May 3rd marked our 6 month anniversary. We’ve been married for six months. Count em.
I made a similar comment to an older lady at church last weekend and she kind of gave me that look like: really. Cut that shit out – six months ain’t shit.
I still feel a bit like going “WHAT? Come at me bro!” to the universe, but I’m going to decline. I know it sounds silly to be so proud of ourselves for making it six months. But these have been a happy, joyous, delightful six months in our relationship, despite the stress of the military and living in a completely new state with no family or friends, plus existing in a world where it is said that the first year is the hardest, where people regret getting married every day, where divorce is so terribly, terribly prevalent.
So I wanted to share a few things that have helped us to build – what I think is – a solid foundation for a lifetime of a healthy marriage. Some of these are things that have always been part of our relationship – others are new to our marriage. No matter what, I think that this list can apply to a relationship at any stage.
This is absolutely one of the most important things on this list, which is why it’s first – and yes, I know that it is on every single list about relationship tips. But if you decide not to read anything else on this list (which you should – it’s good. I wrote it!), this will help tremendously. Unless you’re having problems involving infidelity, substance abuse, etc that may need a larger hand (ie, a mediator/counseling to work out those issues first, not saying that basic good communication skills won’t help) – this could probably help solve any number of the issues in any relationship.
The key thing is communication isn’t just about talking to the other person and them agreeing with what you say – DH and I disagree all the time. It’s about actually listening to what the other person says and respecting them for it. Especially when you disagree with them – sometimes, all the other person really needs is a validation of their feelings, that they feel or think differently from you, and that’s OK. If you aren’t getting that, you may need to explain that that’s what you need from them. Subtle hints don’t work – flat out say it, so that each party knows exactly what te other needs to stay happy.
Furthermore, you can’t be scared to talk to your SO about a problem you are having – walking away, or clamming up isn’t going to help either of you. Because there is still a problem – and it’s just going to get worse the longer you don’t talk about it.
I’m a member of a number of social network military spouse support groups. One of the best things about these networks is that admins post member questions – especially those regarding issues in their marriage or family. The answer to (and often the source of) nearly all of these questions is communication. Tell him how you are feeling, talk to your mother in law, sit down and have the conversation with her that you just had here on FB – because you didn’t before and now look what happened.
This goes hand in hand with the Weekly Husband/Meetings (which I’ll explain right below). If you have a problem – talk about it, don’t let it fester and don’t let it get worse. If your spouse doesn’t respect you enough to listen to or validate your feelings, then you have much larger issues to deal with.
I’m not saying that it’s easy – when you need to work out an issues, it can really suck and both parties come out of it feeling like crap. But ultimately, in the very end, both will come out healthier and happier.
Two: Setting Weekly Husband/Wife Meetings
This was recommended to us by our mentor couple in the pre-marriage counseling required by our church and is something that I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone in a relationship where either a) you are sharing your lives completely (living space, finances, time, friends, etc) or b) in a LDR. We really enjoy doing them and even though we aren’t always especially thorough, we miss them when we skip. The few weeks that we’ve gone without the meetings have always felt chaotic and distant, so we try our best to keep our weekly dates.
Our Weekly Husband/Wife Meetings happen every Sunday after church (It doesn’t matter when it is, as long as it’s the same day/time every week). We attend the 11:00 mass and then either pick up lunch or eat out. While we’re eating, we do two major things:
First, we do an honest assessment of the state of our relationship. Is everything OK? Is there something that needs to change or that we need to talk about? Let’s talk about that fight on Wednesday – what happened there, why did it happen, and how can we keep it from happening in the future? This is a set time where we get to air any of the problems that we are having either with the other person or with our relationship – in a safe, loving, RESPECTFUL way. It is not an opportunity to bash one another on all the things they do that annoy the shit out of us – it’s an opportunity to keep each person in the relationship both accountable, aware, and happy.
Second, we talk about what we have going on in the following week. Doctors appointments, extra things at work, what we intend to get done around the house. Our mentor couple informed us that this was especially helpful once they had kids, because they are able to lay out all of the things that the kids need and figure out if there are any timing conflicts or issues getting the kids where they need to be. This is especially helpful for us right now, as we are trying to balance moving and work.
This meeting is also a great time to talk about anything personally that you have been thinking about and need to talk about. Life goals, friends, problems with family… For example, a few weeks ago I brought up possibly going to back to school in the near future for my Masters. We were able to talk about what that would look like for us – and whether that was even going to be possible or not.
Having a set, weekly meeting time can be especially helpful for those in an LDR. Setting up a time, every week, at the same time, to Skype or talk on the phone can both give a sense of consistency and take the pressure off. It’s OK if you are super stressed out and tired and don’t have the ability to call them, much less make your own dinner, when you get home at 9:00 on a Wednesday night – you know that you’ll talk to them later. (This isn’t a get out of jail free card though – you’re still accountable for whatever other plans you make, but you don’t have to feel extremely guilty about not calling and talking about your stress.) It can also bring a better sense of closeness – you’ll know more of what’s going on in the other person’s life, and it’ll feel easier to be a part of it.
These meetings are, plainly, a big ol’ status check – a validation of your relationship and that everything is OK. And even when it’s not – that you are both working to make it OK.