Happily Ever After
In case you missed the beginning of this series, “A True Love Story”, here are the first two posts
But there are no words to describe the awesomeness of the love between husband and wife.  When it’s good, it’s sooooo good.  So I want to end this series with the practical stuff that helped us through all those marriage challenges and led us to our “Happily Ever After”.

First Practical Advice:  Don’t Be Afraid to See a Marriage Counselor

Let me be upfront and say that I think everyone needs a counselor at some point in their life.  Personally, I’d vote for us all to have our own private counselors and perhaps we wouldn’t need so many hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and fewer medic runs on panicky adults having anxiety but are convinced they are dying.  But I digress..

We did see a counselor in a particularly rough season with mixed results

  • There were times that he totally refused to see a counselor and I went by myself.
  • There were times we left the counselor office with him even more ticked off from the game of “let’s share our feelings from a safe comfy couch with a referee in the room”.
  • And there are moments I’m sure he’ll admit he definitely learned from the session.
I am NOT a marriage counselor and these thoughts are only from our personal experiences.  So please seek a professional if necessary 🙂   I have referenced some online sources we used as well.  At that time, Marriage Builders was the best online resource we found and from what I see now, it’s even better.  I encourage you to check it out.  (I get no rewards for promoting them.  This is purely a personal recommendation.  Because it worked.)

So, here it is. Our best practical advice.  May it help 10,000 marriages.

1.  Learn to fight fair

I grew up in a home where I NEVER saw my parents fight.  He grew up with his mom and step-father but was then raised by his grandparents from 6th grade on.  I’m not sure we have enough hours in our lifetime to begin to share all those dynamics so we stick to our present and future together.   Both of us have a huge drive for justice and fairness.  But we did not know how to “fight fair”.
There are going to be disagreements.  But if you riddle them with personal attacks, it is devastating to a relationship.  You end up withdrawing from each other’s love bank.  (See topic 4).
As a fire marriage, you also need to learn to do this sometimes over the phone.  Very challenging.

2.  The Policy of Radical Honesty

Do not lie or hide anything from your spouse.  Not how much money you spent.  Not the extra paycheck you got.  Not what you’re doing with your time at the fire house, or at home while he’s gone.  And especially not your feelings.  If something makes you feel bad, your spouse has to know about it.  (with the right timing, approach and communication)
It’s important to note that first you have to be honest with yourself about your feelings and your issues.   A broken person has a hard time learning to love someone else.

3.  Never do anything without Enthusiastic Agreement from your spouse

This goes for E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  How you spend your time, your money, your energy.  How you schedule your calendar.  How you parent.  How you dress.  What you eat.   Some real life examples:
  • “Honey, I’m going hunting on Saturday with the guys.”
    • If her reply is an eye-roll, hands on hips, “But its my mother’s birthday party”.  You better reconsider and do some more communicating on that topic.
    • If her reply is “Yes, I really wanted you to spend time with us at my Mom’s birthday party but you have been working so hard and need some time away.  I really want you to have this time with your friends.”   Now you have the green light 😉
  • Via phone call at the fire house “I just bought the cutest dress.  It was on sale for only $45”
    • If his reply is silence.  Uh Oh.  Not enthusiastic.  Was there some agreement about spending you broke?
    • If his reply is “That’s great.  You deserve it.  And it’s a good use of your extra spending money this month”, plan a dinner date and knock his socks off.
I know you may be thinking this sounds excessive.  Aren’t I my own person and can make my own choices?  This is true.  But when you are married, your choices impact the lives of another.  Selfless, unconditional love is at the heart of a strong relationship of any kind.

4.  Understanding the Love Bank

I read somewhere that for a successful marriage, you should not spend a single night apart from each other.  “Great.  We’re doomed.” was my reaction.
If you take withdrawals from the bank by not learning to fight fair and never make deposits because you don’t take time alone together, the love bank is quickly depleted.  Even if you are in an argument, it only takes one person to soften their heart and begin making deposits back into the love tank.
  • Make him some food.  Offer to clear his plate from the table.
  • Ask him what he prefers to watch on TV
  • Offer a back massage.
  • Tell a funny joke.  Find something to laugh about.
  • Write a short text message just saying you still love him.
These are some of the little things I’d do when we were in a big fight and our love banks were empty.

But What If He’s Not Wanting to Work On Your Marriage?

I know.  I’ve been there.  Read the last post and see where I got the silent treatment.  Sometimes for a week at a time.

Be strong ladies.  Someone has to soften their heart.  Someone has to refill the Love Bank.  Someone has to break the ice.  Even if it feels like you are the only one to ever soften and step up and lead with love.    I don’t mean to be an enabler, making him feel like its ok to treat you bad, speak ugly words to you, lie, etc.  I mean to soften your heart and love him for who he is and where he is right now.  I don’t know about you but I’ve certainly been in phases in my life where I wasn’t so easy to love.  Thank the good Lord my husband had the patience to still love me through it.

Skip to this Point for the Short Version

Yes, it took all those practical steps (and 10 years and counting) to get to where we are today.  But there was one key at the beginning of it all that made it clear and simple.

When we got married, we both made the decision that it’s forever.  No matter what.  Neither of us planned to be twice divorced and juggling shared parenting.

But just us deciding individually for it to be forever, was not enough.  Because we are fallen, broken, sinful, easily tempted humans.  It took both us first accepting Christ as the center of our lives.  Yes, we were both already Christians.  But to withstand all the pressures of the world, we had to hold even tighter to what the Bible taught us and to prayer and faith.  Without Christ-like love as the guidepost, I do not believe we would have been strong enough as individuals to hold it together in our marriage.

Decide on forever.  Follow Christ.  That’s the simple answer.

My parents were visiting this weekend and I had not mentioned much to them about my blogs here.  But my whole giant family is on facebook so I’m certain they all read it.  So my mom says to me in disbelief, “I didn’t know you two were having so many problems.”  We’re all pretty good fakers aren’t we?

Family can complicate things.  They know you better than anyone but because of that can be blinded and give really bad advice….or just push those buttons that only family knows how to push and make it 1000 times more emotional than it needs to be.

You don’t have to do this alone.  Details posted here.

Whew.  That felt really long and preachy.  I don’t like that.

It’s not me.  I don’t know it all.  I’m just sharing what works for us.  And if we can even help a couple, I’m down with that.



Take a Deeper Intentional Focus

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On a mission to be and inspire us all to be better humans, to strengthen fire families & marriages, to nurture and encourage fire wives, do "good business" in all areas of my life and of course, love on my 4 kids.