Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Awaiting Our Happily Ever After...

My husband is amazing! Yep, he really is! James and I met when I was only 18, but even after 15 years together, he still manages to take my breath away! Although things haven't always been perfect in our 11 year marriage, I have never once thought that we wouldn't always be together. He is truly my best friend, my biggest ally, and loudest cheerleader. He is the person who I need to have on my team, and he always makes it clear that he is right by my side in all things. He is my champion as well as my companion. I never feel lonely when James is in the room. And although there have been times when he hasn't always agreed with me on things, he has always respected my opinion and offered his loving support and guidance. We truly love being together, and as I get older, I am beginning to understand how rare that is. You see, I not only love this man, but I really LIKE him too!

When James and I first met, I was a very broken person. I was scared of being in love and my heart had been broken in so many pieces, I never thought they would fit back together. I had learned horrible relationship skills from my mother, and I certainly didn't make it easy for anyone to love me. Sure, I was pretty good at faking it, but James always managed to see beyond my plastic smile. There were many times when he would say, "Babe, I KNOW you. You don't have to pretend with me." I am so thankful that he never gave up on me. Our first year of marriage was very trying to say the least. We struggled through communication issues, as well as priority issues. It was hard and scary, but I knew we were meant to be together. And then one day, God intervened. James and I both received a wake up call. We suddenly realized that the only way we could be certain that we would be together forever, is if we made God the foundation of our home and marriage. Sure, there were days when things got tough, but we were always united in our goal. We were certain God had brought us together, and since He wrote the details of this romance, how could we ever consider giving up on the happy ending??

Now, I'm not claiming to be the perfect wife. I know I am a work in progress, and I pray every day that God will guide me in my journey to be all that He desires me to be in that role. However, over the years I have learned a lot about how (and how not) to be a partner to my hubby. Here are just a few tidbits I have picked up...

1. Let go of your selfishness and self-centeredness.

I have learned that if you want to have a successful marriage, you have to put your partner's needs before you own. Now, I'm not perfect at this, but I'm working at it. There are definitely times when my selfishness casts a dark shadow over our lives, but God is ever so faithful to shine a light on those areas. "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." ~ Romans 12:10. I have realized that when I put James' happiness before my own, he inevitably does the same for me in return. So, we both end up happy and content in whatever life throws at us!

2. Learn to trust.

Another lesson I have learned about having a great marriage, is how to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. I know James loves me. I know James has faith in me and wants what is best - so I need to trust in him. Trust is hard for me. I have been hurt by so many people in my life that I sometimes struggle with this act, but you know what? There is no reward for those who don't try. If I hadn't learned to take those first steps in trust, I would never have learned how to appreciate a trusting, loving relationship. And there is no greater reward that a great marriage!

3. Make time together a priority.

Like all couples, sometimes life seems to get away from us. Busyness sets in, and we find ourselves out of touch with one other. James and I have both noticed that when we don't take time to invest in "togetherness," tension seems to set in. In an effort to combat that, we have begun to set time apart for one another. At least once a week, we will have a "date" that includes good quality time together doing things we love to do. Since he and I are so much alike, this can be something as simple as going to our favorite coffee shop and reading, writing, or chatting about our week. Throughout the week we also try to spend time together in "mini-dates" which may include us sitting together to enjoy our favorite television show after Kayla goes to bed or just a nice chat about work/life. We have also learned to budget for our date nights. Sure, finances are sometimes tight, but being together is important to us, so we don't allow any excuses for not spending that time. We make it a priority, and that has really made a difference in our relationship. Now, I realize we are fortunate to have a grandma close at hand to cover babysitting duty, but even when that wasn't an option, we still found time together by obtaining a babysitter or including our daughter in whatever we wanted to do. Regardless of how it happens, spending ample time together makes a huge difference in our happy marriage.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

I think a huge factor in our marriage has been our ability to really talk to one another. James and I realized early on that this was the main issue in both our parent's broken relationships. If we wanted to learn from their mistakes, we needed to make a change in how we related to one another. I can honestly say that this continues to be an area I struggle with. From a very young age, I was taught that showing emotion was a sign of weakness. If someone upset you, and you admitted to being hurt, you were giving away your power or just drawing attention to yourself. Neither of those things was looked upon kindly. So, instead of confronting an issue at the time it occurred, I would inevitably stuff my feelings down and allowed them to fester like an ugly mold. And the end result was always me becoming overwhelmed with the emotion and then completely exploding. This was not beneficial to anyone... and would really confuse James.

Instead of waiting for those emotions to explode out of proportion, James has helped me to work at communicating my feelings as they come. Because we have become so great at talking through our struggles, fighting becomes unnecessary. Sure, there are times when we disagree, but because we are willing to share and listen to one another's viewpoint on issues, we usually can end up laughing about our differences of opinion. And as much as we are alike, we are also very different people...and that is a great thing! He will never fully appreciate Josh Groban and I will never understand why he listens to talk radio and Brazilian Jazz, but we appreciate that together we make a pretty awesome team!

5. Build up one another.

I remember watching my mother tear down my father on a daily basis. Now, she usually did this in a teasing spirit, but you know what?? My father began to resent her for it. He became bitter and cold over time... Now, I'm not blaming my mother completely for his transformation, but her constant teasing did not help my father either. Instead of allowing that pattern to continue in our family, James and I are always encouraging one another. We are honest about each others strengths and even have fun bragging about each other. I am proud of my husband! He is a terrific husband, an amazing father, and fantastic friend! He is smart and witty, and he's very sweet. He takes care of me, he supports me, and he is always the encourager. I no longer hesitate to tell him how proud I am of him. I need him to know that I think he is my perfect match! He doesn't need me to point out his flaws, the world does that without any help from me. What he needs is to know that there is one person on this planet who thinks he is pretty amazing, and so I strive to make it my daily mission to do just that. And you know what? As we build up one another, our marriage becomes even stronger!

Now, I'm not saying that our marriage is absolutely perfect, I know we are all works in progress. I also know I can not allow myself to become complacent in my marriage. It takes dedication and hard work to sustain and protect something so precious! The enemy has it out for us, but God's grace is sufficient! God has blessed us with a harmony of spirit, and a desire to invest in each other. James and I are on a mission to have a strong marriage, and that united front won't be easy to overcome. I love my hubby! I am so thankful for him! I know that together we are stronger than we would ever be apart, and I am confident that God will grant us our happily-ever-after!

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