Marriage notes from a husband in training
“Oh, Jonathan is one lucky man!”
Our neighbour, friend and mortgage broker Paul remarked to Kylie a few days ago. She laughed as she recounted the story to me.
“Jonathan has you to help him with all the money stuff and running the business and then on top of all that you’ve also bought him a Tesla! Oh, tell him when you see him that I think that he is a very lucky man Kylie”.
But see, Paul didn’t tell me something that I didn’t already know.
The most interesting aspect of this was that I’d thanked Kylie a few days previous to this exchange about how pivotal of a role that she plays in our family.
And that is a good place to introduce the fuel for this article — gratitude.
The preface to this piece is gratitude. It is overflowing wonder and out-of-this-world admiration for my wife Kylie. The last twelve months have been the most testing in our spiritual world and my professional life. And as we’ve clung tightly to God’s promises, we’ve held on to each other tightly too.
When I think about our marriage and the seasons of life that we’ve walked through, I liken it to a ship sailing through the rough seas of life’s turmoil, the calm waters of joy and the avoiding the icebergs that seek to sink us.
So these are a few post-graduate lessons that I’ve learnt as a husband who is approaching his 18th year of training. My hope is that you find your marriage story in ours and feel encouraged in your own relationship.
Thank you, Jesus. And thank you, Kylie, my gal pal. I’d ink your name on my arm if I was that way inclined.
Marriage Notes (in no particular order)
If you want your wife to take your breath away, allow her to. Don’t manage her or give her advice on how to be better or try to control her. She’s beautiful the way she is. Beauty shines when you allow it to and when gratitude is the aroma of your life together.
Integrity. Who you are when no one is looking matters. Secrets have a tendency to hurt, destroy and maim those you love the most. Get clean now, there is hope for you yet. Secrets destroy families and marriages.
A wise man allows his wife to speak into his life. She often is the one who knows him best. Wise men seek counsel from their wives, allow them to influence their decisions and help them to become better men.
The woman you married many years ago has changed. What worked then to romance and love her will not work now. And if you understand this and work to love her in this season, your wife will never look as beautiful as she does right now. The richness of your interactions, the intimacy and trust between you will be unbreakable and again, she will take your breath away.
Love. Love is not a feeling and it doesn’t simply exist between the sheets. Love is a practical word — it is always accompanied by action.
First and foremost, love in marriage is doing everything you can to keep your promise, the covenant you made, to serve, honour and obey your bride.
True love is a choice we make each day. Love doesn’t magically occur. We, by choice, work to fan the flames of love each day. I’m not interested in learning from couples with no fire in their eyes, no cheeky smiles and no love language of their own. These are people attached only by paper.
Love always “does” something.
Love exists always in the simple. It is never over the top and isn’t expensive. It is thoughtful action performed with daily intention. From dropping and picking up the kids from school, to intentionally scheduling a date night — this is love. To being in control of your sexuality and keeping your eyes, mind and heart only for your wife — this is love. Love too enquires into your wife’s world, listens and doesn’t try to fix her. Love listens to her hopes, supports her dreams and always look intentionally for ways to help. Love is practical around the home and is always available.
Building a great sex life is not rocket science. This is mandatory reading for all couples. Work and research from the Gottman Institute. Kylie and I are not rocket scientists.
A steady ship sailing through the storms and seasons of life is how I see life with my beloved, my gal pal, my Kylie Blue Sky. Fads come and go, our children will grow up, vocations change, ill-health may happen, but the steady ship sails on…intentionally.
A beautiful marriage is an emotionally healthy one. An emotionally healthy couple are aware of their own emotions and that of each other. They invest each day into the quality of their relationship through multiple meaningful interactions.
Emotionally healthy couples are aware of how external factors (especially work and children!) affect their marriage and what they must do to manage their own emotions. Men don’t always get this one right as we often tend to mask how we truly feel. But this is important! Dr John Gottman found that a key to a lasting marriage is an emotionally intelligent husband. Learning to express your emotion with truth and love is wise and like any skill, these can be learned if we are intentional.
Beautifully boring and elegantly simple and walking along the straight and narrow path trumps every other version of marriage. Good marriages exude rich simplicity.
Do not neglect intentional time of playing together as husband and wife as you once did. Playing together is the “spark” of marriage. I don’t believe in the term “drifting apart”. This is to me is code for selfishness and a lack of intention in marriage. This is a heart that has been won by other things because it has been allowed to drift. The promise you made to each other is what matters most.
She’s beautiful. Always and forever. Do everything in your power to love, honour and protect her. Priorities matter.
If you are struggling together, stop. Stop looking for quick fixes. Stop listening to your stupid friends and reading useless tips on the internet. And stop spending useless money to medicate and mask the problems. Get help. And get help now, there is hope.
Find older men who’ve raised great kids and whose wives radiate the beauty of an intentional and wonderful marriage. Buy them a coffee or lunch and listen to their stories. Everyone thinks they are unique until they realise their problems are all the same. P/S beware of the man or woman who boasts about the number of years that they’ve been married — be keen to ask and find out if it one year repeated thirty times or thirty years of growth, wonder and joy? The latter always has the most to teach.
Hold her hand. On the couch. In bed. Walking outside. Sitting next to each other. Hold her hand. Romance is built always on simple acts, performed regularly and refined by the years
Kiss her in the morning. Kiss her in the evening. Intentions become a habit and habits become life. And this type of intentional life leaves a legacy, “mum and dad were in love. From the way, they joked around and the way they held and kissed each other, you could tell. They were in love”. What a legacy and memory to leave your children with.
Money is a team game in marriage. There isn’t yours or mine, there is only ours. Work together with a purpose and a plan, play often and win for a lifetime.
Money is a tool. Exchanged for time and stuff. Money buys you freedom but freedom with no love, fake smiles and fights about money are useless. Money is most tight when your kids are growing up. Be clear about money’s role, have a plan and spend less than what you make. Creating margin with money in your marriage at the expense of looking good to your friends is priceless. (Read this — especially #2 then read the articles linked at the bottom)
The way you talk about her matters. If it’s flippant, derogatory, insensitive and rude don’t be surprised at the quality of your relationship. Words matter. They reflect the condition of your heart. Hurtful words = bad marriage.
A beautiful marriage is when both husband and wife live mutually inspired and in admiration of each other. When you know how truly amazing and good she is, this changes everything. You stop living to please her superficially and start living to preserve, repair, build, grow, get better, improve and do everything you can be close, stay close through sickness and dark times and difficult days until death parts you.
Insecurity in marriage is a stain and in the long term, a killer. It prevents you from showing up at your best. Everything to an insecure person has a hidden meaning or an ulterior motive. Gosh, this sounds like hard work! Secure people show up convinced that they are worthy and have nothing to prove and nothing to defend. This starts with both husband and wife having a loving relationship with themselves. If insecurity is a problem, get help from a professional.
Good enough is the antidote to perfection. Knowing that you are indeed good enough is the start of cultivating a loving relationship with yourself is the hallmark of security.
Find a marriage mentor and talk to them often. Someone with the fire of passion in their eyes for their spouse. The fruit of a wonderful marriage is what to look for: stability through the storms, a spark when they look at each other, rich simplicity and an elegant rhythm. These people are my heroes, next to Dave Grohl and Tim Keller….
The most important thing in marriage is the promise you made to each other and before God. To live, learn and love until death parts you. This promise is everything. Do all you can to preserve this.
Enjoyment from the success of your career and achievements is directly proportional to the health of your marriage. A strong marriage is often the foundation to success in life. If everything at home is falling apart but your career is going gangbusters….this disproportion will catch up with you. Outwardly you may be going well and inwardly you are wasting away.
Men, draw circles of protection around marriage. Do not let another woman in or even open the possibility of another person winning your heart. Adultery never “just happens”. There is always a break in the circle and you are the one who broke it. Be so squeaky clean about your boundaries that it is maddening. I am, and I don’t care. Kylie is worth it. And what we have is beautiful.
Marriage is a rhythm. It doesn’t thrive in chaos. Chaos is always the precursor for hurt — infidelity, addiction, distraction, miscommunication and eventually fertile ground for the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.
Rhythms are never boring unless you don’t know how to dance. And if you find the dance boring, check your heart — is it resting elsewhere, does someone or something have your heart instead of your wife?
In this season of life, our rhythm in this season revolves around school and work. And I love it! This is because it provides the structure for romance and for intentional daily love. It won’t be like this forever, so Kylie and I are making the most of enjoying our boys and enjoying each other in this season.
The lunch date and daytime rendezvous are the most overlooked, romantic and pleasurable activities a husband and wife can plan for. Everyone is awake, full of energy, at their best and the kids are either at school or in daycare! The lunch date has become our staple in this season. Again, seasons of life.
Your commitment to each other and faith (values for non-believers) should set the agenda of your marriage, not your work and hobbies. Everything outside your marriage and relationship with God should NOT be determining factor for the direction of your life. If work and hobbies set the agenda for your life do not be surprised by the quality of your marriage. Priorities matter. The right ones anyway!
How do you know that your marriage needs help? Well, play forward 2–3 and 5–10 years what is happening now between you. Is it good? Is it better? Are you closer? If not, stop and get help. This is self-leadership and this is courage. The feelings that cowardice and courage both face are the same, but it is courage that embraces uncertainty and takes the risk. This is what you must do to protect your legacy and possibly save your marriage. The first step is always the hardest one. Marriage counselling early in our relationship was the catalyst for change and the greatest inflexion point of growth for us both.
Building circles of protection around your marriage are all start with accountability. Accountability is defined as truth and light. If there were light shone into the corners of your life, would anything be found? Secrets and shame thrive in darkness and fear the bright light of truth.
Honour your wife. Give her the praise and reward and everything wonderful that she deserves. She is creative. She is hard-working. She is intelligent. She is kind. She is wise. She is dignity embodied. She is your wife. And she is beautiful.
And one final thing. Life has a habit of changing in an instant, trust me I am a Palliative Care doctor! So cherish your wife and cherish your life together. Live in the moment, for these are the best days of your life.
If you liked this article and it meant something to you, please share it. A strong marriage is the strength of your life.
Enjoy your health!
Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan