It doesn’t?” Gloria tells him: “You’re missing the whole point of me saying I’m thirsty. If I have a problem, you’re not supposed to solve it. Men always make the mistake of thinking they can solve a woman’s problem. It makes them feel omnipotent…it’s a way of controlling a woman….See. if I’m thirsty, I don’t want a glass of water. I want you to sympathize.” It’s a hilarious scene. Ray and Pat busted out laughing when they saw it, because as men, they had both experienced a similar situation with a woman. I related. Sometimes I just want Ray to listen ~ not try to fix my problem. Men have the fun job of figuring out WHEN they’re supposed to just listen and when they’re supposed to help solve the problem.
- Sometimes he needs to talk. When Ray first met me, I was terribly shy and quiet. (He now jokes those were the good, old days.) Now I talk incessantly. But sometimes RAY needs to talk. About work. About God. About the kids. About politics (PLEASE!). About any random thought that crosses his mind. And I need to let him. I’m trying to get better at this and become a more attentive listener (instead of interrupting with, “Oh yeah, that reminds me of the time when…!” ). Listening – really focusing on what your spouse is saying, as well as what he’s not – is one of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post tomorrow.