Instead of talking about all the things I've talked about before (what we've done in 14 years, what our wedding was like, reasons I love Brandon --that usually falls on his birthday, anyway --), I thought I would give you some marriage advice. You know, things that work for us, things that have made our marriage stronger and more fulfilling. We don't have a perfect marriage (really, we don't), so please don't assume we do. This is just stuff that works for us:
1. Weekly date:
I cannot emphasize this one enough. Dates are incredibly important. We usually just go out to dinner (that's our date of choice) so we can talk for a few hours without interruption. We like to try new restaurants, so it's perfect for us! Other dates we've done: movies, hiking, sporting events, concerts, picnics, cross-country skiing, museums, doing sealings at the Temple. It doesn't always have to cost a lot of money --go for a walk! Go to the Temple and then sit in the Celestial Room together for an hour. Whatever it is you can do together, do it. If you have a nursing baby? Take baby along for the ride! (Temple won't work for that, of course, but still...)
*Extra points for Brandon: He always opens and closes my doors whenever we go out; he holds my hand; he tries to keep his phone put away (inside joke). He makes me feel special, like he wants to be with me! Psssst: I think he does. :)
2. Going away on vacation together:
We do this often. Whether it's a weekend (we were just in San Francisco in December) or a full-blown trip (Hawaii for nearly 2 weeks in June of 2011), we travel together alone when we can. It's not so we can get rid of the kids, I promise (we took baby with us last month, remember?), it's so we can rekindle our love and show our kids that our marriage is important. Plus, this mother needs a break every once-in-a-while, eh? If you don't think you can travel alone together, you can make it work like we have:
A. Business trips turned into mini-honeymoons. Examples: When Brandon was working in London, I flew over (for $50 because of all the air miles his travel had added up), spent a few days on my own while he worked, and then we spent three (four?) days together. Another time, he had to go to China for his MBA International Trip. They encourage spouses to go, so we decided to make it epic. It doesn't always work out --like the time he was in Tel Aviv for school for 10 days and I had to stay home --but if we can make it work? We make it work.
B. Turning each other's events into a weekend: Like the time I walked in the Portland to Coast Relay and Brandon came with me to cheer me on.
C. Balancing between kids and marriage: Usually I would go with him to a BYU Bowl game. But this year, it was too close to Christmas and we had just gone to San Francisco. It didn't make sense. So, I made him take the girls instead.
D. Biting the bullet and DOING it. The first time I left our oldest child so we could travel was hard for me. She was young (8 months!), but the trip was free and with work. It ended up being a huge blessing in disguise! We were only gone for 5-6 days and I learned that she was just fine. This opened a whole new world to me --a world where I realized I didn't have to sit at home all resentful of single people who could travel. I could travel, too! Even while having a family! With them or without them, no guilt required.
This is the one we have had to work on over the years. Figuring out how we interpret each other's ideas and words, learning how to speak kindly, giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Throughout all of it, I've learned a few things:
B. Don't ever assume. Ever. You can't read minds and neither can your spouse. TALK TO EACH OTHER. Ask things.
C. Talk about intimacy. A lot. I'm serious. If you can't communicate about the most vulnerable part of your relationship, then you're kind of asking for trouble.
We love to laugh. Movies, jokes, being silly --laughter is good. It's helpful to diffuse situations, and it makes being together joyful rather than boring. Or hostile. Or boring.
5. Fight and Forgive
We're not perfect (notice a theme?) and we have very strong personalities. This results in disagreements and fighting. Arguing in front of the children should be a no-no, but we fail at this a lot. But what we ARE good at doing is apologizing and forgiving in front of the children, too. They see us disagree, but they see us make up. We're getting better at this one, too (not fighting). In fact, you know that old person who says they never fight with their spouse? They're probably right! At least in the last 10 years. 60 years ago, however, I'm betting they had some disagreements! It takes time to work through things, not to mention how raising children adds a lot of dissent, disagreement, and stress. But it's all good as long as there is apology, as long as there is forgiveness AND the attempt to get better, to be kinder.
If you're brand new to this here blog, you should know that we have kids. I can't think of anything that solidifies a partnership between a husband and wife more than a child. To be co-creators with God and each other, to bear life... it's the most overwhelming and indescribable feeling. Brandon and I have been very lucky and very blessed to have had our six children. They have brought us more trial AND joy than we ever thought they would --even with our parenting classes! My heart goes out to those who, for whatever reason, are not able to have children. I do not pretend to understand your sorrow, but I can try. And I'm not saying that you can't have a strong and wonderful marriage if there are no children --I know you can. But since I do have kids, I have to add them, because they have absolutely had the biggest impact on our marriage, eh?
7. Spiritual Growth:
After talking with some good friends, I feel grateful that Brandon has a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's wonderful that he goes to Church, that he encourages spiritual growth in our family (scriptures, prayers, FHE, church, etc.) and that he fulfills his callings without complaint. We aren't perfect, of course (is there an echo in here?) --our couple prayer is not good, we don't attend the Temple nearly as much as we could, we watch way too much TV, etc. --but it's nice to share the same beliefs. I know marriages work where one spouse does not believe in the same religion as the other, but for me, I'll admit I like it. I love sitting in Church with Brandon, and I love that he partakes of what our religion has to offer with a full heart --that he can bless and baptize our children, that he keeps the covenants he made in the Temple and at our own marriage sealing. I don't take it for granted. I know I'm blessed.
There you go. Advice for a great marriage from a woman who has a great marriage. No, not perfect (broken record!), but perfectly great.
I love you, Brandon. Happy Anniversary tomorrow --thank you for choosing me. I'm glad I chose you, too! xoxo