Today, my wife and I celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. On December 18, 2004 I watched a beautiful lady walk down the aisle at my home church and we promised to love, honor, serve and cherish one other until death do us part.
Over the past 9 years I have learned a ton about marriage (yes, I know I have a lot more to learn) and thought I would share 9 specific things that jump out to me as I reflect over the past 9 years:
1. A Great Marriage Takes Work. I know this does not sound romantic but it is reality. If you want a great marriage you must work for it! Professional athletes become great because they put in the work it takes to get there. Successful professionals do well in their business endeavors because they work hard to make it happen. Every fairy tale might end with, “And they lived happily ever after” but the only way this can be true is for the couple to work their tales off to make it happen. Great marriages take work!
2. Allow Room For Growth In Your Spouse. One piece of advice I was given by my father-in-law, before he passed away, was to allow space for Janie and I to change and grow through the years. I married Janie when I was 21. I still had one semester of college to complete and I was playing baseball, which took me away from home every other weekend. Janie was 23 and had a full-time job. From there we went to seminary where, again, she worked full-time while I worked part-time and was in school. Fast forward to today and I am the one working full-time outside the home while she is working as a stay-at-home mom and part-time accountant. Our lives are much different today than when we first married. We have changed and grown over those years. Give your spouse room to change and grow through the years!
3. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!!! If you want a great marriage you must communicate about everything; kids, church, jobs, finances, taking out the trash – everything. Turn off the TV and talk to your spouse. Stop checking your Facebook account and listen to your spouse. Effective communication requires both spouses to talk to one another and listen to one another. Janie and I have found it helpful to set aside a night every few months to sit out on the deck by the fire pit and communicate with one another. We talk about our dreams and our concerns. We listen to one another’s fears and failures. We communicate and this must be a priority in every marriage!
4. Spend Quality Time Together. Find out what each other likes to do and spend time together doing those things. I know Janie loves to shop (especially for clothes for her and the girls) and I make it my aim to help her as much as I can. Also, since I am off on Fridays and both our girls are in school, we go to breakfast each Friday morning. This gives us uninterrupted time together to talk about various things. Let’s just be honest – quality time does not happen in front of the TV or when kids are running around the house. You must make an intentional effort to spend quality time with you spouse without your kids! Set aside a weekly or monthly date night. Schedule a weekend to be away with just your spouse. Spend quality time together!
5. Forgive & Move On. When your spouse hurts you, and they will (intentionally or unintentionally), be quick to forgive and move on. We must always remember, as believers, that we married a sinner and the Holy Spirit is still conforming them into the image of Christ. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to say mean things. We are going to hurt one another. But we can control our response when we are hurt. We can do exactly as Jesus did to those involved in his crucifixion – forgive. Be quick to forgive your spouse and then move on!
6. Apologize. When you are wrong say, “I’m sorry” – not “I’m sorry…but if you would have…” Just say, “I’m sorry.” You may not even feel like you are in the wrong but apologize anyway. This goes a long way with your spouse. They realize you are less interested in defending yourself (which is a sneaky way of saying “I am right”) and more interested in their feelings and concerns. I’m still working on this one! J
7. Make Life Fun. Life is difficult and every day is definitely not Friday. But you can choose your attitude and the way you approach your spouse and family. Choose to be happy and to make life fun. There are days when it will take more effort than others but do everything within your power to make life fun. Often, we will take spontaneous trips just to communicate to our family that we want life to be fun. Go to the park; make a visit to the local pet store and pet the puppies; head out for ice-cream. Making life fun makes Janie happy – she loves to see smiles on her little girls’ faces
8. Pray For & With Your Spouse. I pray for Janie daily and I know she prays for me. I treasure this – my wife is truly a prayer warrior! We pray together during family worship and let our kids see us pray for one another. The old adage is “The couple that prays together stays together.” I truly believe this. Pray for and with your spouse!
9. I Am Blessed Beyond Measure. The Bible says, “He who finds a wife finds a good things and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). In God’s providence he brought Janie and I together and for that I am blessed. I thank the Lord daily for this good and precious gift he has given – I truly have obtained “favor from the Lord!” Thank God for your spouse and tell your spouse you believe they are a blessing from the Lord!
**There are tons of other things I have learned over the past 9 years of marriage but I would love to hear what you have learned in your marriage. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section!