How I Married Happy
This week, my husband and I celebrated our one year anniversary! I, being the romantic that I am, went social media crazy with celebration. Not because I wanted to show off, or rub it in anyone's face, but simply because I am truly thankful for the relationship God has given me. Having struggled with unhealthy relationships in the past, I've never overlooked the blessing that my marriage is. I was surprised to see not only how many people were happy for us, but also that in my inbox and conversations there started to resound a particular question, from some of my single friends, and some of my friends who are in a relationship but not yet married: How did you get so lucky?! Followed by, of course, How can I get that?!
Naturally, the blogger in me decided that it had to be written about. But in my attempt to answer this question let me start with a disclaimer: I do not believe that my marriage is a result of luck. I think God blessed me in a lot of ways, but the biggest blessing was the wisdom to make a series of good decisions that created the foundation for a successful dating relationship, as well as the beginning of a happy marriage. And it's not because I'm so amazingly wise either. By the time I met my husband I was 23 years old, I had experienced failed relationships, and made a fool of myself more than the necessary amount of times for one human life. BUT I had decided to do this one right. The Bible says in James 1:5 that if anyone lacks wisdom, you should ask God and he will give it to you generously- and that's the first thing I did. The moment I realized something could be starting up with this guy Rico, I asked God to give us both the wisdom we needed not to mess this thing up. And I really think he did. Our relationship is not perfect, and I'm not saying that what I've done is the one and only formula for happiness. But if I had to sum it up, I'd say here are some of the good decisions that factor into our happy experience:
I gave it a shot
Rico was not who I thought I'd marry. His personality, his goals, everything about him was opposite to what I'd dated before, and what I had my heart set on. At first, I almost let him slip by without even giving him a chance, and I would have missed out! Now, I would never advocate "settling" because that's not what I did. I'm not telling you to marry someone who you don't like, but if you are an adult, whose looking for a relationship I will tell you: YOU CAN GO TO COFFEE WITH SOMEONE YOU DON'T LIKE. I promise it does not mean you are getting married. But learn to give people a shot- they may surprise you, and if not you can be friends. In my case, I didn't like him at first, but I REALLY did after the first date. I'm so glad I went.
We knew what we wanted
I knew Rico wanted a relationship, and I knew he wanted it with me, and that provided a healthy foundation. Many guys, even in their late 20s don't seem to know if they want a relationship, or to stay single; if they want that relationship with you or with someone else. The relationship goes nowhere because it constantly moves backward and forward. My advice is: if the person you are dating is confused (or if you are) take a break from the relationship before you hurt it. Running around in circles leads to mistrust and pain. And those things will come out in your marriage. Rico and I were both sure of one thing: we wanted this relationship. We figured out the rest together.
I listened to people that knew us
If the person you are dating does not come highly recommended, or if everyone around you seems to be "trying to tear you apart" please ask yourself why before getting too serious. I know a lot of couples who marry, and then in the midst of crisis say "I should have listened to so and so..." Be wise about what you hear. Not everyone is trying to help, but be aware that people can see things without the "love goggles" that blind you. Listen to the people you trust, and talk to people that know you both of that's possible. In our case, that was one of the things that gave me a lot of peace: everyone was not only supportive, they believed we were meant for each other.
We kept our lives AND our friends
Rico and I decided to keep our lives and to keep our friends. What does that mean? Simply that we decided we were going to give each other space and time to continue doing all the things that made us happy as individuals. Of course, we made time for each other, but we didn't abandon everything else. I think this was really important because it eliminated the room for resentment and suffocation. It's not healthy to make your life all about one person. If you don't marry them, you end up broken. And if you do marry them, you end up sick of them! Find time to keep who you are in tact. A good friend of mine always says this: "how can you love your neighbor as yourself, if you don't love yourself at all?" Retaining your hobbies, your time with God, your friendships, result in a happy you, so that you can make this other person happy as well. If your significant other isn't for that, try to evaluate why: is there a control issue? Because that could also be a red flag.
We were objective about the future
From the very beginning, we were painfully honest and objective about who we were going to be. I told Rico that I was going to be in full-time ministry, and that I was going to live that lifestyle. He told me he was a filmmaker, and author and that he could never give that up. This was important because we can never say we didn't know what to expect. I know exactly what Rico's goals are, and I know I can't stand in the way of those (and vice-versa). At first, it was hard to be objective because we were scared (like most new couples are) that the relationship would end with all the "serious talk". But honestly, we didn't want to waste our time. I see too many young people who stay in relationships, and even get married to people whose goals do not match up with their own. They spend years trying to convince the other person to get on their team. Happy relationships are those who are rowing in the same direction- "how can two walk together unless they are in agreement?" (Amos 3:3) I challenge you to be brutally objective in your relationship- it WILL cause arguments (it did for us) but it's better to argue pre-marriage than post. We found that our lives were compatible, so we make it work, but I'm glad we didn't wait until it was too late to ask some hard questions.
Like I said before, I didn't do any of these things because I'm a relationship expert. I simply asked God for wisdom with each step, and he was generous enough to supply it. I hope that these practical steps help you to develop healthy relationships whether you are dating or thinking about marriage. I hope you all are able to marry happy!