Since our 4 year anniversary is tomorrow (wow time has flown), I felt it would be appropriate to revisit a book that I read before we got married. Well, to be completely honest, I started reading it before we got married. I actually finished it while on our honeymoon, on a train from San Sebastian to Barcelona. This book was written by Gary Chapman, the author of The 5 Love Languages. If you haven’t read that one, it’s highly recommended for anyone who is single, in a relationship, married, or divorced…because knowing what love language you speak can help you understand others’, and not just in a romantic sense. Here’s a quick test to find out your love language. (BTW this is not a sponsored post, Gary’s not paying me to say this, I just love these books!)
I won’t give you the Cliff Notes for all 12 chapters of this book, but I’ll highlight the points that resonated with me the first time I read it and still ring true for me today. So here we go. FOUR years of marriage, and here are FOUR poignant take-aways from the book, Things I wish I knew before I Got Married…
1…How to solve disagreements without arguing: You can choose to A) meet in the middle, B) Meet on your side, or C) Meet Later. We’ve all heard about “meeting in the middle”, and “Meeting on your side” means to decide to forego your own idea for your spouse’s (an act of love, but not resentment). “Meeting Later”, can mean to agree to disagree temporarily, or even permanently. This one has always been a hard one for me to do, since I can talk about an issue until 3AM. However, I’ve realized that calling a time-out like this can really prevent emotions from running too high and give a hiatus to an already exhausting conversation. Sometimes when you take that break and come back with a fresh mind, you’re able to communicate a lot more effectively and understand each other a little more clearly. It’s good to remember that it’s about resolving a conflict, rather than winning an argument.
2…That you’re marrying into a family. Both my husband and I come traditional, Christian, nuclear families. We are blessed to be able witness two incredible examples of successful marriages, as both of our parents have been married for 35+ years. We also realize how fortunate we are that our families get along very well together. I know my parents couldn’t have asked for a better son-in-law when Kevin became part of our family, that’s for sure! One important point in the book mentions understanding the love language of your in-laws. This is so important when you are fusing two different upbringings and family dynamics. For example, one of the ways my Father-in-Law shows his love for his family is by Acts of Service. By definition from The 5 Love Languages, Acts of Service means “Doing something for him/her that you know they would like”. I see how much he cares about us as a couple from his actions. The way he cooks for us every time we visited them, how he always grabs a broom and helps fix up things around our house every time he visits, these are acts of love. He also prays for us every time we depart to travel back home. If prayer isn’t a sign of love, I don’t know what is. Bottom line, when you are open and willing to learn about your spouse’s family’s love language, it helps you understand your spouse a little more as well.
3…That spirituality is not to be equated with going to church. My husband and I were both raised in Christian households, mine of Roman Catholic faith and his of Pentecostal. We both did some faith exploration as we entered adulthood, and during the time I met him, he was a member of a widely-known local Baptist Church. I attended a few services with him and felt that it was a right fit for me as well. A year later I was officially baptized into the church. The book talks about really understanding your spouse’s level of faith and what meaning it has to them. A couple can both identify as Christian, and while one may see this as simply as a weekly service attendance, the other may walk their Christian life daily and more devoutly. God has always been at the center of our marriage and our faith has kept us united in both happy and difficult times. I can see how important it can be to have a talk about faith/spirituality before you walk down the aisle, and I’m so glad that we did.
4…That forgiveness is not a feeling. Most successful couples have gone through their own valleys together in order to come out victorious on the other side. These patches test the strength of the union. Usually, asking for and offering forgiveness occurs in order for couples to move past an experience of hurt, doubt or mistrust. As Chapman puts it, “Forgiveness is not a feeling, but a decision to offer grace instead of demanding justice. It is to remove the barrier and open the possibility for the relationship to grow”. Forgiveness is not something easily given, especially after feeling like you have been wronged in some way. I like his thought that forgiveness does not destroy our memory, it does not remove all of the consequences of wrongdoing, does not rebuild trust, nor does it always result in reconciliation. Whether it’s little quarrels or big offenses, forgiveness is a key element to have in a marriage. “It does not remove all the hurt nor does it automatically restore loving feelings. But forgiveness is the first step in processing hurt and restoring love”. I can’t remember the last time my husband and I had a major fight (and we’ve had our fair share in the past, especially the beginning of our marriage during our “growing pains” phase). But when we have wronged one another, even in the slightest way, we’ve both learned how to sincerely apologize and genuinely forgive. This alone has given us growth as a couple and strengthened our marriage.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve revisited this book. I know it’s not for every couple, but for some, it could offer some good guidance or even a starting point to a conversation. I do suggest that every couple find that one marriage self-help book that you both enjoy reading and can relate to. Especially during those trying times, it can be really helpful to get on the same page…pun intended 😉