Yesterday was our 15 year wedding anniversary (as I write this on June 28th, 2017). What?! Jaw drop. Gosh, it’s kind of a momentous occasion. It really made us both stop and think, take things in, drop some serious moola on celebrating (hello Spoon & Stable!!!), and enjoy the day to the fullest. That’s kind of also why I didn’t post anything. A moment like this, it’s made me think - what do I even say? I mean, whatever I say, it better be pretty good. No pressure!
We’ve semi-recently figured out that we love sitting at the bar or in the bar area. It’s just so much more intimate when we can sit next to each other, close enough to cuddle and whisper, and have a more intimate conversation, than yelling across the table. And, as we sat at our little tucked away corner, slightly overwhelmed by the number we’ve racked up, for being only in our early-ish / mid-ish 30’s, we both had the same thoughts on our minds. What is the best and the worst marriage advice we ever got? What did we prove right or prove wrong? Did we de-bug any myths? Do we have any regrets? What helped us get to where we’re now? How did we even make it this far given our slightly rocky first 5 years?
WORST MARRIAGE ADVICE : Never go to bed angry.
Hands down! We instantly agreed on this one! It must have been given by one of those sweet couples in the 70’s (married 40+ years), we thought we needed to listen to. And I will say without a doubt - as good as it sounds in a fortune cookie - you can feel free to ignore this advice. Take our word for it. We wouldn’t have been nearly as sleep deprived in our first 5 years of marriage had some brilliant person not wished this one upon us. Yes, I get the ‘never let the sun set on your anger’ piece in the Bible, but based on the context that’s more likely to mean - don’t let your anger fester for so long that you shish-kebob your neighbor with a sword in a fit of fury, once you’ve reached boiling point. For a marriage, I say the opposite is true. If you’re pissed off and can’t seem to resolve it, and it’s getting late, GO TO BED! Sleep on the couch if it makes you feel better (I know I have!) I guarantee you, once you wake up bright-eyed and bushy tailed, you might grumble a ‘hi' at each other, and as the coffee kicks in and the brain has its chance to start working you’ll think to yourself “I can’t even remember what the hell we were arguing so fiercely about”. When you wake up all rested and logical you will have a better chance of resolving your issues than hammering them late into the night. I mean, have you ever tried to have a rational discussion with an overtired toddler? Doesn’t work so well either. Go to sleep, and make sure not to say anything in anger that you cannot take back (some things you might regret and apologize for in the morning that will never be forgotten).
BEST WORDS OF WISDOM WE'VE PICKED UP OVER THE YEARS.
As we sipped on our wonderful wine and talked, we agreed on all of these. We just had a his and hers perspective.
- Speak things you want him to be even if he might not be quite there yet (Ester) - As a woman and a wife you have the incomprehensible ability to either clip his wings or make him soar. If you see potential in everything in him before he realizes or shows all of it, he’s gonna catch up to your amazing vision of himself. On the flip side - if he’s constantly feeling like he’s failing in some way (or same way), he’s gonna want to take his ball and go home. Guys are not good at wanting to play a game they can’t win (thank you Craig Groschel!)
- Show him that you respect him, especially in public (Ester) - I decided pretty early on that I was never going to bitch about my husband to my friends, or in front of my friends (whether he could hear me or not). I’ve heard plenty of people do that and I’ve always wondered why they were still married. It didn’t seem like either of them was having a good time. I didn’t want to become that. Don’t know. It’s worked for us.
- She will never think exactly the way you do, and vice versa (David) - It’s easy to get wrapped up in the other person seeing your point, fully understanding how you think, but no matter how hard you try, you are never going to get there. You have to let those differences ignite your passion for each other, learn to appreciate those nuances, rather than trying to change them.
- Be willing to let your spouse be alone and stew for a bit if needed (David). - Don’t be clingy. Give them the space they need to process things in their own way. Sometimes proximity, can continue the irritation. It’s a hard thing to let your spouse sleep away from you when they are mad, but being close might just re-gnite things and continue the fight. So, let go, and let them do what they need to do, even if it lasts more than a night.
- Ester FUN FACT (and how I learned to respect my man) - He’s talking specifically about one of our early fights where I was so ticked off I told him to get out! There was no way we were sleeping in the same bed! Upon which he (mostly calmly) said “You’re not kicking me out of my own bed! If you want to go sleep on the couch, be my guest.” I stopped dead in my tracks, tried again (this time with more verve), but he wouldn’t budge. I was pissed off enough to storm out of the room (with a good door slam, I’m sure), pillow in hand. See, in the movies the guy always runs after the girl, so when he didn’t I was like “Hey, wait a minute, aren’t you supposed to chase after me and beg me to forgive you?” When I had some time to think, disappointed by the lack of dramatic effect, and after a couple of nights on the couch, I was willing to talk terms. 😉 Marriage is not about showing each other who’s boss, or being overly and unreasonably proud, but there sure is something to having respect for your man for standing his ground when the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime, i.e.: it’s his bed too.
- Be willing to be the one to stop the crazy cycle - If you’re constantly arguing about the same things, the only way you’re gonna change things is if YOU are the change. If you don’t like what you’re getting then you should look at what you’re putting in.
WHEN THE HONEYMOON SEEMS TO BE WAAAAY OVER...
You will go through stages where you don’t feel anything for each other. It’s like the love is gone, evaporated, and you ask yourself ‘did we ever actually love each other?' Tricky thing is, you might or might not be experiencing this stage at the same time. Be very careful what you do and say in those times, because it’s a phase that you can bounce back from, but there are things you cannot take back. If all you do is work around the clock, eat dinner with the TV on, and haven’t actually connected in any meaningful way in a while, your feelings are just naturally following your focus, which is away from each other (thank you Peter Haas). You need to tune your radio back onto the right channel. Do something that only crazy in love gushy people do, even if you don’t feel like it - buy flowers, write a note, have a candle-lit dinner, have sex (yep, even if you’re not that into it). Your feelings will follow your focus. It takes some time, though, so set a reasonable timeframe and go to town on rekindling your romance. Don’t expect instant gratification. Be the one to stop the crazy cycle, and let the cake bake.
David + Ester Knowlen (married July 27th, 2002)
A side note - To all my amazing couples!!
I hope you are as happy 15 years from now as I am. You have found the one, I have pictures of your happiness to prove you were that happy when you said “I do". Don’t let small things get in the way. Don’t let distractions steal focus off of each other. Consistently make time to do silly and fun things together. I hope you grow, and learn, and make room for each other’s quirks. I hope your love grows deeper and stronger as you navigate this thing called life, with all its ups and downs, and learn to truly appreciate the other’s uniqueness. Playing on the same team
--- With love, Ester