Marriage Hack: Write a Marriage Manifesto

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In a nod to Gretchen Rubin, I’ve written my own 10 commandments for my marriage, or my marriage manifesto.

Our theme for the month is marriage hacks- helpful tips and tools for your marriage. Last week’s post:


I’ve recently gotten into this great podcast called Happier by Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) and her sister Elizabeth. In it, Gretchen and Elizabeth talk a lot about manifestos, which are meant to be reminders of the life lessons you’ve learned and aspirations for who you want to become. These manifestos can be for one specific thing or just for your life generally.
Here is Gretchen’s for her life (which she outlines in this post ):
1. Be Gretchen.
2. Let it go.
3. Act the way I want to feel.
4. Do it now.
5. Be polite and be fair.
6. Enjoy the process.
7. Spend out. (This is probably the most enigmatic of my commandments.)
8. Identify the problem.
9. Lighten up.
10. Do what ought to be done.
11. No calculation.
12. There is only love.

Her sister Elizabeth recently outlined a manifesto for her marriage, which she describes further in this podcast ):

1. Use a kind voice.
2. Pick up, pick up, pick up.
3. Assume the best, accept the worst.
4. Temples are there to be rubbed. (he gets a lot of migraines)
5. Devices down.
6. Say yes.
7. Nag sparingly.
8. If not him, then an exact replica (If she didn’t have him, she would be out looking for someone EXACTLY like him)

 

Guess how much this self-help guru loves the idea of manifestos???

SO MUCH!!!

 

So, I will now delight you all with my own marriage manifesto.

Ahem.

1. Let Rich be Rich.
2. I didn’t get my way and that’s ok.
3. Love what is.
4. Forgive before you fix.
5. Listen before you speak.
6. To every time there is a season.
7. Focus on feelings.
8. It starts with me.
9. Expect almost nothing.
10. Charity never faileth.

Key point here before I go deeper- manifestos are meant to be aspirational, so this is not necessarily a list of what I do, but what I ASPIRE to do. Remember, I am not a better wife than you.

Let’s break those down, shall we?

1. Let Rich be Rich

This is probably the number one lesson I’ve learned since starting this blog. It’s not my job to correct his character flaws. It’s not my responsibility to oversee his spiritual progression. It is not my place to police his interactions with our children. I get to be me, he gets to be him. Learning to let go of the feeling of responsibility I used to carry to “make him the best him that he can be” has finally granted me the freedom to love Rich unconditionally.

2. I didn’t get my way and that’s ok.

One of my marriage heroes, Dr. Fred Luskin in his book Forgive for Love (which I talk about here and here) defines forgiveness as “the ability to remain at peace when you do not get what you want.” I truly believe forgiveness is one of, if not THE most important characteristic of a happy marriage. When I don’t get my way and can feel a temper tantrum starting in my head I try to think, “oh yeah, I’m not getting my way right now. . . . and oh yeah, that’s ok.”

3. Love what is.

This comes from Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is. I just talked about this last week here, but the very idea of loving whatever stage your marriage is at right now and loving your spouse however they are right now without waiting for what you might consider crucial improvements, is a beautiful sentiment. And I LOVE how she provides a little worksheet and set of questions to apply over and over and over in any situation you find yourself not loving your reality. So helpful.

4. Forgive before you fix.

This is another gem from forgiveness expert Dr. Fred Luskin, and it has helped me immensely. Learning to fight well is key to the success of any marriage, and this little tip of trying to forgive your spouse for whatever is upsetting you BEFORE you discuss it with them (or yell at them or angry text them, whatever the case may be . . .) has been extremely helpful.

5. Listen before you speak.

I learned so much researching for this article about weekly check ins or what we call companionship inventory. Formerly, I have to say often these meetings weren’t super fun because I was so focused on getting Rich to see things my way on whatever issue we were discussing (parenting, household duties, a purchase, etc). Now, I consciously try to just listen to understand his side before I present my own.

Or . . . . I would if I were perfect. Which I’m not, so I’ll say I now aspire to do that. I’m probably putting myself in too great a light in this post, these are things I have to remind myself of frequently because my knee-jerk reaction is to do the opposite of them.

This is my marriage manifesto- a set of 10 guidelines and aspirations I've written to remind myself to be the wife I want to be. Click through to read more.

6. To every time there is a season.

I’ve noticed that whenever things are going really well in our marriage, I think things will never be bad. And whenever things aren’t so great I think they’ll never be great again. But it’s not true. Marriage is full of peaks and valleys. It just is. They pass. I’m trying to remind myself to soak up all I can from our peaks and know that the valleys won’t last. Fights are like clouds in the sky – they may be big and ugly sometimes, but they pass.  They don’t define us.

Also, after we did our series last year on improving intimacy, I have to say our love life in the bedroom was . . . . ahem, pretty great. I honestly thought it would be like that forever, like we had reached an understanding of how important it was and how great it was for our marriage to be intimate frequently, but sadly, we didn’t keep it up to the same extent we had been. I was feeling down on myself for this, but I’m realizing that to every time there is a season.

We used to be super great about having a 10 minute connect each night, and now that has died down. There will be another season where we put all our focus on our bedroom again I’m sure, just like seasons where we focus on communication or date nights or physical fitness or whatever. Peaks and valleys are natural.

7. Focus on feelings.

I had always heard that we should be using “I” statements instead of “you” statements when we disagree (ex: “I feel unloved when you are on your phone so much.” vs “You are on your phone all day and night! YOU never talk to me!”).

I haven’t always been very good at it, but this idea of focusing on feelings was really driven home to me recently as I was conducting an interview for my new book about mixed-faith marriages. The lady I was interviewing said,

“For so long I was so hurt and distraught, off in my own corner grieving, blaming my spouse. And he’s off in his corner grieving and blaming me. And finally we started saying, ‘Hey I’m hurting.’ And I started just asking for a hug. The first step is noticing, getting in tune with what we are feeling, what is going on within ourselves. This puts us in a position to ask what we need from each other without accusing them of anything.”

So great, right?

8. It starts with me.

So much of our potential marital progress has been stymied by me “waiting” for Rich to solve or help solve a problem. For instance, the idea, “well, I would love to work out a budget/ exercise together/ have more sex/ improve our companionship inventories, but HE isn’t on the same page.”

No more. I can do what I can do. And it turns out, I can do a lot. It has to start with someone and since I can’t control anyone else, well, that means if I want something started, I have to start it.

Be the initiator.

9. Expect almost nothing.

This has been a learning curve for sure. So, so so many of our previous fights could have been avoided if I had learned earlier the value of keeping my expectations low. Often I will imagine how I want my day to go or an event to go and when that doesn’t happen I have a really hard time letting go of my disappointment.

Particularly where Rich is involved, I am learning to keep my expectations very low. Not because I don’t believe in him, but because if I want something done, I need to do it myself and not expect him to fulfill my expectations that he is not responsible for and is generally completely unaware of.

If I don’t expect him to do the dishes, I’m not upset he doesn’t do them! If I want the dishes done, I need to do the dishes.

10. Charity never faileth.

It’s true. It never does. This is from a scripture found in Moroni 7:46 of the Book of Mormon. Charity, or the pure love of Christ can get us out of the negative spiral of marital misery faster than anything else.  Love, pure love, unconditional love NEVER fails.

 

And because I know you couldn’t possibly have satiated your appetite for hearing about my manifestos, I’m going to include my overall life manifesto I wrote as well (I’ll spare you my blogging manifesto, health manifesto and spiritual manifesto 😉 )

1. I can’t, but WE can. To remind myself I can’t do much of anything, but with Christ and Rich, WE can do quite a lot.

2. It’s not how much I give, but how much love I put into the giving. Thank you Mama T for my life motto. I apply it to my marriage, parenting, blogging and serving.
3. There is no them, only us. To remind my mind to stop judging people I deem different than myself (also the name of this article I wrote)
4. People only remember how you make them feel. Based on a quote by Maya Angelou to remind myself that people don’t really care how I look, dumb things I say, the fact that you often can’t see the carpet in my front room, they’ll remember most how they feel when they are around me.
5. You can’t do everything, but you can do something. To remind myself not to believe Satan’s lie that it’s all or nothing. It’s a full on diet plan or junk food all the time, it’s giving a homeless person a meal and ride to the homeless shelter or avoid eye contact.  Lies.
6. Be the change you wish to see in the world. If everyone in the world acted as I did, what would it be like? What would the environment be like? What would Facebook be like? What would politics, religion, parenting, neighborhoods be like?
7. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. I need to remind myself fervently and frequently to not be overwhelmed.  Big tasks are accomplished little task by little task.
8. There you are! “There are two types of people – those who walk into a room and say: ‘Here I am!’ and those who walk into a room and say: ‘There you are.’” – Glennon Doyle
9. Don’t pray to change your circumstances, but that YOU in your circumstances might be changed. This is what David A. Bednar says is the key to unlocking grace, and I think the key to unlocking happiness.
10. You are a woman of love. To remind myself I am a child of God and as such I can fill myself up with so much love that it oozes out of me.  My identity as a woman of love is a foundation that can never be threatened or taken from me.

 

That’s it.  Have you ever written a manifesto?  Or set of guidelines for yourself?  If you have or if you will, would you mind sending them to me??  I would LOVE to read them!!!  athingcalledloveblog{at}gmail{dot}com.

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About Celeste Davis

Celeste loves dishing out unsolicited marriage advice over at A Thing Called Love Blog. Mom of three, wife of one, she's a big believer in the power of redemption, the power of kindness, and the power of Netflix. Also cheese.

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