I have an awesome marriage. I love waking up and living everyday next to my beautiful wife, Brooke. She is amazing. My parents always comment on how our marriage is so strong. They are sometimes shocked by how easy we make it look. After I wrote the post on June's birth and all it taught me I started seeing comments pop up how the love Brooke and I have for each other is inspiring. I appreciate all the love that post has received and instead of just saying thanks and moving on I thought I would share some marriage tips and how we love each other so well. This list is by no means exhaustive and marriage will take way more than 10 steps to be awesome, but hopefully this can be a launching pad to get you going in the right direction.
Here are my ten hard steps to an awesome marriage (that are totally worth it):
1. Realizing your spouse will not fix you.
If you have problems your spouse is not going to fix them. Marriage will actually just bring all those problems to the surface. If you have problems with intimacy you won't all of a sudden be cured the second you say. "I do." If you are addicted to porn the day before you are married you will be addicted to porn the day after you are married. If you aren't patient, you won't all of a sudden have the patience of a saint. Your spouse won't be able to fix those or any other problems you have. Only falling into the arms of Jesus and following Him will fix those issues and putting them on your spouse to fix is like putting your spouse on the cross instead of Christ. Only Jesus has the power to defeat sin and death and only He can help you fix your sin and death. Do not expect your spouse to fix your problems.
2. Realizing you will not fix your spouse.
On the flip side we sometimes think that all the things we don't like about our fiancee will disappear when they become our husband or wife. We think that we will be able to make "subtle" suggestions on how to change those things. Well, most of the time those "subtle" suggestions don't work and then we start making obvious suggestions and then we are fighting about things we thought would be so easy to change. When you say yes to marriage you are saying yes to all the wonderful things about your spouse but you are also saying yes to all the annoying things your spouse does. Most likely you will have to live with some of those things till death do you part and if you can't, THEN DON'T MARRY THAT PERSON!
Things I do that annoy the snot out of Brooke (that I am trying to work on)
- Watch too much TV
- Never push in my chair
- Try to make her guess things instead of just telling her
3. Self improvement doesn't stop when you get married.
Sometimes I have to say to myself, "Hey fatty! Put down the twinkie, get off your butt and get back in shape." If you can't do it for yourself then do it for your wife because she has to look at you, hug you and kiss you. If there are things you do that bug your spouse, then stop doing them! I have a list of things that I know bother Brooke so I am working on them. I stay in shape for Brooke. I try to eat healthy for Brooke. I want to be around as long as I can for Brooke. Women live longer than men so I know I have to stay in shape so I can live just as long as her and we can die on the same day with a Chick-Fil-A sandwich in one hand and a Starbucks cup in the other. We think that once marriage comes we can put on the sweatpants, sit on the couch and our spouse has to love us "through thick and thin." Stop being so thick and realize that just because someone will always love you doesn't mean you have to be the worst possible version of yourself to love. Self improvement will do more for your marriage than you realize and shouldn't stop when you say, "I do."
4. Choose not to fight.
Are you telling your kids to work out their problems with a conversation and then screaming in front of them at your spouse when something goes wrong? Are you using any excuse to go off and bring up all the other things you want to fight about? Fighting is 100% your choice, so stop choosing it. If that means you need to get out of the house and go on a run then so be it, but don't scream, don't fight, don't yell. Work through things with love and grace. Brooke and I have maybe had two really big fights in six years. Could we have had more? Absolutely, but we both know that we don't want to fight. It's not fun and nobody wins. So, we try to talk about things all the time before they turn into big fights. You know why I have those four things listed about what I need to work on? Because Brooke and I have talked about all of them and she has a list of things that bother me that she is working on. Talking before can eliminate things to fight about.
About two weeks ago we were frustrated with each other and I could tell that we weren't going to be able to talk it out right then and there because I was mad. So, I told her that I needed to go on a bike ride and clear my head. So I got on my bike, listened to a sermon and 30 minutes later I was home and had totally let go of what I wanted to fight about. Brooke didn't make me stick around so we could fight. She knew what I needed to avoid a fight and let me go and do it. Guess what? It worked! Whenever you can, choose not to fight, because when a husband and wife fight, no one wins.
5. Give and receive alone time.
I am with Brooke 99% of the time and I love it. We work together so we are around each other most of every single day. It's awesome. But sometimes I need some T.J. time and Brooke needs some Brooke time. It's important to be alone, even Jesus spent time alone. I will go to the movies by myself from time to time or stay home and play video games while Brooke goes out with June. Brooke will go thrifting or shopping while I stay home with June. We need to give our spouse their own space at times to help them re-set and come back re-freshed and ready to love us even better than before. You also have to be able to receive alone time without feeling guilty for taking it. Say thank you when it is given and appreciate it!
6. The little things really matter.
Wash the dishes, do the laundry, pick up the living room, clean the windows, sweep the porch. Am I listing chores? Absolutely! Husbands if you do these things for your wife without asking she will love you well and you might even get lucky tonight. Do I need to say anymore? But seriously, do chores because you want to show your husband or wife you love them!
7. Public praise is awesome
If you follow me on any social media or have ever been around me you will quickly find out something about me. I FREAKING LOVE BROOKE MOUSETIS! I want to scream it every single way I can because I want everyone, including Brooke to know! We love when people tell us they love us and we love it when people tell others they love us. So, let's do it! Just like I use every way I can to tell people about the love of Jesus I will use every single way to tell people I love my wife. That makes her feel loved and it would probably make your spouse feel loved. I love when I see husbands or wives post about their spouse on social media. It's so sweet and loving and awesome. So do it more. Take a break from this post right now and post a photo of your spouse to Instagram and tell them why you love them so much! Tag me in it so I can feel awesome about your love for each other!
And if you aren't a social media person there are still plenty of ways to publicly praise your spouse. When ever I have a conversation with someone and they are dogging on their wife or husband I try to turn the conversation around. I usually ask, "Well, what do you love about them?" That way the person is forced to publicly praise and acknowledge what they love about their spouse.
8. Be honest
This is sometimes the hardest thing to do. It's hard to be honest and loving at times but it is so needed for a healthy, flourishing marriage. If I am being an unloving jerk face moron I need Brooke to tell me. If Brooke is being a butt face jones then I need to tell her. Sometimes those conversations are hard but after they happen we are ALWAYS in a better place. Staying quiet in your marriage and letting things fester is like rust on metal. It will only get worse and slowly destroy and erode what's there. We must must must use our words with love and talk about the hard things with our spouse. Honesty shouldn't just be the best policy it should be the only policy when it comes to wedded bliss!
9. Love Favors
I invited "love favors" in our first year of marriage and it might be the greatest idea I have ever had.
Here are the simple rules to love favors:
1. You each have one love favor a day and they do not transfer.
2. When you ask for your love favor you can ask for anything.
3. Your spouse has to say, "yes" and they have to do what you ask right away.
Brooke and I have asked anything from getting a drink from the fridge to running all the way to the grocery store. Sometimes we both use ours in a day and sometimes we don't. But as we've used "love favors" over the years we've started to notice something. It's created a "Yes and act" mentality to our marriage. We now just say yes to each other more and more through out the day because of love favors and we don't just say yes, but we act! Sometimes the simplest things can have the most profound effect on us and that's what love favors did to our marriage.
10. End with Jesus
This is my favorite phrase in the world. I think we can start anywhere in life and we can end with Jesus. Your marriage is the same way. You two might have started off rocking, volatile and intense but even you, with open hearts, can navigate rough waters and end with the loving grace of Jesus. We should always be pushing to being more like our loving Savior. I, as a husband, will be the best husband when I walk hand in hand with Jesus. Brooke, as a wife, is the same way. We are only able to love each other with an intense, amazing love because we have loved and been loved by the most amazing love through Jesus. The only fairy tale part of our marriage is that Jesus stepped into our lives and saved them. He can do the same to you and He will lead you to being the best husband or wife you could ever be.
Those are 10 tips to a better marriage. They will not always be easy but they will be worth it because having a good marriage is totally worth doing whatever you can. We must constantly choose to think of our spouse with love and grace. We must not become bitter, jealous or angry. We must clothe ourselves with love so that we respond to things appropriately and accurately!
We must realize that marriage will be rough at times but we can limit those rough times by not being foolish with our actions and words. We can choose joy over frustration, passion over apathy, excitement over grumpiness, love over hate and our spouse over ourself.