Hillary Ibarra shares lighthearted wisdom to help married couples strengthen their relationship.
My husband and I just celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary, and Father’s Day came two days after our anniversary. Because of so many years dedicated to each other and to our children, I sprang for the good bottle of Champagne this year and bought my man a special bottle of Irish whiskey to honor him (in addition to a Father’s Day must: work shirts and socks).
After 22 years of marriage, I have some lighthearted advice on how to navigate this blessed adventure called marriage.
1. Be honest but be kind.
After almost a quarter century of marriage, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. While watching my husband Matthew daintily putting spoon to mouth while enjoying his millionth bowl of ice cream, I blurted out:
“You eat dessert like an old British lady at a church bazaar!”
My slip made me reflect on the fact that I eat like a horse, but he has never once said it to my face. He’s my better half in many ways.
2. Be polite.
"Bless you" is the pinnacle of civility, according to my husband. For years he lambasted me each time I didn't say "bless you" when he manfully sneezed.
Now I'm so worried about not blessing people that I nervously cry, "Bless you!" when anyone coughs, burps, or passes gas in this house. I even bless myself when no one else is around.
3. Don’t be jealous, but if you can’t help it, save it for special occasions.
My husband had a casual work event, but I was suffering from PMS that day. I passed out face-down on the living room couch for a nap, only to get ready last minute, choosing a comfortable skort and shoes that reminded me of my grandma.
At the company shindig, my husband greeted his pretty young coworker who arrived in ripped jeans with an entourage of hip friends, and I agonized over whether I was even wearing mascara.
It’s not right to be jealous in such cases, but emotions, like circumstances, are often uncontrollable. At least I wasn’t upset because he exchanged pleasantries with someone at Mass.
4. Share your dreams with each other.
My husband and I watched a TV show about a group of down-to-earth people who came into big money. They ditched their humble, traditional way of life for lavish, contemporary living.
I asked, “Honey, what would you do if we came into money?”
He replied without hesitation, “Buy some Adidas underwear.”
5. Be intimate, but not too intimate
I still won't let my husband see me brush my teeth. I lock the bathroom door.
My attempts to execute this basic hygienic task involve toothpaste flying at the mirror, spraying my glasses, dribbling in frothy rivers down my chin, and getting up my nostrils.
I'm transformed into a Frankenstein creature who points with sad eyes and inarticulate gurgling at the mess I've made of my shirt. My husband makes snarling noises any time he catches a glimpse of me performing this basic task.
I lock the bathroom door because I do not want to show up to marriage counseling one day and hear my husband cry, “My wife is all foam and no dignity!”
6. Accept your differences.
I am a nature girl, and my husband thinks the Great Outdoors is the soccer pitch. He loves reality TV competition shows, and I far prefer reading and watching murder mysteries.
We’ve learned to embrace these differences, especially after my husband and I got into a stupid shouting match over The Beatles during a music awards show. He couldn’t understand why people still listen to The Beatles, so I looked up several articles on my phone that listed them as one of the greatest rock bands of all time and yelled, “See! See!”
That argument lasted a ridiculously long time. We don’t discuss The Beatles anymore. That’s all right. Being a peacemaker is more important than agreeing on the greatest rock band of all time (which, of course, is The Beatles).
7. Prayer Hands are essential
My sister says that anytime she and her husband are going through a rough time—perhaps because they also disagree about The Beatles—she tells her husband, “Gimme those hands.” They pray together.
May we all pray with and for our spouse, keeping Jesus at the center of our marriages. That is the most important advice.
My last bit of advice? It’s that love isn’t a feeling that comes and goes. A spouse is at times the best companion for the journey to heaven and the cross that you must bear on that journey. But love is a free-will decision. It’s kindness, respect, mercy, and goodwill delivered every single day, in snow or rain, heat or gloom—just like the postal service.
And it helps if you do your best to crack each other up every day.
Copyright 2023 Hillary Ibarra
Images: Engagement photo copyright 2023 Hillary Ibarra, all rights reserved; Canva