Keeping Love Alive

Happy Thursday readers!  This has been one of those long, exhausting weeks, so  I'm very happy say that the weekend is almost here!

Today I bring you Student Teaching Guest Post #9 from Jane at In the Pink and Green.  She and her hubby have been married for a little over two years now and the instant connection she had with Cameron parallels a lot of this start to Bryce's and my relationship.  I thought an excellent post for her to write would be about ways to keep your love alive and what she has learned thus far about marriage.  I think she has put together a great list of lessons and tips, so enjoy!

Hello all you lovely Sundresses and Smiles readers! I'm so excited that sweet Allie asked me to write a guest post because I absolutely love her blog. I write a blog called In the Pink and Green, which is basically my story--I'm a Midwestern girl who met a boy from the Pacific Northwest, moved to the South, got a crazy (but adorable) dog, and am now trying to adapt to life in Colorado. I love to cook and bake, read, travel, shop, and I'm trying to become more eco-friendly, so my blog is my place to share it all with the world. But today I wanted to talk a little bit about a topic that is very near and dear to my heart--marriage! When Allie suggested that I write about what I've learned about marriage so far, it got me thinking...what have I learned? What makes a good marriage? Hmmm...

Let me just start out by saying, I am by NO means an expert on marriage, but I don't think anyone is really. Marriage is essentially a three-legged race; it takes two imperfect people with different personalities, faults, pet peeves, etc., and binds them together to move through life as one. Not an easy task. Without trust and communication, it can be very frustrating and painful. No matter what you do, there will inevitably be bumps along the way, but when both people are commited to working together, things can work pretty smoothly and it can be a lot of fun! (Sorry for the lame analogy, it was just the first thing that came to mind...)

Rooting for the same football team helps--GO BLUE!
To give you a little bit of background on my own marriage, my husband, Cameron, and I met in college when we were both juniors at the University of Michigan. His fraternity house was next to my sorority house, but we actually got to know each other because we were both a part of this entrepreneurship organization on campus. (Ironically, I was a communications major and I joined this group because I knew there were a lot of engineers and business students involved and I thought it would be a good way to meet guys...I'm so lame...but I guess it ended up working!) We started dating in January of 2008 and we got engaged in September of that same year. I know, fast right? Especially at a liberal school like U of M where no one thinks about getting married that young...ever. We just had a really strong connection right away, but we also both recognized very soon into the relationship that underneath all that initial infatuation we each had that the qualities the other wanted in a mate. We are both very close to our families and share similar values and beliefs. Both of our parents are still married and have great marriages; I think thanks to their examples we both viewed marriage as a great thing that we wanted, not something to be afraid of. So while we definitely weren't trying to rush into anything, it was just one of those things that we knew after a short time that this was it. We also kind of felt that it would be silly to put off something we knew we both wanted and date for another year after college before getting engaged.

Valentine's Day date party--our second date party we went to together! :)
Engagement Shot
Our wedding
After getting engaged in September 2008, we planned our wedding (during senior year of college!) and then got married in Ann Arbor, MI in June of 2009 right after we graduated. We just celebrated our second wedding anniversary this summer, and I'll be the first person to tell you that I love being married. It's awesome to have your best friend with you all the time and start building your life together. There are so many little moments of joy in everyday things just spending time together and I'm very thankful that I'm Cameron's wife. However, that doesn't mean everyday is easy. We are both extremely stubborn and butt heads more often than we probably should. I have a tendency to be fairly reactive and hot-tempered and Cam has his flaws too. But I feel like each disagreement we've had has been a learning lesson on how we can continue to understand one another better and strengthen our relationship. I mentioned that I was doing this blog post to Cam, and it spurred a discussion between us about what makes a good marriage and here's the list that we came up with:
  • Don't talk about your spouse: Seriously, it just makes you look trashy. When you cut your spouse down to other people, you're really just making yourself look bad and although you might think venting feels good, it really doesn't solve anything. I feel like women have a tendency to do this a lot, just really cut their husband down to other women, and I'll admit sometimes when Cam does something that irritates me, it's tempting to do that. However, I know that in order to have a healthy marriage you should try to build your spouse up with your words, not tear them down to others.
  • Understand each other's love language: I know some people many people have probably have heard of the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, and while Cam and I haven't actually even read the book, I think that being concious of the concept that people show and want to be shown love in different ways can be very helpful in your marriage. For example, my love languages are words of affirmation and gifts, whereas Cam's is acts of service. So because his love language is acts of service, he'll do things like spend hours fixing my car which I don't necessarily think is a huge deal but in his mind, he's doing that to show love to me. However, he doesn't always realize that birthday presents and cards are a big deal to me, so if he doesn't come through with those things I get upset because that's my love language, whereas he doesn't necessarily get why they mean so much to me. And vice versa, if I get him some big present and write him a long note, he'll appreciate it, but it means a lot more to him if I pack his lunch and do his laundry because those acts of service is how he feels loved. We're definitely still learning at this, but I think just awareness of these differences can go a long way in making sure that you and your spouse both feel loved. (This link goes into more detail about the 5 Love Languages)
  • Have a variety of friends: Another important thing to balance in your marriage is friendships. Neglecting friendships when you get married is something that can be really easy to do, even if it's unintentional. First, I think it's great to have couple friends. What I mean is other couples where you and your spouse both genuinely like both people; however, this can be a tough thing to find. We're lucky to have quite a few different couples that fit this bill, and it's nice to be able to hang out with people who can relate to what you're going through in married life. However, chances are that you're also going to have friends where maybe your husband might not get along with your friend's husband, or vice versa and that's ok too. It's important to realize that you can still maintain a friendship even if your spouses aren't going to be best buds, and it's not something you need to force. Maintaining relationships with your single friends can be tough after you get married sometimes, but even though you might be at different points in your life, it's important not to let these relationships go by the wayside. I think that having girls' night where you can go out and laugh with your friends is really important to really maintain "you" in your marriage. Cameron is my best friend and I love to spend time with him, but do I want to spend every single second with him? No (and he doesn't with me either!) and that's ok, so not losing your friendships is crucial to your personal happiness and the health of your marriage.
  • Have a balance of staying out and going in: One of the great things about marriage is that some of the best nights are just chilling at home on the couch, rocking sweatpants and no makeup. (Love nights like that!) However, I think it's important to make sure that's not all that you do. Getting dressed up for each other and actually going out for a date night every once and while helps to keep things fun and exciting. It doesn't always have to be something super fancy, just something to get you and your spouse out of the house together to enjoy each other's company.
  • Create traditions: I think that it's really nice to have little rituals or special things you do with your spouse. Whether that's making pancakes on Saturdays or always going to the same restaurant on your anniversary or whatever, I think having special things you do on a regular basis really helps strengthen your connection and creates memories for the future. One thing that Cam and I do is we always get a Christmas ornament from places we travel. That way, every year when we're setting up the tree we can reminisce about trips we've taken together in the past.
  • Realize that working through issues takes time: There have been times when Cam and I have had disagreements and it's literally taken hours and hours of talking to come to some sort of resolution. As two different people, you are inevitably going to clash over certain things and you can't just expect that to magically work itself out. It takes significant time to talk, and more importantly, to listen to what the other person is saying in order to make progress. But you need to be willing to put in that time if your relationship is going to keep moving forward.
  •  Be willing to admit when you're wrong and apologize immediately, but also be willing to accept apologies and not hold a grudge when your spouse makes a mistake: This is probably the most important thing that we've learned to have a successful marriage in a nutshell, but it's much easier said than done.
  • Say I love you (often): And mean it!
Those are just a few of the things that we've learned in the first 2 1/2 years, and I'm excited to continue learning and growing in the years to come. Thanks again to Allie for letting me share this with y'all today, and I hope you'll stop over and visit me at In the Pink and Green! xoxo

A couple that climbs mountains together stays together ;)
Have a great day!