Editor's Note: The article was originally published on NurturingMarriage.org. It is reprinted here with permission.
Sometimes we don't fully appreciate what we have until it's gone. It's an easy mistake that each of us may fall prey to at some point in our lives. This is not a mistake you want to make in your marriage.
Life is simply too short to spend your time feeling upset, frustrated, unwilling to forgive or angry. Simply put, don't spend your time in the "thick of thin things."
Just the other day I read an article in the news about a young (and pregnant) wife and mother, recently diagnosed with cancer. Shortly after giving birth to her sixth child, a little girl, she began her own fight for life. This made me remember another story I read in the news several years ago, about a young husband and father (whose wife was expecting their second child), who died tragically in a hiking accident.
My heart aches when I hear stories like these. Maybe it's because I'm a softy, or perhaps because I'm a young husband and father, myself. Whatever the case may be, it makes me want to give April a big hug and kiss and tell her, "I love you." It makes me want to tell my kids another bedtime story and have another "tickle fight" together.
Sometimes, unfortunately, we forget what really matters to us until it's gone. Only then, do we realize how good we actually had it, how truly blessed we have been. For example, I'm never more thankful for my health, than after I've been sick for an extended period of time.
Marriage can be much the same. It can be easy to overlook what a wonderful gift it is to spend your life with that special someone (especially when that special someone also happens to be smokin' hot, and pretty amazing). Time is our most precious commodity and life is simply too short to waste — especially when we never know how much of it we have left.
So, what can we do? Make every moment count. Live fully. Love deeply. And, appreciate the present.
In that vein, here are five simple suggestions for making every moment count:
1. Think before you speak
Growing up, my Dad had us memorize poems. Not just any poems, but poems that taught us meaningful lessons. Even though we didn't fully appreciate the lessons at the time, we were motivated because he would give us a quarter for every poem we passed off. Here's one that I remember by Will Carleton:
Boys flying kites haul in their white winged birds; You can't do that way when you're flying words. "Careful with fire," is good advice we know "Careful with words," is 10 times doubly so. Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead; But God Himself can't kill them when they're said.
It's a simple lesson, really. But, it obviously had a lasting impact on me. We can't take back the harsh words we speak. So, be careful what you say — especially to your spouse — and always think before you speak.
Sure, every now and then, you might let something slip through your lips that you really didn't mean. If, and when, that happens, be quick to say "I'm sorry."
2. Laugh a little more
Life is great, so enjoy it! Laughter is healthy, not only physically, but perhaps even more so, emotionally. So laugh... a lot...out loud. Laugh with your sweetheart about silly little things, about things that cause tension and about inside jokes the two of you share. Then simply relish the renewing feeling that laughter brings.
One lesson April has tried to teach me (whether successfully or not) is to not take myself too seriously. It's OK to let loose, show off your silly side, have a dance party with your family and let your hair down. Your spouse knows you better than anyone else; they know you inside and out and they've seen ALL of you — so there's no need to hold back and feel embarrassed. Just laugh!
3. Express love often
You will never regret telling your husband or wife, "I love you." It's impossible to say it too much. Just as important as saying it, is SHOWING it.
So here's a challenge: do something extra, today, to SHOW your spouse you love them. Put your arm around them and pull them in tight, do the dishes, give them a flirty touch, fold the laundry, scratch their back while sitting on the couch, push them up against the wall and give them a big fat kiss on the lips, etc. Just do something! They will love it (and inevitably, you will too!).
Love is a beautiful thing... expressing love is a beautiful thing. And that is something we could all do a little more of.
4. Be a little kinder
Life gets stressful, people get tired, and sometimes short tempers rear their ugly heads. Do yourself (and your wife/husband/family) a favor — take a deep breath, get some fresh air, and relax. Rather than choosing to be snappy and uptight about things, choose to be kind. I know this isn't easy, believe me.
It is also super important that you don't jump to conclusions. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Try to put yourself in her shoes. Doing so will help you appreciate all she does, help you understand her better, and help you to simply be a little kinder.
There's plenty of anger, contempt and hate in the world. What marriages, families and the world need a little more of, is kindness.
5. Remember that life is a gift
Whenever I hear a tragic story like the ones mentioned above, I remember how precious life is. I remember how quickly it can change and I'm inspired to live more fully, to live with gratitude in my heart, and to live without regrets.
Life is a gift, and it's a blessing to spend it with those we love. Time is our most precious commodity — and once it's spent, there's no getting it back. So, spend your time with your loved ones wisely and make every moment count.
Aaron & April are the founders of Nurturing Marriage, a website dedicated to strengthening marriages. They enjoy playing football with their two little boys, watching sports, eating cereal late at night, and going out for frozen yogurt.