Let’s talk about marriage.
My husband and I are approaching our 15th anniversary. He’s still my best friend. I’m still his confidante. We like each other. We want to be together. I miss him when he’s gone. He wants to come home to me. We choose each other. Not because it just happened or because we got lucky. I mean, soulmates are romantic, but are they reality? I love my husband deeply. He is truly my favorite person. But our marriage isn’t perfect. It never will be. But it is good. It is a blessing. Here’s to 15 years of marriage, and dreaming of 50 more!
1. People will fail you.
Sometimes intentionally, most of the time not. We are human. We are selfish. We cannot meet all of each other’s needs. We don’t even know or understand all of each other’s needs or expectations. So wives, husbands, prepare for this. I promise you it will happen. At some point you will disappoint each other. Here’s a tip, don’t put all your faith or expectation or emotional stability in another person. Put all of these things in Christ. Jesus will fill these holes that another human being cannot. But the thing is, our marriages, our spouses are not supposed to be this for us. We are imperfect people working towards perfection. It will not happen. Just, Jesus.
2. Your spouse should be your person.
I really hope you began your relationship as friends. I really hope you enjoy being together. I really hope you have fun together. I really hope you talk. If we are talking marriage goals here, your spouse should be the first person you think of when you have news to tell, when you are having a bad day or when you are just bored and wanting to hang out. This Is Us style, guys. This is you. This is your person. This is the person you chose to spend your life with. Go do it! Do life together.
I mean, if you are going to be a part of any relationship for any period of time, this is gonna have to be a part of it. (See #1.)
Let’s just get this out of the way now. We all screw up. We mess up. We do things wrong, make bad choices, or just plain get lazy. And selfish. Goodness we are such selfish creatures. But now that we’ve acknowledged that. Let’s get over ourselves. Humble ourselves. Say we are sorry for hurting each other. (Whether we meant to or not.) and move on. “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
5. Make time for each other.
I hear people say all the time you should date your spouse. I agree! But sometimes dates don’t look like the movies or the posts on social media. Sometimes dates look like two tired people in sweats watching movies and eating ice cream. Sometimes dates look like going on a walk and holding hands. Sometimes dates look like grabbing a quick cup of coffee in between meetings. Intentional time together. Hold hands. Talk. (I’m not even going to tell you not to talk about the kids. You guys, maybe that’s just your phase right now. That’s OK!)
You guys, sometimes in the chaos of life with jobs and kids and decisions and debt and stress, listening is just really hard. Listening well is loving well. Listening tells your friend, your spouse that they matter. Put your phone down, text back later, make eye contact and listen.
7. Don’t talk about your spouse unless you would say it in front of him/her.
Don’t talk about your spouse unless you are building him or her up. Gentle, encouraging words are sweet to the soul and precious in marriage. (Obviously, if there is a problem in your marriage that you’ve addressed with your spouse and you still need help, please find a trusted, wise person to counsel you.)
I’ve seen a lot of marriages dissolve. It hits me hard every single time. I’m so heartbroken. This is not how marriage should be. I want you to have the joy and peace and friendship and love that I know marriage can be. Sometimes marriages are just so broken. Sometimes one person isn’t willing to work for it. Sometimes, I get it. But you guys, maybe we give up too easily? Maybe we fight each other when we should fight for each other? Maybe we brush things under the rug so often that we finally explode. Maybe we need to deal with the small things. Have a conversation. Bring it up. Love hard. Do the hard stuff. Because soon those things become the big things. The impossible. The hardened hearts. Maybe it’s OK to disagree and find resolve.
But what if . . . some things just aren’t worth fighting about? What if we chose to forgive? What if we chose to be patient? Have grace? Have mercy? What if we prayed more and talked less? What if take a breath? What if we respond instead of react?
Can we just respect each other as people? It’s pretty common that the people closest to us are the people we take for granted. What if we treated our spouses better than we treat other people? What if we put them before ourselves? Before our friends? Before our families? Before our kids? Before our jobs? This is the person you chose to spend your life with, just sayin’.
10. Kindness counts.
Be thoughtful. Figure out how your spouse feels loved and then do those things. And at the same time, express how you feel loved. We can’t read minds, you guys. And different phases of life will call for different ways to be love to each other. The nature of life is that we are always changing. The seasons change, our needs change, our perception of love can even change. When we were 20, both working and before children, we would go shopping. He would buy me clothes and we’d eat out at nice restaurants. We’d walk downtown and visit little shops. We’d get dessert and coffee. Basically, we spent money. Then we had a baby and even those rare date nights became more rare. We stayed home. I quit my job. We rented movies and ate store bought ice cream. We’d go for walks, push a stroller. Then more children came and to bed they went. We’d turn on our favorite shows, eat some ice cream, and snuggle on the couch until we fell asleep. That feels like love. He takes out the trash. I wash the clothes. He knows I hate going to the store so he runs all the errands. When he has to be out of town for a job, he stocks up so I can stay home. I try to make him cookies for his long drive. I text him pictures of the kids. He calls me when he gets a chance. Kindness counts, you guys. Just be thoughtful. Know how to love. And choose to do it.
This is huge. Other people will not understand. You may miss out on some stuff. You may even lose some friends this way. But in the end, your marriage, your person is more important. We have boundaries in our marriage. We chose each other once in front of our family and friends. But we continue to choose each other, day in and day out. This is key, we agree on our boundaries. No one is forced into this and it’s not “house rules” or anything. We agree that we want to set high standards for our marriage. We want to have boundaries so that we have no doubts, no temptations, no accusations, no worries. We chose to set boundaries to protect our marriage. We chose to set boundaries before anything might happen, not because it has. Our boundaries are not a punishment. Our boundaries are for safety and security and stability. Our boundaries include not hanging out with or being alone with someone of the opposite gender. We have chosen not to put ourselves in questionable situations. Or in situations where the atmosphere may not coincide with our belief in marriage.
12. Be each other’s biggest fans.
Seriously though! I’ve seen husbands and wives compete with each other. I don’t mean a friendly competition of Monopoly (even that I’ve seen go awry!). But I mean actually get jealous of each other. I’ve seen couple try to outdo each other, tear each other down, or, quite frankly, be mean about things. Let’s just stop, OK? Let’s cheer each other on. Lift each other up. Encourage each other. We are on the same team.
13. Grow together.
People change. Seasons change. Life changes. Have grace for each other. Let the ebb and flow become a natural part of your relationship. It’s OK to mix things up a bit. Maybe red was my favorite color before but now I like gray. Maybe I wanted to go to school to teach preschool but now I’m a writer. Maybe he wanted to create beautiful pieces of furniture but now he’s building greenhouses. Maybe we homeschool now but we send our kids to school later. Things change, guys. It’s OK. Love is a choice. Repeat that with me. Love is a choice. A choice to love, through change and growth.
14. Bad things will happen.
It’s not if, it’s when. We know for certain life does not always go as planned. Jobs get lost. People hurt us. Sickness. Death. Fire. Flood. Car accidents. Infertility. Miscarriage. Depression. This world is broken, so broken. Let’s choose right now to let these bad things bring us closer together. It’s not easy. It’s actually one of the most difficult things to do. When we are hurting we tend to lash out, we lean more toward pushing away and hurting people rather than leaning in and letting them in. We tend to want to protect ourselves, defend ourselves and build up walls. Tear them down. Let your spouse in. What if he/she has walls built up? Love that person until it hurts. And then love some more. (Also, it’s OK to seek professional, outside, neutral help. It’s actually quite brave. And responsible. And commendable.)
15. Dream together.
It’s beautiful to remember the past. It’s fun to talk about the beginning. It’s therapeutic to talk about the memories. And it’s a blessing to talk about the future. Dream a little. What risk would you take if we were to start over? What will we do once the kids are grown? Where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? Would you ever want to change careers? Live somewhere different? If we are financially successful, what would we invest our money in? We’ve talked about a camper or a cabin in the woods. We’ve talked about retiring and traveling the world. We’ve talked about having a greenhouse and animals and our own little farm. We’ve talked about where our kids might be and how we’ll follow them. (Or not.) We’ve talked about what I will do once our kids are grown and I am no longer a stay-at-home mama. We’ve talked about what life will be like when our kids are teens. What we want them to know, how we want them to grow and when they leave home, how we want them to be rooted in love. Some of our dreams may come true. Some of them already have! Some of our dreams may change. Some of our dreams may seem a little silly, but we don’t care. As long as we are together, we choose joy. We choose each other. We choose to dream, big and small. This is our greatest adventure and we choose to do it together.
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