I am writing this article not as a marriage guru, but as a marriage guinea pig.
Let me explain. For 17 of our 23 years of marriage, my husband, Ted, has studied marriage and helped other married couples through his ministry MarriedPeople.org. I, on the other hand, have not. I am an accountant and a mom. Excel spreadsheets are my jam. Uber driving our three teenagers is my comfort zone. I’m ashamed to admit the only marriage books I’ve ever read are my husband’s.
But Ted has often field-tested his ideas on our marriage. Some of his “experiments” have profoundly changed our relationship. Not surprisingly, the ones that have had the biggest impact were ones I wish I had understood sooner. If I could go back and sit down with my newly married self, here’s what I would tell her:
- You are snarky to Ted way more than you realize. (The sooner you get some self-awareness, the better.)
- You are making big deals about little deals. Stop it. (You’ll learn what big deals are in years three, nine, 11 and 22. Later you’ll be embarrassed that you pouted for a day because he didn’t like Boyz II Men.)
- He is never going to [insert anything here] just like you. (Stop being amazed that he loads the dishwasher all wrong and his feelings get hurt easily. He’s great at so many other things.)
- Be friends with women who are for you and your marriage. (It’s easy to find people who say you’re always right. You need a friend who calls you out on Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6.)
- Take care of yourself. A better you makes a better marriage. (It may be as small as going for a run or taking time every morning to pray. You are nicer when you are not depleted. See No. 1.)
- Be full of grace today. You’ll need it tomorrow. (His trying out new clippers on your son’s hair the week of your sister’s wedding is no worse than your tearing the sliding door off the track of your 2-week-old minivan.)
These six things can be wrapped up in two words: Be kind. I wish I’d learned these things sooner; I also still wish he liked Boyz II Men as much as I do.