Once upon a time my sister-in-law lived in England for a season. When she came back to the United States, she taught our whole family how to play a really fun – and kind of frustrating – game. The game was called “Mao,” and simply stated, is a game where you don’t know the rules when you start playing, and you have to figure them out as you go along in order to win the game. It’s pretty tricky, really fun, and super frustrating.
Last night I was thinking about how marriage is very similar to this game.
You go into marriage without a clue of “the rules.” And you kind of have to figure it out as you go along. Pretty tricky, really fun, and super frustrating, right?
Don’t get discouraged, if your marriage is a game where you don’t know the rules, then the following three ideas may help you better appreciate, enjoy, and figure out your marriage this week.
1. Every marriage is different.
There is no other marriage in the world just like yours. You and your spouse are unique individuals that come from different backgrounds, lifestyles, and experiences.
When you are able to recognize that every marriage is different, you can stop looking sideways and stop comparing your marriage with your friend’s marriage, or with your parent’s marriage. What works for them may not (and probably won’t) work for you.
In the game of “Mao,” the game will look different every time – because the rules change! Granted, the basic rules governing the game stay the same (just as values like loyalty, respect, kindness, and selflessness should govern all marriages), but the smaller rules – though vitally important – change from game to game depending on the players playing.
Your marriage looks different than mine. And my marriage looks different than the couple next door. And that is exactly how it should be.
So, celebrate the fact that no one else in the world has a marriage just like yours.
2. There is no one-size-fits-all-rulebook for marriage.
Ah, but we all wish there was! Here at Nurturing Marriage, we strive to provide you with practical tips and suggestions that may help you in your efforts to be intentional about taking care of your most important relationship – your marriage.
However, not all of the tips and suggestions we share will work for you. And that’s okay. For example, some couples get into fights and have to resolve things before they go to sleep. Others prefer to sleep on it. In some marriages, the wife takes care of the finances and in others, the husband does. A tip we share for greater intimacy in the bedroom may or may not work for you. And that’s okay.
In the game of “Mao” you catch on to some rules extremely quickly, but others take forever to figure out. The same thing applies in marriage. Some things in marriage may come easily to you and your spouse, and you will both catch on quickly, while other things will be more challenging.
However, since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all-rulebook for marriage, you and your spouse will have to write your own.
3. You and your spouse have to write your own rulebook.
In the game of “Mao” you need to figure out the rules if you want to win. Rules from other games – like Uno or Monopoly – won’t work in “Mao.” Likewise, while there is a place for marriage counseling, therapy, and websites like ours, some of the best marriage advice I could share with you today would be that you and your spouse have to figure out YOUR marriage. You have to figure out the rules of YOUR game.
With marriage comes great responsibility, and your greatest responsibility may be figuring out your marriage together.
Perhaps “figuring it out together,” or “writing your own rulebook” is the point of marriage. Or at least a lot of the point of marriage.
It seems that in the “figuring out the rules” you learn, grow, love, forgive, and try try again. Isn’t that what makes marriage beautiful and meaningful and deeply satisfying?
You and your spouse have to go through the sometimes-painful process of figuring married life out. When it gets hard, don’t quit or give up, just take it as a challenge that you haven’t yet discovered a new rule of your game.
You two have to figure out the ins and outs of areas like:
And the list goes on and on, especially when you break those areas down into real life situations.
The responsibility is on your shoulders to create a great marriage, because only you and your spouse can do it. A marriage counselor can suggest something that may or may not work. Nurturing Marriage can share an idea that may or may not work. There is absolutely a time and place to receive guidance, help, and ideas from outside sources, but ultimately your job is to learn all you can about successful marriages, and then to figure out what works best for you and that amazing spouse of yours.
Here are three ways you can work at figuring out the rules to your marriage this week.
No matter how long you have been married, you already know that communicating about needs, wants, likes, dislikes, and expectations is going to be important in figuring out the rules to your game.
So talk. Share your feelings. Share your frustrations.
Talk about what works for you and what rules you would hope govern your marriage. Listen to your spouse share what works for him/her.
Figure it out by commmmmmmmunicating (an oft-overstated marriage tip, that once again is left at your discretion to figure out).
2. Just try.
Trial and error, my friends. It’s the name of the game in marriage, right?
In the game of “Mao,” you to have attempt to follow what you think are the “rules” in order to figure them out. It’s all about trial and error.
So, learn all you can about marriage through books, mentors, websites, and communicating and then just try things. If you read a really great idea on our website, give it a try. You may have to tweak it to make it work in your marriage, or you may find that it doesn’t work at all. That’s okay. Don’t stop trying.
If you want to win the game, you need to figure out the rules and then play by the rules!
3. Be patient.
The beautiful thing about marriage is figuring out the game together. At times, the game will be really exciting and fun, and at other times it will be frustrating.
So, be patient.
Be patient with each other, and with your marriage, because I guarantee in this game-of-all-games, your marriage needs all the patience you can give it.
Marriage is the journey of a lifetime. At some future point, you will look back and realize it wasn’t even so much about the game as it was about who you were both becoming in the process and how you were learning to love, forgive, hold onto each other for dear life, and never ever ever give up.
So, go figure it out and have fun in the process!