How cool is this picture? These are my grandparents on their honeymoon 69 years ago! My husband (Keith) and I have been married now for almost 15 years. We married 3 weeks after my college graduation in 2001. It’s amazing to reflect on how we got here when so many marriages have not. We are deeply grateful to God for marriage and each other, and like many of you, we have had our share of challenge. Despite any struggle, any hard times, I wouldn’t trade a day because they have all led us to here. So for those of you just starting out, or not yet started, or those of you looking for a fresh re-set, I thought I would share what has helped us (and more specifically me) get to our 15th anniversary-
- Divorce is a four-letter word– We committed right away (before the wedding day actually) that this was not only not an option for us, but not a word we would ever throw around or even joke about. No matter how big a fight or how mad we were, we would work it out. And if someone said they wanted to get counseling or other help, the other would agree to do it.
- Breathing room– 15 years later I am not the same person I was when we married. He isn’t either. Expecting each other to stay the same would be crazy. Giving each other room to grow, to mature, to explore new interests, and change is a sign of not just love, but respect and security.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff– We are both pretty mellow and we don’t fight a lot. Maybe because life is hard enough as it is, we don’t pick out the little things and make big deals about them. This keeps our home, and my heart, more peaceful.
- Don’t argue about money– The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. We don’t have an excess of money, but we have always kept it in it’s place – as a tool – not as our foundation. I think we don’t argue about money because of our understanding of it and because we share the same goals for the future of our finances. Also- we set up boundaries with spending. When we were first married and getting started in our careers (which happened at the same time), we set a spending limit of $40. If a purchase over $40 had to be made, we talked about it first or had to call the other person. (This was pre-texting days.) This meant we really had to think about each purchase and determine if it was worth the effort and was necessary. This set a great tone for all the years to come.
- Go with your strengths and be flexible– Keith was a business major and the “guy” so it was natural to let him do our book keeping when we were first married. This worked for a season, but then has jobs changed and responsibilities changed, it wasn’t a good fit for him anymore. My gifts lend more towards organization, although not book keeping, it turned out I was better suited for the bill keeping/paying/taxes responsibilities.
- Set reasonable expectations– Real life marriage is not show on TV. Not in reality TV, not in movies. I had to learn to set reasonable expectations on romance and daily life with my husband. I couldn’t expect him to respond the way a character on a show would, or read my mind like a script in a movie. That being said…
- Take initiative– I have learned that if I want a date I have two options- ask for one, or make it happen. Neither is wrong, but both lead to the same end result- quality time with my guy. Waiting for him to plan a romantic evening that met all my unspoken dreams was setting him up to fail and me to be disappointed. Once I dropped this, and the notion that the guy should make the plans, I took initiative and made dates happen which is a total win-win.
- Date– You hear this over and over. It’s somewhat easy when you are first married. Then you have babies and toddlers and babysitters are required. It gets harder or almost impossible. You have to adjust your expectations and enjoy the moments with or without the pizazz of fancy clothes or special places. Currently, our favorite date is the 1 hour we spend down the road at Cracker Barrel, eating this amazingly high-calorie apple desert that costs $4. Honestly, it’s the best date, not just because the food is yummy, but because it’s quality time without a lot of fuss and stress. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest of no-cost/low cost dates. Find some and do them! And be present – talk about dreams, life, and ideas – not kids, bills, or stress.
- Stay fresh– We were virgins when we were married (I kind of can’t believe I just typed that- but it is the truth). We were VERY ready to be married – if you catch my drift. And, oh man, we thought we were amazing. We laugh now, because 15 years later, that area of our marriage is so much better now than ever. Not without effort. The daily closeness we create by sharing our days together, plays out in so many areas of our marriage, including the bedroom. Sex is an important and vital part of a healthy marriage. Intimacy keeps our hearts and our will to fight through life together connected. It breaks selfishness and creates honesty, like nothing else can. This book was a great tune-up for me when I read it a few years ago.
- Fight for your marriage– We are committed for the long haul – The Notebook style – long haul. So, it occurred to me awhile back, that fighting for my selfish gain or just to win, was pretty petty in the lengthy story of us. I’m not saying I am a push over, but having a long distance mentality of marriage puts the obstacles and distractions, and selfishness, in perspective. And if I love him, more than anyone, I want what’s best for him, more than what’s best for me. We have also had to fight for our marriage vs. parenting. Parenting is a huge job. It tries to sneak in and take over your marriage if you let it. Fight for your marriage to stay priority over your parenting and over your children for that matter. When you love each other more than you love your children, your children want to be part of that love, not separate from it and a beautiful harmony is created in the home.
- Prayer– I am thankful we share the same belief in God – this is what first drew me to my husband. If I am honest, we are not great at taking the time to pray together, in the same place, at the same time. We do pray for each other frequently. I love this book to help guide me in praying for him. It’s helped so much as I didn’t really understand men until I was married. (I am still learning.) This is an area I look forward to improving over the next years.
- Be a lifetime learner– Not only am I interested in learning new things about my husband, I am interested in learning new things about marriage and how to strengthen and improve ours. Relationships are complicated because people are so complex. We are ever changing, and so it makes sense that our marriage is ever changing too. I have learned so much from talking with couples married much longer than us, listening to and reading teaching on marriage and relationships, and improving myself.
- Love whom he loves– Guys form relationships differently than girls do. They are loyal by nature. I found it was important to support my husband’s relationships with his family and friends by loving those people too and encouraging his time with them. The reward has been well worth the effort.
- Be open and drop any guards– In order for my husband to be my best and most intimate friend I had to let him in. I had to share the parts of me that I would have preferred to hide. Let him see me fail. Allow him to help me recover, improve, be better. I also had to allow myself to be loved – even when I felt unloveable either emotionally or physically. I have had to learn and ask God to show me, how to be intimate emotionally with my husband.
- Be His Biggest Fan– The more years I have been married and spent with my husband, the more I love him. And the more I have learned about men, the more I have learned how important it is to encourage them. It’s always important to speak highly of your spouse, even if you aren’t feeling it at the moment. Your words have power!
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future. – Proverbs 31:25
I challenge you to make a list of what you have learned in marriage no matter what year you are at. This was such a great exercise and fun to go over together. This could be a Valentine activity or a great written gift.
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Love, every day, with all your heart-