Twenty years ago, on a Tuesday afternoon, two twenty-something year olds made the spontaneous choice to get married. They walked into the office of the Justice of the Peace with their 2 month old as a witness and they vowed to "love, honor and cherish until death do us part". There was no bridal party and no reception. No extended family to congratulate them or share words of wisdom. These two didn't need their families. They had it all figured out. Once she took his name then life would be much easier.
He would love her, cherish her, value her and take care of her. She wouldn't have to work so hard anymore. She would love him, comfort him and fill the empty void in his heart. He wouldn't feel so alone anymore. They said their vows with sincerity and determination and great expectations of how this marriage would fix them and make them whole.
As I look back on that day, I can't believe how naïve and misguided we were when we said those vows. We came into marriage with the idea that our relationship would be the solution to all of life's problems. We had expectations that we placed on each other. Expectations that were unrealistic and unfair. As we have done life together over the past 2 decades, we have grown and learned a few things.....ok a lot of things. And we're still learning. So in honor of 20 years together, here are 20 things that being married has taught me.
1. My husband and my marriage is not the solution to life's problems. There is only one thing...one person....one relationship that can make me whole. That is my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The more that I love Christ and obey His commands, the more that love overflows into my marriage.
2. Disagreeing with my husband doesn't mean that I don't love him. We are a couple but God has given each of us distinct personalities and ways of seeing things. When we share differing viewpoints with respect and love then we both win.
3. I need to be a peacemaker not a peacekeeper. I have a tendency to avoid conflict at all costs. That means I will let things slide that need to be addressed in order to keep my husband or family happy. Being a peacekeeper is damaging to a relationship because it prevents me from being open and honest with my spouse.
4. I have a tendency to be very independent. That can create difficulties in a marriage relationship. I'm a true first born. I'm reliable, structured, controlling and an achiever. When I think something needs to be done, I will do what I think is best. The problem with that mind set is that I often leave my husband out of the process.
5. Selfishness can destroy a marriage. A marriage is 2 people working together for the best interests of the other one. When each person looks to their own interests and desires, they are not building the relationship. They don't want to be part of a marriage, they just want to have someone be there to help them become someone great. Marriage is about putting aside what you really want and moving towards what is best for your spouse. It's not easy but it is vital to a Biblical partnership.
6. There is no intimacy without trust. When trust is broken in any relationship it takes a long time to rebuild. However when there is no trust in a marriage, there can be no intimacy on any level. If I don't trust my husband then I won't be completely open and vulnerable with him. Without trust, I cannot love him with a sacrificial kind of love. If he doesn't trust me then I don't want to be around him. Doubts and insecurities will drive a wedge between two people.
7. Raising kids is a marathon and we have to do it together. Being a parent is exhausting and challenging.
And we shouldn't do it alone if we don't have to. The challenge arises when we don't agree on how to best parent the children that God has given us. Our children will take advantage of situations when they can play one parent against the other. Nobody wins in that situation. Our oldest is 20 and this is still a major struggle on a daily basis.
8. Extended family is important but they shouldn't come before my husband. When you marry, you leave your father and mother and become one with your spouse. You still need to honor and respect your parents but their opinions and advice should be filtered through between you and your spouse. It's also wise to not share with your parents every little or big thing that annoys you about your spouse. You will find that you will forgive and move on from disagreements much faster than extended family will.
9. I'm a wife before a mom. This one has been a really hard lesson for me to learn. I've given a lot of time and energy to my kids over the years. And there is a season of life when kids will require most of your time. But you can't forget the man that you married. It's ok to take time away from the kids and focus on your marriage. Actually it's more than ok...it's vital to the health of your marriage.
10. Facing problems and difficulties together make them more bearable. When challenges and struggles come along, it can sometimes feel best to not share it with your husband. You can rationalize that he already had enough on his plate and he doesn't need to be bothered. But that's not fair to either one of you. You're a team and facing things together helps share the weight of the issues. It also helps build teamwork and strengthen your marriage. Just think of how great you can celebrate together once the situation has been resolved.
11. Love does not exist without truth. This is so important and at times very difficult for me because the truth can bring discomfort and pain. Sometimes I need to speak the truth in love to my husband and I know that he will not always receive that in a loving way. I have to fight my disease to please and share what's on my heart. I also have to avoid preaching or nagging.
12. Your childhood impacts your marriage. My husband and I were raised so differently and that upbringing makes us see life differently. Some were good things and some were not.
13. The little things in life are very important. Take time to appreciate the little things that your spouse does for you. Like waking up with the kids so you can sleep in. Watching your favorite movie with you for the hundredth time. Buying you chocolate and Mountain Dew when you've had a rough day. Sitting down at the dinner table with the whole family to enjoy a meal. Cleaning house while you're stuck at work dealing with crazy people.
14. You can't change your husband, but you can pray for him daily and watch God work in his life. About 8 years into our marriage, a friend gave me some of the best marriage advice. She said "Stop nagging your husband about things and start praying instead." So I did. Sometimes I would write my prayers out. Sometimes my prayers were just silent whispers and tears. After a few years of praying, God's working on my husband's heart began to bring forth changes in his life. This praying also began changing my heart towards my husband. Praying for my husband is something that I will do everyday of my life.
15. Have fun together. My husband is a jokester and loves to have fun. I do too, but it comes so much easier for him. I can sometimes take life a bit too seriously. Over the past few years we've had some fun adventures and I'm looking forward to planning more.
17. Don't lose your voice. Each one of us has worth and value. God has given each of us something important to speak into the life of our marriage and family. For many years, I lacked the courage to speak up and share my thoughts and opinions. I would play conversations over and over in my head but didn't give them a voice. I'm not sure why I did that, but I'm so thankful that I've found my voice again.
18. Have a servant's heart. Marriage is truly about serving one another in a humble, selfless manner. Not doing things out of a desire for brownie points or recognition, but out of a sincere true love for the other person. When we have a servant's heart we know that God sees and knows and that's what's important.
19. Love means knowing what makes the other person happy. As you spend time living together and doing life together, you learn what your spouse enjoys. You find out what foods are their favorites, what hobbies they enjoy and what they need after a long stressful day.
20. You can never stop learning and growing together as a couple. We've spent 20 years together and there is so much that we don't know about each other. We can't get complacent and be ok with just an average marriage. We have to continue to do the work of growing closer together, especially as the kids move out and start lives of their own. We have to be intentional about investing in our marriage.
I'm looking forward to the next 20 years with my hubby. I can't imagine where we'll be and what adventures we'll be having over the next 2 decades together.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.