“Fight naked.” This instruction on a little handwritten note, is by far, one of the most hilarious pieces of marriage advice we received on our wedding day. Cody and I married on April Fools Day, beside our amazing friends and family, and it was a blast. Wanna see?
Thanks to Dave Greider and James Thomas for the footage, and Mikkel Aranas for the brilliant editing.
We’ve learned so much over the last eight years, and I thought I’d share my favorite marriage advice with you, as we celebrate our anniversary this week. Besides Fight Naked, here’s some of our best, quick nuggets of wisdom:
Leave no stone unturned. Talk about everything. Have a weird dream that won’t leave you? Share it. Struggling with a fear or insecurity? Don’t do it alone. Is temptation real for you? Talk about it. Did you have a huge win at work, or at home? Tell each other! A dear friend told me that anything sitting in silence will fester. This wisdom has been foundational for us.
Marriage is built on forgiveness. When do we forgive? Daily, and, always. We’re not perfect people, and we need to learn to accept one another’s faults, and make room for transformation. If a major breech of trust has happened, there may be professional help needed, and a long process of recovery in order to move forward, but forgiveness keeps the heart from bitterness and resentment.
It’s the little things. One of my favorite couples, Rick and Macy Grant, taught me incredible lessons about building a marriage that is rich in intimacy. Even in tension, or heated discussion, they would always greet each other with a kiss. They’d still talk, touch and treat each other well. That stood out to me, because I learned through their example, that every conflict, and tension, doesn’t have to be resolved, in order for there to be connection and respect. That’s a GAME CHANGER.
Thoughtfully consider your partner. Speaking of little things, there’s so much only you know about the other, and that is a great opportunity to show up for them. If leaving your underwear on the bathroom floor is annoying to your partner, why are you still doing it? If your spouse loves baseball games, can you sit next to them and cheer loudly (even if you are bored to death)? We pull from a deep well of selflessness to make marriage great. Enjoy finding ways to serve your partner by thoughtfully considering their preferences.
Focus on what you can change, not on changing the other person. In other words, we must each own our junk, and take responsibility for our attitudes and actions. Our partners do not exist to make us happy and fill up every void in our hearts. Marriage does not fix depression, addiction, loneliness, or anything else we might be facing. Yes, it can help us grow in wholeness, but ultimately, we each must do the hard soul work, that results in freedom, contentment and transformation. (And heck yes, I am for counseling, therapy, support groups, small groups, recovery programs, whatever will help us make the changes we need to make, to thrive.) It’s worth saying that not every marriage makes it, and that’s okay. Some partners absolutely refuse to do their part, or are abusive, or choose to have an affair, and in those cases, lean into the people who love you, and professional help, as you navigate difficult decisions. If you’re recovering from the loss of a partner, through divorce or death, I’m so sorry. May the Lord continue to comfort you, and be your help as you recover.
We live and die on our expectations. Sometimes what we think should happen creates such incredible disappointment in our lives, and Cody always says, “An unspoken expectation is an unfair expectation.” Nobody is a mind reader. Marriage requires courage to both identify with what we want, think, need and feel, and to say that in a reciprocal fashion, so both people agree together, and are clear on shared goals, dreams, desires and pursuits.
Quality of life. This phrase is a guide to our family, and our decisions. If something is killing us, or our connection, or our capacity to grow together, we change it, and we do not apologize for it. Believe me, we’re all in on sacrifice (hi, new york, we love you.), but we will not sacrifice our marriage on anyone else’s altar. Make hard decisions. Keep your word to others, but at the same time, when you need to cancel something, or change your course of action, in order to tend to the most important people and things, do it. Nobody will keep your priorities for you, so you will have to keep them.
It takes a village. We need a community of people we can count on, to become our best selves in marriage. Without others, we’ll go crazy! People help normalize our experiences, and open our minds up to other ways we can love each other. And oh my goodness, people have the best advice, and we are so thankful! Healthy friends and family help us process pain, and hopefully, give us safe space to walk through hard things with grace. They’re the ones who show up with food, when there’s an unbearable loss, or when we want to give up on a dream, or when we just don’t know what the point is anymore. Our friends won’t let us quit, and they give us encouragement when we need it. Our faith community has been wonderful at this too, especially now that we have kids. When I see another family struggling to wrangle their toddlers, or a mom in the parents room feeding her baby, I am encouraged that all the effort is worth it. At the same time, participating in church helps me keep my circle wide. Instead of commiserating with other people my age and stage, I am in deep relationships with folks who are younger, older, single, married, widowed, divorced, and it helps me not let my entire world revolve around me, and what I/we need.
Change is constant – go with it. Eight years later, I can testify to change being a regular characteristic in marriage. Even if you haven’t moved cities like us, preferences change, along with needs, throughout the different seasons of life. I could eat the same thing every day for years, while Cody has a different favorite food all the time. After having a few precious babies, on Mother’s Day and my birthday, all I want is to be alone to sleep and read, whereas, I used to love planning adventures and going out. We are not the same people we married, and that’s okay. Let each other change, and love each other as you are right now. Instead of longing for what was, or what you wish would be, celebrate your partner in all their (maybe not so) gloriousness right now.
We love marriage, and are already plotting our ten-year anniversary trip, cause we are getting the heck out of dodge, and laying somewhere alone together for days. For now, we’ll enjoy having no time to ourselves, and remembering that someday, these will be the good ol’ days.
What’s the best relationship and marriage advice you’ve ever received?
I love you Cody Abercrombie. You are the best thing that ever happened to me.