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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You are worth loving

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Do you love yourself?

What does it mean to love yourself?

It means forgiving yourself for having a bad day (or two). Having bad days does not make you a bad mum.

It means giving yourself room to fail. You don’t have to be perfect. Who can ever be? The important thing is to keep trying and to keep learning from mistakes.

It means scheduling breaks. To slow down. To relax. To not react at life so much but to take a step back and think about what you really want.

It means recognising that your sense of self-worth lies not in your children, nor in your marriage, nor how much you’re able to juggle every ball that parenting throws at you without dropping a single one. It lies in the person that you are today, and how much you try to choose kindness and love even when you don’t feel like it.

It means letting go of resentment, regrets and hate.

It means pampering yourself from time to time. (Perhaps a spa treatment or a pedicure, or just a simple brunch with girlfriends on a Saturday morning, or even romancing a good book.)

It means cultivating strong, nurturing friendships with other women.

It means forgiving those who’ve hurt you in the past. It also means forgiving yourself for your past failures.

It means never thinking that you’re not good enough.

It means respecting yourself and recognising your own strengths and weaknesses.

It means feeling free to express your needs to your spouse, and ask for help or understanding or time-off.

It means not feeling guilty when you take time-off for yourself.

As mums, it’s even more essential that we learn to cherish ourselves, because our role calls us to love and cherish others. If we don’t know how to care for ourselves, we actually have very little to give…

You can love yourself more starting from today.

1. Do something for yourself. Get a new hairstyle or hair colour. Pick up a new skill or hobby. Make time for yourself, even if it’s for a cup of coffee downstairs, alone. Gather with friends and check out new cafes or the best new chocolate cake in town.

2. Make time to fulfill a dream. Mums have dreams too, and these dreams don’t disappear just because children happen. And we also know that dreams don’t just turn into reality over night. If you’ve always wanted to start a business or initiative, you’ve got to brainstorm, plan, and take steps towards it.

3. Schedule regular me-time. I have to highlight the word “regular” because I think that’s the real challenge for mothers. We tend to feel so responsible for everything that goes on at home or at work, and it can be difficult to let go. My hubby encourages me to schedule time-off (especially when he notices that I’m grumpier than usual).

4. Read. I’m one of those who starts with a book and then gets distracted by life or other responsibilities and I let go of it. If that’s you too, and if there is still good reason to pick up that book, then do it. If you don’t have a book that’s calling out to be read, look around for one or ask for recommendations from friends.

5. Surround yourself with positive people. I’ve thankful to have a circle of like-minded female friends whom I always confide in and who will always believe in me. It’s not imperative that they be female, but it’s imperative that they be positive. Plus, their only interest should be to build you up and be a support for you (of course, this is a two-way street).

6. Tell your mate how to best show love to you. Dr. Gary Chapman, in his book, The Five Love Languages (How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate) identifies five main ways that people express and receive love.

  • Words of Affirmation – Encouragement through words (verbal or written)
  • Quality Time – Focused and intentional time spent together
  • Receiving Gifts – A thoughtful gift as a gesture of love
  • Acts of Service – Doing something to meet a practical need for the other person
  • Physical Touch – Hugs, rubs, kisses, and touch that conveys warmth and affection

If your mate doesn’t know which language is yours, tell him and give him ideas on what you would love to see him do for you.

7. Eat healthy, stay active. Being physically healthy is more than just a feel-good thing; it helps to improve mental alertness, and increases our overall quality of life.

8. Be thankful for the little things. Keep a little notebook of thanksgiving. Note down the little triumphs and milestones you see in your own life. That way, when life gets tough, you can look back at these and remind yourself of how far you’ve come.

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Loving yourself is loving your family too. They are the first to benefit when you are well, inside and out.

You are definitely worth it.

Sacred Influence by Gary Thomas, or what a man needs most from his wife

I remember walking by a bookshelf at a Christian bookstore, and this book by Gary Thomas shouted out at me: “Sacred Influence: What a man needs from his wife to be the husband she wants”. (This was a few years back when I had just got married, and was still figuring my way around.)

“This should be interesting,” I thought as I paid for the book, “it might just help me to change my man.” (Well, how many of us wouldn’t mind some tweaking and fine-tuning of our husbands? To be more romantic? More sensitive to our needs? A better listener?)

After reading the book, I realised how frivolous I was in thinking that, and how immature…If anything, the author’s intention was for me to change my attitude first. While marriage is about unconditionally accepting our spouse, there are also some circumstances that require real long-term changes to be made.

In a nutshell:

Women are designed by God to be a powerful influence on our husbands. However, we need to first understand a few things:

1. Change begins from me. And I can aim to be the best wife that he could ever have.

2. A man respects a woman who respects herself. “If you can stand strong and secure in your identity and in your relationship with Christ, courageously making it clear how you will and will not be treated, you will be amazed to see how the respect you show for yourself rubs off on your husband.”

3. A man needs affirmation and respect from his wife. These are basic ingredients to cultivate in our marriages first before we even try to motivate / influence our husbands.

4. A good marriage doesn’t happen by accident. It requires deliberate choices, sacrifice and perseverance. We need to take the initiative and start acting and changing, instead of just hoping for the best.

Some quotables from the book:

I’ll be upfront with you: you can’t change a man. But you can influence or move him – a far subtler art.

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God, not your marital status or the condition of your marriage, defines your life.

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You may not have realized this, but husbands like to brag about their wives. They may not say it to you, but they notice your strengths and take pride in them.

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Your husband chose you as you were and accepts you as you are – but you can bless him with the woman you want to become.

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Men don’t normally change if what they’ve been doing seems to be working for them. When a woman allows her husband to treat her with disrespect, he has no motivation to change – and so it’s unlikely he ever will.

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The typical man remains unmoved by power plays or criticism or by a wife who disrespects him. He’s moved by a wife who lets him lead and then helps him get where he wants to go.

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…it might surprise you to learn that when dozens of men filled out a recent survey, listing how they wish their wives would love them, not a single one mentioned a desire for their wife to lose weight. About half of them, however, expressed a desire for their wives to cultivate a different attitude toward sexual intimacy – a comfortableness with sex and their bodies, the willingness to be emotionally engaged, initiating, enthusiastic.

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Because success and achievement play such a vital role in a man’s sense of well-being, we men tend to have a greater fear of failure, and even insecurity, than most women would ever guess.”

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When you consistently, persistently, and creatively affirm your husband, you remove one of the most compelling reasons for him to get overinvolved at work or to find an escapist hobby that robs his passion for home.

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I challenge you: if you really want to move your man, begin by praying this prayer: “Lord, how can I help my husband today?

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I think the book really helped me to understand my man better. It’s also helped me to take responsibility for my marriage and know the influence that I have, and be able to use it for the benefit of my husband.

What do you think your man needs most from you?

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