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…ugh, well…..um….

So if you’ve been married for longer than 24 hours you would be all too familiar with the  harsh reality that most of us eventually get blindsided by – love {and marriage} doesn’t exactly always happen the way the love songs say it does. Yet still, we all adore the love songs, and movies with beautiful love stories interwoven.

I don’t care who you are, how many times your love life has done a nose-dive into the ground or how cynical of a person you might tend to be, almost no one can resist a great love story.

But what makes a great love story? This is actually something that occurred to me recently. It isn’t that two people have everything in common, love the same things and do things the same way.

I am more of a creative type, I hate structure, agendas, I don’t like for any two days to be exactly the same, I love to stay up late and I process things by talking {or writing} it out.

My husband {Anthony} does happen to be creative, but in very different ways than I.  He likes predictability, more detailed plans of what we are doing and how things are going to go, he can’t stay up late like me, and he thinks it’s strange that I consider “fun” reading a book or writing or sitting in a coffee shop and he does not need to talk out his life.

Actually, rarely do we think alike or do things the same way. Literally, like almost never. And there have been times that I’ve been literally convinced that I married the WRONG GUY.

So there you have it, the conflict. 

The differences, the iron on iron, the fight to stay when it would just be so much easier to leave.

The conflict was not something I dealt with well at all for ehhh, only the first 9 years or so of what is about to be 11 years of marriage! I was pretty convinced that everyone should be like me, think like me and that he most of all should definitely should do things my way. And in the back of my mind, the exit door was always there just in case one of us needed to find our way out of it.

In essence, I believed that in order to possess the love story, the conflict needed to go. When in fact, what I’ve discovered is the conflict is what makes the story and it is what keeps us fighting for each other.

The conflict within marriage actually forces two people to choose – between a cold, dead relationship in which we end up living locked in “check-mate mode; or a beautifully complex, passionate place in which we are always pursuing the another. 

Because let’s face it, everyone wants to be pursued and no one wants to feel like they’ve become last season’s worn out shoes. And the conflict keeps the possibilities for pursuit, endless!

There are times in our marriage in which I honestly don’t feel like I like him one tiny bit. It’s in those times in which I choose to stay in love anyway. Because love and like don’t always co-exist, and that’s ok.

There are also times in which things between he and I feel a bit more like outdated pork rinds than the filet’ mignon’ dinner I signed up for. When this happens and I analyze how we got there, usually the answer is found within lack of mutual pursuit and intentional love.

Intentional pursuit.

Because no matter what anyone tells you, love stories don’t just happen. 

And with that said, here’s a few little things we have made a habit of doing {or not doing} in our relationship with one another to keep the warm fires of love from turning into cold, stale ash – Some old, and some new!

  • DATE NIGHTS – EVERY single week. Even if it’s just putting the kids to bed early, cooking a meal together and dancing in the living room to, “I Just Fall In Love Again.” {Anne Murray style of course!} And no, I can’t dance. But I’m good at too many other things for him to care one little bit. 😉
  • Text messages throughout the day – It just keeps us connected throughout the day and reminds us of each other when it gets all to easy to let the business of life get in between what really matters. It isn’t hard, ANYBODY can take 5 seconds to send a text message to their spouse.
  • Writing – We write to each other. This has been especially good for me. One day I just realized that I wrote more to others on my blog, fb, twitter than I had ever even thought about saying to him. Writing allows one to express things in more details sometimes than what we would tend to say in words. So we write, the good things….and the hard things that aren’t always pleasant to say or hear, but need to be brought out and dealt with anyways.
  • Affection – Publicly, privately and often. Our poor kids….
  • Pursuit – constantly staying in pursuit of one another. It’s the little things ie. comments, gestures, notes, body language, words that become the vehicle for pursuit.
  • Music  When I want to daydream about him {remember when you were 16 and in love?} I put on some of our favorite love songs, fix myself up, reflect on memories past and daydream about the future…. 😉 ALSO, I literally snapped a CD in half I had that I found myself listening to and enjoying that reminded me of someone else OTHER THAN my husband. Don’t underestimate the power of music because music leads to emotions which lead to thoughts which eventually lead to actions.
  • Communication I love deep conversations, of which I used to have with seemingly anyone except my husband because I didn’t view him as much of the deep conversationalist type. I’ve been working at this, so now we have coffee dates just like I do with my girlfriends….only I get to go home with him afterwards!
  • Hang out with couples who have the same values for marriage that we do. I guess this might sound a bit starchy to most, but whatever….I’ve tried it the other way and that didn’t work out so well.
  • Take the “D word” off the table. Divorce. In all honesty, it’s something I used to flippantly throw around when we’d get in arguments over whatever. {See I can’t even remember WHY it was I wanted to divorce him now!} But I’ve since witnessed first hand the devastation it causes and it’s not joking material, nor can it be an option for us.
  • Marriage Conferences, weekend getaways  …and when things get real bad, SEXcations! Because there isn’t much that a good sexcation can’t fix! 😉
  • Forgive It is so so true that marriage is simply the union between two people who are expert forgivers. But how many times should I forgive him for the SAME #$%@ thing? Here’s the answer.

Things we don’t’ do:

  • Go out to coffee or lunch or confession or anywhere else with members of the opposite sex. {not following this rule at all times, no matter with whom lends the opportunity to more pain than is imaginable so….just don’t.}
  • Let our guards down
  • Personally, you aren’t likely to find me hanging out with other women or even friends who have an openly negative opinion/view of marriage. Words and negativity affect me, LOTS. So I have to be careful who/what I open my ears and mind to. Trust me, I learned this the hard way and could write an entire book on it…. but don’t worry, I’m not!  🙂
  • Put church life or any other “spiritual endeavor” before our marriage. Thus why, most things we are asked to do church/ministry related is rarely ever a quick “yes” these days.
  • Talk negatively about each other to others…..EVEN if it’s true! Yep, there is truthfully plenty of negative we could both hash out with our family members and closest friends when the other one isn’t around. But what good does that really even do? It damages the entire relationship, more than we realize. And if you find yourself doing that on a regular basis, you need to stop it. You wouldn’t hack off your own foot would you?
  • Think we have it all figured out – We don’t. Not even close. We are still learning from our mistakes {and there have been A LOT} and trying to rebuild something of worth out of the mess we’ve made of things in the past.

Maybe it’s time we stop demanding that our love stories be lived out on our own terms, because the truth of real love is that..

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Learn to embrace the process of conflict and love and be willing to commit to the intentional pursuit that has the potential to make your own love story into one that’s made for the story books.

And as for us, I’m entirely convinced that the best parts of our love story….

…have yet to be written.

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