Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Letter To My Niece

April 8, 2010

Yesterday I found out (via Facebook status update, no less!) that my oldest niece had gotten married. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked to find out this way, but it's not as bad as it seems. She and her finance Brandon have been planning a wedding for the upcoming Fall, and they are still planning to have that big formal celebration with family and friends at their sides. Legally, though, they tied the knot yesterday. I now have a new nephew and a married niece. Seriously--when did I become old enough to have a married niece??

In light of her new role as wife, I'd like to offer her some advice about what I've learned about marriage in the past several years--some of which I learned the hard way.

Dear Tiff,

As you move side by side through this life with Brandon, there are a few things that will help you enjoy the best of times and survive the worst of times:

--Remember that marriage is hard work. Like parenting, it's GOOD work, but make no mistake that it IS work. If you stop working at being a partner, you stop being a partner.

--Laugh with each other every single day. It will keep you young indefintely, and help you to always remember the smile that you love in each other today.

--You know that old saying that tells you never to go to bed angry? It's a great goal, but it might not happen. It's okay if you go to bed angry every once in awhile. Just don't throw things. Sometimes you need the space before you can have a calm conversation.

--If you fight, try lowering your voice rather than raising it. It encourages the other person to listen harder to what you have to say.

--When you disagree, make it more important to respect each other's perspective than it is to be RIGHT.

--Know that you are two different people, and you won't always agree on every issue. Sometimes, unless it's a deal-breaker issue, it's okay to agree to disagree.

--The best way to be a strong and loving partner to your husband is to be strong and true to yourself. You cannot be a contributing partner if you lose yourself, so make sure you each nurture your own interests and pursuits.

--Be each other's biggest cheerleaders. Always.

--Mind-reading is not part of marriage. When you have concerns, speak your mind, calmly and respectfully. It's not fair to assume that your partner knows when you are happy, angry, unsatisfied, joyful, content, or hurt. Let him know so that he can share in your joy, or support you in your pain. Even if--especially if--he is the cause of your pain at that moment.

--Don't belittle each other, even in jest, and especially not in front of other people. It gives others permission to think less of you than you deserve.

--Be an amazing addition in the lives of your step-children, but remember to respect the relationship they have with their own mother. Note that I did not say you have to respect her or her choices; sometimes this is not possible. However, respecting that the children have and desire a bond with their mother is a gift that you give to them. Doing your part to have a cordial relationship with all the people who touch their lives shows them by example how to be mature, respectful people. Someone else's poor behavior shouldn't be an excuse for you to stoop to their level--think of it as an opportunity to model taking the high road for your kids. Sometimes it will mean biting your tongue when it would be satisfying to say something hurtful. That's okay. Go ahead and bite your tongue. Kids are smart; they'll know when they're older who was there for them without you having to say it now.

--Strive to create the relationship you want your own children to seek out when they're older. Children learn what they see, what they live. When your daughter is old enough to start looking for her own partner in life, you should know that she has seen the very best kind of relationship, and that she need not settle for less than that.

--Give your children everything that they need, and a little of what they want. Let them learn the value of working for things.

--Take traditions from your own families and make them your own. Create new traditions together as well. Traditions speak to what you value, and bond a family in ways you might not even know.

--Let family, immediate family and extended family, be a priority in your life. Family is forever.

--Hold hands. Kiss often. Hug freely. Cuddle. Say "I love you," and mean it. Share the affection you have for one another and your children, so that they don't have to guess how you feel. Be the couple who, in old age, others see and say, "Aw...look how they still care about each other after all these years!"

Tiffany and Brandon, I wish you all the best. Congratulations on the path you have chosen to travel together. I wish you a long, happy, and beautiful journey!

Aunt Donna


  1. Thank you Aunt Donna!! I think we might be pushing the wedding back a year, just because this one is turning out kind of crazier then we expected!! But I am printing this out so I can read it in the morning. :D

  2. Smooooooooooosh!!!!

  3. That was an incredibly sweet letter!

  4. I love this! Great advice. I should print it out and show it to MY oldest niece, who also just got married (and who is also planning to have a "wedding" celebration further on down the road). I totally feel you on the "when did I become old enough to have a married niece" thing!!!

  5. This is excellent advice!! Bravo! And congrats to your niece :)