Where Logic Meets Love

Four Small Steps for a Happy Marriage

Thursday, October 13, 2011

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Four Small Steps for a Happy Marriage | Faith Permeating Life

I wrote on Tuesday about how I believe happiness is created through small actions you take on a regular basis. I started thinking about how this is also true in a more specific way: Happiness in marriage is maintained through small actions done regularly.

One of the common complaints I hear about Valentine's Day (or about this Saturday's "Sweetest Day") is that it's meaningless to have a show of love out of obligation. People say they'd rather get flowers or have a fancy dinner some other day of the year. But how often do these big displays of affection actually happen at other times of the year? And, more importantly, does your marriage actually hinge on whether or not these happen at all?

I don't believe happy marriages are built through large, romantic gestures any more than happiness in your life is created through huge, life-changing events.

A lot of people talk about the "honeymoon period" following your wedding, after which things go downhill. I never expected that to happen to us, but there wasn't much validity to me saying that before we got married.

So now, when we've been married for two years and together for seven, I feel like I can safely say that we never went through a honeymoon/disillusionment period. Part of that had to do with how much we'd talked about before we got married, but I believe there are several little things we do regularly that have kept us just as happy as when we got married, if not more.

(Warning: This may be mushier than you can handle.)
  • We text each other loving things during the day. It's pretty standard that every other day, at least, one of us will send the other a text simply saying, "I love you!" or "Thinking about what a great husband/wife you are." It's just a nice reminder that we're on each other's minds when we're apart all day.
  • We thank each other for doing everyday things. There are so many tasks that just have to get done during the week, and for the most part we have a division of labor worked out based on our strengths or who has time to do what. But that doesn't mean we can't thank each other for doing them. I try to always thank Mike for doing the laundry every week. He thanks me for taking care of the weird boring things that I like doing, like labeling and dating 100 pictures we just got printed. I thank him for taking out the trash; he thanks me for cleaning out the rats' cage.
  • We are considerate to each other. I've often heard it noted that people are much more kind and considerate to strangers than they are to their family members. I won't say Mike and I are stellar at this, but we place a high priority on respect for each other. For example, just last night he asked me if I needed to use the bathroom before he got in there to take a shower. He didn't have to ask, but it was considerate of him to think of me.
  • We say "I love you" a ridiculous amount. We say it when we're getting off the phone with each other, when one of us is leaving to go somewhere, or when one of us is going to bed before the other. Those are a given. We also use it as a compliment ("I love you. You are so passionate about this idea."), to tease each other ("I love you. You are such a dork."), and just randomly ("What are you thinking?" "About how much I love you.")
I'm sure there are more things, but these are what come to mind right now.

None of these are huge gestures that require a lot of time and effort, but I think these little acts are big reasons that we have such a great, happy marriage. If I could sum up what these everyday actions say, it's essentially this:
  • I am thinking of you.
  • I appreciate you.
  • I care about you.
  • I love you.

These four ideas may not manifest themselves in exactly the same way throughout the rest of our lives, but I believe that as long we make an effort to communicate these things (in both words and actions), we will have a strong foundation to our marriage.

10 comments:

  1. Jessica,

    This is a really good post with great advice that many people need to read. You are so right that it is the little things that make us happy and make a marriage or any other relationship happy.

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  2. @Dave Keller
    Thanks, Dave. I'd love for you to share it with other people if you think they would get something out of it. I think these little things have made such a big difference in my relationship with Mike.

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  3. This really made me smile, I absolutely love this post! I hope that if I'm lucky enough to get married, my relationship with my husband will be able to look like this too. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Absolutely! These little things mean a lot. Your list is very similar to this one I saw last month.

    I am not very romantic in the conventional American sense. I never wanted a diamond ring; fancy dates that involve his spending a lot of money on me make me feel nervous and disgusted; I'm happy to celebrate Valentine's Day or our anniversary with just sex and conversation; my attitude toward romantic talk is often like this. But it is important to me to be treated with consideration and to get some sort of physical affection and an "I love you" at least once a day each.

    When we were in the process of buying our house, I was speaking to the realtor and to Daniel on the phone several times a day each. Daniel and I always end phone conversations with, "I love you." So one day, wrapping up a conversation with the realtor, I heard myself say, "I love you." Luckily, she realized exactly what was going on and said, "Aww, do you say that every time you talk to Daniel? That's so sweet!" :-D

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  5. @Just me
    Keep your standards high about who you marry, and put more into the relationship than you expect to get out of it, and there's no reason you can't have exactly this same kind of relationship :)

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  6. @'Becca
    Thanks for sharing the link to Modern Mrs. Darcy! Good stuff.

    I didn't mention physical affection, but you're right, that is important too. Mike and I were long-distance for the year before we got married, and that was really tough!

    That's a funny/cute story! Thanks for sharing :)

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  7. What a lovely set of thoughts! I've always had a love-hate relationship with all those "appreciate the one you love" holidays: Mother's Day, birthday, V-day...real life so often interferes. It's these sort of things that really make a life together work. I'm sure there are others, but I don't feel good enough right now to be able to think them through...curse you, late pregnancy! :/

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  8. Nice list. I'm not very romantic, but I do know others (both men and women who are). Maybe big romantic gesture do help for their relationships.

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  9. @Kathleen Basi
    You hit on a good point--I think some of the "hate" toward those holidays is the pressure to do something big and special, when you may not have the time/energy/interest in doing so.

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  10. @Jenny
    That's true, and I don't mean to say that they don't or can't help, but that I don't believe the success of a relationship hinges on whether or not you do those romantic gestures. I think the most happiness in a relationship comes from how you interact on a day-to-day basis.

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