8 Essential Things I’ve Learnt From 8 Years of Marriage

We recently celebrated our 8th year of marriage by taking a day off. My mum came to help with the kids, and we took off — the entire day. We didn’t plan anything big or extra special. We just went for a prata breakfast, walked around town a bit, shopped, talked, took a tea break, and then ended with a light dinner and drinks atop the National Gallery.

With no kids around, it felt like our conversations were so adult-like, so quiet (like a mini-retreat, which is one of the things we do to keep love alive.) But it was good because we got to touch base about what we were feeling, and we got to hear each other’s struggles and fears.

I’m thankful that we’ve come so far. And I’m also aware that we have a long road ahead of us, God-willing.

Here are 8 important things I’ve learnt in our 8-year journey.

8 essential love lessons

1) Show your true self, even when it doesn’t look good

Marriage requires trust, which is probably the most difficult thing to build, and the easiest to tear down. It requires us to allow ourselves to be seen by our spouses, to be vulnerable. I don’t know about you but there are times I just don’t want to show my weaknesses and flaws; I want to present my strongest side, my best self. Ironically, the more we try to hide, the harder it is to build trust and cultivate healthy love in our marriage.

 

2) What we have now is better than what we had 8 years ago

Worldly wisdom tells us that most marriages tend to go nowhere but down. I guess the increasing divorce rates across the globe speak for themselves.

However, I believe it’s possible for things to get better over time – the key is hard work, a dash of humour, and lots of grace. While things can get a bit stale after a while in the love department, always remember that what you have at the end of many years of ups and downs is a marriage that is stronger to withstand trials and temptations. It may not be lovey-dovey sweet nothings all the time but it’s a love that is faithful, committed, practical and lasting. A love that helps you both become the people God created you to be. And that is a love to be thankful for.

 

3) The small things matter

Small acts like making him his favourite coffee in the morning, allowing her to sleep in while you take care of the kids, saying “thank you” and “I love you,” laughing yourselves silly over a joke, kissing before leaving for work, and a hug at the end of a long day – these are seemingly small and insignificant things but you’ll be surprised how they add up.

 

4) The big things matter too

Like keeping your word when you said you wouldn’t drink and drive, like keeping faith and not doing anything to betray his/her trust, like being there for your family whenever you can, like working to resolve unresolved issues that seem to crop up again and again.

The small things may not add up to a break-up, but neglecting them over a prolonged period of time could lead to one or both parties feeling disconnected – you know the feeling where you don’t feel like you know who you’re married to anymore – which could then lead to the bigger things. So keep your eye on the small things, while also minding the big.

 

5) You need to first love yourself

Brené Brown wrote about this in her book The Gifts of Imperfection and it resonated deeply with me.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

When we are unable to love ourselves, or when we hold ourselves in contempt and disdain, it’s likely we will lash out at others with the same disdain and critical spirit. But accept yourself as a human being with strengths and weaknesses, and with the capacity to grow and learn, and you will likely be more forgiving to others as well.

When I struggle with loving myself or others, I remind myself of what the bible says, “We love because He first loved us.” Jesus doesn’t love us because we are loveable, but He sees us as His own, and He chooses to love us anyway.

 

6) It takes a village

Every relationship needs a support network to thrive. People who have been through the good times and bad, people who will be able to give you sound advice and walk with you when you’re going through a bad patch, people whom you can trust to have your best interests at heart.

 

7) When he /she needs space after an argument, give exactly that

I’ve been through my fair share of pounding on his closed door and demanding that “we deal with this right now.” But it has always backfired. 100% of the time.

When the man needs his space, he needs it. Otherwise he can’t think, much less verbalize to you what he’s feeling. I think the same goes for some women too. Over the years, I’ve learnt to distract myself from the urge to push him into the corner, and just give ourselves some time to sleep on it and cool down. This, on the other hand…always works.

 

8) It’s possible to fall in love all over again

Over the years, she may grow naggier. He may get grumpier and more stubborn too. But it is possible to not let love stagnate and die a slow death during the winter years.

How? Break from routine, from the predictable. Do something out of the ordinary once in a while. Remind yourself of the good things, the things to be thankful for. There is a verse in the bible that says, “…whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

I’m not suggesting that you create an illusion of your partner, or that you swing into extreme denial of certain faults or issues that should be dealt with. But I think for most of us, our brains are so hardwired to pick out the bad things that sometimes we need to re-train ourselves to see the good that is there.

See the good. Be thankful. And fall in love all over again.

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt about love/marriage this year?

If you’d like more posts on love, check out:

30 ways to love your wife (SG edition)

– 30 ways to love your husband (SG edition)

Keeping love warm

If you’ve enjoyed this post, do share it with your friends and loved ones!

8 great reasons why you should go on a holiday without kids

reasons-couple retreat

Some moons ago, I wrote a piece sharing 20 reasons why you should lug your kids on holidays. Today I thought it’s time to do a piece on reasons why you should do the opposite.

The hubs and I just came back from a trip to Phuket and I must say it’s made quite the difference in the way we treat each other and communicate. So yes…this post is inspired by that.

Here goes. 🙂

1. To reconnect
It’s easy to lose touch with your spouse amidst the stresses and busyness of daily life. Work demands, kid demands, and so on can really drain the energy and quality of the marriage relationship. Taking time to intentionally draw close to each other – emotionally, mentally and physically – is really necessary in today’s context. The trick is to leave the phone behind or forget about asking for the password to the hotel’s free wifi; instead take the time to just focus on each other.

2. To remember you are first husband and wife, then parents
When the kids came along, I recall being so caught up in the demands of child-rearing and devouring all the parenting books with a vengeance. Now that they are a tad older, and we can breathe a little, go on date nights every fortnight, etc etc, I find myself seeking out more marriage-related books and wanting to invest more energy into building my marriage.

I think it’s a normal process that we go through when kids enter the picture. Their needs are pressing and their voices are loud. But we also need to remember that marriage came first, then kids.

3. To have the conversations you’ve been meaning to have
There are times I’ve shelved a discussion I’ve been meaning to have just because of lack of time or mental energy to deal with it.

But sometimes the conversation is important enough for you to plan ahead and to get it off your chest. For instance, if there is a family issue that’s been bothering you, and you don’t know how to resolve it.

When you’re relaxed and rested during a holiday, it might just be the best time to deal with it head on, in partnership with your spouse.

4. To enjoy each other
When was the last time you had fun with your spouse? When you could laugh at each other, and just do wacky, silly things together? A holiday provides you with ample opportunities to go on exciting mini-journeys and day trips, and seize the day and do (or learn) something new with your mate.

Of course, physical intimacy is an important part of the whole package. For a couple of days you get to be like crazy honeymooners who are madly in love. Need I say more?

5. To make a baby
Friends will laugh at this one, because they know we’ve officially “closed shop” in the baby department. But lots of people take time off to “make babies” and let’s admit it it always sounds glamourous to say, “Oh this baby was made in Bali / Koh Samui / Tokyo.”

6. To forgive and heal from past hurts
An idyllic resort getaway provides an ideal setting for married couples to work through a rough patch, to hone their communication, and to seek restoration of friendship, love and trust. It’s no wonder that lots of churches organise marriage retreat programmes to help their members work through and resolve marital problems.

You don’t have to wait for a big issue to arise before retreat-ing as a couple. Taking time off regularly  helps build a healthy loving relationship, and that should put you in a better place to deal with life’s hurdles as they come.

7. To envision a better future
What are our goals as a family? What steps do we need to take to align everyone to these goals? Which activities do we take on, and which do we say no to?

Most families these days have to deal with very hectic routines and schedules. We all become great do-ers and runners, but it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Time is a precious resource, and we want to invest it on things that matter. In order to know what matters, and what doesn’t, it’s essential to take a step back to evaluate your purpose and goals, and to plan concrete steps on how to achieve that ideal life for your family.

8. To recharge for the journey ahead
Parenting is a life journey – people say it gets easier but I think the truth is, there will always be challenges; they just change from stage to stage.

One thing is for sure. That we’re all in it for the long haul. And every seasoned sojourner will tell you how important it is to rest and take pit stops at regular points, in order to finish the race well.

What do you love most about going on holidays sans kids? I’d love to hear your views!

Love never fails

Vera surprised me one evening with this drawing of the hubby and I. It had a bold caption: Love never fails.

There were flowers in a vase on a table. A big cross stood out in the middle of the table.

It reminded me of this verse in 1 Corinthians.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

I asked Vera why she chose to draw the cross. She said it means that Jesus is in the house.

I then asked why she chose to write the words “Love never fails.” She said it was papa who gave her the idea. She originally had in mind some other words to write, but she thought daddy’s idea sounded better.

I was glad for this gentle reminder to keep God in the heart of all things, including our humble home.

As for everything else, Love never fails. His love, that is. Our human love may wane or fade or grow cold over time and trials. But His love never does.

Love_never_fails

 

 

Little Lessons: Gifts of love

Dear hubby,

You’ve given me many gifts throughout our marriage but today I’d like to single out two of these.

Laughter. And zen.

Since our dating days, you’ve already been making me laugh. I guess that’s what attracted me to you in the first place. Sometimes it’s a silly joke, or the funny things you say or do.

Then when we had our first baby, things got stressful for a long while as we adapted to the new life. I often had difficulty seeing the lighter side of things but you helped me along.

And now as we settle into life with three, you recently cracked me up again. So hard it actually hurt my ribs a little.

Here’s my account of what happened…(Though words can only say so much and I wish I’d videoed the entire scene down.)

Because of you, I now believe that every married couple who wants to stay married must laugh. A lot…

You’re also the zen one.

My friends used to label me zen, but that was before kids came into the picture.

Today I’m often frazzled and stressed out as a mum (perhaps more seasoned now and able to let go, but still…)

You on the other hand are usually calm and patient. It takes a lot for the kids to drive you up the wall. (But when you do get there you tend to stay there for a long time.)

You’ve taught and encouraged me to stay calm, and not shout or yell to get my way.

Just the other night when JJ was acting up, you were just about to cane him. But I went in and started to speak to him in a low calm voice. And I believe that it somehow helped to calm him, and you, down as well. When we left the room, I felt a sense of peace. I was like, hey I can do this parenting thing without yelling.

Granted I still have my moments, but I think it’s because of you that I’ve come this far.

What is it they say about a partner bringing out the best in a person. Yeah I think something like that has happened around here.

Every marriage needs a variety of ingredients to thrive. For me, the laughter and zen that you’ve brought to my life (and the family) have been both precious and practical.

Of course then there’s the romance and communication aspects that could always have room for improvement. But I shall save those for another post.

Thank you for making marriage and family life fun and calm for me. We’ve come a short distance, and we still have a long way to go. But I’m glad to be walking this road of life and love (plus a bit of crazy) with you.

xoxo

keep the love alive

mamawearpapashirt

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7 things my marriage has taught me

I’ve been married to the man for about five years now. All in all, when I look back, I feel like we’ve been on the fast track almost all the way. After being married for barely three months, we found out that I was pregnant with Vera. Soon after that, JJ happened. And now bun number three is in the oven.

(Yah I know we’ve been richly blessed in such a way, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but boy sometimes I do wonder “what if” things didn’t happen so quickly…)

But you know there IS good in all the change and challenges. We’ve been forced to move beyond our selfish wants and desires, in order to meet the needs of family. (If there’s something that can make a person less selfish almost overnight, it’s got to be parenthood.)

But I digress…Here are a few things that my marriage has taught me over the past few years of transition.

1) In order for the marriage relationship to thrive, we need to move from a “me” to “we” mindset

We all enter into this relationship with a tendency to focus on our needs, not on the other party. I honestly believe it will take a lifetime of training before we can confidently say that we are truly other-centred.

But if we start each day asking ourselves, how can I serve my spouse today, we are off to a good start to this lifelong journey of learning and moulding. Don’t you think?

2) Flaws are meant to be overcome, not ignored

Early in my marriage, I realised that I had plenty of insecurities to deal with. I was possessive over my husband’s time and practically wanted to monopolise every minute that he had.

Needless to say, we were quarrelling over little things because of the missed expectations. The poor man could barely understand why I got vexed whenever he made appointments without consulting me.

I had to come clean with my innermost feelings and insecurities, and communicate them to him in such a way that we could work out a suitable compromise.

He tried to take steps to let me know early whenever he made plans. I also came to understand why he needs his personal space, and how that actually works for our benefit.

It wasn’t always smooth-sailing, but as I consciously prevented those niggling doubts from taking hold and sowed trust into the relationship, things got more manageable.

Change begins from me. When we make the effort to grow individually as a person, the benefits that we bring to the marriage partnership flow many times over.

3) No one knows your feelings until you voice them out

However well you think you understand each other, or however strong your intuition may be, it’s still best to not make our own assumptions, and to hear from the horse’s mouth.

I learnt that my husband was often clueless about how I felt, even when I showed signs of “obvious” displeasure at certain things he said or did. That’s when I realised I should never assume that he understands how I feel, and that all I need to do is to find the right time to share my feelings with him.

4) It’s always good to check your love tank

Each one of us has an emotional love tank. Some of us need quality time and words of affirmation to top it up. Others need acts of service or gifts or lots of hugs and cuddles to keep it filled. Whatever works, it’s best to know when we’re running low, and to express your needs to your spouse.

We can all take a page from The love dare:

“Love, however, is your primary responsibility in marriage. Did you not vow to a lifelong love at the altar? Are you not the one God has privileged to fill your mate’s love tank? And remember this: when your spouse deserves your love the least, that’s when they need your love the most. No one on earth is more strategically positioned, commanded, and called on to love your spouse than you are.”

5) Even if you’re not in the wrong, you can still take the initiative to make up

Saying sorry isn’t only the prerogative of the person at fault. When there’s a quarrel, usually both parties are at fault in some way anyway, so just go ahead, swallow your pride and take that first step.

Try not to let the anger seeth in you, or to use other events as convenient excuses to vent and lash out. I find the sooner we deal with it, and at a time when both of u are calm and less emotional, the better.

6) We need to make couple time happen

Time for ourselves doesn’t automatically happen these days, especially after kids.

We make it a point to call for time-out, relax at a new cafe (or an old favourite one) and share the things that we’ve learnt at work, or from books we’ve read, or the things that are causing us worry and stress.

Sometimes we also go on a couple jog or walk, which allows us to keep healthy and tune in to each other at the same time.

From time to time, we do embark on couple devotional books (admittedly a lot less now as we’re both caught up with work and family). Such books are useful as they serve to remind us of our joint purpose, and suggest practical ways to enhance the relationship, or to tackle certain problems.

7) Respect is paramount to the man

Ask any man what’s most important to him, and you’l probably get the same answer. The reason why men are created to strive, to pursue, to attain achievements at work, is because of their God-given need for respect and significance.

At home, give him the respect he deserves (even when he does not deserve it), and help your children do the same. He will appreciate you all the more for it.

What is one thing that your marriage has taught you?

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