It’s hard to imagine how you will feel about someone many years and several children later. Everyone tells you that marriage is hard work, and you can extrapolate that relationships take work and so yes it must be hard. But it is hard for reasons I didn’t anticipate.
Marriage is hard because it forces you to face yourself, regularly. When you’re single, you can afford to ignore some things or not think about your feelings often. No one forces you to face your imperfections or bad behavior. But marriage is like a big mirror staring you down a lot of the time.
And if you have any little resentments building up, you HAVE to be honest with yourself and your spouse about what they are and why they are happening. To be happy, you must do this right when you feel these resentments forming, not when they’ve exploded into full out anger. And then your partner has to be willing to hear those things and work on them with you.
You have peaks where you’ve just had that type of conversation and you are both approaching things the way you’ve just discussed. But then you have valleys where one or both of you have gotten a little lazy, and you hurt each other’s feelings. Then you have to come back together and talk about it all over again.
Now, I’m not trying to make it sound exhausting, but sometimes it IS exhausting. It would be far easier to stick my head in the sand and just ignore everything and go along like it’s all okay. But I know that at some point the façade will break and I’ll reach the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I don’t ever want to get there. I want to be together and happy until we’re old and gray.
It’s worth the hard work.
There’s a small trick that has helped us, and it’s very simple. I usually don’t tell anyone this because it’s very private and personal, but I’ve decided to share it anyway inexplicably.
When we were dating, a game started organically one day. I would call him and I would say, “I love you.” And one day he called me and he said, “I love you. HAH! I said it first today!” And I said, “You realize you could win this every single day since you are up at 6am and I’m not, right?!”
And then the game was born. The “I love you first” game. He started calling or texting me first thing every day so he could win, and then it grew into a life of its own.
Each day we try to say, “I love you first today,” before the other person. And then second place is, “I love you sideways 8 all day.” (Sideways 8 is infinite.)
There are few things I want to say about our game. I love that he started it and I love that it just kind of happened. I love that it has grown with its own rules and weirdnesses that we’ve added in over the years. And I truly believe that it has helped us stay together at times.
Sometimes things get really hard, and some days I don’t WANT to say, “I love you first today.” On those days, I let him win, and I always say the second place one. Some days when I don’t want to say it, it helps to hear him say it.
It’s how we start the day. It’s a short reminder every day of our promises to each other, and it’s a quick reminder that we DO love each other very much, even if we’re in a valley at the moment.
And sometimes those valleys have ended sooner BECAUSE of this game. It shifts my heart when I need it to. I’ll wake up and think, “You better love me first today because I damn sure don’t love you first today.” And then he says it, and we play the game, and then I’m in a better mood in spite of myself.
Find a simple game to play each day that helps remind you that you love each other. Don’t force it, but just look for opportunities for a game to grow, or some little daily tradition. It really is the little things that count; this is our little thing. It probably sounds really simple and maybe a little silly, but it does make a huge difference for us.
I hope this inspires you to find the little game that brings you closer together.