Though my niche at Simple Mom is parenting teenagers, Tsh extended freedom to her contributors to deviate from our typical topics while she is on break this summer. I decided to take advantage of her offer, with one caveat:
This post isn’t for all readers; it’s written for those who are married.
Single moms, you are loved; this is no slight! I know yours is a difficult, challenging road, having glimpsed single motherhood during a six-week work separation for me and my husband.
But this post is revised from a letter I wrote to encourage and advise young married moms, for the original Mother Letters Project.
It’s direct and candid, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m a little nervous to publish it here. But based on the previous response from women and men, it’s a message that could benefit at least a few of you in this broader audience.
To you, my dear mama friends ~
After 25 years of marriage, I know how difficult it can be to stay married at times. We’ve had our share of highs and lows; when love was emotionally-charged and full of romance, but also when “love” was spelled c-o-m-m-i-t-m-e-n-t; when we didn’t like each other very much, even when I imagined being single was a better alternative.
But I believe God designed marriage as a forever thing, and I’m convinced that loving my husband well and modeling a healthy marriage is the best gift I can give my children.
We were together before we had kids, and if we’re careful and committed, we’ll be together when they’re on their own. If you and I could visit over our favorite summer beverage, and the subject turned to marriage, these are the things I’d share with you:
Simple Marriage Advice
1. Actively guard your marriage.
There’s danger in marital complacency, and if you aren’t careful, the little things can erode even the best of foundations. Issues can arise “overnight” that have actually been years in the making. Become a life-long student of your partner; learn his love language and speak it often.
2. The most common marriage advice is true.
Your spouse cannot read your mind; stop being angry or passive-aggressive when he doesn’t respond the way you think he should (tell him if it’s important to you). Be clear about your needs and expectations, and be patient when he has trouble speaking your love language. It often seems we are drawn to someone who’s the exact opposite of us; seek the complement, not the conflict in your differences.
3. Don’t put yourself in compromising positions.
Early in my marriage, my mother-in-law shared how she decided never to be alone with another man, regardless of how harmless it seemed. I thought that was ridiculous at the time. Looking back, having just witnessed some close friends’ marriage end because they didn’t follow this advice, I realize how wise my MIL was.
4. Make sure your priorities are in order.
Your spouse must come before everything — your children, work, home, social networking and others. He’s got to know this by your actions, not your words. Children are demanding, especially when they’re young; you’re needed to do everything for them. It’s easy for your husband to be relegated to second place, a breeding place for confusion and resentment. I know you’re tired; you aren’t recognized for all it takes to be a mom. But always remember you’re a wife first.
5. Give your spouse freedom of speech.
It’s so easy to be wounded by those we most love, but I urge you to allow your husband to talk about his struggles, to admit his thought-sins. This is difficult for most men; he needs to feel safe, that you won’t judge or reject him. Sharing his heart will be cathartic. This goes two ways; sharing your own struggles might open the door for him to do the same.
6. Leave and cleave.
The “Leave” part: If you haven’t already, you need to put distance between you and your parents. Ask your spouse if he thinks they’re too much a part of your lives (see #5, give him freedom to tell the truth!). Don’t vent to them if you’re having trouble; tell a sibling, friend, journal or scream at God, but don’t tell them! When you’re through that rough patch you might forget what you’ve told your parents, but they won’t.
Photo by firemedic58
The “Cleave” part: Contrary to popular thought, your physical relationship isn’t just about sex, it’s about intimacy. I know sometimes you’re tired, and changing a tire is a more exciting proposition, but your husband needs to feel desired and needed; sexual expression is a large part of this.
Here’s a little practical advice from an old dog with sometimes new tricks:
- Quality, quantity and diversity = yes, yes and yes
- Don’t impose “rules.”
- Talk a lot. I’m not talking about during, but before and after. That mind-reading advice applies here, too. Have open conversation about your physical relationship; know your body, know his. If you’re uncomfortable just blurting this stuff out, read some good books, and let those be a conversation springboard. A few recommendations (affiliate links used):
- For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men (I was surprised to be surprised by the content, but more so by the healthy conversation it stimulated for us)
- Love & Respect (One of the most eye-opening, helpful discoveries in improving our communication.)
- The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love
- Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage
- Every Man’s Battle (The Every Man Series) (recommended, not read)
- The Truth About Sex: What the World Won’t Tell You and God Wants You to Know (recommended, not read)
- Don’t wear the same old tee and sweats to bed every night; pretty lingerie is a good investment (ask HIM what HE thinks is sexy!).
- Men are visual and NEED to see naked women (they JUST DO!). The only naked woman a husband should see is his wife, so be free with your body for his sake. Don’t point out your flaws — he chose you, he married you, he’s forsaking others for you, so BELIEVE that your body is pleasurable to him! Now in my 40s and having given birth three times, my body isn’t the same body TO ME that he fell in love with, but it is to him.
By no means is this list exhaustive; for example, I didn’t bring faith into this conversation because of the diverse beliefs of Simple Mom readers (though, for us, our relationship with Christ is the most important thing in our marriage).
And before anyone starts yelling at me about the husband’s responsibilities, because Simple Mom’s readership is largely women, I’m writing to women through the lens of my experience. Men have a huge responsibility in nurturing their marriages, too, but since we can only change ourselves, I’m shying away from that conversation (for now – wink).
And a last note?
Always keep in mind that you’re raising your children for someone else, not to keep at home.
That singular thought will help you to hold them loosely and to prioritize and esteem your spouse.
Is there any particular point that resonates with you? What marital advice would you add to this list?