"Love is a choice, not a feeling!"

When my pastor said those words during our marriage counseling I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

Like, seriously, I felt an intense love for my husband for seven years before we got married and I couldn’t imagine those euphoric feelings going away and having to actually choose to love him instead…

I knew Instantly

From the moment I saw my husband I was instantly attracted to him. So much so, that I called him over and introduced myself.
From there it felt like we were on the dopest hot-air balloon ride that never touched down.

I mean, I would run and jump on him every time he came in the house, I would wait by the door for him to get home from practice and even got his name tattooed on my wrist, something I never thought I’d do (it’s still my only one and I got it years after he got mine, petty to share, I know lol). You can watch the video from eight years ago below:

I digress…

Our love was tangible!

Then 14 years later, and I’m super grateful for so many years of relationship bliss, the day came when the feelings weren’t as strong. I didn’t feel like jumping on my husband when he came through the door and the ground started to look a little closer from our air balloon.
I won’t lie, it was crushing…

A lot of things were happening all at once. We both retired from our beloved sports, we started living together full time (our sports forced us to be apart a lot) and the biggest adjustment of all… we were new parents! Our foundation was strong but the blows of all these changes put our love to the test. Ironically, I thought I could write a book about love and marriage before now, but the truth is, much like my track career, the true story and testimony comes on the other side of failures and disappointments. People ask me all the time “what’s the secret behind the success of your marriage?” I chuckle a little now, because I know we always show the pretty pictures and share the best moments but it isn’t always pretty and it isn’t alway easy! We all define success differently, but I do believe my husband and I are enjoying a successful union. I mean, I define my track career as a success and I didn’t win every time I stepped on the track! Success, for me, is not about the missteps, the failures or the disappointments it’s about the commitment to always doing our best to love each other through it all.

So, since you’ve asked, and I finally feel like I’ve been through enough to share, here is the REAL, on what I think allows Ross and I to have a beautiful marriage:

The Main Ingredient

Without a shadow of a doubt, intentionality is the main ingredient in a successful marriage.

After the butterflies wear off and reality settles in you have to be willing to be intentional and CHOOSE your love over everything else. At different phases of your relationship or marriage, it will feel more like work, but trust me it’s all worth it. It’s like anything else. It’s an investment into your future and the life of someone else and it gets messy, and convoluted, and hard, and stressful, there’s not enough money, not enough sex, not enough time, but in the end you create a connection with someone that you believe God created just for you. Someone who will stand by you and support you through thick and thin. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

After all the medals I won on the track, when I think back on the best moments of my career it’s the relationships I created and nurtured that stand out above everything. Just like in life, I know when it’s all said and done, and God-willing I live a long life, I won’t remember the fights, the times we didn’t have any money or the times he kept fussing with me about sex, I’ll smile about our iron clad union, the unwavering love, and the lifelong companionship.
I can’t speak for all marriages, but I definitely acknowledge the weight intentionality holds in ours. Ladies, if you don’t hear me on anything else, listen to this…We must be intentional about how we love on our husbands inside and out of the bedroom! Ironically, one of the most memorable moments from our marriage counseling was when our pastor told us that eventually the sex will fade and what will last is our friendship. We have to be friends first! Make sure that you intently study your man. Acknowledge his likes and dislikes. Pay attention. Learn how to shift from cheerleader to coach when appropriate. Never get complacent and when you can try to exceed your man’s expectations!

Communicate, Communicate, OVER-Communicate

I don’t care how trivial it may seem, talk to your spouse about it.

It’s the smallest things that cause the biggest fractures in marriage. If something bothers you, talk it through with your spouse while it’s still fresh. Obviously you know your spouse best; don’t bring it up when he won’t receive it, don’t throw it in his/her face but find a way to broach the subject in a way that helps solve the problem. One of the best pieces of advice I received when thinking through how to communicate with Rossy is that it’s he and I against the problem. It’s not me vs him, it’s always US vs the problem. This means no one loses, which eliminates the need to defend yourself or be prideful.

I’m also all about doing what feels good to your heart when communicating. No stupid rules! If you get mad, it’s ok to call first, if you apologized the last time, it’s ok to apologize this time! Don’t let stupid hard and fast rules stop you from communicating with your partner; this only stretches out the argument.

Finally, (mind you, I could write an entire second blog just about how to communicate effectively with your spouse) give your partner grace in an argument. Every now and then when you’re upset you will say something you don’t mean. Something that takes the argument from a 5 to a 10! In those moments you should be able to stop and ask your partner for grace. Ask, just like in the courtroom, that he/she strike that statement from the record. Then you have to really do it and move on. Remember why you’re having the discussion in the first place and stick to the issue at hand.

There’s Nothing Wrong with a Little Friendly Competition 

Ross and I always make it a point to stay competitive in our marriage, but not the way you might think. As two athletes being competitive comes naturally, but we’ve had to learn how to ensure that it shows up in our marriage beneficially. Our goal in our relationship is competing to see who can out serve the other. Keeping this mindset of competitive service to your spouse has definitely been at the forefront of our marriage and I strongly recommend this mentality to all married couples.
Serving my husband doesn’t always come easily so I commit to practicing patience, kindness, and humility in my marriage. My reward is how he reciprocates exponentially. We all know that love is an act of service, which is why my husband and I take pride in serving one another. Again, that includes inside and out of the bedroom, you can’t intentionally focus on one realm and not the other. What? I told you I was giving you the real, raw, uncensored version lol!

Do what works for you

We have so many preconceived ideas of what the perfect union looks like. Whether we’ve adopted these ideas from our parents’ relationship, our favorite television shows or our wild and crazy imaginations we have to be careful that we don’t create a false reality that we cannot maintain. One of the benefits that Ross and I enjoyed from our sporting careers was forced space and time apart. I’d be in Europe for weeks and he had training camps or other commitments that kept us apart for an extended period of time. It was one of the secrets to our love that we never really accounted for. Then sports ended and we were together 24-7 and as much as we looked forward to it and tried to adjust we realized there was nothing wrong with intentionally creating space in our marriage.

So we decided to take separate trips, work outside the home, and that spark that was fading quickly reignited. Don’t feel bad about acknowledging the things that work for you and your partner and making them the norm in your marriage. Maybe you flip gender roles, maybe you live separately, maybe you have an open marriage. What you do should make you and your spouse happy, nobody else!


Always be ready to fight

Lastly, remember to fight and fight often! I’m sure a few of you are probably thinking I’ve gone insane offering this as advice, but hear me out. Fight to maintain everything that you’ve worked for and the legacy you aspire to leave behind. Fight to keep God’s influence over your marriage and fight to keep everyone (and I do mean everyone) out of your marriage. Mommies, remember who to fight for. While I naturally love my Deuecy Doo to the moon and back; I intentionally love my Rossy for giving him to me. Every day I have to fight the distractions of social media, the obligations of my career and the captivation of motherhood and remind myself to be intentional about loving my amazing husband.
Now those are a few of my secrets to a successful marriage.
What are yours?
How do you maintain the love and spark in your marriage?

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Until next time

Mommi Sanya

Founder, MommiNation