What I know now!
“The first few years of Marriage are the hardest.” This is the typical advice we received from friends, elders and those who have walked the path. However, the truth is what determines the discomfort or comfort is solely based on the foundation you establish.
“Happy couples don’t argue.” We are two different people with total different personalities and at some point there will be a clash of personalities that will lead to arguments. Healthy couples do argue, but try not to explode. The healthiest couple seeks to resolve arguments, forgive and move on.
“Your spouse will always know what to say or do to make you happy.” Couples seldom have expectations from their partners, and if these expectations are not met, we tend to build resentment towards our partner. However, we need to make an effort to know our spouse love language and equally so, our partners can’t read our minds, we need to communicate our needs in marriage to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.
For us it has really been an incredible journey thus far. We had our fair share of challenges but with God being the foundation and the third string in our cord, we managed to navigate through those challenges. Love isn’t just an emotion but a commitment and in order to fulfill that commitment towards each other. For us it has been about making those deliberate choices daily to nurture our love and try and be consistent about it. We are not just spouses, but best friends and we love doing life together.
For us we believe that if you pray together, you stay together! Marriage is not always easy, thus we need to involve God and ask for His grace every day because we can only be the right partner for the other person with His help.
Remain open for God to change you, and change the other person Himself, without too much of your own intervention! Serve one another with humility.
Keep your eyes open to see each others’ needs- know each other’s ‘love language’- ie what does your partner need to keep his or her ‘love tank’ filled up?- words of encouragement, quality time, a gift every now and then, touch, or being served…. Ask each other how you can top up the tank if it is getting low!
Make sure you get enough ‘couch time’ with the other person (without the kids) to download/ communicate all your thoughts, dreams, plans and fears so that you are on the
same page and work better in unity together at other times
Listen and communicate without assuming anything… otherwise you get into all kinds of hot water!
We always knew that God is the centre of our lives.
There is always someone with an opinion about how your marriage should be: Advice is always welcome, however, the choice to adopt or ignore remains yours as the couple.
Some people believe you can never have too many children: we decided beforehand how many children we would have, after taking into consideration all prevailing factors. Otherwise, you will end up with a football team and even then, there will always be that one aunt who persistently asks “when are you having another one, after all 11 is such an odd number”
As a couple we discuss everything: we talk about joint and individual goals such as future study plans, corporate ambitions, where to live, what car to buy, who pays for what, savings plans etc.
Make time for each other! Because work, children, and even life can take its toll on even the strongest relationships. Time off together therefore becomes necessary. This can be weekly, monthly, quarterly or even annually.
After Five years of marriage, one thing we know very well is that having a happy and successful marriage is completely in our hands. We now know for sure that every couple has a 100% chance of having a good marriage if they choose to do what it takes. For us, this meant putting the same amount of time and effort into our relationship as do we for our studies, jobs and hobbies.
As I approach our 9th wedding anniversary, let me share with you the wisdom I have gained. As this is my second marriage, I brought with me 2 daughters, a cat, 3 dogs and an array of smaller animals (birds, goldfish etc). So as you can imagine, adapting to a new arrangement was not necessarily easy going for everyone, probably most so for Hennie. I think most romanticize and idolize being married and focus on the actual wedding day more than on the years to follow. Though corny, it is true, marriage takes hard work (teamwork), lots of sacrificing and compromising. My motto – think before you speak. If what ever it is that you would like to pick a fight over is not important, let it go!
Both our daughters (and I emphasize the “our” as they are now as much a part of Hennie’s life as they are of mine) have left home and are at university. Empty nest? Not us! We now more than ever love spending time alone, many a time sitting on the kitchen floor, sharing a good bottle of wine, just talking, still getting to know each other better. My departing words – listen to you partner, not only their words, but also pay attention to their body language and facial expressions. Listen without thinking of an answer and advice. Listen with your heart.