This month, my husband Greg and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage. Twenty. Add to that the years of friendship before we got married – I’ve known my best friend for 33 years.
Twenty years ago, if you would have told me that we would have four kids, moved 10 times, experienced several job changes, currently living in the the suburbs of Chicago, I would have stared at you in disbelief.
Looking back on our 20-year adventure, I couldn’t have crafted a better story.
No one can claim to have the perfect happy marriage—we certainly don’t. My husband and I are not looking for a happy marriage. We want something much better.
We can claim that we are striving to make our happy marriage better each year. Or perhaps a better way to say that is, better than yesterday.
10 ways we focus on other things than just a happy marriage:
1. Strive for holiness not happiness.
We learned this early on in our marriage after reading Sacred Marriage – that marriage is intended to make us holy, not happy. I am becoming a better Caroline because Greg is my husband and vice versa.
We are not looking for a happily ever after marriage. We want to be able to say “Thank you” to each other at the “until death do us part” stage of our marriage.
2. Choose to love.
I make a choice each day to love my husband.
The “I Do’s” and “I Will’s” last longer than the week after the honeymoon. Because let’s face it, the honeymoon is a frenzy of YES, I CHOOSE YOU 24/7!
3. Date nights.
Date nights are just as important, if not more important than when we were dating.
The frequency of our date nights has changed with our seasons of life while raising kids or job situations, but it is always the first thing on the calendar because we want our kids to realize how important it is to the health of our happy marriage and our family.
Lately, our dates consist of a quiet dinner at our favorite restaurant where the staff greets us by name. They know we like malt vinegar with our fries and that Greg loves to have a warm snickerdoodle cookie for dessert.
Once a month during our date, we ask each other these questions:
- How are we doing financially?
- How are we doing spiritually?
- How are we doing physically?
4. Pray together.
Every night, before we go to sleep, we pray.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff, embrace it.
That’s a phrase that’s tossed around a bit. In any relationship, especially in a marriage, it’s really important to let it go because it’s the small stuff that can become increasingly annoying if we let it.
My husband has some quirks. How sometimes he wears a bandana around his leg; how he folds his socks instead of rolling them; his preference of drinking Mountain Dew out of a can instead of a bottle.
And what about all my quirks? How the dishwasher has to be loaded a certain way; the sheet on my side of the bed has to be tucked in; how I’m constantly twirling my hair…
The point is, I could go on and on about the annoying small stuff. Embrace it and laugh about it because the alternative leads to frustrating conversations.
6. Encourage their dreams.
Every dreamer needs a dream cheerleader. Be that for your spouse.
7. Build a dream together.
At the beginning of every year, we talk about goals. Goals for our marriage, our family, our future. The goals are written in pencil because we know at any time, life happens.
The roof leaks. The doctor calls. A family member needs help.
The dream gets put back on the shelf, for now. But keep talking about it. Maybe the shape of it will change over time, but don’t stop dreaming.
8. It takes a tribe.
There’s a reason you have people stand beside you when you get married and in the audience as you say your “I Do’s”- we need people.
Marriage is hard.
It’s the reason when my husband agrees to officiate a wedding, he asks the couple to write him a check for $1,000 with the understanding that they will get their money back if they have met with him at least six times for counseling their first year of marriage.
As the years add on the wrinkles and gray hair, find your tribe that will listen, encourage, and stand beside you.
Can I meddle a little?
Do not encourage a member of your tribe to listen to your woes about your spouse. Talk about your woes with your spouse first, share as a couple with another couple next, and then if the woe is still great, talk to your pastor or counselor.
9. What happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom.
Communicating with your spouse about sex is encouraged and it’s a vital part of a healthy marriage. Communicating with your friends about what happens or doesn’t happen is not.
10. Disagreements are inevitable.
We are two selfish people living in a small house with four selfish offspring. Disagreements and disappointments happen every day around here.
The solution: make it a choice, each day (and some days, every hour) to consider others more important.
My husband and I are not looking for a happy marriage. We want something much better.
This article originally appeared at The Art of Simple.