My husband and I just recently celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary! It is hard to believe that nine years came and went so quickly. We met in college, at our local Wesley Foundation at GC&SU. I admit that it took a whole year for us to even really speak to each other. I thought that he was a jerk, and he thought that I was weird (which are both probably true to some point still today! ha). However, I guess love was inevitable and we began dating the Fall of his junior year. We fell hard and fast, and married quickly. I am sure that some thought we were young and immature, which we probably were to some degree, but we were determined to make it work and last.
So, here we are, starting into year ten of our marriage! One of my sister-in-laws, who has been married just under a couple of years, ask me what advice would I give to a newly married couple. No one has ever asked me that, so I was thrown off a little bit by the question and had to think. I don’t remember exactly what I told her, but I knew immediately that I would eventually want to write about it. I admit that I am not a wise sage with earth-shattering advice, but I would love to come back and read this while celebrating my 20th anniversary! So, here are few things that I have learned from my first nine years of marriage:
- God must always be first. First in my life, first in my marriage, and first in child rearing. This is one that I know from experience. I am not the best “me” whenever I am not putting God first. David cannot be my “God.” He will simply fail if I put those expectations on him. Don’t get me wrong, David is wonderful and an excellent provider, but he is human. We are better parents when loving and serving God are our first priorities. Also, we are more aligned with each other whenever we are praying together.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! This one can be so difficult sometimes, which is so baffling to me. It seems like a no brainer. However, when you have two people, there becomes two different ways to express the same word. David is a very logical, deep thinker, and reasoning. I am more emotional, feeling, and creative. So when we come to a problem, we have to learn to communicate in way that we both can understand. Not only that, but we must also keep communication open and functioning. If one of us shuts down or shuts off the other one, the whole communication system breaks down. For a successful marriage, communication must always be open, honest, and intentional.
- Drop all expectations. Let your spouse be who they feel called or created to be, which means allowing them the freedom to work this out in a safe place. This was one piece of advice that has stuck with me since our premarital counseling we did with the pastor who performed our wedding ceremony. It is unfair of me to expect David to do or not do things if I have not communicated with him those expectations, and the same goes for him. When we put expectations on our spouse, we easily set them up for the possibility of failure. This isn’t because they are not capable, but rather they do not know that you had in your mind something for them to do or say. Furthermore, if your spouse meets your unspoken expectations, then often are treated as though they only met the minimum requirements because you already thought that this is what they should be doing anyways. Try taking the word “expect” off the table and replace it with “hope.” See if that changes anything.
- Love harder than you fight. I know that not all married couples fight or have disagreements. That is not David and me. We are both very passionate, stubborn people. So when we disagreed, we would let the other one know, and sometimes LOUDLY. Over the years, we have learned when to let things go, when to give space, and when to realize that the other person was just going through something that had nothing to do with us. Some of my favorite disagreements have ended with laughter because we realized that we just sounded silly. Even when you disagree, with a strong foundation of love, you can work through it.
- Be silly together. I am sad that there were a few years where this one was not important to me. Life got serious with many losses in our lives and many hardships. David and I had so much fun dating and our first couple of years of marriage. Then life hit us, and hit us hard. We are finding our way again, with silly selfies, two ballerinas that love dance parties, and lots of fun soccer games with our little pro. We go to the drive-in movies and get very little sleep some nights just so we can see each other. All marriages and all homes need lots of laughter. I am convinced that God loves laughter (just think about the human body and its functions! 😉 ). It is so soothing to the soul.
Marriage takes work and effort from both partners. Sometimes it is hard, and sometimes it is really good. When you are with the right person, it is all worth it!