There it was, taunting, tempting me. It’s eluded me for a year, and each day for 365 days, my curiosity grew stronger, until finally, on July 12, 2015, I had a full slice of our wedding cake.
We celebrated our first year of marriage last weekend, and aside from the thawing of the frozen mystery cake, which was delicious by the way, I had a few other things on my mind. I’m no marriage expert; one year isn’t a super long amount of time, after all, and I can’t even begin to pretend we somehow have wisdom beyond our years. Jake and I are not the exception. We are totally newlyweds with little experience beyond giggles, feel-goods and fun stuff. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to think about what we’ve experienced and can continue to work on. As I thought back, these are a few lessons I learned this year.
Be each other’s biggest fans.
Here’s the thing, if you aren’t encouraging and rooting for your spouse, someone else will, no doubt. So no one’s going to be a better cheerleader for Jake than me. At least that’s the goal.
As with any skill, project, job or role, we need to be affirmed and told we’re doing a good job. In turn, we’ll be more confident, and do an even better job. Jake likes to say, “Confidence is a learned trait.” Coaches teach players the fundamentals and critique their performance, but if they never trust the player to do the thing better, how can he ever develop confidence in his ability to crush a play, make a pass, etc.? If the player never hears he’s doing a good job, he’ll only remember the corrections and critiques.
There are no football pads in Vikki world, but the same concept applies. Jake and I know we’re each other’s partners in life, and God has given us one another as accountability, to help us become more like Him. Sometimes that requires some tough love, but more often it means leading by example and affirming the other person in who they are.
And have you ever seen a SEC football game where fans aren’t PUMPED to be there? No, you haven’t. As one another’s biggest fans, celebrate the fun stuff, pour accolades on the other person, make T-shirts in their honor (please not really). When they’re down, mourn with them, carry their burdens.
Bottom line – be supremely invested in the other person and what he/she is passionate about. Be their biggest cheerleaders in life.
Sweat the small stuff.
I don’t mean worry about the small stuff, I mean purpose to acknowledge the small stuff your person is doing well. I don’t think anyone gets married thinking, “Hey, I’m going to take my spouse for granted, and they’ll resent me for it, yay!” Yet, I find it’s really easy to go through busy routine and forget to acknowledge the small victories Jake’s experiencing every day, the ways he’s totally stepping up. And I could see how delayed praise, lack of affirmation for a prolonged time to result in some nasty feelings. We’re just SO BUSY. So, I learned to focus on the small things, the seemingly menial parts of the day which, truly, can make or break my attitude. Life is made up of the small stuff after all, so getting those things right can be a game-changer.
One tradition we have is how we say goodbye each morning. Without fail, if Jake’s leaving before me, I’ll walk him to the door and wish him a good day. I usually add in some sort of caution, “Be careful! Don’t text and drive!” Those few moments we share each morning are special to me because we stop, briefly, to focus on the other person.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as saying “thanks” for an everyday task well-done that makes the difference. Thanks for making the bed, Jake, when you knew I was running behind; I HATE having a messy bed. Thanks for emptying the dishwasher. Thanks for making dinner on the grill because it tastes better anyways and it’s super easy to clean up. Thanks for calling to update me on your plans for the day. Stuff like that. We don’t always have long weekends to share or major accomplishments to celebrate, but we can celebrate one another in the little things every day!
Fight, but fight fair.
A couple once told me they never fight. Never. Fight. I don’t know how that’s possible. Our relationship isn’t marked by fighting, in fact we get along pretty well the majority of the time! But arguments are inevitable. When you get married, you’re committing forever to a person with different life experiences, decision-making skills, budgeting know-how and a lot of other stuff they’re bringing to the table. Stick a couple of strong personalities together for an extended amount of time and some … heated debates … are bound to happen. I don’t think that has to be a bad thing though. After all, do you think the couple who isn’t fighting lives in perfect harmony 24/7, with nothing to discuss? No chance. Maybe the problem isn’t a huge deal right now; maybe one member of the relationship consistently sacrifices his/her opinions; maybe they are the “sweep it under the rug” type. Who knows? But I’d rather acknowledge issues, have healthy conflict and learn than realize 5 years from now we have this huge problem that’s been festering since we said “I do.”
Speaking of healthy conflict, arguments can get UGLY, and we all know this. So, we learned the hard way to stick to a few guidelines early on.
- Don’t let arguments about a specific thing – laundry, sleep habits, etc. – become about a much bigger thing.
- Take time outs. When tempers are raging, step away! No one says smart stuff when they’re livid. Generally, it does us a lot of good to take some time to cool down and revisit the topic later. Usually, by the time we get back together to chat, we end up laughing at ourselves or get to the root of the problem a lot more safely!
- Don’t accuse the person of being someone they aren’t, just call out the way they’re acting. Telling someone they are making a selfish decision is way less damaging than telling that person they are a selfish human being. Telling someone they need to back off about a chore is way different than telling them they are a nag. That’s extreme, but you get the point. Don’t attack the person’s character, focus on the problem at hand.
A year from now we won’t have any frozen cake, but I’m sure we’ll look back and realize we’re still working on the same things, and then some! We’ll never arrive. We’ll never have it all figured out. But I’m happy to live life with someone I love more every day. When you live with someone, that person’s life is under a microscope. You see all their faults, all their strengths. I can honestly say after living with Jake for the past year, I’ve seen him be a man of character, live with integrity and serve others admirably. I respect him more now than I ever did back when we had separate addresses, and I’m thankful for our lessons-learned so far.