Today Jon and I celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. That marks exactly 19 years of wedded bliss. (The first two years were so hard.) So, as a special treat to you, I asked my husband to contribute his insight to today’s post.
Monday, while he was at work, he emailed me his thoughts about marriage. Tucked within his list of thoughts was this little gem:
“Having sex on Monday is a great idea. ☺”
From the mouths of guys…
You may recall that this is the same husband whose Love Language is “Buy Me Chips”
1. No one’s words carry more power, good or bad, than those of your spouse. Choose your words wisely.
2. Spontaneity gives way to intentionality over time. With careers, children, school and hobbies, you can’t just pick up and go out to dinner whenever you want. If you’re not careful, busyness can overshadow relationship. Don’t let it happen. Plan regular dates and weekend getaways—or whatever you need to have an uninterrupted conversation.
3. There is no greater joy and no greater responsibility than having children. And also, raising kids together will test your relationship like nothing else. Staying yoked in parental matters and presenting yourselves as a united front is vital—both for you and for the children.
4. Living debt-free is one of the best things you can do for your marriage. Getting on and staying on the same page about all financial matters eliminates a mountain of marital stress.
5. You can be right and wrong at the same time. Winning an argument is fleeting if you tear down your spouse in the process.
6. Making your spouse the butt of a joke is never funny.
(Warning: Most of the years you are raising kids you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.)
8. Be completely honest about everything. Except, of course, for the exact time you need to leave the house in order to arrive at the thing on time. Lie about that. Padding the time by 15-30 minutes is a gift to your spouse, who may or may not run late on occasion. They don’t ever have to know. They will only know they were always on time for the thing. And you can pat yourself on the back for that.
9. You won’t remember most of the stuff you fought about five years, or even a month, from now. But you will always remember how your spouse made you feel during the fight. So, fight wisely. Even if you don’t agree, you can always affirm their feelings and let them know you understand what they are saying.
10. There is no relationship on earth that will reveal more of your own selfishness than marriage. This feels like bad news, but it’s actually great news.
11. Always, always offer a sincere and humble apology. (“I’m sorry you misinterpreted what I said.” is not a sincere and humble apology. It’s an accusation.)
12. Timing is everything. Learn the best times and the worst times to approach your spouse about heavy topics. If you aren’t sure, ask. For example, Jon has learned he cannot discuss anything with me before coffee. I have learned that I cannot discuss anything with Jon two seconds after his head hits the pillow.
13. Most marital discontentment is rooted in unmet expectations. If you expect your spouse, your relationship or yourself to be perfect, you will always be discontent. If you expect that marriage will sometimes be difficult and that your relationship will usually not look like a love song or a movie script, then you will be fine. State your expectations clearly. Change your expectations whenever necessary.
14. If you look for negative traits in your spouse, you will find them. If you look for positive traits in your spouse, you will find those, too. Choose to dwell on the positive traits.
15. No one will protect your marriage but you. Sure, your Mom may pray for you and your friends may encourage you, but you and your spouse must do the hard work of fiercely protecting your relationship from everything and everyone who threatens to weaken it.
16. Believe the best, always. Before you accuse or jump to conclusions, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.
17. Surround yourselves with people who have great marriages, who will give it to you straight when you are being a jerk, who will pray for you when you are struggling and who will celebrate your victories. Don’t discuss details of your marriage with friends who are critical of your spouse, with people in dysfunctional relationships or with those who are not invested in seeing your marriage thrive.
18. Every time you hear one of your friends or family members losing a spouse through divorce or death, you will need to stop and catch your breath. Then, you will try a little harder to be the partner your mate deserves.
19. Marriage is not about finding your soul-mate or the one who completes you, neither is it about someone else making all your dreams come true. As Dennis Rainy so aptly puts it, “If you want to be the center of the universe, then there’s a much better chance of that happening if you stay single.”
Instead, marriage is one of the most selfless relationships you will encounter. It requires daily patience, kindness, honor, protection, trustworthiness, hope and perseverance. (I Corinthians 13:4-6) The best marriage partners are peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17).
None of that flows from self-centeredness. All of that flows from a relationship with God.
20. Laugh a lot. Have private jokes that only the two of you “get.” Finding the humor in every situation decorates your marriage with joy and draws you toward each other.
21. There is a point you reach—I suppose it’s different for everyone, but for us it has happened in year 19 or 20—where you look back over the terrain of your relationship and realize you’ve made it through a hell of a lot. Your history as a couple bears the marks of love and laughter and tears and failures and an abundance of grace and forgiveness. It’s your marriage story and you are stronger and better because of it–because of him or her.
In all its hills and valleys and deserts and storms and famines and harvests, you have created something resilient and beautiful, because you stayed the course.
And you decide again—maybe for the hundredth time—that you’re committed forever.
Happy Anniversary, Jon. Thank you for choosing me, in 1993 and also in 2014. I love you forever and ever and ever. I’m so proud of us.
(P.S. I know it’s not Monday, but I don’t have any plans tonight…)