you + me


Last week Marcus came home from work to find me cleaning out a kitchen cupboard that had long been neglected--he came up behind and and grabbed me in his arms for a strong bear hug. The giant grin on his face was a look I hadn't see in a while. I asked him what he was so happy about and he replied, "I just love you."

I figured there was more to the story, so I probed a little deeper. Turns out several of the men at work that day had been talking about how they can't stand their wives. One of the female nurses stood up and said, "I have yet to find someone who actually likes their spouse around here..." That's when Marcus chimed in, "I like my wife!" The previous nurse replied, "THANK YOU!" and another man at the table retorted, "Well that's because you're mormon and you guys get married in the temple, so you have to like your spouse."

"Oh, so I guess I don't count...?" Marcus asked with a bit of sarcastic confusion.

Everyone laughed, a few people asked about what it meant to be married in the temple--Marcus briefly explained that it meant you promised to be together "for time and all eternity" instead of "till death do us part" but added that no one is exempt and that there are people who were married in the temple that still got a divorce, so keeping a happy marriage was a conscious effort, they seemed to agree and then the conversation shifted to something else all together.

Marcus came home glad he liked his wife but also sad that so many people were evidently unhappy.
This lead us to have a long conversation over dinner about how you could go from thinking someone is the greatest person in the world and the one you want to spend your whole life with to having little to no respect left for them, and why this was happening to so many people--because I had heard similar things at my work, so it wasn't just some strange medical staff problem.

Of course we didn't come up with any definitive answers since we don't know everyone's individual issues, but here are a few ideas on how to keep love and happiness in a marriage:

1. Respect each other as individuals with individual preferences//
Before you met, you were two different people who ate different food and had different hobbies, it's okay to hold on to some of those things and it's okay for them to was well. Marcus loves to watch soccer, so when the World Cup came around, he was watching it--a lot! At first I was a little annoyed, but I remembered that there are things I like to do, like blog, that I spend a lot of time doing and it probably is a little annoying to him sometimes, but we both get over it, because I don't own him and he doesn't own me and we can have our time that we do our own things--in fact they make us interesting individuals and sometimes Marcus reads my blog and thanks me for keeping a record of our life and sometimes Marcus plays soccer and I'm proud of him for playing hard and coming home sweaty--it's all good, just stop trying to control each other and you'll be a lot happier :)

2. Foster your similar interests//
That being said, you are probably together because along with your differences, you also have interests in common--do those a lot! Alone time is great, but being together is awesome! So find things you like to do together and make them regulars. Marcus and I love good music, so we try to go to a few concerts a year. We also love local food and beautifully designed architecture, so we seek out cool new restaurants to try and while we wait for our food we talk about all the design elements we love about the place and things we would have or leave out if we opened our own restaurant someday. Traveling is obviously one of our biggest passions, so we do what we have to do to save and plan so that we can travel often. Shared experiences is what makes a family a strong!

3. Try new things together {and separately}//
Before I got pregnant, we started to go rock climbing--it was something I didn't enjoy much at first, but Marcus loved it, so I gave it a few more tries and eventually thought it was pretty darn fun, so hopefully we can start doing that again when my belly isn't huge! 
Something that I've always loved is film photography, so I enrolled in a few classes last year and it was so fun to have that hobby that I did on my own and could come home and tell Marcus all about what I was working on and what I was learning. It was also fun for him to see me excelling at something. Seeing someone go after their passions is always an attractive quality, right?

4. Don't talk bad about the other person to someone else//
Now if you have some serious problems, you should definitely reach out to somebody about those, but the day-to-day knit-picky stuff, it's time to try and get over it instead of keep reliving it over and over again by gossiping about all the junk with your friends/mom/sisters. Would you like it if your partner was airing all your flaws to his friends/family? I'm a big believer that the more you talk about something negative the worse it becomes in your mind--something that was just a little bit bothersome can grow into some huge annoyance because you fed the monster! If you have issues, try to hash them out with your parter, maybe they didn't even realize "that thing" bothered you so much and they can try and work on it now that they know :)

5. Relive memories of your early dating days//
You decided to marry each other for a reason--when you go through rough patches and start to question, "Why did i even marry this person?" it's good to be able to look back at the really good times and remember why you fell in love and made the biggest promise there is to make in this life. Last week I was cleaning out a cupboard getting it ready to put some baby stuff in it and I found a memory box Marcus had kept from our dating days. It was full of silly notes and mix CDs I had made him. We sat on the floor and went through and read them all and we couldn't stop laughing and smiling. It was rejuvenating and romantic (and inspired me to start writing more love notes :))

6. When things come up that make you appreciate your spouse, vocalize them to yourself, to them and to others//
Just like I mentioned in #4, feeding a negative monster--just makes the monster bigger and harder to forget about! But playing up the good stuff encourages people to want to keep doing the good stuff! It also helps you remember that even when there are little things that annoy you, there are also plenty of really great things about your spouse! You want your spouse to know you love and appreciate them and who doesn't like being told they're great...well turns out, I don't like being told I'm great, at least not to my face, but I LOVE getting notes or hearing it second hand through someone else. So figure out how your partner best receives praise and don't hold back! (p.s. I've talked about this book on here before, but it deserves repeating--I LOVE THIS BOOK! Everyone should read it!)

7. Touch each other often//
Remember when you were dating and you were always holding hands, and hugging and kissing goodbye was the hardest part of the day? Yeah, that was fun, and unfortunately those intense, uncontrollable feelings don't last forever, sometimes Marcus and I will go an entire day or longer and all of the sudden one of us will realize we hadn't really touched, hugged, held hands, or kissed, so we'll spend a few minutes just hugging--sometimes you think you don't need that, but once you stay in the embrace, you remember that it still feels really good to be close to the one you love, so look for opportunities--when you take your dog on a walk, hold hands. When one of you is going to work or coming home, kiss each other goodbye. I remember whenever Marcus used to come to my door when we were dating, I would run to the door and practically jump into his arms. Once my mom said, "Gosh, you've really set the greeting standard high, good luck keeping that up." and I thought, "I can't help myself, I love getting to spend time with him, I'm sure this won't be hard to keep up!" But guess what, it is, but I bet it would make him feel pretty great if I made more effort to greet him with a hug and a kiss when he got home--or at the very least eye contact and a smile!

8. Share the responsibilities//
If you aren't already aware, always doing the dishes, or always folding all the laundry, or always taking out the trash can get a little annoying--so stepping in when you notice something needs to be done is probably a good idea. In our house we have certain things that I do most of the time (loading and unloading dishes) and Marcus does most of the time (taking out the garbage), but there are a lot of things we each just do when it needs to be done (laundry, cooking, bathrooms) and it makes us not resent the chore, or the other person, by sharing the responsibility. I remember noticing Marcus' parents while we were dating, they have a pretty traditional marriage, but I still saw Russ in the kitchen making mashed potatoes on Sunday and in the evenings he'd often be loading up the dishes. I appreciated seeing that and appreciate that that example was passed down to Marcus :)

9. Have realistic expectations//
Sorry to tell you, but there is no perfect partner. I've learned this by spending time in couples houses that I greatly admire. I remember seeing their marriage on social media or hearing about what an awesome husband they are from their mother-in-law and thinking the women married to those men were the luckiest people in the world, and then I'd spend a significant amount of time with 'said couples' and while they are great people and seem to compliment each other wonderfully, they were not at all as 'perfect' as I had imagined and most of the times I couldn't even imagine being married to the men because something about them would clash terribly with my personality. 
With everyone's strengths come equal and opposite weaknesses--so while someone may be incredibly loyal and strong and opinionated, they're probably also a little on the jealous, and pushy and stubborn side, and that's okay! We're all growing and learning to strengthen our goods and overcome our not-so-goods, but that makes us human and let's us accept others who are flawed because they accept our flaws! It's the wonderful thing about marriage--just try and find someone's flaws you can look past and who's strengths you admire most!

10. Learn that it is your responsibility to make yourself happy, not your spouses//
In the end, having a partner is a super bonus to life, but each of us has to learn to be happy with ourselves, because there isn't another person on earth that can make you happy if you don't want to be. You could have the most ideal husband in the world, he could cook and clean and write you love songs and bring home the bacon and if you wanted to find something to complain about, you probably could. I've also seen the opposite, I see a couple who's partnership is completely unbalanced and somehow the one seemingly getting the short end of the stick is cheerful and charitable and they find the best in life.
If you're unhappy, figure out a way to improve your life. Explore a hobby, create something, find someone to serve, exercise, see a doctor! Whatever it takes, life is too short to be unhappy and to do nothing about it; and holding someone else's happiness as your responsibility is too great a load to bare, so don't pin that on someone else! Take responsibility for your happiness and if your spouse adds to that happiness, how lucky for you! 
+Please note that I am not implying that we have all the answers or that we have a perfect marriage, but we are generally happy, so I figured I'd write down what I think contributes to that fact :)
*All photos taken for a styled shoot with the fabulous Ty French
*Makeup by Kelsea Jones
*Flowers by Butterfly Petals


Jessica Wilson said...

Gorgeous photos Ashley!

Irene said...

I agree with most of them! I personally think the last one should be the first one. Feeling ok with yourself and beign truly happy with what you are makes the other points easier. I'm not married yet but living together has make a huge difference and even if I know all of his flaws and sometimes laugh about them with my friends (and even with him!) I can always ignore them because we love each other (cheesy).

Marilyn said...

Thanks for sharing Ashley. There's always room for improvement. Lovely photos!

The Pretty Life Anonymous said...

BEYOND stunning. I could look at these alllll day.

Kara said...

UGH I wrote a whole comment then it disappeared into internetland.

Anyway, the gist of it is that everything you're saying aligns exactly with one of the most highly revered marriage experts in my field, John Gottman. He emphasizes loving and respecting your partner and choosing to be nice to them even when they irritate the shenanigans out of you. Look him up!! He's lots of fun :)

Andrea said...

This is such a great post. Once you've been married for a little while, you hear these tips (or tips similar to these) here and there, but it's always so nice to have a refresher:) And I've been thinking about reading The 5 Love Languages a lot lately, so this post definitely got me to finally order it.

Jessica Holly said...

love love love this! I totally agree!

Emily S (Em Busy Living) said...

I love this! I wish 15 year old me could have read this way back when.

And those photos are gorrrrrgeous by the way! Love!

Alicia Snow said...

I love your wedding photos!!

Sarah44 said...

Those photos are unbelievable. I am glad you like your marriage. I do too!

Kiri Cragin Folwell said...

AMEN! Number 10 is one of the most important things in making my relationship work. I have really found that whatever makes us strong as individuals really can help us stay strong as a couple. Thanks for sharing. Marriage is great!

rebecca adams said...

read this when you posted it and i had to come back and read it again. LOVE this + these photos are perfection. i hope life is treating you well pre-baby, you're the cutest!

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