Friday, February 13, 2015

What I've learned about love through marriage

Of all the posts I've done this week, this one has definitely been the most challenging to write!
Marriage is unlike any relationship I have ever experienced.
I knew it would be powerful, I knew it would be beautiful, and I knew it would be fulfilling,
but I just didn't know how deeply powerful, beautiful and fulfilling it would be until I found Jason.

I know that every marriage is different, and each couple has their own set of challenges.
None of us are perfect, which means none of our relationships will be perfect.
I would never want any of the things I say on this blog to make it sound like I have everything figured out or that I'm even perfectly consistent at following my own advice,
but I do know that reading someone else's experiences can help you with your own life experiences.

So here's what I've learned about love through marriage so far!

Surprise each other often
This one makes marriage such a blast! Surprises and fun romantic evenings aren't uncommon during the dating and engagement phases of love, but something about marriage can cause those surprises to start dwindling. It doesn't have to be that way though! Surprises can be simple, something like picking up your spouse's favorite cereal at the store, or showing up at work or school to take your spouse on a lunch date. I don't know what it is, but surprises like these help remind you how much you love and appreciate each other, and suddenly nothing else matters in the world!

Jason is seriously great at little surprises, and they make me feel so loved! They also make me want to surprise him more, which makes the fun continue. Just tonight I came home to a sweet card on our bed (he's out of town and I won't see him until tomorrow) letting me know he loves me. It's the little things, guys!

Be fiercely loyal

I heard the phrase "fiercely loyal" in a talk by President Monson and it has always stuck with me. To be fiercely loyal is to defend your marriage with everything you have. Speak positively about your spouse, and don't vent about little things to family members or friends. Remember, they will probably never forget what you tell them, and they will usually never hear the resolution to whatever issue you were filling them in on.

Beware of social media -- especially when it comes to former boyfriends/girlfriends. To be fiercely loyal is to lock your heart, filling it with love for your spouse, and your spouse only. Loyalty in marriage allows you to love completely, and you can never take too many precautions in this area.

^^ Jason made this name tag for me the week after we got engaged at a ward activity, ha!
(I don't think we need to be this extreme, but it's a good reminder!)

When it comes to listening, don't multitask
I'm going to be honest -- this one is a tough one! When you're married you spend more time together than ever before, which means the time you spend together isn't always just focused on each other like it was when you were dating. You'll be beside each other sending emails, reading books, or in the same room but doing very unrelated things. This can make putting whatever you're doing down to listen to your spouse's ideas or concerns difficult, especially when you're in the middle of something. My advice? When your spouse wants to chat, put the phone down, close the computer and look them in the eyes and listen. This is a very small, but meaningful, way to show someone you love them!

Thank God for each other in front of each other
When we were engaged, someone gave us a piece of advice that we have stuck to every day of our marriage. They said, "Pray together morning and evening, and when you pray, thank Heavenly Father for your spouse, and tell Him what you are grateful for about that person." I think that's all I need to say about that one. It's led to some beautiful, heartfelt prayers.

Learn your spouse's love language
Taking the love language quiz makes for a great date for married, engaged, or seriously dating couples! The book is nice as well, but not necessary because each of the love languages is pretty self explanatory. Also realize that love languages can evolve after marriage, so the same ways you showed love to your spouse may or may not be the ways they feel it the most once you're married! That being said though, I think I'll always be a quality time person, and Jason will always be physical touch. Jason loves to be close to me, and I love to spend time with him so it works out well! Honestly though, any of the love languages make me feel loved, and I think many people are that way. Just put your spouse first, spend time together, show physical affection and chances are, your love for each other will deepen!

Be social together
When we got married we made a decision to make hosting and attending social gatherings a priority. Of course, being social shouldn't take precedence over your relationship, but also realize that being social together can definitely strengthen your relationship! Seeing Jason interact with people always makes me fall more in love with him. When we're social together, we also create fun memories and build lifelong friendships. Socializing energizes us, and it's a healthy way to keep your marriage fun!

Walk it out
I'm pretty sure I've made it clear on this blog how much I love to walk! Luckily Jason enjoys evening walks as well, so we do a lot of talking and walking. Maybe for you, it's not walking but going on a drive, stargazing, or sitting on a porch swing. We love to walk though, and this activity has been the greatest thing for our marriage! It gets us out of the house, away from distractions, and focused completely on each other for however long we want it to last. When we walk together, it's like nothing else matters and it really helps me prioritize.

Walking also gets us in the habit of asking each other questions about how the day went, what we're working on, what's concerning us, what we're excited about. We also love to ask each other random questions about childhood memories, high school, and life before we met each other. These questions are common for the dating phase of life, but keep them going into marriage! Become an expert on your spouse. Know their likes, their fears, their accomplishments, and their hopes and dreams. Knowing these things about each other will create a beautiful friendship.

Well, that's it for my love week posts!
I hope you have a lovely Valentine's Day, whether you're spending it with family, friends, a spouse, or a pint of ice cream.
I've spent a Valentine's Day or two doing all of those things!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I learned about love through engagement

Being engaged was one of the most exciting times of my life!
Preparing for marriage when you can see it right around the corner is SO much fun.
You sometimes hear that engagements are terrible, long, painful, and nerve-wracking.
Well, I'm sure some are, but also realize that there are plenty of engagements that are fun!
While many external factors can help or harm and engagement, most things are in your control.
In my opinion, two of the most important things to keep control of are these:
your preparation and your attitude.

For me, the preparation began before Jason was ever in the picture.
A few weeks before we met, I was convinced I was going to serve a mission and began preparing to go to the temple more consciously than I ever had before.
Because of that, and other decisions I had made in the years prior, by the time he popped the question I felt pretty prepared for the next phase of my life.
This was a huge blessing, and probably the main reason our engagement went so smoothly!

As for attitude -- have a good one!
Bumps in the road will come, but it's your choice to make those out to be little speed bumps or huge pot holes.
Looking on the bright side and remembering who you're marrying will make all the difference!
Yes, weddings are cool, but marriage is even better!
So remember to keep your fiance your #1.

I'm no expert, but here are a few things I learned through my own engagement!

If possible, don't be involved in every detail of the wedding planning

This one is circumstantial for sure. In my situation, it didn't make sense for me to be planning the entire wedding when I had a mom and family friend (with excellent taste!) who were thrilled with the idea of helping with anything they could! I was in my final semester of college and living a state away, which also made handing off most of the planning an easy choice. Yes, I planned the things I really cared about, but anything I could pass on, I did! And boy am I grateful. I know not everyone wants to do this -- or has the support to do this -- but if you do, I highly recommend it. When I walked into our reception the only thing I felt was awe and extreme gratitude.

Stay busy

Find productive things to do! Get out of the house. Find hobbies you both enjoy. Stay physically active. Continue to go to church activities. Continue to spend time with your friends and roommates. When possible, group date. Include others. Don't be weird.

Two of my favorite things we did during our engagement were taking a ski class together and getting yoga memberships. We had a blast doing both of these things, and it gave us something to do when options were more limited in the winter time in Utah. Some of our greatest memories came from these two activities!

Take time during engagement to decide what kind of spouse you want to be

If you haven't really thought about it, make some conscious decisions during your engagement on the things you will and will not do as a spouse. Write them down in your journal so you can look back on them. For example, when we were engaged, I decided I didn't ever want to call Jason a mean name or demean him in any way, so I made that decision ahead of time. Choices like that are much better made before marriage rather than in the heat of the moment.

By deciding certain things before hand, you can literally design your marriage. I know that sounds crazy and idealistic, but if you and your fiancé share similar goals (I hope so, you're marrying this person!) then you should both be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve them. If your goal is a happy, healthy marriage, you can have it! Just decide now that's what you want, and choose to fight for it every day. Decide now to be fiercely loyal to your spouse. Decide now to be happy to see them every time you meet after a long day. Decide now to be a good listener and put your spouse's needs before your own. Whatever it is you want, decide now!

Realize that marriage won't change your relationship; you change your relationship for marriage

If there's something you don't love about your relationship dynamic, try to find a solution during your engagement so you never have to bring it into your marriage. Another thing to recognize is if you fight while you're engaged, you'll probably fight when you're married, especially as a newlywed (and no, not everyone fights when they're newlyweds!). Don't blame it on the wedding stress, you're still in control of your emotions and the way you act now will carry straight into your marriage.

Don't wish your engagement away

Engagements can be amazing! Enjoy it! I know that's easier said than done, but enjoy the anticipation, the celebration, the excitement, and the joy. Soon enough you'll be married, and this period of your life will be over. So decide to enjoy every moment!


Monday, February 9, 2015

What I learned about love through dating

The dating years of your life -- however long they may last -- can be some of the most fun, random times you'll ever have! Those same years though can be heartbreaking and lonely ones.
There will probably be waves of both, but overall, your dating experience can make up some of the best years of your life!

That being said, here are a few things I learned from my dating experiences.

Don't travel in a pack
This one is easiest done if you're on a university campus during a chunk of your dating years. I spent a lot of time walking from class to class, studying in the library, and generally just being on campus during my time at BYU. Because I was often alone, I think it was easier for others to approach me and just strike up a conversation. This led to some of the most wonderful dates I went on in college! Sometimes I hear girls rag on guys for asking them out in public places like the library or a restaurant, and unless the person is acting really crazy, you should probably be flattered! Plus, that takes some guts on the guy's part. You don't ever have to accept a date from a complete stranger, but if you think you might be interested and you feel good about it, go for it!

Dating is personal, try not to take it personally
Now this one is hard. When someone breaks up with you, or stops asking you out, they're basically saying, "I don't want to be with you, at least not romantically." It's personal, there's no way around it! And it can be devastating. Just try to remember in those painful moments that there is someone who wants to be with you more than anyone else, it's just not that person. Bounce back, keep dating, keep putting yourself out there. Keep smiling and being approachable, and more opportunities will come. Also, when you're the person ending a relationship or declining another date, be as kind as you possibly can. Be honest about your feelings, but do it with compassion.

I think we can all agree that everyone looks more radiant and beautiful when they are smiling! When we smile, we immediately appear more warm and inviting. Even if you don't feel like smiling, try on a smile anyway. The amazing thing is that just the act of smiling can change your attitude from glum to happy in a matter of seconds. I've heard from countless guys that one of the main things they're looking for is someone who radiates happiness, and while this comes more naturally to some than others, we are all in control of our attitudes and the best way to start is with a smile!

*A side note on this one... Jason's favorite memory of us dating happened when we had only been going out for a week or two in Washington, D.C. We were walking around the city one evening and in the middle of a crosswalk we heard a guy say, "Woah, she's happy." We laughed so hard, and Jason reminds me often that my smile and happy demeanor is the most attractive thing to him about me.

Don't bring social media into your relationship prematurely
Once you do, it will never go away. If you aren't in an exclusive relationship, you probably shouldn't post photos of you kissing him on the cheek or going on a romantic date (#datenight). This will always make your relationship/non-relationship look much more serious than it is to the ladies back home who like all your photos. If you don't want to be asked about "that guy in the photo you posted two months ago" then don't post that photo! Also, in most cases it's probably not appropriate to post photos of first dates, especially without the consent of the other person. I know that sounds overzealous, but in the dating world you're always better off safe than sorry.

Give blind dates a chance
I know, I know, you've been on 35 blind dates and none of them have worked out! In fact some have been terribly awkward and weird. Well, you've probably heard this before, but none of them are going to work out until one of them does! Jason and I were set up, and before I met Jason I had been on probably a dozen blind dates. And guess what? None of them worked out. Some of them were a little uncomfortable and most of them didn't lead to a second date. But would I go on a dozen blind dates that don't work out all over again to find Jason? Of course I would! All it takes is one good blind date to never have to go on a blind date again.

Be careful with the phrase "I love you"
This is a powerful, beautiful phrase. When you say "I love you" you're saying a lot of things, the most poignant of them being that you don't want to be without that person anymore. With Jason, the thought "I love you" crossed my mind many times before I actually said it. I wanted to be sure that when I did say those words, there was no doubt in my mind that I loved him. Once you say I love you, the love train can really pick up speed and it's much harder to stop and get off that train when it's already headed toward the future. So make things easier on yourself and recognize that saying, "I love you" will change the course of your relationship, which can be blissful!

If a guy wants to ask you out, he will make it happen
As girls, we have a tendency to come up with a slew of scenarios explaining why a guy isn't asking us out. He lost my number, he dropped his phone in the toilet, he got appendicitis, he had a family emergency, it's "bad timing". The painful reality is, in most situations, the guy isn't asking you out because he just isn't that interested. Yes, his feelings can change, he can suddenly notice you, remember you, or have a stroke of inspiration to take you on a date, but it's best to move on and not count on it. This can be so hard, because as a girl it makes you feel so helpless in the dating world. In these difficult times where you feel like you're developing patience you never knew existed, remember that there is someone who wants to be with you more than anyone else, and there will be no convincing necessary.

No matter what phase of dating you may be in, stay optimistic, be patient, and don't give up hope! Sometimes things don't work out how or when we hoped they would, but one day we'll look back and connect the dots and recognize there was a reason for every moment.

Thanks for reading!