In 13 years of marriage, I’ve learned a thing or two about marriage. Actually, here are 13 things I’ve learned in marriage …
I can remember my wedding day like it was yesterday. Even though it was 13 years ago today, many details still stick out so clearly to me. Because of this, sometimes it seems like my husband Aaron and I should be newlyweds.
But I’ve learned so much since our newlywed days. We’ve grown together so much. And in 13 years of marriage, I’ve learned a thing or two about marriage – or, actually, 13 things …
1. Marriage can improve over time.
I love my husband more today that I did on our wedding day. I know him better. We’re closer than we were on that January day in 2003. We are better friends. We can finish each other’s thoughts and sentences because we just know. We are a far better team. While our marriage wasn’t ever rocky at the beginning, it’s better now than it was 13 years ago.
2. Prayer works wonders.
When Aaron and I got married, he was a fairly new Christian. It was awkward to be more spiritually mature than he was. But I loved him. I liked seeing a tangible example of God’s grace and changing power in a person’s life. And I knew that since God already changed him so radically, He could keep making bigger changes.
Instead of mentioning anything, I kept my mouth shut and I prayed. And prayed and prayed. I prayed my way through Stormie Omartian’s “Power of a Praying Wife” a few times. And I kept praying.
Some years, it seemed like my prayers were nowhere close to being answered.
And then all of a sudden, they were. God orchestrated a bunch of life’s circumstances and godly men and I watched God transform my husband into the godly man of my prayers and dreams.
I know how far my husband has come. It has been a huge blessing to see the process in front of my very eyes – even when I endured times of impatience. But I’m also excited to see what will continue to happen in the future.
I love that I know how much prayer can change a person. I’ve watched God’s transforming power in my dad’s life and now my husband’s life – and I am amazed and grateful. Because of this, I’m a huge fan of praying for each other and praying with each other.
3. Battles should be picked wisely.
My husband and I both shy away from confrontation, which makes for a pleasant home. I’m not saying all confrontation is bad – but as we do try to keep the peace in our home, I’ve found it’s important to pick your battles wisely.
If I complained or nitpicked about every single annoyance, I would easily become a nagging wife no one would want to live with.
Instead, when I realize I’m annoyed, I first pray about the situation. After I’ve prayed, I try to decide if my annoyance actually is an issue. Am I just annoyed because Aaron chooses to do something differently than I do? Does he have good motives and I’m just being particularly touchy? Or does something serious need to be addressed?
Sometimes it is a serious issue and we need to discuss it with each other. But most times, when I really stop to think about the situation, I realize it’s a matter of preference – and we just have a difference of opinions. As long as it’s not earth-shattering, I try to let it go.
4. Peace should be pursued.
Seeking and pursuing peace goes hand in hand with picking your battles wisely. Instead of focusing on offenses in marriage, focus on peace. How can you overlook an offense?
As long as you’re not in danger, is the issue you’re focusing on worth a confrontation? Pursuing peace may take a lot of prayer. And it usually means you need to rely on the Holy Spirit. But a peaceful marriage can be such a sweet gift both to you and your spouse.
5. It’s vitally important to be your spouse’s number one cheerleader.
Your spouse will seek the approval and encouragement of someone. Make sure it’s you.
If someone else is stepping in to encourage and invest in your spouse, make sure you’re encouraging and investing more. Be your husband’s or wife’s closest ally, a friendly port in the storms of life.
As you’re cheering your husband or wife on, also be sure to look for ways to help make your spouse’s life easier.
Life is hard. If you’re married, it’s a good thing you have been given the blessing of your spouse.
Remember that you became a team on a wedding day, and teammates want to see their team win. Oftentimes that means stepping in to help when your partner is having a rough day (or week or month). It may be as easy as helping with the laundry or dishes, or may be as significant as becoming a breadwinner – or a caretaker if your spouse is chronically ill.
6. A fantastic way to draw closer is by serving together.
Service is a wonderful thing – not only do you help others, but you also can be blessed in the process.
Last year, Aaron and I taught Sunday school together on our anniversary. While we had an actual celebration later in the day, our Sunday school lesson was my favorite part of the day, because I was able to fall deeper in love with my husband by the way he was teaching young children about Jesus.
Instead of only serving alone, make sure you’re serving with your spouse if at all possible. Help another family. Work on some sort of a service project together. Work hard to save money to donate – that just the two of you know about.
7. Physical attraction doesn’t go away with time.
I remember one particular night when Aaron and I were just friends – in a big group of friends. We happened to be alone together in a tiny kitchen for about 60 seconds, tops, and all I wanted to do was kiss him.
Since we were just friends at the time, I was shocked – but I couldn’t deny the attraction.
I always wondered if the spark would fizzle after years of marriage, or if married couples just became too familiar with each other. I can answer my own questions with a resounding no.
The physical attraction after years of marriage is just as strong as it was before and while we were dating. (The fantastic benefit is that we can now act on that attraction!)
8. Don’t forget to keep dating each other.
You live together. Depending on your schedules, you may see each other every single day. You still need to date each other, though.
Even if you have young children at home and it’s more tempting to have a date night at home after the kids have gone to bed – we’ve had those! And they’re great! – it’s still important to make time for just the two of you outside of your home.
It may not happen every week, but try to plan time together at least once a month. Clear your schedule, trade babysitting with friends if you must … just be sure to make it happen.
If money is tight, pack a meal and go to a park. Walk around your neighborhood hand in hand. Visit a local festival. If money isn’t a problem, get away together.
The important thing is to get alone with your spouse and be able to enjoy life together. Talk about your days. Talk about your dreams. Talk about the past, present and future. Make sure you talk and reconnect. Just one date will add a huge spring to your step.
9. Remember that while you’re a couple, you’re also your own selves.
While it’s important to stay close as a couple, don’t forget that you’re each your own selves.
No one wants to be married to their conjoined twin; by pursuing your own interests and developing your God-given talents, you’ll feel more fulfilled as a person. Your fulfillment will help add a spark to your marriage. Plus, you’ll have something different to talk about with your spouse.
Just as you’d like respect when pursuing your interests, make sure you’re giving your spouse respect, too. Even if you’re not exactly as interested in a topic as your husband or wife is.
10. When times are rough, fake it until you mean it.
Sometimes, you’re just not feeling the love. Maybe you’ve had a crummy week at work. Maybe you’re just feeling grumpy or depressed. Maybe the last thing you want to think of doing is being civil – or affectionate – to your spouse.
Do it anyway. Fake the love, fake the interest, fake the affection until your emotions catch up. (Unless, of course, you’re in an abusive relationship. In that case, seek help immediately. Don’t fake anything if you are in danger.)
In a healthy relationship, though, if you know you’re in a funk for some unrelated reason, don’t take it out on your spouse. Keep on acting like you love your spouse – and pray about your situation – while treating your husband or wife with kindness.
I can guarantee you that if you act on your emotions – and you end up stoking your bitterness and anger, it will grow like a fire. It’s much more difficult and will take much more time and energy to get your marriage back on track if you focus on nurturing bad attitudes and a hateful spirit.
As long as your marriage is OK and you know that you’re the one dealing with issues, try hard to not take it out on your spouse.
11. Never forget your promise to God.
On your wedding day, you made vows to God and your spouse. Remember those vows, and stay true to your word.
Difficult times will come. Temptations will arise. You’ll want to give up on your marriage and walk away. DON’T.
When you’re tempted to call it quits, remember what you promised to God. Even if you don’t care about keeping your vows to your husband or wife, you need to keep your vow to the Lord. Remember Ecclesiastes 5:1-5:
“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. … Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. … When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”
Remember that once you say, “I do,” you’ve made a commitment. That commitment doesn’t change, even if your feelings do. Regardless of how you may feel, be faithful in word, thought, and action to your spouse.
12. Always give 100 percent.
In your marriage, give 100 percent. Pray that your spouse would give 100 percent, too – and come right out and ask him or her to put the same effort into your marriage.
When both a husband and wife do put their all into their marriage, expect amazing results.
Romans 12:10 offers a great encouragement:
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Honor your spouse by giving your all. And if your spouse isn’t giving his or her all, don’t get discouraged – keep doing it. Remember that you are accountable to God, and take heart in Colossians 3:23-24:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
13. Gratefulness goes a long way.
Look for the good that your spouse does. And when you do see the good, remember to thank your husband or wife. Thank your spouse for taking out the trash, or making dinner, or working hard.
Once he or she knows that you notice and are appreciative, your spouse will naturally want to continue to please you.
By being grateful for little things, you’ll end up appreciating your spouse and your marriage more.
Now that I’ve shared 13 things I’ve learned in marriage, I’d love to know what you have learned in your marriage!
Disclaimer: I am a professional journalist, not a professional counselor or therapist. If you’re seeking help with your marriage, please consult a professional. And if you’re in an abusive relationship, seek help immediately.
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