03 October 2016

Looking Back to Move Your Marriage Forward

My husband and I celebrated our five year anniversary on Saturday.

Either you are thinking "Congrats! Wow, five years!" or you have been married much longer than that and are suddenly freaked out about taking marriage advice from someone that has "only" been married for five years. Just remember, I have nowhere claimed to have this marriage thing all figured out. I'm simply inviting you along on my journey. But if it makes you feel slightly better, I do have an undergrad degree in Psychology and Family Studies, an almost-completed masters in Marriage & Family Therapy counseling, and still love reading and learning about marriage on an almost daily basis. But back to my anniversary...

Although I usually love being the one to plan dates (is that weird?), I gave up the reigns this year and asked my husband to surprise me. He ended up taking me to Old Town Alexandria. For non-DC folks, that's a cute town on the waterfront of the Potomac River on the Virginia side just across from Washington, DC. We got all dolled up and went to a fancy dinner at one restaurant and then off to another fun restaurant for dessert. I loved it!

While at dinner, waiting on our food to arrive, we did something that we always do on our anniversary. We took turns talking about why we love being married to each other. My hubby told me some qualities that he saw in me that brought tears to my eyes. He seemed blown away and genuinely surprised/touched by what I told him as well.

We also reminisced about some amazing moments in our marriage. We didn't shy away from tough times, though.

We've had financial difficulties that seemed impossible to get through. We also worked together through Financial Peace University and made some crazy-sounding sacrifices to successfully get out of debt.

We transitioned from two salaries down to one as I made the switch to become a stay-at-home mom. As any other SAHM knows, this comes with many blessings combined with lots of difficulties trying to navigate finding a balance and a new normal in that complicated role. It's still a work in progress.

We've lived in three different places in five years, including drastically downgrading into one dumpy place (as in, we had cockroaches for roommates) while we saved money to buy a place that we've made into our comfy little nest.

We brought two beautiful girls into this world and will have to wait until heaven to meet two more twin girls that were miscarried.

We made it through Whole30 to change our relationship with food, pushed each other at the gym, and worked on becoming healthier versions of ourselves. We've also both had some pretty difficult health issues that have driven us to our knees in prayer.

We've had some parenting wins and a LOT of parenting fail moments.

The list could go on. The good with the bad. For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. Through sickness and health. We've been through it all, and so have you. Okay, well maybe you are still waiting on the "for richer" part like we are! But taking the time to look back, even at the hard times, shows us we successfully made it through as a team even if we have some war wounds. We can now see how those struggles brought us even closer together and also caused us to cling more tightly to God because that's all we could manage in the moment.

When you have those tough days - when the laundry is piling up, the kids are fussy and clingy all at the same time (how do they know to do that?!), and your spouse has reached "hangry" status because neither of you can figure out how to make the random contents of the fridge magically combine into a dinner, reminisce on the good times.

Remind yourself of how excited you were about your first date or how nervous you were before your first kiss. Talk to your spouse about your memories of the proposal. Discuss how you felt during your first dance as man and wife. Tell your husband your top 1 (or 5!) reasons why you absolutely love being married to him. Tell your wife the top reasons why she makes an amazing wife and mom.

This isn't just to make your spouse feel good, although it certainly does that as well as fosters lovey-dovey feelings. But telling your spouse these things reminds you that the flawed, imperfect person you are standing beside in life has some pretty amazing qualities as well. Enough to make you want to marry him or her in the first place! And there's most likely been some amazing moments in your marriage that can so easily get buried in the craziness of life, but you will instead dig those out and celebrate them.

You don't need to wait until your next anniversary to do this - there's no time like the present! But you can also use it to start a new tradition on that date.

Let those happy feelings of nostalgia bring you back to those good times and carry you forward to create some amazing new memories. Ones that can be brought up and discussed at your next anniversary date over great food, fine wine, delicious desserts, and perhaps some well-earned happy tears.

Feel free to share some of your own memories below in the comments. And don't forget to share with your spouse!


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