Marriage Tip #6

Be quick to deal with issues.

The bible [whether you believe in it or not] has this great piece of wisdom:

‘In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.’

There are times when anger might be a justified response to something but the key is not letting that anger cause you to hurt your person.

i love the principle of ‘Don’t let the sun go down when you are angry’ but my wife tbV would most likely add this proviso [we think slightly differently on this one, which is okay] – sometimes just before bed is not the best time to sort out an issue you have and so choose a good time to have that conversation…

Whichever side of that you hold to [and there is, i believe, wisdom in both] the most important thing with this tip is to deal with the issues you have as quickly as possible because otherwise they will start to grow and fester and become big issues and bringing up something that happened four months ago rarely ends well.

So i guess this is a double tip in terms of deal with issues as quickly as you can, but also be mindful of the physical space you are in and the emotional state and choose a time/space that is going to be best for the conversation. Often the moment of anger is too sensitive to deal with the problem and so breathe and go for a walk or perhaps in that moment suggest a time to have the conversation – “Can we chat about this after supper tonight?” – so that your partner knows it is happening and then hopefully when you meet to discuss it, it will go a lot better.

What we’ve found is sometimes we need a person in the room [links to marriage counselling] just so that we can deal more gently with each other, which is often the value that a counsellor or mentoring couple bring.

Try not hold on to anger past bedtime, but if it’s a late night argument or issue and that doesn’t feel like the most healthy time to have the discussion then get to it as quickly as possible.

Would love to hear some feedback on this one in terms of how you have experienced this and what decisions you have come to as a couple in terms of when to deal with conflict that emerges. Please share your stories…


Marriage Tip #7

Serve one another in love.

This is huge. There is no space in marriage for selfishness.

i used to use this analogy on camps – if i am looking after myself and Val is looking after herself then we are both looked after. But if i am looking out for her needs and she is looking out for my needs, then we are still both looked out for, but you have the added ingredient of relationship.

Obviously that is a simplistic explanation of how it works and could be problematic for a lot of people if you look at it a certain way, but i’m not talking about that. i’m not saying i do all her stuff for her and vice versa…

But it’s more about being aware of where she is at in the moment. Noticing things. Really listening. Jumping in to do a household chore that she really hates. Letting her wake up to a cup of coffee in the morning which is really easy because she values sleep a lot more than you and so you’ve been up for a while. Sitting in the cold wind to support him at a hockey match because you know how much he values your presence there.

Doing these things because you love the person and not out of some sort of forced sighing obligation space. There will definitely be times when it feels a lot more like that, but when you remember the WHY and the WHO of it, the WHAT tends to become a lot easier.

If sacrificial love in a marriage is one-sided then it’s likely to cause problems as well. But it shouldn’t be a list or a scale. You do it because it’s the right thing to do. And you hope that your person is going to do the same from their end.

i think as humans we often tend towards selfishness and so this becomes something you have to face down on a regular basis in your marriage [and i imagine the battle is much bigger for some people than others]. i find it helpful when i wake up in the morning to mentally commit again that i am going to serve Val today. When a day starts with me recognising my commitment to her, it is far more likely to go well.

Serve the other person in love.

[One definition of love that i really… um… love… is this one, found in an ancient manuscript that says, ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’

Love makes mistakes, but it never fails…

How do you feel about this one? Was this something you started off with when you got married or has it needed to be worked at over time?


Marriage Tip #8

Make time in your day/week to connect on a real level.

For tbV and myself this happens the most just before we go to sleep. Lying in bed together at the end of the day is when we often share about our day, gossip about the shtupidt people online, listen to each other’s struggles, fears, anticipations and get brought in to tomorrow’s schedule. It can happen and does happen at other times, but for us we have found that is a great place and time to stop, collaborate and listen.

This will be different for different people and so it’s really about being intentional about making sure it happens. It might be in the morning before you go out or maybe as soon as you are both back from work, it could be on a run together or as you’re doing the dishes – the where and the when are not as important as the if.

Life can get busy, possibly more so if you have children or just really active lifestyles and skipping this for a day can suddenly become three days and then two weeks and before you know it you’re living past each other.

Another great one we do fairly often is tbV suggests [usually on a Sunday afternoon or mid-week] that we go out for a walk and once i stop groaning [i’m awful in that i pretty much enjoy it very much every time and pretty much hate the idea of it very much every time so the trick is getting me out there] we head out to the green belt or to Muizenberg and we have discovered a whole number of really beautiful walks [yes, by ‘we’ i mean Val!] and that is a great way that we stop and unwind and find each other and connect deeply and it does wonders for our week. Again, yours might look different but find out what it looks like.

Unplugging will i’m sure be another tip but let’s throw it in here that silencing your phone and other interruptions so that you can give your person full focus is super important. Communicate that right now you have my attention and are the most important thing to me in a world that is constantly demanding my attention.

How does this play out for you? Do you have a set time or activity? What is something you do as a couple that gives you space to really unwind and find each other?


Marriage Tip #9

Find little fun things to share that are ‘just yours’.

These might be private jokes or strange habits or weird rituals or a new family tradition, but find little things that are guaranteed to glue you together in a special ‘this is the two of you and no-one else’ way.

For tbV and me [and this is not unique to us i know] whenever anyone says the word ‘do’ in a sentence, followed by the word ‘do’ we will both say it aloud instantly and giggle like kids. We don’t care if you’re the pope or it’s in the middle of a funeral [although we will whisper or mime it then – show some respect!] or a serious conversation – if a ‘do do’ happens a ‘do do’ must be declared.

This works for someone saying ‘duty’ as well – cue tbV and Brett Fish looking at each other and going “hee hee doodie!”

Those may seem silly – and. they. are. – but they are a really cool and fun connection point that Val and i have and it’s not premeditated so it can really happen at any time.

Then there are two that completely took my by surprise with Val tending to care more about what people think about her publicly than me and yet she dressed up like a Gumby with me for the Monty Python ‘screening of a live show’ [yup, that doesn’t make complete sense but Monty Python] and then she dressed up as Tess Tickle to my Hugh Jass when we met our housemates at the airport. And Val-who-cares-what-people-think had me wanting to hide behind things as people exited the international arrivals door to be met by this crazed woman shouting, “Tess? Are you Tess Tickle?” at the top of her voice. But i can promise you that was such a complete bonding experience and it’s a story we have for life.

Maybe especially if you’re not particularly silly people, do a silly thing. Together. Or else try and find the moments of comedy or private joke or fun new tradition or way to spend a sunday afternoon that speaks to who you are as a couple.

It’s a really healthy thing for you to find a way to do. Do. [snort]

What is an example from your marriage of something that is ‘your thing’ that you do or say or celebrate or experience together that helps bond you in this kind of way? More importantly, what’s the next one going to be?


Marriage Tip #10

Discover their favourite things and act on that regularly.

When i started dating tbV [the beautiful Val] i used to give her a lot of chocolates [this connects back to the Love Languages thing – chocolate is my love language]. because i am a big fan of chocolate and so thought it was an appropriate gift.

After about a month, Val [who does not have a sweet tooth, but much more prefers sour sweets or savoury treats] had a drawer full of chocolate and a very satisfied housemate [who did like chocolate]. i thought i was loving Val, but i really wasn’t and the moment i figured that out i was able to work to discover the things Val does like – sour worms and cheese/crackers and sushi.

Now i hate sushi and so if it was up to me choosing the things, sushi would never happen. But i do try on a fairly regular basis to either give Val a nudge to treat herself or else grab some on the way home to surprise her.

i would never [or seldom] actively choose to go out for a walk but Val loves to do that and loves to do that with me and so i have learnt to jump on the chances [most times] when she invites me to join her for a walk. A further tip linked to this [and i still need some work here but i’m getting a lot better] is that when she suggests going for a walk i have worked hard at changing my response to “Urgh, oh alright, let’s do all the things that you wanna do!” to “Sho, that would be rad, let’s do it.” A begrudging yes comes across pretty much like a no and so even though we end up doing the thing she wants, it feels to her like she has had to force me and so takes a lot of the joy out of it. Let your “Yes” be an enthusiastic “Yes!” – it doesn’t have to be fake or forced but you can still find a way of giving it a yes knowing just how much it means to her.

Linked to the serve one another in love tip, the hope is that Val is doing the same thing for me. [Although this can’t be an expectation – another hard one – a mental ‘i’ve done three things for you so now you need to do three things for me’]. Rather just keep serving in love – listen and learn and observe to discover the things that your person appreciates or liked or that gives them life and then be intentional about making spaces and times and opportunities to do them.

Do you have an example of something that your partner loves that you are not particularly a fan of but make an effort to provide for them? What is something that your person does for you that you know is not high on their priority list? Have you seen this principle at work?


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