It was my momma’s 40th birthday.
My dad organized a fishing charter around Flathead Lake in northwest Montana.
It was a lovely day of catching and releasing, family memories being made, sunburns, and then after we finished lunch we cruised to shore for the grand finale!
Once we hit land, my momma was surprised with friends singing “Happy Birthday.”
The cake looked beautiful.
Chocolate frosting, simple but intricate decorations, and a single “40” candle waiting to be blown out.
After much applause my momma grabbed the knife and started to cut her cake.
But something odd was happening…she couldn’t slice into it.
Giggles and robust laughter erupted.
“FOOLED YOU!” Yelled out one friend. “It’s a sponge!”
Not at all what any of us (except the friend that made it) were expecting.
Looking on the outside there was no way to tell the the inside was a massive sponge you would use to scrub your vehicle.
In the same way the cake was deceiving, I have found that marriage is not at all what I expected it to be.Growing up you’re told that you get married, and then it’s happily ever after. The end.
I am truly sorry if I’m the one to crush your fairytale dreams.
The movies show the fluff, the romantic, all the good – no great! – aspects of what marriage can be.
Your parents worked their bums off to fight out of ear-shot.
Watching friends’ parents, or your aunts + uncles furthered your illusion.
Typically marriage is portrayed as a picture perfect cake.
I’m not saying that once you get past your honeymoon phase it’s fake.
I’m saying it’s more work than anyone ever tells you it’s going to be.
You’re cutting into something that you imagined to be smooth-sailing, easy breezy, and it’s just..it’s just not.
Laundry seems to be on the floor more often than being placed in the basket.
Toothpaste is splattered on the mirror within hours of it being cleaned.
Your spouse is more stubborn, or hot-headed, or horrible with money than you could have ever anticipated.
To put it bluntly : what you once found endearing is now annoying.
Let’s halt there.
This begs the question :
Is love a feeling or a choice?
It is a continual conscious commitment.
Feelings vanish and fade.
You have to choose to identify what is broken and work to fix it.
Saying “I do” means saying “I will…”
1. I will think more of you and less of myself.
What is the last positive thought you had toward your spouse?
What is the last positive thing you did for your spouse?
Your spouse is a living breathing human with feelings, needs, and wants.
Humbly put yourself in their shoes and act accordingly.
No matter who your spouse is, every single person benefits from physical touch and words of affirmation (even if the love language test says otherwise).
So place your hand on their arm, shoulder, or leg – look into their eyes – and say at the very basic “I love being your spouse. Thank you for being my friend. I appreciate you.” Keep it simple, direct, and most of all sincere.
2. I will respect my spouse.
This might mean you make an agreement to not name-call during fights.
Listen intently when your spouse is talking.
Don’t listen to respond. Just listen.
Nurturing fondness and admiration // (a principle from The Gottman Institute)
Write out :
1. One characteristic you find lovable
2. A good time you shared.
3. One physical attribute you like
4. Something they’ve done recently to make you proud.
5. A struggle/difficult time you conquered together.
3. I will think of us as a team.
If you have ever played a sport, or been apart of a project at work, then you know that attitude has a big impact on outcome.
Your attitude toward your spouse will determine how well you work together to overcome conflict.
Your positivity could be the hurdle that needs jumped in order to change the whole atmosphere of your marriage.
As part of a team you value what each person brings to the table instead of trying to change them.
And fyi, you can’t change someone else anyway. Ever. You only have the power to change you.
4. I will protect our marriage.
Flash your ring at the overly flirtatious cashier.
Never text or private message someone of the opposite sex without your spouse or another person included. Or at the very least make sure your spouse is ‘in the know.’
Don’t ever, even for a second, think you can let your guard down.
Voice expectations. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t think they can read your mind.
Be honest about your needs.
For years my husband would say, “calm down.”
Goodness that would make my temper flair even more.
Finally, I decided to be vulnerable, “instead of saying calm down, can you say “calm down porcupine?””
He laughed. “”That’s the exact same thing!”
My rebuttal? “Uh no, adding porcupine will remind me to lighten up. It comes across more fun-loving instead of judgmental.”
Working together towards solutions instead of complaining behind their back provides a thick layer of protection.
5. I will put in the work.
Imagine yourself a farmer.
You can’t change the crop that will bloom, but you can tend to the soil surrounding your seed (spouse).
Give your seed water (their love language), sunlight (respect), and the best soil (foundation of trust).
Start with daily intentionality.
So is happily ever after a myth?
Probably the version you always envisioned is, indeed, a myth.
But if you’re realistic, happily ever after is possible.
You just need to keep saying “I will…”
Every. Single. Day.