I originally wrote this for a post in the forum and thought I’d share it on my blog as well – for posterity sake as well as to break the monotony of writing reviews on 7-dfbx and the like. So yes, what about marriage?
Well, it takes A LOT of effort to maintain a relationship – both unseen and seen – as well as self-reflection. Self-reflection is important because that’s how we learn more about ourselves and how to tell if we are heading to disaster in our life journey (or not). We are all human and therefore imperfect. We have our up and down days, we have changes coming into our lives and sometimes we change along with it. The key is in communication, teamwork and reflection.
I’ve not been married for very long but I have had the opportunity to think long and hard about my own marriage and how to make it last. Nil and I have gone through a lot and yes, even sometimes to the point where I feel like giving up – not too sure about him though. But we stuck through it all and learn a few of life’s lesson as well. It is lifelong learning process and slow sometimes. Even couples who have been married for long cannot safely say that their marriage is in good shape as anything can happen at any time. For my HB and me, we have changed upon our marriage and then again when Eva came along and we discovered a few things along the way:
Be intimate regularly
Intimacy is not about sex. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that sex is not important. It is but it’s not the only way you can be intimate with your partner. There is physical intimacy like cuddling, kissing, holding hands and there is emotional intimacy. Many cultures around the world speak of the power of a human touch. Notice how children and babies are soothed easily with a hug, a cradle, a smooch and some skin contact. Sometimes when we are down, depressed or just tired, a comforting embrace is all it takes to help pick a person up. Make the effort to reconnect and build some form of intimacy in your life. With a baby, it can be hard but the rewards are worth the effort, especially when you consider that your actions teach your child a thing or two about what to expect when they grow up, start dating and eventually get married. Eva may just be a toddler but her face lights up when she gets a group hug and smooch from my HB and me and especially when she sees us cuddling and smooching. It sets the tone for your child and how they view relationships in the future – that sex and intimacy is key to a healthy relationship. Besides, it’s hard to be and stay angry with someone you hold hands with, kiss or cuddle with.
Emotional intimacy is a lot harder and most of the time, this is the killer in relationships/affairs. Everyone wants to be emotionally connected to someone; a human being is not meant to be a loner – we are social creatures and being in relationships is important. An emotional relationship can stay healthy if we make the effort to communicate and stay in touch with our partners. I don’t mean just talking but sharing your feelings, your thoughts, and so forth. If we begin to share secrets with someone else other than our partners and we’ve never done that before, an alarm should sound in your head.
If you observed, all the fights and affairs is often sprinkled with things like cold wars, silent treatment, withholding sex/affection, etc. So doesn’t that say something about its importance in a marriage?
Laugh together as often as you can and make it a point to have fun, unbridled fun like a child.
Laughing keeps people happy and healthy, not just emotionally but physically. Noticed anything about your child? A happy child is a well-mannered, disciplined and kind child, and consequently, is a joy to be with. Children are easily satisfied with many things and well, their needs are simple/easy to provide. But as we grow older and become more burdened with commitments/responsibilities/issues/problems, we forget how to be happy. And I don’t mean the typical happy that lasts for an hour but I’m talking about true happiness – Christians call it joy. Joy lasts longer than happiness and being constantly joyful is not easy to achieve. Besides, no one wants to hang out with a grouch – it’s emotionally draining.
I always encourage Nil to take some time out and be a child again – do things that makes him happy, be it skiiing, climbing, cracking a lousy joke, playing in a children’s playground, anything! When we were dating, we would spend most of our dates at the children’s playground, on the swings, the seesaw, etc. Those were awesome times and we try to recreate that by spending some time over the weekend for walks, and well, just finding excitement in the little things like a new book that we’ve been waiting, an episode of CSI, etc and so forth – it may look petty but hey, it’s the little things that count sometimes.
Some people may view this negatively, stating that adults should behave like adults but I think they are wrong. There is a little kid in all of us and sometimes it’s good to be a child once again – to feel that unbridled joy in our lives. It is contagious and frankly, I love it. I love watching Nil act silly and have fun like a kid. It makes me happy and I think it makes him happy too.
Understand, accept and play your part – you are in a team
A marriage means you are now part of a team – at first a two-man team and then when you have children, you’ll have more members in that team. Your team DOES NOT include your in-laws or parents. Sorry but that’s now how marriage works.
My apologies to modernist and feminist but in a team, you cannot have two people playing the same role. It is a recipe for disaster. Someone has to play one role and another person the other. This is all the more important when you have a child because how you play your part (and what your role is) sets the stage for your child’s future social development as well as how they grow up emotionally. Mothers and wives need to understand that your role is to care for your spouse and child without compromising on either. You can seek the aid of your spouse but if they have to cook, clean and take care of the baby on top of everything else, why do they need to marry someone? They can always pay for sex or better yet, go for one night stands OR stay with their parents – their mother will do everything for them. No need to get married in the first place. That is just the tip of the iceberg.
Caring for your spouse means taking care of their emotional, social and mental needs. How you do that is by first investing in yourself – be a woman that they are proud to be with, proud to have chosen to marry, and someone they can grow with and help them grow. This brings me to one thing that has always irked me – “I don’t know how to cook/sew/etc”. Women today need to understand that “don’t know how to cook/sew/etc” is not a good enough excuse. It may sound old fashioned but sometimes what is old fashioned may be just the thing that holds a marriage together. There is a saying “A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” – it is true. You don’t have to be a Michelin star chef to be a good cook; you just need your HB’s approval. Besides, homemade food is a lot cheaper and healthier than eating out.
As for the rest, learning to sew and etc, lets just put it this way. We all want our spouses to be productive people. We are proud of them when they can do things, like being a regular handyman, a seamstress, a crafty person and we are all the more proud when people know it and compliment us on our choice of a partner. This goes back to one thing – your spouse needs to be proud to have chosen you as a spouse.
This is not limited to cooking/sewing/hobbies but to lifelong learning. People need to understand that we all need to grow as individuals, and that education is constant. If you’re constantly improving yourself and your skills, don’t you think that it’s something worth being proud of? If you never bother to do anything, do you think your HB would share that with anyone openly? Some people think that what I’m saying is controversial, that it’s sexist but all I’m saying is that PEOPLE should grow, women should not forget their role – it doesn’t mean that I’m advocating that women stay in the kitchen and do nothing else. It just means that I’d like to see people continue growing and learning.
Fathers and husbands need to understand that your role is to be the provider and I don’t mean financially alone but in every sense of the word. A provider is not just someone who makes money and brings the bacon home but also making sure that your family unit is stable and growing. Christians believe and feel that a man’s job in a family unit is that he is the stronghold, the leader, the one guiding the family – that is the job of the provider. It doesn’t mean that women don’t have a say. It just means that if anything goes wrong, the MAN is the one who has to take charge, step in and do his job as a leader/provider and not just ditch everything to the woman. This also means protecting your family against external forces, including your parents. If your parents takes pot shots at your wife, your first impulse should not be to protect your parents but to protect your wife. This is the woman who shares your bed, your home and will give your children. Any smart individual can see that she is the investment you should protect. Of course, we do not mean that you completely ignore your parents – but you need to understand and accept that your responsibility is to step up to the plate and protect your partner. Your family comes first and your parents need to understand that. They need to learn to let go and let you grow and focus on your own family.
When you have children and they take pot shots at your wife, you need to stand firm by your partner. Never allow your child to turn you against your spouse. It undermines your spouse’s authority and sets the stage for future attacks. My father once told me – and I still remember it well – “I will never choose you over your mother. She is my wife and her needs come first even if she is wrong.” And I respect that decision because if I were in my mum’s shoes, I’d feel completely betrayed if Nil were to side anyone else but me. If you must scold your spouse, do it in private and not in front of your child.
Shitty teamwork is when you leave your partner open to attack – we see it all the time in double badminton, in war strategies, etc. Women are often the first target and that’s why men are always told to protect their women and children. So why are men today – husbands and fathers – not doing their job? Perhaps it is because they were not told by their fathers or mothers, perhaps it’s how society sees marriage/relationships today. Who knows? But I have always told Nil – before we got married – that we are a team. If I’m attacked by people and he does nothing, I might as well be single and handle it myself. What’s the point of being with someone if I have to stand up alone?
Remember, men, when you married, you took a vow to protect your wife. Carry that promise out.
So yes, this may make it sound old fashioned but really, if old fashioned works, why not?