This morning as I sit and watch a beautiful sunrise on my 22nd wedding anniversary, I am reflecting. Last night, my husband and I went on a date to celebrate our marriage. On our way home, I posted a picture of our evening on Facebook.
This morning, as I scrolled through the comments, I saw that an old friend had asked this question under the picture:
"Congratulations! What is the best advice you can give?"
That question gave me pause. What IS the best advice I could give?
There is all sorts of great advice I could give.
Keep God in your marriage.
Invest time in your marriage.
This list could go on indefinitely.
But, when I think about the best advice, I think about the words that probably helped me the most in OUR marriage. I think about how my thought process changed in our marriage many, many years ago when I heard these words....
"Marriage is never 50/50. It's always more like 80/20. Sometimes you will give 80% and sometimes he will.....but it's never equal."
This changed everything.
At the time when I heard this, our marriage was rocky. Bradley and I married very young. A month out of high school young. We had no idea how to be married. We were very poor and stressed and we were struggling.
After the first two years, I was about ready to throw in the towel and I'm sure he was, too. Thankfully, we committed to making it work.
Back during those first couple of years, I remember walking around the house with such bitterness. I walked around thinking that I was the only one doing anything to maintain our household and our marriage.
I washed the dishes and cast an evil glance toward Bradley. I slammed the dishes into the cabinet. I pulled a load of clothes out of the dryer with a huff. I swept the floor with angry vigor.
That was 3 points for me and none for Bradley, but I assure you.....I wasn't winning.
I was literally walking around keeping score on our marriage. Every single thing I did around the house, I felt like I was earning points for. For every point I earned, I got more angry. I was so resentful.
But then, my thinking began to change...It wasn't overnight. It was a process. Our marriage wasn't "fixed" instantly. A marriage takes work.
I began to think on the idea that a marriage is never 50/50......it's always more like 80/20. I started to resent less the fact that I was doing 80% of the housework and Bradley was doing 20%. I started to notice that there were other aspects of our marriage that he was giving WAY more than I was.
Bradley was providing our family with our income. I was working a little bit while I was in college, but he was working full time. He was paying the bills. I was providing very little to the household finances. If I were keeping score on that one, my point total would be quite low.
Bradley was giving more than his share on handing out words of affirmation. He has always been good at telling me how beautiful I am and how lucky he is. I was terrible at that. I wasn't winning at that one either.
For putting the effort into the physical needs of our marriage.....he was winning again.
Over the years, I began to try to pick up the slack in the areas that I knew I was providing so little. I didn't want to be giving only 20% ....in any area.
When I began to realize that a marriage is never 50/50 and that someone is always giving more than the other, I began to see the beauty in the partnership. We both began working to make each other happy. If your goal in marriage is to make your partner happy, you will be happy.
I stopped keeping score altogether and our marriage flourished. We give and we take. Sometimes, one of us needs to take more than we can give....and that is ok. The score eventually all balances out. If you are trying to keep score, you'll never win.
As I look back over our 22 years of marriage, I am thankful for those first two or three rocky years. Those years made us the couple that we are today. Today, we are strong. We have built a marriage together that is great. It's a marriage that earns points for laughter, and adventure, and passion, and communication, and friendship, and dreams and love.....lots and lots of love.
We are winning.