You can have the marriage you want. Really, you can. See, the beauty of "happily ever after," is that you get to create it, and you get to choose it. However, if you want to create the marriage of your dreams, you need to be ready to work for it, sacrifice for it, and be patient as you nurture your marriage day-in and day-out.
Creating the marriage you want starts with you. Are you willing to make some positive changes? Are you willing to change your outlook on your marriage? If so, then great things are on the horizon, my friend.
Here are 4 practical tips that will help you create the marriage you want:
1. Lower your expectations
In your little casa on the hill, you are quickly coming to realize that she is not the wife you had hoped for. He's not the husband you always dreamed of. Every day there are hundreds of things he or she does that you never expected - and most of those things annoy you, frustrate you, or hurt your feelings. All of a sudden everything that your spouse does is wrong (or perhaps just different than the way you would do it), and it seems to give you reason to constantly be angry, critical, and/or frustrated!
Your husband or wife isn't who you thought they were.
Or, are your expectations simply too high?
A wise elderly woman was asked the secret to her long and happy marriage. Her response?
"I lowered my expectations." (Marjorie Pay Hinckley)
Do it. Just lower your expectations. That simple act will reduce conflict and contention in your marriage, and will change the way you view that dashing husband or beautiful wife of yours. To put it simply...
Take a good look in the mirror
Don't sweat the small stuff
Don't expect perfection from your spouse
"Don't try to make him into what you want him to be. You fell in love with what he is. He will still grow. But you'll learn from experience to trust what he does rather than jumping to negative conclusions when you don't understand something."(Bruce C. Hafen, Covenant Hearts, Deseret Book: [Salt Lake City, 2005] p.71-72)
Instead of trying to change your husband or wife to fit your expectations, choose to love and celebrate the differences that make both of you unique and wonderful. Embrace imperfection and realize that change and progress are possible, which is pretty good news.
2. Express affection often
You can express affection in a hundred different ways. Say, "I love you." Come on, just let the words out. Wink at her. Give him a quick back scratch. Bring her flowers. Or chocolate. Or gum. Or ice cream. Or a new shirt. Or anything she would love. Write him love notes on tiny pieces of paper and put them all over his car along with his favorite snack.
Hold her face in your hands while you kiss her and tell her she is beautiful. Sit next to him on the couch and touch his knee while you talk. Hold her hand in the car. Tickle him. Or just poke him (FLIRT, people!). Swat her bum as you walk by. Kiss his ear. Fold the laundry. Leave a note on the mirror. Mow the lawn for him before he gets home.
You know how to do this affection thing, so be intentional about it every day! " Just remember, real affection, the kind that comes from your heart, is the kind of affection that will bind you to your spouse in a deeply meaningful and surprisingly satisfying way. And that feeling alone should be worth all the awkwardness that being mushy-gushy might make you feel.
3. Be a peacemaker
That's right. Creating the marriage you want is possible if you are willing to be a peacemaker. Now, that doesn't mean that you have to let your spouse have his or her way all the time, or that you have to be submissive and quiet. It simply means that you consistently recognize that your relationship with, and commitment to your husband or wife is far more important than any misunderstanding or disagreement that may come up. And that you choose to be tactful, kind, and respectful in the way you disagree.
One of the best ways for you to create peace and harmony at home is to watch the words that come out of your mouth, and the tone of voice you choose to use. Thumper, from the Disney Classic, Bambi, said it best, "If you can't say something nice...don't say nothing at all." So, choose to watch your words. Bite your tongue. Lower your voice. And beware of criticism and nagging.
Seek to create peace by being first to say "I'm sorry," and by always being quick to forgive. As you choose peace over contention in your marriage, you will find that the "happily," part of "happily ever after," comes more quickly than you may have expected. And that is a VERY good thing.
4. Spend time together
If your husband or wife is your top priority, then make sure you are spending enough time (quality time) with him or her. On a daily basis. Often, because life is so stinking busy and demanding, we have to make choices about who gets our time and what quality of time they get. So please, oh please, be intentional about creating and planning meaningful ways to spend time with your lover.
A great leader, Joe J. Christensen once taught, "Keep your courtship alive. Make time to do things together-just the two of you. As important as it is to be with the children as a family, you need regular weekly time alone together. Scheduling it will let your children know that you feel that your marriage is so important that you need to nurture it. That takes commitment, planning, and scheduling." (Ensign, May 1995)
So, commit to spending quality time with your spouse every day. Planning regular date nights and getaways are perhaps some of the best ways to be intentional about spending meaningful time with your spouse. However, it's also important to choose to spend your quality time sharing life together, side-by-side, because relationships grow and are nurtured with shared time, and shared space. Sharing time and space together in meaningful ways can simply mean making dinner together, or painting that room together or just cuddling up and watching a show together.
There you have it- four very practical ways you can create the marriage you want this week. Are you ready? Go give your marriage some nurturing, and remember that often you won't see the fruits of your labors until enough time has passed, so be patient! Eventually, you will look back and realize that through your commitment, love, sacrifice, and hard work, you have created the marriage you always wanted - and that the process (not just the destination) has been one of the greatest sources of joy and happiness in your life.
This article was originally published here. It has been republished with permission.