How To Protect Your Marriage For Forever

This weekend marked a day that the courts in my state recognized my marriage as ‘dissolved.’ As of last March, my then-husband and have been going through a divorce. We had a beautiful decade-long relationship and five of those were in marriage.

During my time of separation, I’ve continued sharing marriage-related content because I still have the experience. I still have a passion and genuine desire to encourage and support those who are going through wedding planning and beyond. And I know that when the dust settles, I will be able to look back on my wedding day as one of the top 5 days of my life—so I’ll share these memories and pieces of advice with my readers. The end of my love story doesn’t take away from the beginning of it and I am still grateful for the chance to go through a marriage experience because I have learned so much.

Even though this chapter in my life is finished, I still believe in love. And I believe in lifelong fairytales. But while in a season of reflection, I have been thinking a lot about what could have gone differently. So I wanted to share tips that I think will be relevant regardless of where you’re at on your relationship journey. These are the things that I either tried to do or wished that I did to protect my marriage.

  • Remember that the vows you made are active, living and breathing commitments made to the other person. Take this seriously. Look back on the words of your vows, display them in your home or watch your wedding video together to be reminded of the promises made.
  • Recognize that there is so much that changes once you were married, outside of a dating situation. Even though you will jump right into the day-to-day, you have to find ways to keep things light, romantic and sweet. What did you both love about the season when you were dating? Try and carry some of those things through. Then come up with new ideas to keep things fun and creative. It’s never too late to reinvent your relationship.
  • Realize that ‘the small things are the big things’. Notice that they got their haircut. Ask how the meeting when at work. Complement the new outfit. Show up with their favorite meal. Aim to do something at least once a week spoken in their love language.
  • Find something that you can share at a meaningful level. There’s so much that is surface in life and you need some thing you believe in together that you can embed into your rituals. If you are faith-based, this could be a nightly prayer or joining a Bible study group. It could also be daily habits like coffee on the porch together or a meditation or exercise routine, no matter what is going on. These activities are important for your foundation and helping to keep you connected.
  • Have continued dialogue, even when it’s not what you want to hear. Speak up about what you need. Ask them how you can support them and seek honest feedback. Get to know them, especially if who they are has changed over time.
  • When you speak, make sure to also listen to one another. No matter how much chaos is around you, stay alert and pay attention to what they’re saying (and what they are not saying.) And when you are sitting together in silence, don’t pick up your phone or magazine or lean on other daily routines to distract you. Sit in these moments and cherish them.
  • Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re individuals who bring your whole selves to a relationship. If you need to work on yourself through self care, counseling to deal with past hurts, or by joining a support group, then do it. You have to bring your best self to your relationship (but know that this will take effort).
  • Work at making your relationship a priority and ask for help when you need it. You can rely on resources like friends with more marital experience, a counselor, podcast, book or seminar. (It’s likely that one person in the relationship will not be as willing. Do what you can with self-study and change your own behavior. Share your findings but then make it clear that it’s important to you…sometimes you just need to take the time and find the medium that works for both of you.’)
  • Don’t take your relationship for granted. Enjoy the laughs at the inside jokes, having someone to go to a Christmas party with and knowing you have a built-in travel companion. If you appreciate these moments, then say it out loud and let them know. (Don’t assume they know how you feel.)

With love,

Girl with a diamond ring

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From the Archives: 3 Things to Do Right After Your Engagement

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So you just got the ring. Now what? Your emotions will probably be all over the place so here are my tips on what to do RIGHT after your engagement!

  1. Take a selfie with your mate. Your enthusiasm will be at an all-time high and it will be a special and authentic memory to capture in your relationship. Don’t be too “posey” with the pictures you take because it might take away from the genuine emotions.
  2. Then, take a deep breath and spend a moment with just your fiancé. Let it sink in. Don’t be so frantic to rush and tell everyone because this is time together that you won’t get back. If your now-fiance told you some really romantic things when the question was popped, take some time to reciprocate and share your feelings, too.
  3. Talk about who you’re going to tell and in what order BEFORE it goes on to social media! (This article from The Knot has some good tips.)

And once you share the news, don’t be surprised that everyone will respond with “when’s the date?” but don’t rush this process. It’s important to treat your engagement as a new phase in your relationship, and not just a period of time that you skip right past before walking down the aisle. My number one tip to any new bride-to-be is to enjoy this time! Once you have the “married” or “spouse” title, you will be able to have that f-o-r-e-v-e-r. You only get to be “engaged” and a “finance” for a short period of time so don’t let it pass you by without taking some time to focus on the beauty of this life season!

With love,

Girl with a diamond ring

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What I Didn’t Know About Marriage

6 years ago today, we got engaged! What I knew at that time: I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life and he would be a great husband. He would protect me and make me laugh. He would provide for me and teach me new things. He would take me out on dates and on exotic trips. I didn’t fully know what to expect, but I was right about these things.

What I didn’t know at the time: 

    Marriage is truly a forever-thing, and that means that it’s not like a Hallmark channel movie where romance is layered into every scenario. When you’re dating, there’s enough separation between the two of you to amplify the romantic feelings and situations. Think about it: when you’re dating, you might be planning to go on a date on Friday night. You get through the work day and are excited about what’s to come, thinking about what you will wear. He sends a text message with an emoji saying that he’s excited, too. He picks you up and then pays for dinner at the end of the night. Fast forward to when you’re married; you both wake up together and start your individual morning routines. You probably check in at least once during the day about pets or finances. And then you are home together doing your individual ‘relaxation’ routines post-work, pick up the dirty socks, before you get dressed to go out on a date. You ride there together and pay from your shared bank account before you come home together. While things can still be romantic, it’s in a different (yet still very comforting) way. 
    I always heard that learning to compromise was a big part of marriage but I didn’t fully understand what that meant. This isn’t about who is going to do the dishes or how you will share your groceries. It’s about getting used to each others habits, families, and cultures, and knowing that they come to you with an entire life that was before you. They are shaped by their past, they saw examples of compromise, life and relationship norms, from people around them, and their view on relationships is likely very different from what you once knew.
    News flash: people change! Marriage will change you simply because life changes you. It can be for the best or in negative ways and will happen to you both so it’s important to keep each other accountable. Think about it…if you were the same person 5, 10, 50 years into marriage, does that mean that you are growing? No. As individuals change, so will the relationship, and that’s ok!
    It’s not as much that marriage is hard but that life is hard, and marriage means there are DOUBLE the joys or the challenges. While one might be on the highest high, the other could be in the deepest valley. You then share the load and support each other in the best way you know how.  

Marriage is a beautiful thing and I am thankful for my life partner. I wanted ‘the ring’ so bad and am thankful that he got down on one knee 6 years ago. There was so much hope and anticipation leading up to this day and it then allowed me to have one year and two months planning for the very best day of my life. 

With love,

Girl with a diamond ring

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Tips for Engagement Season and My Personal Story

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Just one of the reasons that I love the holiday season are the incredible engagement photos that fill my social media feed! It’s a time of year where sentiment and romance are at an all-time high.

I was a girl that grew up dreaming of becoming a wife. I would say dream about our life together, our wedding day, and our proposal story.

I kissed a few frogs and then when I met my hubby-to-be, I knew there was something special about him. It was pretty early on that I fell in love and shortly after began to recognize that he might be ‘the one.’ We talked about marriage and I knew that it was far from what he had dreamed of but that he’d be open to it when the time was right.

About three years into our relationship I was ready to move to the next step, but he wasn’t. At almost four years together, we took a trip overseas to spend Christmas and New Years with my family. We explored my hometown, saw some incredible places, and were in many romantic settings. I knew this would be it.(What most around us had not realized is that not only had we talked about marriage, we had previously talked about an engagement taking place that year.)

It didn’t happen. And yes, I cried over that…the second the clock went past midnight and it was January 1 with no ring. We returned back to the States and it was a week later that he got down on one knee. We went out to a nice dinner. Came back to my house and played with our rescue-bulldog and then he grabbed me and started to dance (to ‘silent’ music, which is something we would do at times.) He then started to say sweet things and got down on one knee. We both cried and called our loved ones before sharing the news via social media. 

Our proposal story (truncated to fit into this blog) is not what I envisioned it would be. However, it reminded me of a few key things.

  1. Your love story will play out at a pace that allows you to both be ready. One of you may be ready to move forward earlier than the other, and that’s ok, but give it time.
  2. While it’s important for your future-spouse to know your desires, don’t be surprised if their proposal reflects more of their personality than of yours. Remember that they are likely going out of their comfort zone with the planning, the ring purchase, and all of the details, so it’s even if it ‘feels’ more low-key than you’d like just remind yourself that it’s not.
  3. Don’t compare your relationship, proposal, or wedding planning process to other couples that you know or to strangers that you see in Hallmark channel movies or on social media feeds. Your relationship is unique in its very own ways and that alone is worth celebrating!
  4. It really isn’t about the proposal or the wedding planning. Almost 5-years into marriage, I can truly say that the shiny ring is just scratching the surface. There is so much more to your future together and this step will simply allow you to move forward.

With love,

Girl with a diamond ring

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Husband Appreciation Day

Today is Husband Appreciation Day. While that should be every day, social media likes to make an annual hashtag out of pretty much everything. So in honor of this day, and the fact that hubby and I just celebrated 9 years since our dating anniversary (Friday), I thought I’d share our love story.

Ever since high school I was often in a relationship. Most were very innocent short 3-month bursts of spending time with a guy and enjoying typical teenage activities together. I enjoyed the company and liked the idea of being with one person. I had a few get a little more serious as years passed and then I had one on and off longer term relationship with someone that I thought was the one. It turns out that he wasn’t and I am thankful for all that relationship taught me.

In college my family moved from Texas to California (which is currently where I reside.) I dated a little bit but nothing serious. A boyfriend and I broke up and then I decided to be single for a while. I wanted to get my priorities straight, to be able to love God first, then love myself, before I could have the space in my heart to love someone else. I learned over time that if this were done in the wrong order, it could be detrimental for me and what was truly important to me in a soul mate. I ended up being single for two years.

Fast forward and my sister was in town for her Spring Break. We went to T-Mobile to get her a new phone. A kind and funny employee with spiky hair helped us out. He had a beautiful smile and made me laugh but I don’t pay much attention. My sister saw there might be a spark there and got me more engaged in the dialogue. We ended up going in another time to see him and actually pick up her phone. My sister encouraged me to give him my business card.

I had two cards on me, one with an email address and one with a phone number. I gave him the one with my email address. Up until that point, I had never met anyone like this out in public (that I would end up dating)—it was always through existing circles like friends of friends, school or church. But he emailed me. And we wrote back and forth before we made plans to meet up again, so I then gave him my number.

We casually went on dates for a few weeks, I knew that he was different and that there might be something there, but didn’t know if it would be a ‘forever’ thing. When we started spending more time together and wanted to be exclusive, I made him ask me to be his girlfriend! (He thought that was strange, but how else would be know when our anniversary would be?)

I am glad that I dated because it helped me learn what was important to me and see how different people have unique strengths and weaknesses. And for that season that I spent time alone, I knew that God was not only preparing my heart but was working in the life of my then-boyfriend. Five years later we were married. I am feeling incredibly blessed that we have each other as life partners and I have so enjoyed being able to live out our love story. So today as I sit here, nine years since he asked me to be ‘his’, I appreciate him more than ever.

With love,

Girl with a diamond ring

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