Dan and Annie Mangelson live in beautiful Colorado, where Dan works as a cost analyst for a medical device company, and Annie is a stay-at-home mom to their two boys, (ages 3 & 2). Dan and Annie have been married for six years, and have lived in Utah, Georgia, and Colorado. This fall they will complete their third cross-country move before Dan begins graduate school in Minnesota to pursue a master’s degree in healthcare administration. The Mangelsons enjoy spending time outdoors as a family, staying busy with church and community responsibilities, eating Rocky Road ice cream, and beating each other at Boggle. Dan’s hobbies include hitting the gym while Annie enjoys lifestyle and family photography (samples of her work can be viewed, here).
A letter to our kids...
There are a lot of ideas about love floating around out there. Some are tender, sweet, and inspiring. Others are, quite frankly, confused, warped, and even degrading. Everyone wants to experience love, but one of the keys to finding real, successful, true love (and consequently happiness) is being able to distinguish what that real love is, and to choose to live it.
We know that when you think of romance, passion, and devotion, Mom and Dad are probably not the first people that come to mind (Ew! Gross!), and we get that. We are your parents, after all, and we are dreadfully normal to boot. While we may not have the glamour of Hollywood or the Billboard charts at our backs, we think we can offer you something even more valuable: an honest example of a living relationship that works.
Let’s face it. Perhaps no one knows our imperfections as well as you, and we openly admit: We’re not experts, guys. This is raw, unscripted, un-choreographed, no-elaborate-set-in-the-Bahamas-included love. No one picks our outfits, styles our hair, or ends our dates with a catchy theme song. This is the real, authentic, work-in-progress deal.
And it is beautiful.
We don’t know everything, but we’re learning. Along the way we’ve picked up on a few things that, when practiced, really make our relationship special. We wanted to jot our “Top Ten Ways to Nurture Marriage” down for you here, hoping that maybe a few of these real-life suggestions based on experience will help you create the love you’ve always dreamed of in your own life.
1. Enjoy each other.
You married your best friend—enjoy him/her! Share your interests, regardless of whether you and your spouse have the same interests or not. We are quite different. He is athletic. She is a reader. He enjoys business and the outdoors. She enjoys music and photography. Although our interests and hobbies differ greatly, we have had many rewarding experiences sharing our love of life, together. We have watched several sporting games, and discussed the finer points of handling a football. He now feels a sense of pride when she can call a penalty or foul faster than the announcer can. On the flip side, we have read several books as a couple, which has led to many happy hours spent together, punctuated with many good discussions and some new inside jokes. We also like to just be goofy. We believe in laughter. Whether it’s sharing stupid jokes, jumping out from behind the corner to scare your spouse in the dark, having a wrestling match, putting ice down the back of his/her shirt, or throwing an impromptu dance party while you’re brushing your teeth together—be goofy. Let the walls down and enjoy each other. Take a break from the mundane tasks of life and remember what it is about this person that makes you smile (even if you roll your eyes) and fills you with delight from your head to your toes.
2. Be loyal.
Be loyal to each other; don’t engage in activities, conversations, or relationships with others that could encroach upon the intimate nature of your marriage. For us, this means that we’re not only physically loyal to each other, but socially and emotionally loyal, as well. For example, rather than blab about our spouse’s shortcomings when it’s “just girls” or “just guys,” we work things out between each other, and try to respectfully and privately allow the other person room to grow. When you’re married, you sometimes see the best and worst of your companion. Another form of loyalty comes into play when you decide to not jump to conclusions, but instead think the best of your spouse and give them the benefit of the doubt.
3. Give praise.
Compliment each other and be sincere. When you were trying to win your wife’s or husband’s heart, you were probably always ready with a compliment. Well, guess what? You still need to win their heart every day, so tell them how good they look, what an amazing mom/dad they are, or what an awesome meal they made! These compliments don’t always have to be verbal either. For example, let them catch you checking them out once in a while across the room.
4. Be intentional.
Date! Get away, just the two you! Life only gets busier, especially as children come along. If you are not intentional about scheduling date night, it will probably get put on the back burner. Also, be present with your spouse. When you are in the same room, give them the gift of your attention. That will probably mean putting down any distracting technology.
5. Dream big together.
Sometimes, on a quiet night when we’re sitting on the couch or just lying in bed, one of us will turn to the other and say, “Tell me all your hopes and dreams.” We’re essentially asking each other, “What is important to you right now? What are you working on? What do you want to achieve? What would make you happy …And how can I help?” It’s a privilege to walk through life with another person, and part of the joy in that journey comes from helping each other reach individual and collective dreams.
We’ve worked hard to develop a culture of communication in our relationship. We talk about the day-to-day, our individual interests, and the kids. But we also talk about the hard stuff. We talk when we disagree—and we’ve learned the importance of civil disagreement! While it can be hard to be vulnerable, we also talk about our individual anxieties and weaknesses, and we talk about our relationship—what goes well and what needs improvement. Some of the most tender and sacred conversations we’ve had as a couple have involved one of us approaching the other with a need, seeking understanding, and the other spouse listening with love and the desire to humbly do what they can to help address the subject at hand. This formula has worked over and over for many topics and situations, and over time has helped us to build greater understanding for each other and an abiding trust and loyalty to one another, as well as to “fix” whatever thing we were talking about in the first place.
7. Just do it.
If you wait for your spouse to do all the work around the house, it may not get done or your spouse may be upset with you (or maybe both!). So decide to get up and just do it. Be the first one to the dishes, to change that dirty diaper, to take out the trash, or whatever it is that your spouse appreciates. No one likes to clean the house, but if you tackle the hard jobs together, it gets rid of a lot of the drudgery.
8. Surprise them.
Everyone likes happy surprises, and they can add spark and life to a relationship. Even little things like unexpected phone calls and texts just to say hi, that you were thinking about them, or how you can’t wait to see them. Spontaneous gifts such as flowers or their favorite goodies do wonders. It doesn’t have to be big or cost anything to be thoughtful.
9. Love lots, love well.
Show your spouse affection every chance you get. Hold hands, grab them for long hugs and kisses, cuddle together, and be physically intimate. It is essential for you to learn each other’s love languages so you can show your affection in ways that will resonate with them at the deepest levels. This could very well be different from your own love language, or even the way you like to show love. However, it will be well worth it in the long run, and it will mean the world to your spouse.
10. Utilize prayer.
We find a lot of fulfillment, peace, and unity by worshiping together in formal as well as casual settings. One aspect of worship that has been especially meaningful to our relationship is prayer. The man who married us gave us several points of advice, but there is one that we think about regularly: the counsel to kneel in prayer together, daily, and to express in that prayer gratitude and love for our spouse. The two of us alternate acting as voice in our daily couple prayers, and each time my turn comes, that counsel rings through my mind. The course of life is full of many emotions. Some days are long and mundane. Other days fly by without enough time to accomplish half the things you had planned. Sometimes your spouse is high on your priority and “good favor” list, and other times perhaps not as much so. I admit, there have been days when I have hastily expressed gratitude before just saying amen, but there have also been days when the simple counsel to pray with and for my spouse has led me to be more thoughtful regarding their needs, to be more forgiving after an argument, and to be more appreciative of their efforts. Repeating the mental and verbal exercise of praying for my spouse has especially taught me to maintain a proper perspective, and to be more grateful each day to God for the gift of being companions with the one that I love.
That’s our list---the foundation of our marriage that guides how we treat each other and how we interact as a couple. It’s not perfect and it’s subject to grow, but it has certainly helped us love each other more fully, more purely, and more consistently. This Real Deal Love built on everyday moments takes a lot of work but brings even more happiness. It’s all that we could ever wish for anyone, and all we hope to be able to pass on to you.
All our love,
Mom & Dad
"There is properly no history; only biography."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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