In the past year and a half since I’ve been married, I have gained valuable knowledge, and therefore I live by it. And now as I pass it on, it now becomes advice.
Back before my wife and I were even engaged, we decided to use Everybody Loves Raymond as the prime example of what our relationship would not end up like. Because by default, maybe it would. But through daily conscious effort and with an intentional mindset to be counter-cultural, I am convinced that marriage can be better than the mundane and miserable American stereotypes.
We subconsciously decided that if we were to model our marriage after a married couple from a sitcom, there were some better options out there. The Huxtables from The Cosby Show. The Keatons from Family Ties. And the Seavers from Growing Pains. Heck, even Mork and Mindy.
Though I hadn’t read a book since college, it was the months leading to our marriage that I suddenly became interested in soaking in as much advice and knowledge as I could from the professionals. Books like For Men Only, For Women Only, Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat?, Yup Nope Maybe, and Men are Like Waffles-Women are Like Spaghetti.
I don’t know how men and women could begin to truly understand each other and point out the differences between them before these books came along. But I was born in the right year, so I got to benefit from them. The core of what I learned and what I’ve applied since reading them is this:
Men can really only focus on one task at a time; they are not multi-taskers. They are problem-solvers. What men want more than anything from their wives is to be respected (to be privately and publicly acknowledged as a good man, not a bumbling fool).
Women are multi-taskers. They are better equipped to handle all the detailed parts in life that men to tend to neglect. What women want more than anything from their husbands is to be loved (to feel cared for and understood, listened to, and to be reaffirmed of their beauty).
Being aware of these differences, my wife and I both understand that being wired differently, our wires will get crossed occasionally, leading to a classic misunderstanding involving hurt feelings and/or pride. We know not to assume that either of us is wrong or right, because that’s what leads to an argument. It’s not a contest, a game, or a battle; it’s a matter of getting on the same page.
We know not to raise our voices, not to be sarcastic, not to talk over the other person, not to interrupt, and not to leave the room as a means of escaping or trying to gain control by getting the upper hand. We know to say “I feel and I think” instead of “you are or you did”. And we always know to never say “you never” or “you always”.
Another thing we decided back when we were just dating was that we would become like those old couples we see sometimes that are still in love. Not just still married, but still in love. Being affectionate throughout the day is of upmost importance for us to become one of those old, sweet married couples.
“Just you wait, that’ll all change…” That is what I am told from the Nay Sayers. The ones who say that I’ll stop randomly buying flowers for my wife once we are “out of the honeymoon stage”. The ones who say that my wife and I will stop being affectionate once the kids come. Once “life happens”.
I’m sorry that those people have settled for the Everybody Loves Raymond standard in their marriage. I guess it works for them. But I see it as a set-up for potential failure.
A couple years ago I heard my pastor say something I’ve never heard before. In the countless couples he has counseled where one of the spouses cheated on the other in the marriage, he said that it’s almost never over sex, though sex is what makes it official. Instead, it was about companionship. Friendship.
The cheating spouse was not getting something from their marriage partner, so they found someone who would give them what they craved.
Often it’s attention. Often it’s someone who will not make them feel judged. Often it’s positive reinforcement. Simply put, it’s someone who lets them know everyday they are special.
A healthy marriage means that the husband and wife never stop dating. It means the honeymoon isn’t over, despite the year of the wedding. It means that the wedding was the beginning, not the end, of true romance.