Some more marriage advice for you as we head into our final ten:
Marriage Tip #31
Now i imagine there will be varying degrees of this for different people. i also imagine some couples will roll their eyes and instantly dismiss this because walking (and that’s not your vibe).
But i would suggest (with less exceptions than people who think they are the exceptions) that the amount you collectively enjoy walking or not should determine how much or how often you walk. Not if you walk.
And let me disclaim a bit by saying that the idea of walking generally doesn’t appeal to me as in a response to the question: Do you want to go for a walk? The answer is pretty much always no.
But i have discovered that the action of walking is something i very often do enjoy a whole lot, and for a number of reasons…
– Great connection time. This is yet another way of interrupting the busyness of the day or week or month. Stop. Slow down. Find each other. Talk. Celebrate. Catch up. Share stories. Check in. And more.
– No cellphone interruption. Leave the phones on off unless you are taking a picture of the beautiful place you’re walking in. And even then have some times with no phones.
– Healthy vibes. It is good for you. Exercising together, especially when one or both of you struggle to exercise regularly, is a double win.
– Nature showing off. In Cape Town, we are spoilt with the Green Belt and Muizenberg to Kommetjie and Table Mountain and and and. But i imagine there is likely somewhere not too far (even if just a park) where you can find some kind of nature to enjoy.
i really want to encourage those of you who have never tried it before. Start by going around the block near your house. Then to a local park. Then you can get more creative. You may be super surprised by how life-giving that time together can be?
Any self-declared non-walkers out there who have tried it and found it to be a good compliment to your marriage? Anyone else who is brave enough to set a date for your first one?
Marriage Tip #32
Listen to really hear. Not to find a space for your response.
As many of you may noticed, perhaps with some tips more than others, probably the majority of the tips are actually simply about being decent or loving people to one another and work in a variety of relationships or spaces. And this one definitely so. But because a marriage is a relationship (spoiler alert) it applies here very definitely as well.
We can hear the words someone says without really listening for the meaning. Or we sometimes literally are listening, waiting for the gap, so that we can have our turn to say what we planned a short while ago before we stopped really listening. Neither of those is very loving because they tend to focus more on us than the other person.
But if my motivation, when my wife is speaking, is to do everything i can to give myself the best possible opportunity to really hear what she is trying to convey to me, then i will likely have a much better chance.
Another skill to grow in marriage (and other places) is to listen to behind what she is saying. As we get to know the other person better we will start to identify times when the words they say are actually about a different deeper issue. What becomes helpful then is to ask a clarifying question which for you can help you see if you got it right and for her can let her know that she has been heard. Really heard and listened to. Which is a profound extension of being seen.
i see you. i believe that you are trying to convey this to me?
That is a really great way of letting someone know that you value them and that what they have to say is important and holds value to you.
This grows over time and hopefully as you make an effort to intentionally listen and really hear what is being said and maybe what is not being said, you will grow in love and understanding and connect so much more deeply with each other.
Eye contact is super helpful. Give your person full focus.
Marriage Tip #33
Have fun nicknames for each other.
This one feels like it might be personality dependent, but i wonder if it might just be that certain personalities are more likely to get there more naturally.
Also it is an absolute must for me that the nickname must be positive, affirming and appreciated. There can not be many more unhelpful things than having a pet name for your person that makes them cringe or embarrass or even hurts or takes a subtle dig at them. If your spouse does not like the thing you call them in any way (even and maybe especially if you think it’s “just a joke”) then you need to STOP calling them that.
We have more than one for each other, but maybe the most well-known and most-loved (at least by me) is Husbandman (LOVE it when she calls me that cos it makes me feel like a superhero somehow) and tbV [aka the beautiful Val] for her.
(A semi-needed disclaimer here is that when we call each other those things it is great, but when other people pick those names up and start using them it can be a little creepy, even if you mean well)
And it’s probably another level of good if you have a special name that isn’t public at all but just for the two of you as it adds a level of intimacy to your relationship, like when i call Val “__________” (for example)
So not a “Must have for a successful, thriving marriage” but certainly a Nice-to-have-if-mutually-agreeable and one more small way in which you customise your special relationship.
Any stories on this one of public names you have for your spouse or they have for you? Anyone ever had a nickname they didn’t like that became an issue?
Marriage Tip #34
Never ever ever ever ever ever diss your spouse on social media (or live).
Anytime you take a dig at your person or post a status that is maybe meant as a joke but at their expense or you make the equivalent of a subtweet (a subtle jab intended to try and make a point in their direction) it is evidence of a crack in the relationship. The more often you do it, the more cracks.
(It is probably worth adding that if you’re a pastor or speaker and you use stories of your wife or husband without their express permission in a way that makes them uneasy or uncomfortable or just that they would prefer you didn’t, that whatever gain you get from that is not worth it.)
Marriage can be hard enough without you taking a back route aim at them rather than dealing directly with something. Online and in public you need to be their biggest fan and champion and let the personal or counselling space be the space where you lean into issues.
i have witnessed some really unhelpful and even hurtful statuses, comments or even tweets referring to some irritating thing your person does which then gives unnecessary ammunition to the general public to think less of them.
How do you feel about this one? Any stories of when you got it wrong?
Marriage Tip #35
Put effort into their family.
This tip is going to look very different for different people and in some cases there may not be the opportunity to connect with your spouse’s family for a variety of reasons. But when you are in a context where you are likely to spend a lot of time with them at regular intervals, it makes a lot more sense to do the very best you can to embrace them as an extension of the person you have chosen.
The extended family dynamic is often a bit of a tricky one, cos you didn’t particularly choose them but this is an area where if you do it well you will enhance your relationship with your spouse as well.
As i mentioned, there are some family dynamics that are just too complicated or painful or messed up to make much positive difference to [never choose extended family over spouse though] and certain situations where to love your person well you will need to support them in a removed space from their family.
i guess this tip is particularly aimed at those who can choose a neutral or loving/embracing stance towards their in-laws and the encouragement is to press in as much as feels healthy and possible. This may include prioritising some family events, being available to jump in during a crisis or move, celebrating birthdays and other milestones and figuring out connections and boundaries well [so healthy communication will add to this].
How have you found this one? A whole new family with all their highs and lows and gifts and challenges makes for an interesting navigation into a new life together and this may take a few years to figure out completely. And it may be just one of those journeys that continues and you hopefully get better at over time. Probably the key to doing this well is figuring it out together with your person!