On Sunday, we’ll celebrate our twelfth wedding anniversary.
You know the drill – it feels like forever and yesterday all at the same time.
I’ve been reflecting on my marriage a lot lately. We’ve had some really incredible highs, and some really dark lows. We’ve faced some smooth sailing waters and some rough drowning storms. We’ve laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed. We’ve wounded each other deeply and healed wounds no one else on earth ever could. We’ve lived selfishly and also entirely selfless when it mattered most.
We’ve been human. We’ve been married. And thank God almightly, we’re both redeemed.
I thought I’d share with you the twelve things I think are most important to learn (hopefully before twelve years of marriage)
1.) Sometimes, you won’t have butterflies.
I’m not on the bandwagon that says Love is never a feeling – Love is just a choice. Because I think choosing to love someone makes you feel emotions you’ve never felt before.
But sometimes, life is hard, your spouse sins against you, or you’re in a low point yourself and you just don’t feel giddy and silly like you did when you were dating.
That’s not a sign of a failing marriage. That’s a sign that you need a date night.
2.) Speaking of date night – don’t ever stop dating.
Plan time for just the two of you – even if you have four kids and hundreds of things on the calendar.
When funds are low, play it simple and pick a free activity. Just never use the excuse that funds are always low and never invest in your marriage. Your marriage is worth $100 every once in awhile to pay for a sitter and go out to dinner. It’s not about the money, it’s about getting away together to connect, laugh, hold hands, look in each other’s eyes, share memories, dream about the future, and HAVE FUN!!
3.) There’s something about your vows you might not have realized before and that some never realize, but I’ll let you in on the truth….. That phrase “In sickness & In Health” — that’s a lot bigger than physical illness.
I wrote an entire post on this one truth before right here, so I’m not going to elaborate too in depth but if you polled ALL the divorce cases in the entire world, less than 1% happen because someone’s spouse got cancer, Parkinson’s or another illness.
However, SPIRITUAL health & sickness are relevant to all of us. Sometimes our spouses are spiritually sick. They are unsaved (which is spiritual death, the ultimate sickness) they are caught in addiction, they are full of pride, they are in a low spot and not investing in their relationship with the Lord…..and sometimes, we’re the ones who are spiritually sick.
And the divorce courts are FILLED with those reasons – adultery, addictions, debt, etc.
When your spouse is spiritually sick, it’s time to carry them to the Lord. Be on your knees in prayer, hold their hand anyway, draw near to Christ yourself so being close to you helps them be close to Christ. Let the Holy Spirit shake out their heart through the power of your love standing firm on your vows instead of taking it in your own hands to convict and accuse.
4.) Oil & Water.
Some personalities really are oil & water.
We can let that divide us or let it refine us. What can I learn from my spouse that I naturally don’t experience with my personality? What challenges can I take to step out of my comfort zone and grow? What qualities can I follow as ones I naturally lack in?
5.) Marriage is meant to make us Holy.
Without God, the union of marriage is lacking. God is the author and orchestrator of marriage. It was His good and perfect plan for man (resembling some qualities of God) and woman (resembling the other qualities of God) to become ONE FLESH and complement each other completely giving us the full picture of God.
The marriage resembles Christ and His bride (the church) loving selflessly, unconditionally and laying His life down, while the Bride responds with admiration, praise, loyalty and acceptance.
While marriage God’s way brings about unspeakable joy — the goal is not joy, the goal is holiness.
6.) Nothing will reveal your sin faster than marriage.
When you’re angry at your spouse, chances are — there’s some sin present (and not just in their life.)
Pride, Idolatry, Selfishness, Unforgiveness, Bitterness, Impatience, and a Lack of Self Control are messy sins that hide behind our blaming words.
I use to have my husband as an idol thinking he should be like Christ and fill every part of me, including making me happy at every turn. There was a HUGE plank in my eye yet all I cared about was the speck in his.
7.) The husband is the head of the family.
This is where the curse of the fall hits many of us women in the gut!! We’re very proud. We can sometimes be very certain we know how to do everything, and do it better than our husbands. We expect our husbands to do what we say, when we say it and we treat them like children.
We become the mother of our kids and of our husbands, belittling and joking about them in “bashing circles.”
There is no faster way to destroy the marriage than for the woman to take her husbands role from him. He will become weak, complacent, reserved and protect himself from her at all costs.
And she will become proud, bitter and burdened carrying the weight she was never designed to carry.
The best way for the husband to lead his family is just how God designed.
He loves his wife and his children unconditionally and is willing to lay himself down for them.
And the wife RESPECTS him unconditionally (not asking him to earn it like the world has sabotaged us into believing) by trusting him, building him up, speaking gently, honoring her marriage publicly and privately, coming along side to help.
When this is working well in a marriage, the wife will be able to share all her concerns and ideas and the husband will do everything in his power to make all her dreams come true according to what God allows. If a husband knows his wife will love, cherish and respect him even if he has to make a decision that is a little different than what she was thinking would work, He’ll do it with grace and the union will grow closer.
8.) Speaking of growing closer, Sex is a gift from God.
Despite what the world leads us to believe, sex is not for everyone recreationally, NOR is sex in marriage for just the man’s benefit.
Sex is a gift for marriage. It bonds the man and woman like nothing else can. It should be cherished, explored, discussed, given freely and with each passing day- the two should become experts in each others bodies.
Far too many couples buy into lies and neglect to discover how sex truly oils the marriage to keep it functionally flawlessly.
When people argue, it’s the first thing to go. This should not be. Sex is not a weapon, it’s a gift.
We all sin. We all hurt each other. It happens in marriage, in parenting, in friendships, in church…. it happens period.
When my spouse sins against me, I’ve learned to forgive quickly by remembering times that I’VE sinned against him and he’s forgiven me.
Instead of making a mental list and ADDING his current mistake to the list of all his other mistakes and holding them all under lock and key…. I chose not to keep a record of wrongs.
Instead, I reflect on how gracious he’s been to me for my sins and I extend the same mercy and forgiveness back.
10.) Speaking each others love language is a must.
No, it will not come natural if your love language is different than your spouse.
Again, marriage is meant to refine us and make us holy. What better way to selflessly love your spouse than to do what does not come natural to love them in the way they feel it deepest.
If you don’t know your spouse’s love language — Google “the five love languages” together and figure it out!
11.) Become best friends.
Don’t just say you are because that’s what people say, truly become best friends.
When you love and respect unconditionally, the safety increases IMMENSELY and the real heart of a person in marriage can shine through.
Take an interest in something your spouse likes. Or if you really truly can’t get behind their most favorite activity, find a special activity, club, game ANYTHING the two of you love and make that something you can talk about, do and explore together.
Tell each other your secrets, fears, dreams and goals. Never squash the other persons words. Cherish them, praise them, and cheer them on!
12.) When it is time to confront sin, the WAY you say something makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE between whether or not it can be heard.
There is a time and place to say “That really hurt me, or we need to talk about this.”
But if you take a tone, attitude, parental stance, condemning approach or anything that says you’re about to face my wrath or judgment, you won’t find resolution and you’ll likely argue for days or weeks or worse yet, months because it gets brought back up later!
We all sin. But when you feel like your spouse sins against you, go to them humbly and without judgment and condemnation and just share your heart.
It’s much more likely that they’ll hear you and you’ll be able to come to a resolution.
Of course, I could go on and on with tips, ideas and truths about marriage but I’m out of time to sit at the computer this morning!
So — here’s my practical application:
Go back through that list of twelve and reflect today on the two that grab you the most.
Ask yourself the tough questions, confess any sin and pray today for your marriage.
Satan would love more than anything to divide you and your spouse and chalk it up on the board as another failed marriage — don’t let him.