Yesterday we took the children for a walk/bike ride around the block, to get some of our pent up energy out. When we got down the hill, a dog started following us. The dog was big. And the dog kept jumping up on Julia. She was scared. I had my bike, so I was like, “Sit Julia on the back of my bike, and I will pedal her back up the hill.” Remember, I have a battery on my bike. Ha ha. Otherwise I wouldn’t have offered. But I did offer. And Bry put her up there, and showed her where to place her feet so they wouldn’t get caught in the spokes. And I pedaled her up the hill. Once to the top of the hill, I wanted to take one more loop with her on the back on my bike. It was just too much fun. And, part way through that extra loop, Julia’s foot got caught in the spokes. It was bad. Blood. Screaming. The bike tore off the back of her shoe. I carried her in one arm and pushed the bike with the other arm up the hill and back to our house. It was so hard. I was exhausted and shaking and bloody by the time we pulled into the driveway. Bry rushed out and took Julia. He bathed her. He comforted her. He got her set up on the couch with her foot on a pillow and a movie to distract her.

By this time, I had calmed myself down from the emotions of the accident itself. Just in time to feel a new rush of emotions: Guilt. Anxiety. Even anger. He think’s I can’t take care of my own child!

We got through that crisis, right? But, that is marriage. It is often one highly emotionally charged situation to another.

Or not. Sometimes marriage is boring. Nothing is happening – there’s no anger or frustration, but there is also no joy or excitement. Sometimes that is where we are at.

Is this what I expected of marriage when I got married almost 17 years ago?

Jody and Natalie wrote this podcast episode to those preparing for marriage. And nothing they said today is new. But it would have been new information to me as a newly engaged couple, or as a newly wed.

And it can still speak to me today, for sure.

“There’s no point in your marriage when you can’t improve on any of these areas.”

And here they are, six tools everyone getting married – or who is already married – needs to understand to have a joyful marriage:

#1 You get married to have someone to love.

“What if your (spouse’s) only job was to live his or her life exactly the way he or she is living it, and to be the object of your affection – to provide you with a reason to feel loving? What if your spouse’s only job was to be, for you, someone to love?”

What would happen if I just chose to love Bryant for who he is? If I loved him for ME?

  • He will be much happier. Isn’t that what we all want to be told – I love you for you, no matter what? Isn’t that what we all want to be part of?
  • There would be a lot more horse-back riding. That’s where he would really prefer being, most of his weekends. But I would spend none of that time that he’s gone riding his horses feeling bad for myself or resenting the horses, and stressing over what he should be doing instead, right? That frees up a lot of emotional energy and, frankly, time. I could use that time to do what I really preferred doing on my weekends. Maybe I could even learn something new about myself.
  • When I came to Bry with requests – could you help with the children this morning or could you pick up dinner on your way home – I will be coming from a place of love and acceptance, not from a place of judgement and blame. Oh, that feels so much better, right?
  • And every time I thought of Bryant and all he does for our family and his smile and his sense of humor and just all the things that I absolutely love about the man, whether or not I am verbally stating that love to him, I get to feel that love. I get to live in that love.

#2 Let’s look at the model. The only line that we do not have control over in the model is the CIRCUMSTANCE line, right? Everything else – thoughts, feelings, actions, results – is within our power. You cannot choose the circumstance, but you get to choose your thoughts – you get to choose to keep your thoughts or to get rid of your thoughts. That is within your power. And we can use thought-work to work our way to the thoughts we want to have. Of course. And sometimes it takes a lot of thought work to go from a negative thought, to a less negative thought, and maybe a few weeks later, after practicing that less negative thought, you can move to a neutral thought. Right? But own that they are your thoughts that you have chosen.

How do you want to think about that? And those thoughts lead to feelings. How do you want to feel?

#3 Let’s look again at the manual. That manual sneaks its way into our marriages and into our other relationships, sometimes without us even knowing!

“Most of us have operating manuals that we’ve written for the other people in our lives… People have very thick and very long manuals for other people.”

I’ve used this example before. Growing up in my home, with my parents, my dad would help out a lot in the kitchen. Then I left home to go to college. And a few years later, while still in college, I met and started dating Bryant. And I remember the evening I had a huge exam. Very stressful. And he said, Rach, let me cook dinner for you tonight. Come over to my apartment right after you finish the exam and I will make dinner for you. Great! I finished the exam. I went straight to his apartment, where he was sitting at the table, studying for his own exams. I asked about dinner. He said, Oh yeah. Here’s some bread. You grill the cheese sandwiches and I will warm up the campbells tomato soup.

And I knew then that Bryant wouldn’t be a cook. And that was fine.

But, for some reason, when we got married the following year, I was under the impression that that would change. That, in following with The Manual, Bryant would suddenly start whipping up culinary delights in the kitchen. That is what husbands do, right?

And when he didn’t comply with the manual that I had unwittingly written for him, as my husband now, I let that mean that he didn’t respect my time, etc etc.

“The reason why you ever want someone else to change the way that they’re behaving is because of how you think you will feel because of their changed behavior. We have to remember that it’s our thinking that causes our feelings, not another person’s behavior.”

#4 The 50/50 rule. Life is 50% positive and 50% negative. Marriage is 50% positive and 50% negative. That is just life – that is just the world that we live in. And one of the points I believe of being in the world, is to utilize that 50% negative to fortify ourselves, to grow ourselves, to evolve ourselves beyond what we would be capable of doing if we only lived in the 50% positive.

And then, when we are in that 50% negative, remember, Nothing has gone wrong, I’m just in the other 50%.

#5 There are seasons of marriage. Summer, fall, winter, and spring.

Summer – exciting and fun

Fall – cools down a bit, everything is more realistic

Winter – it’s cold and it’s hard

Spring – there’s some rain at times, but there’s new life

Maybe we can step away from judging the marriage, and rather understand which season we are in. Every marriage goes through these seasons, and many times over. That is okay. That is also part of the 50/50, right?

#6 Intimacy in marriage.

That last one will take an entire class to discuss and understand. And that is exactly what Jody and Natalie are proposing today – a class taught to young couples preparing for marriage. Natalie teaches the class. And I wish I had some young engaged friends to purchase the class for.

“Find the joy in marriage that is available to everyone.”