In a society that touts “You only live once” and “You deserve to be happy,” it’s easy to get caught up in happily ever after. After all, I too was once part of the crowd that believed I deserved to be happy because I only live once. It was a mindset that eventually led to the end of my first marriage. After the wedding was supposed to be Happily Ever After, wasn’t it?
This month, Mr. B and I will celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. It’s not a long time but we’ve been through so much and learned some valuable lessons through the battles we’ve fought together (and sometimes against each other). I feel like we should get to say we’ve been married at least 20 years.
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If Not Happily Ever After, Then What?
The first thing I think we need to clear up is that Mr. B and I aren’t looking for happily ever after. Happiness is not permanent. It comes and goes. I don’t want that in my marriage. I want joy in my marriage.
But more than that, my marriage is an extension of God’s love for us and I want to glorify Him in my marriage. Trust me when I say that Mr. B and I do our fair share of being selfish and screwing up. And that jagged little pill called Pride sure is difficult to swallow. I’ll readily admit that I’ve had to swallow that pill more often than I’d like to.
I can tend to be a lot like Eve in that way.
Related Post: Eve’s Deception: How Can We Avoid Her Missteps?
So if I stopped trying for happily ever after, then what am I trying to have?
Well, I want a healthy marriage. Staying together isn’t the only goal. I know plenty of people who are completely devoted to staying with their spouse but are completely miserable.
And I can tell you right now when it comes to splitting up a marriage with kids involved, divorce is not better. It is different. And it’s definitely not easier.
It takes just as much work to co-parent with my ex-husband as it does to have a strong, healthy marriage with Mr. B. And the reward for the hard work is far more enjoyable with Mr. B.
Working Away From Happily Ever After to Healthy Ever After
Looking at our daily interactions, I think we have five main things that help us keep the level of health we have and work toward making it healthier. The most dangerous thing in marriage is to think we’ve “made it.” This is exactly the time that we get too comfortable, get too lazy, and fall into old (and even toxic) patterns. No matter how difficult it is we remind ourselves of these five things every day.
1. Limit who you talk to about the intimate details of your marriage.
I mentioned in a previous post that the one thing I wish I knew before I got married (the first time) was the type of people I needed to have in my marriage and the people I needed to get rid of. Marriage is not meant to navigate alone but if you have the wrong captain, you’ll end up shipwrecked. If you read that previous post, you know about Elvis and Dara. They have become some of our best friends over the years and are always voices of reason when we want to spit and cuss. If you haven’t read that post, you should definitely check out who we think our marriage needs (and needs to get rid of).
Notice I said to limit who to talk with about the intimate details of your marriage. Mr. B and I are pretty open about struggles we’ve been through, especially those we already conquered. We typically do not discuss our current struggles or intimate details. Only select few people have shown they deserve that privilege.
So how do you determine who?
Well, I listen to how other people talk about their husband and then pay attention to how people talk to me about my husband if I divulge small details about what we’ve dealt with.
It is important to listen first more than you talk.
2. Recognize that you have an enemy and it’s not your husband.
Even in the most difficult times of our marriage, Mr. B and I had to recognize that we were not each other’s enemy. In John 10:10, our enemy is referred to as a thief and he comes “only to steal and kill and destroy.”
If we do not recognize there is an enemy who longs for the destruction of our marriage and family, we have already lost the battle. When we turn on our husband and fight them instead of the enemy who is truly there, we have allowed distraction to tear our marriages apart.
Imagine seeing a battle break out. Two sides facing each other. Maybe a man dressed in a kilt with war paint giving an epic pre-battle pep talk.
How crazy would it look to see the good guys turn on themselves while the enemy just sat back?
That is what it is like in our marriage. Don’t let that craziness play out.
Get on your knees and pray. Fight the true enemy and regain a connection with your husband, he is fighting the battle with you.
3. Continue finding things to do together so you like each other.
Make it a point to talk about your likes and dislikes. Your hopes and dreams. It is so easy to get sucked into the running of your household. I’ve heard often an issue with empty nesters is that their children leave the house and then they look at each other and think, “Who are you?” This is why regular date nights now are so important and why you should make babysitting a line item in your budget.
4. Ask “What About You?” often.
It is in our nature to look at our husbands and ask “What about me?” expecting them to meet our needs. In some cases to meet every need. That is a lot of pressure to place on one person – a flawed human at that. This kind of pressure can only cause bitterness and resentment.
Instead, ask “What about you?” And I don’t mean it as “Well, what about you? You are always doing this and never doing that.” What I’m saying is “What about you? What do you need today? What can I help you with today?” If you and your husband are both focusing on each other instead of yourselves, you won’t have to worry about getting your needs met.
5. Choose Your Marriage Before Your Kids – Always
Do you remember the well-intentioned woman whose advice to me when I was going to marry Mr. B was “make sure those kids come first and you’ll be fine”? Although well-intentioned, it was horrible advice. If you haven’t read about it, check it out in the post about why you should budget for babysitting.
Hollywood has us believing that the wedding leads to happily ever after. They make it seem so easy. But it is hard work and dying to our selfish ways every day to make it work. It doesn’t mean that we don’t make our needs known. But we find our needs can get met more often if we stop demanding it and start serving others.