When we were first married, my husband and I were friends with the Perfect Couple. They never seemed to argue. They doted on each other and their children. They both understood their roles within their relationship and easily overcame the difficulties that the military placed on it.
They were the couple that I wanted us to be. While they were perfect it was beginning to seem that my husband and I were perfectly imperfect for each other. Being newlyweds we were still finding ourselves within our marriage. More and more it seemed that we were at odds than in agreement.
And then, without warning, we heard that the Perfect Couple was divorcing.
I kept thinking of that saying, "I'm too busy working on my own grass to see if yours is greener." Finally, it occurred to me that I had been too busy paying attention to their “grass” to pay attention to my own.
I had assumed that they were the perfect couple because that is the way that they presented themselves -- and they didn’t let others in. Really it wasn’t my or anyone else’s place to assume anything about anyone’s marriage.
So I changed my focus; instead of looking at the beauty of their “grass” I began to water my own. Here are some things we are doing to green up our marriage. What would you add?
1. Learn about each other
The military culture changes both our service member and ourselves. No one is the same today as the day they were married. People evolve. It is the natural cycle of life. Our opinions change, experiences create new insights.
So take the time to get to know your spouse. Go on dates, renew the love that you had when you said “I do” daily. Spend at least 20 minutes a day (when they are home) actively listening to each other. Each day is a new story to share.
2. Don’t speak badly of your spouse to others.
Find a friend you can vent to, one that you can confide in. We ALL need that friend. But don’t openly ridicule or diminish your spouse to others.
Whether we like it or not, our egos are very much a part of who we are. When we openly ridicule our service members we open the doors for others to do so as well. And let’s face it we are supposed to “love and cherish” each other.
3. Add some more Sexy Time.
Blush. Sex should take place regularly -- and regularly should be determined by both you and your service member.
Sex isn’t just a matter of physicality, but a way to connect with your partner- emotionally, and spiritually. It is a way to show each other you both still desire each other, that there is an attraction still. This is even more important within relationships that endure extended periods away from each other.
4. Create something together.
Work on projects around the house together, complete a puzzle, whatever it is that you decide to do, do TOGETHER -- you will be working as a team. Flexing skills that you will need throughout your marriage. Skills like: flexibility, patience and the ability to effectively communicate with each other.
5. PBS every single day.
I'm not talking about the Downton Abbey/Sesame Street television station. When you think PBS, think Positive Behavioral Support. I was first introduced to this concept when I worked at an alternative school. PBS was a way that we encouraged our students.
For every negative comment, we had to counter it with three positive comments. When I began to apply this concept to my own marriage I went from the negative nagging Nancy to the positive wife.
For example our conversations began to go like this: “Thank you for doing x,y and z. I am thankful for you and in all the ways that you provide for us. Could you please try to leave your boots by the front door?”
6. Take care of yourself.
There isn’t anything more attractive than someone who takes care of themselves. This doesn’t just apply to physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Make sure to take time for you. There isn’t anything wrong with having a night out with friends (for either or you), as long as you both know, understand and commit to the boundaries that you have set for your marriage.
Sure, some of this may seem like manure to you now, but manure enriches the soil of the lawn that you are watering.
7. Keep your eyes on your own grass.
Lastly, if we are paying attention to our own marriage, and making it as beautiful as we wish it appeared, we are more likely to put forth the effort to get it there instead of daydreaming of where we wish our marriage could be.
Liz Snell holds a Master’s Degree in Strategic Management and Leadership from Western Governors University. In 2013 she founded Military Spouses of Strength, an initiative to bring awareness and reduce the stigma around mental health within the military community. She lives in the greater San Diego area with her husband, and their two children.
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