Our wedding was meticulously planned and choreographed. It was perfect.
But our marriage? Oops, there was no script for that! Somehow I’d vaguely believed the honeymoon bliss would carry over into day-to-day life.
Several Gary Smalley videotapes later, Barry and I were much the wiser. And as I’ve baby-stepped into being a wife, I’ve kept my years open for bits of wisdom from other happy wives. Really happy wives. Here’s what I’ve found.
Remember your third partner. God has promised to stand by the two of you—forever. Stay connected to Him through prayer for and with your husband.
My friend Stephanie* points out the prayer is a great way to resolve conflicts. She says, “When Dan and I can’t agree on something, we always say, ‘Let’s pray about it.’ Praying together brings us into a common mind where we’re willing to accept God’s will and are more ready to compromise.” Remember, God invented marriage! If you let Him, He’s dedicated to creating happiness between you and your guy.
Speak up, shut up, and listen up. In other words, communicate. If your interaction never extends past “Honey, where’s the remote?” there’s trouble!
Listening without interrupting or passing judgment on what he’s saying is most important. Resist the temptation to assume that he knows what you’re feeling. Remember, men are from Mars.
Mattie kept her feelings inside, insisting to her girlfriends that Jack should “know how much it upsets me to have his brother over four nights a week,” or “Why should I have to tell him when I’m hurt? The look on my face should be hint enough.” And after years of emotional pressure building like a shaken-up soda bottle, Mattie exploded. Her marriage now lies in soggy pieces.
Lesson here: deal with the problems—communicate—before you’re past the point of no return.
Begin by simply making an effort. Educate yourself. An incredible number of good books exist on how to communicate. All you need is a free library card. When you put new habits in place, your man will likely jump into the game with you.
Accept his quirks. Joann’s husband eats loudly, and it could drive her nuts. “If he’s eating, but I’m not,” she told me, “I just have to find ways to make noise and keep busy.” And then there’s Sarah, who has wiped up Phil’s crumbs and set his empty juice glass in the sink every morning for 30 years. Does it still bug her? Well, sometimes, “But after complaining to some trusted girlfriends and being told heir husbands are incurable too, it got easier to chill.”
Bottom line: you’re not going to change everything about him that you’d like to, no matter how much you try. So give it up. Hey, you’ve got better stuff to worry about than whether he unwads his tube socks before they hit the laundry chute, right?
Reality check: you have some habits that irritate him, too.
Dwell on the positive. First of all, decide to love him. Make a conscious decision to work with your marriage, grow with it, and stick with it.
Your mind believes what you constantly tell it, so stop giving it negative input. Focus on your husband’s good traits. Look for the little things that show he cares. You say they’re not there? Betcha they are. Do you take for granted that he keeps your car clean or drops you off right by the mall door? Appreciate it, and tell him so.
I’ve made a conscious effort to respond anytime Barry does something to make my life brighter or easier. And guess what? The other day when I lifted the washing machine lid, I found a note saying, “Thanks for keeping my clothes clean, sweetie.”
While taking notice of even the smallest sweet thing he does it important, learn to smooth over the really picky issues. I learned this lesson s-l-o-w-l-y, during the 14 months Barry and I spent building our new home.
Ask yourself if this thing that seems so important to you will really matter 20 years from now. If the current issue will cause deep or recurring pain, get it out in the open and work through it. If it’s not going to change—and use your good sense here—get over it and move on with your life.
Let your hair down, maybe even literally. How long have you had the same hairstyle? We all thrive on continuity, but a surprise now and then spices things up. Ask him out on a date Have a candlelight dinner and romantic music ready when he gets home from work, or slip into the shower with him. Invest in a book on creative romance and try at least one idea each week.
Depend on yourself for your happiness. You can’t expect your husband will ever meet all of your needs. “Two becoming one” is the goal of a God-blessed union, but you’re still an individual. You have an identity apart from him. Don’t base your own happiness on his actions.
If you wait to be content until he starts being more helpful around the house, you may have a long wait! Happiness flows from your state of mind, and you have control over that!
So what can you do? Make a decision to do things that give you satisfaction. Start gardening—inside or outside. Plan girls’ nights out. Take up piano lessons. Do it for yourself.
Admire this incredible man you married. He needs to be adored, just as you do. It’s like this: your man’s ego is a garden the size of Yankee Stadium, and your job is to water the flowers. So kick that gigantic sprinkler system into high gear. How? First of all, just listen to him (hang on every word, if need be). Believe it or not, you can care about the details of how he’s engineered the new basement drain. Why? Because it’s important to him, and he’s important to you.
Remember to brag about him to other people. Let others know how much you admire him, and he’ll repay you in ways you haven’t even thought of. And while all men possess bewildering traits that make us crazy, never put down your guy within 100 years of other sets of ears.
As one woman put it: “If I dis him, it makes me look like an idiot for marrying him. But if I praise him, it affirms my great taste.” So you get to build up him and yourself at the same time. Talk about a win-win situation!
These “secrets” helped me be a really happy wife. And I think you’ll find that by becoming a happy wife, you’ll have a happy husband, too.