Ten Things I’ve Learned in Ten Years of Marriage
My husband and I recently celebrated 10 years of marriage. TEN. YEARS. Because this feels like kind of a milestone, I thought I’d blog about some of what I’ve learned after a decade of covenanting myself to another person. Even if it’s not that huge of a deal. Even if some of it is silly. I’ve been hesitant to write about marriage much because of the overwhelming number of excellent bloggers out there writing about it so much better–and with so much more clarity and wisdom–than I ever could. But I have learned some stuff. God has been gracious to Onan and I. I want to give Him the glory for our ten years. So, here goes. Ten things I’ve learned after ten years of marriage:
1. Compatibility is overrated. If Onan and I had been on eHarmony back when we were single, I seriously doubt we would have been matched up. On paper, we don’t make much sense. We have completely opposite personalities. Guess how much that matters in real life, in our real marriage? None. My favorite professor at Word of Life Bible Institute used to tell our class in the middle of teaching Theology, “Listen up, kids. Throw away your dumb lists of all the things you’re looking for in your future spouse. Guys, find a girl who loves God, loves you, and marry her. Girls, find a guy who loves God, loves you, and marry him.” Excellent advice. When a couple loves God, they will love each other—and in the way God calls them to love each other. If that’s happening, it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re “compatible”… your marriage will be strong because Christ is the center of it.
2. But finding and nurturing commonalities is not a bad idea! My husband and I may have opposite personalities, but that hasn’t stopped us from pursuing common interests and learning about one another’s passions. Baseball is not my thing. Like, at all. But it is my husband’s thing. Like, big time. So, I watched the game, learned the lingo, and cheer my heart out for the Mets next to my husband (while they usually lose), every season. My husband makes compromises for me, too. If you know him, you know that he’s a classic introvert. He doesn’t love social occasions even a little bit. Small talk makes him nervous. Crowds, big parties and leaving the house are all things he can do without. He also despises getting dressed up, especially if it’s to leave the house to go to a crowded party. Attending a formal wedding, at a fancy venue, with a ton of people he doesn’t know, is kind of the perfect storm for him. But when our dear friends had the wedding of the century at the magnificent Breakers last year, he got up for it. For real got up for it. Party clothes, party face, everything. Not only did he chat with strangers, but he also took me out on the dance floor and danced with abandon to every song that I wanted to go out for. Without complaint. Enthusiastically. Why? Because he knows that his wife is a classic extrovert and that leaving the house, getting dressed up and going to huge parties are MY ideas of fun. And that I find them so much more fun when he does them with me. Who doesn’t want to do their favorite things WITH their favorite person? Making an effort for one another isn’t just appreciated because it’s nice, but also because we know the sacrifice involved for the other person. That’s love.
3. Hard times can draw you closer, if you let them. If you haven’t known suffering in your marriage, I gotta tell ya–it’s probably coming. Men and women usually have different coping mechanisms for dealing with hardship. Don’t let that stop you from reaching out to each other, finding comfort in one another, sharing your thoughts and praying through it together. The 20 weeks remaining of my pregnancy after Onan and I found out about Elizabeth’s anencephaly was the darkest time we’ve ever faced. All praise to God that He graciously used that time to draw us closer to one another, as He drew us closer to Him.
4. Safegaurds are legit. Listen, I’m about to get preachy and I’m not even sorry. I’m at a point in life where I’ve watched my fair share of (Christian!) marriages fall apart. It makes me sad, it makes me angry…and it makes me vigilant. We should own our actions, absolutely, but we should also take 1 Peter 5:8 seriously. It should not be a surprise that Satan is in the business of destroying the holy covenant of believers’. Of course he is. It causes unfathomable pain and heartache, not to mention it demeans our credibility with unbelievers. I realize that keeping focused on your spouse is a heart issue. I know that you don’t go stepping out unless there are some very real, deep underlying issues. But I’m learning that small roots of bitterness and resentment can quickly and easily grow into giant footholds for the enemy. So I’m done rolling my eyes at the checklists of marital “hedges” that the Christian community dishes out left and right. Don’t be stupid. Spending time alone with someone of the opposite sex can lead to trouble. Even if (especially if?) you don’t think it can happen. Have your guard up. Don’t text or talk at length with a man or a woman you’re not married to. If you find yourself attracted to someone else, do your best to steer clear of precarious situations. Don’t flirt. Don’t indulge. Don’t entertain thoughts of “what if?” Get an accountability partner and be real with them about what’s going on in your marriage. Seek godly council. Pray, pray, pray. Because ALL of us are capable of being unfaithful. But for the grace of God.
5. Co-freaking-mmunicate. I love talking. I was a speech coms major, for heaven’s sake. Talking to my BFF/lover/life partner should be easy. It’s not always easy. Sometimes in marriage you get lulled into a complacent apathy (think sitting on the couch next to each other, but with your iphone glued to your face). Honestly, it can be super difficult for me to tear myself away from Facebook, not let myself become completely wrapped up in lesson planning, or even put my phone away during dinner to really focus on having a conversation with my husband. Other times I don’t want to talk because I’m angry, or annoyed, or just too tired to deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. It’s times like those that it’s best to power through and get it worked out. When Onan and I are out of sync, everything else in my life feels out of sync too. Getting to the bottom of things ASAP, even if it’s not a pleasant process, is always best. Admitting wrong and asking for forgiveness is humbling (read: NOT FUN), but it’s necessary for a Christ-centered relationship. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath and all that.
6. Speaking of wrath–I’ve learned how to chill out a bit. I think our first year of marriage was made up of me trying to find new and creative ways to get under my husband’s skin. Ways to push him, ways to get a reaction out of him. One time I pushed so hard that he may or may not have punched a hole into the wall of our condo. I don’t even remember what the argument was about–just that I was being incredibly passive aggressive and my normally even tempered husband had finally had enough. “Winning” arguments and “punishing” Onan are rarely things I feel the need to do any more. Time and kids and life together has had a way of making us more secure, more comfortable and more settled with each other. Our love has grown deeper and stronger and we’ve learned how to fight and we’ve learned to appreciate things about one another that may have infuriated us in the beginning. Thank God.
7. Support and encouragement go a long, long way. No person’s opinion on this earth matters more to me than my husband’s. I think he would say the same of me. We are each other’s biggest supporters, truest confidants and best friends. It may sound silly, but I know that even if EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD was against me, I’d still have Onan in my corner. And that would be enough. He prays for me, tells me of all the things he knows I can do, and reminds me of the Gospel often. I do the same with him.
8. Laughter really is medicine. I’m convinced my husband’s (cheesy) sense of humor has rubbed off on me in our ten years of marriage. That’s a good thing, because now we can watch and enjoy the same movies and I can laugh at his (cheesy) jokes. And he also laughs at me, er, with me, a lot. Inside jokes with your spouse are kind of the best, by the way. Such fun (babe)! Oooh, know what else is the best? Laughing at our hilarious kids. (It’s ok to laugh at your kids, right? Now that I have some of my own and know that this is a thing parents do, I can only imagine how much my mom and dad laughed at me. Because I know I was just as ridiculous as my own first born daughter. Maybe more so…)
9. My husband comes before my kids. This one is tough, especially if you happen to have 3 of them in less than two and a half years. Then it kind of feels like everything is all about the little people you’ve brought into this world and changing their diapers and feeding them food and changing their diapers some more, especially if all three are in diapers for over a year. That year (2010) is kind of a blur, but even then I realized the importance of carving out time for Onan to make sure he felt loved, appreciated and valued. Now that the kids are all potty trained and can dress themselves, it’s much easier. My kids will all leave our house some day (please Jesus) and I don’t want to not know my husband when they’re gone. We’re intentional with our relationship now, making sure we keep our priorities straight.
10. Remember the purpose of marriage. Believers covenant themselves to one another in holy matrimony to display God’s glory to the world. We are a literal picture of the Gospel to unbelievers. It is God’s design that a husband and a wife model and portray the love that Christ has for his Church. Marriage is also a means by which God sanctifies us for His Kingdom. Sound serious? Seem heavy? It is. I hope Onan and I will always feel the weight of it and keep the purpose of marriage at the forefront of our minds. Because that will keep everything in perspective. I can let go of the little things and choose grace and forgiveness. I can give Onan the benefit of the doubt, even when I don’t feel like it. We can fight to love each other–wholly and fiercely–all while doing the ordinary, grueling, daily tasks that are set before us. We can show the world Christ by the way that we love each other. Not perfectly, but well. Onan does an excellent job of loving me well, and I am so grateful. I try not to take it for granted.
After ten years, I can tell you that marriage is work–hard, holy work. And that it is so worth it.