Yesterday Kim and I celebrated our 10th year of marriage bliss. Now, despite what my wife might tell you I’m not under any illusions of knowing it all, but I have learned a few things over the years. Sure, she probably has too, but in the spirit of this joyous milestone I’d like to write about a few things I’ve learned about marriage – from a guy’s perspective. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not crazy enough to claim I’ve come anywhere close to perfecting these, but I find that the process of working on them alone makes my marriage better. If you are a guy and are recently married or about to get married, perhaps you can learn from my experience and avoid a few headaches along the way.
1.) Put her first, but remember that putting her first doesn’t mean you will always be last
I know the Bible says that we are to put ourselves last and all that, but really, would you want to be married to a woman who is constantly putting her wants and needs above yours? Well guess what, neither does she. The cool thing is, if you put her first, truly put her first in a self-sacrificing, chivalrous manner, amazing things happen – if she isn’t already (women tend to be more giving in this area), she will put YOU first, she will WANT to please you. This is the way it should be. God didn’t put the principle of self-denial in the Bible to make us miserable. I think He did it because (among other reasons) its practice across the board is the recipe for peace, harmony, happiness, and lots of hand-holding, hugs, and kum-ba-ya all around. OK maybe no other institution in the world will ever practice it, but two people in the same house certainly can.
2.) The more we put into our marriage, the more we get out of it
This applies to work, clubs and organizations, sports, hobbies, our relationship with God, and just about anything else life has to offer, and it certainly applies to marriage. My spouse is not my roommate, my pet, or my sock puppet – she is my wife, my partner, my best friend. We make our relationship better by taking steps to nurture and develop it.
3.) Little things matter
This is something it took me a while to really ‘get.’ After all, if it didn’t take a whole lot of effort, time, or money, why should it matter to her? Boy was I ever wrong! Kind words, a hug, a card left in the car before work, flowers, always kissing goodbye and hello, a post-it note to say ‘I love you,’ a sweet Facebook post – so many things don’t cost much of anything at all, yet, like an oil change every 3,000 miles, can keep a marriage running smoothly through the good times and the bad. Don’t ever underestimate the value of the little things. For some reason, the ladies just eat that stuff up.
4.) Chivalry matters
From the time they are little girls dreaming of their Prince Charming, every woman wants to feel like a princess. Open the door for her, pull back her chair, take her coat, do all the chivalrous things that time seems to have forgotten. Be her knight in shining armor and, believe me, she will melt in your arms.
5.) Protect her
Protect her person – I know we live in an age where (some) women think they can do it all. There are woman soldiers, wrestlers, and even bodybuilders and everything else in between, but, trust me, deep down every woman wants to be protected. Many wouldn’t admit this if it killed them, but inside every woman resides a little girl who could do it all if she wanted or had to, but really just wants a man to protect them and make them feel like a girl again (in a good way!).
Protect her heart – Guard it, cherish it, nurture it with love and affection. Watch your words. If you hurt her feelings, no matter how silly it might seem to you at the time, do what you have to do to make it right. This isn’t being a wimp or acquiescing to her every whim, but it is being a real, true friend. Beyond romance, affection, and all those other things that make spousal relationship so awesome, be her best friend by understanding and validating her point of view. Even when you don’t agree, a little understanding goes a long way.
6.) Never stop dating
When we are dating our wives, we are (most of us anyway) on our best behavior. We make efforts to ‘woo’ our ladies, to win them. Often we practice things that are on this very list. Why? Because we want the person we date to like us. The secret to keeping the romance alive is to never, ever stop dating our wives.
7.) Never say never… or always
– as in, ‘you always leave your socks on the floor,’ or ‘you never take a shower.’ Unless you are absolutely sure, never use absolute words. Sure, if your wife has truly never cooked you spaghetti in your entire marriage and you really like spaghetti, maybe there is a way for you to sweetly convey that, but even then, absolute words are usually a bad idea. There are always better ways to convey ideas to your spouse!
8.) If you must criticize, choose your words carefully – VERY carefully
Women aren’t above criticism, but it’s all in how you do it. Choose your battles! Tone and choice of words are everything. Use the sandwich method – for anything that might be interpreted as a negative, surround it with positives. If you didn’t care for her interpretation of Cajun blackened fish (or otherwise, burnt salmon on a skillet) last night, mention to her how good the potatoes were, how much you appreciate her making dinner, but how, although there are some people who might love fish prepared that way (Cajuns??) you like your fish a tad bit less ‘done.’ All that being understood, don’t ever underestimate the option of just keeping your yap shut entirely…
9.) Don’t forget key dates
Birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Bastille Day, whatever day means a lot to your spouse, whether it’s the date of your first date, engagement, or your first kiss – if you celebrate it regularly DON’T forget it. Mark it on your Outlook calendar, write it on your desk calendar at work, tattoo it on your hand, whatever you choose to do, allow me to say this again – DON’T forget it. Learn it. Love it. Recognize it. Celebrate it. Even if it doesn’t mean a lot to you, know that it does to her. Ignore these key days at your peril.
10.) Learn (or at least try to learn) the lost art of listening
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not great at this. I always think I can multi-task – read, write, daydream, watch TV, play guitar, or take a nap while someone is talking to me. The fact of the matter is, guys are only capable of paying attention to one thing at a time. If your wife is talking to you about something that’s important to her, pull up a chair, look her in the eye, and really, truly mentally process what she is telling you. The life you save could be your own.
BONUS – Life isn’t always fair – the quicker you realize this and get over it, the better things will be. Why does the toilet seat have to be left down instead of up? Why does she get to decorate most of the house in frilly, dainty things while your cool Civil War picture or storm trooper statue gets relegated to the garage or, if you are lucky, computer room? Why do your hobbies not get the same status as doing hair and putting on makeup (they take the same amount of time!)? Life with a good wife is grand, but it isn’t always fair – and that’s OK!
The Bible says a good woman is worth far more than rubies. In truth she is irreplaceable, the greatest physical treasure God could possibly give you on this earth. Work on your marriage like you are Michelangelo working on the Sistine Chapel. The art you will create will be a lasting legacy to not only you and your wife, but your children and grandchildren as well.
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