Wow. Here we are: 10 years married! In one sense it feels like just yesterday and in another, I can’t really imagine my life without Chris by my side. In fact, I’ve almost spent half of my life with my hubby by my side. We’ve been together since I was 17 (so you can do the math to how old I am!). We talked about it last night as we were going to bed and I asked “How long does it feel to you that we’ve been married?” And almost in sync we both said “SIX YEARS!” Ha! Not sure why we both feel six is the right number, but it definitely does not feel like 10.
It’s hard to know where to even begin to reflect on what the last 10 years of marriage has been like for us. I think I could write multiple posts about the things I’ve learned: what not to do and what to do. While we are still going strong after 10 years of marriage, it has not come without its struggles.
The first year of my marriage was terrible. Honestly, so hard. Harder than I ever would have expected and yet never could have prepared for. The fights that happened were some of the worst I had ever had with anyone. There were honest moments where I thought to myself, “Did I just make the biggest mistake of my life?” (to which my hubby has admitted to wondering the same that first year). But we pushed through. When those moments were tough and love was the very last emotion we were feeling towards each other, that’s when we would choose love. We would remember our commitment before God and our family and friends. And we would remind ourselves of why we first fell in love and made this lifelong commitment.
After about nine months of marriage, it seemed like that figurative dark cloud that had settled itself over our new marriage finally started to move along. We both began to FEEL more loving towards each other and find our new groove as a married couple. We knew we were a team, but we finally started acting like one.
In the years that have followed, there have been many up’s and down’s, high’s and low’s, mountaintop’s and valley’s. We have experienced the joys of having children, the sorrow of loosing loved ones, the devastation of job loss, the anxiety of uprooting and moving to a new community, the excitement of job success, the wonder of new travels and so many other amazing things in between.
Our marriage is far from perfect. We still fight. We still disagree. If you know Chris and I personally, you know how different we are as individuals, Our personalities really do compliment each other but with that said, we tend to view things from polar opposite sides. While this is a great thing to bring balance to our perspectives, it can also create tension when we both think we are right. But the point is, we work at it. Constantly. And in seasons where we’ve failed to work at it, issues have arisen.
Marriage isn’t like your relationship with your favorite pair of shoes; that once they get worn and tattered, it’s time to toss them out and move on to another pair. Marriage is about work, hard work, dedication and commitment. It’s about loving your spouse, even when you don’t feel like it. It’s about being committed to your spouse, even when you see so many around you doing otherwise.
So I thought I would pause for a moment today and reflect on things I’ve learned in our 10 years of marriage. I’m sure I could write about many other aspects, but here is a list of my Top 10 things that I would say we have continued to work on and have made the difference in why we are still standing strong as a couple today!
10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Marriage
1. Never go to bed angry at each other
This is a lesson that I can remember my parents teaching me as I grew up. It’s also Biblical. In Ephesians 4:26 it says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” I think the principle here is you never know what tomorrow holds. Truth is, we aren’t promised tomorrow. Make things right before the day ends (and this is really a good principle to practice even outside your marriage with your friends).
In John 10:10 it actually says “The enemy comes only to steal, to kill and to destroy.” There is definitely one who is out there working to destroy your marriage and you need to do everything you can to protect it. No one else will but you and your spouse. Make sure you make every effort to resolve your arguments before the sun goes down. Let me tell you, there have been many nights where we have had to stay up, working it out because of this principle alone. It’s worth it.
2. Learn from each other
You and your spouse are two different people. Yes, you have been unified through marriage however, you are still two individuals, with two different mindsets and most likely two different sets of opinions. There is so much to be learned from each other. We often joke that Chris has helped soften me up while I’ve helped toughen him up! We bring a balance to each other that is healthy but more then that, we have made each other better people. And that’s because we have made it a point to learn from one another.
3. Don’t throw each other under the bus
You have seen your spouse at their worst and also know their deepest weaknesses. But you are there to be their biggest allie. Don’t expose them in front of others. And if someone is ever tearing them down, stand up for them. You are their greatest support system. Protect them, defend them, rally for them…at all times!
4. Your spouse should be your best friend
While I have a pile of girlfriends whom I consider my besties, my husband is by far my closest friend. I share everything with him and I really believe that is the way it should be. You and your spouse are life partners. You walk through every day together and share some of the most amazing things together, especially if you have children. Cherish that friendship. Build into it, like you would into any other friendship that you have.
I think when other people start knowing more about you than your spouse, that is where trouble can lurk. Especially if that friend is someone that you have a deep connection with that could potentially turn into more of an emotional connection. I have seen one too many of my friends marriages fall apart or become seriously strained from affairs of all sorts. It can happen to anyone. We are wired to desire intimacy in our relatiosnhips and companionship. So if you are not getting that from your spouse, naturally, you will look somewhere else. So nurture that friendship with your spouse.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate
I think this might be my favorite point on this list. And again, if you know me well, you know I have NO problem communicating exactly how I’m feeing. Possibly too well! But I’m convinced this has strengthened my marriage at times where things were not going well. Talk it out. Work it out. Hash it out. Even if there’s not an issue, communicate your wants and desires and ultimately your expectations.
Just yesterday, I decided that my new favorite flower were peonies. For years it has been hydrangeas. But more recently, I’m fallen in love with peonies. How would my husband know that? He doesn’t see all the pictures I like on Instagram of peonies!! So I let him know “Hey, if you were planning on getting flowers, peonies might be a good flower to find!” He told me afterwards how much he appreciated me telling him so he knew what my heart would love. Some might think that sounds crazy (and perhaps spoiled) but I think it’s a good thing to let your spouse know the things you love, to talk through your wants and communicate those expectations.
6. Find mutual hobbies that you really enjoy doing TOGETHER
As I’ve mentioned earlier, hubby and I are really different. Like I mean, REALLY different. It actually wasn’t until about year five of our marriage that I all of a sudden discovered his insane love for fishing. He had NEVER fished in our eight years of dating/marriage before then. He LOVES to fish and let me tell you, if I were to try and think of one of the LAST activities I would ever want to participate in, it would most definitely be fishing! Honestly, ZERO desire.
So fishing is not how we will connect. But we’ve been able to find other hobbies that we share mutual interest in and work at them together. For instance, our love of cooking. We love spending time together in the kitchen, trying new recipes and eating! We love to eat! We love entertaining and throwing parties. We love to travel and explore new places. A few summers ago we traveled down to Virginia for a family holiday and we decided that we would take the back roads all the way there, through all the small towns and it was so fun and memorable for us instead of driving the main highways. We both thoroughly enjoyed it and it brought us closer together as we were doing something together, that we loved.
7. Laugh A LOT
Laughter truly is the best form of medicine. And I mean REALLY laugh. Like big-belly filled laughs. There are moments where the tension has been high after a disagreement and all we can do is just start laughing. Instantly it feels like everything is better. And while that might not solve the issue, it definitely unites our hearts once again.
Now that we have children, I realize the importance of laughter that much more. Kids have this incredible ability to push on every single nerve all the way down into your soul. It’s unbelievable! And it can be really tough. My kids have helped make us more light hearted and learn to just laugh it off.
8. Forgive easily and quickly
Don’t hold a grudge against your spouse. You want to talk about a relationship killer, it would be unforgiveness. Your spouse will let you down. They will say the wrong thing. They will hurt you in some way because no one is perfect. You need to forgive and forgive easily. There have been times where I’ve wanted to hold onto my anger towards Chris about something that he said or did and in the end, it’s only hindered ME more. That’s the thing with unforgiveness…it develops into bitterness and once bitterness takes root into your heart, such ugly things flow from it. Forgive him. Forgive her.
9. Learn what each other is good at and let them do that
So very early on in our relationship, we discovered that Chris was not gifted clerically and administratively. My dad has a keen sense of financial matters and had raised my sister and I to be the same. So naturally, I took over the finances in our marriage. And to this day, I still pay all the bills and so on. Chris knows everything that is going on and I will often tell him what is coming up and where certain money is going and where we need to watch our spending, but at the end of the day, that isn’t his strength, it’s mine. So that’s how we operate. Don’t force them to assume a task that is not within their natural giftings. We all bring certain giftings into our marriage, learn what they are and each of you operate within those.
10. Above all, choose love
And at the end of the day, if all else fails, choose love. Colossians 3:14 says “And above all else, put on love, which binds us all together in perfect unity.” You know when Tina Turner asked the world “What’s love got to do with it” back in the 1984? Well the answer is that is has EVERYTHING to do with it! Especially in todays society where we are constantly being fed the lie that everything is based on how we FEEL and it’s all about US and what is best…I couldn’t disagree more. And I think that is why so many marriages fail. When we make love to be nothing more than just a feeling and about what serves us best.
When I said my vows 10 years ago, I vowed “for better or for worse.” Translation: when I feel like it and when I don’t. There WILL be days when you don’t FEEL love towards your spouse, I almost guarantee you that. Those are the days where love is a choice. In the same way that I know I HAVE to drink water multiple times a day to survive, even when I get sick of drinking plain, boring water, I know that there will be days that I have to choose to love my hubby, for our marriage to survive. Love is a verb…it is so much more than a feeling or a desire. It requires action, it requires a choice. Choose love, everyday.
Well there you have it, my Top 10 list of things I’ve learned in the last 10 years of marriage. I’d love to hear some feedback from you on which point resonates most with you or if there’s something you think I missed. Let me know in the comments below!
Love & Blessings,