by Deacon Derrick and Mistianna Barnes
Mistianna and I have been together in our lives, between dating and marriage, more than we have been apart. And I would love to tell you that we are the perfect couple, never fighting, always in perfect harmony and lock step in the way we see that things need to happen, but I can’t. Like all great successful marriages, we both have our own views on topics and have had to learn the hard way how to have a great, loving, and successful marriage.
In the following article we hope to be able to share with you some hard learned lessons that if you read carefully you may not have to make in your marriage.
Being a Deacon couple, we are blessed to work with a lot of engaged couples as they prepare for the Sacrament of Marriage. And, since we’ve been married almost 23 years, ourselves, we have a lot of loving, a lot of living, and a lot of life lessons to offer them and the newly married on what it’s really like to be happily married and to have a love affair for a lifetime.
Five weeks before our wedding, when we should have been awash with words of wisdom, the only advice I can recall getting is what my Great Aunt Ruby told us half a lifetime ago:
“Darlings,” she said, “be interesting people, each of you on your own. Follow your own dreams, have your own hobbies, and use your own gifts to better our world. But always be your best and save your best for your sweetheart .”
Mistianna: At first, Aunt Ruby’s advice didn’t have much of an impact on how we interacted as a newly married couple. After all, we were young and in love and couldn’t keep our hands off each other; we were truly passionate about being together. It was only after our first year of marriage had come and gone that Aunt Ruby’s advice really started to hit home with me. You see, I am a very social and very chatty person and I not only needed face to face communication with Derrick, I missed talking intimately with him on a daily basis. So, it became very clear that I not only needed Derrick’s best in the area of communication, when we both came home from work, but I craved it. I needed the same love and attention he had given me while we were dating and engaged now that we were newlyweds.
Derrick: Sure while dating I had all the time in the world to sit and chat and lavish attention on my beautiful fiancée but when life settled in things had to change. Graduation from college, work and a social life left little time for hours of exploring each other through conversation.
I needed Mistianna to appreciate how hard I worked for our family and tell me about it a lot. I know that it seems that this is the cliché sensitive male ego at work here. After all in all the fairy tales there was always a Knight in shining armor, and I wanted my princess to recognize this. It made getting up and working hard all worth it when my princess wife told me how much she appreciated my hard work.
But what I have come to learn is that I really like words of affirmation and acknowledgment. What I was failing to see was that like me Mistianna needed acknowledgment of her needs as well.
Mistianna: Saving your best for your spouse, isn’t always easy. Especially, in our fast paced, technology swamped and “it’s all about me” culture. Society encourages us to be all we can be, even at the expense of the one we love and cherish the most, our spouse. I believe it’s this selfish type of thinking that pulls newlyweds away from each other instead of closer together and ultimately has a negative impact on their new marriage. My Aunt Ruby encouraged Derrick and I to be different than society, to break the norm and require more of ourselves than what society required of us together. In her infinite wisdom, she knew that if we each saved our best self for each other, every aspect of our marriage would become a priority in our life together. Saving the best version of ourselves for the other after a long day at the office, or after being up all night with a sick child, or after each of our mothers passed away or even after I lost my job and became disabled, wasn’t easy. Sometimes it was beyond difficult, it was tough as hell. But, it was the best piece of advice we ever received about being married. It was the advice that allowed us to put each other and our marriage first. It helped us each be vulnerable with one another, and cling to each other during the hard times and “worser” times in our marriage.
Earlier I told you what it was that I needed Mistianna to recognize in order for me to feel love. It only took a few “animated discussions” for me to figure out how to get the best out of my spouse. The secret is to give them what they need and in return they give you what you need. Saving your best self for your spouse is really the easiest way for your sweetheart to know that you love them in a way that they can appreciate and usually in return they want to give you what you need.
So, in short, I learned that when I actively and fully talk to Mistianna about her day and share with her what happened in my day; she totally reciprocated by telling me how proud of me she was. So by giving her my best, she gave me her best as well.
Saving your best self for your sweetheart isn’t a guarantee for a happily ever after marriage, but it’s definitely a great practice to start doing as you start your new life together. We believe saving your best self for your spouse says to your beloved “You are important to me,” “You are my top priority,” and, “I value you above all others.” If you remember back to when you were dating and when you got engaged, hopefully you’ll remember how passionate you felt about hanging out together, and just sharing your life with one another. If you look at being married as dating for a lifetime, you will always save the best part of yourself for your spouse. You will covet your time together, crave conversations with one another, forgive more freely, and love more passionately. If you save your best self for your sweetheart, we hope, you will have what we have found, a love affair of a lifetime.
Deacon Derrick is assigned to Saint Margaret Mary Parish in Louisville, KY where he and Mistiana are parishioners.