10 Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage

I hardly know how we have been married a decade, but the calendar assures me that it has in fact been 10 years since we first said I do. 

Ten years ago today, my dad walked me down the aisle and had to gather himself as he began to choke up before praying to begin the ceremony. He was a man of very few tears but on that day he was feeling a little emotional. He lovingly and only half-jokingly reprimanded Mike for not paying attention during his message. He was too busy smiling at me. I vaguely recall a basketball analogy but I too was very distracted gazing into the eyes of the man who was about to become my husband. 

Our wedding day took its own course. Our photographer was actually mean and a little rude. I remember him yelling at the wedding party to not look so grouchy in the photos as they all boiled in heat and squinted in the highest UV index of the summer. One of the vehicles carrying the wedding party broke down on the way to our picture location which was 45 minutes away from the reception instead of 15. And there was no cell service to call our parents to tell them we would be late. We were an hour (maybe more) late to our wedding reception (surprise, surprise, right?). Some of the DJ's equipment got stolen at the gas station but somehow he managed to still get everyone out of the floor. We headed to the nearby chalet where we would spend our first night together only to find we had grabbed one of the bridesmaids suitcases that looked like ours. 

Rehashing these details almost makes it sound like the whole day was a disaster. It was anything but because we still achieved the goal of the day: to get married. It was the day we committed to each other and crossed the starting line of this marathon. Everything else was just details. 

When I think about our wedding day compared to our marriage, it was just that, one day. It's almost comical to think of how much time and money we spend on crossing the starting line so to speak when running the actual race is where the rubber hits the road. A few lessons stand out as I reflect back on the last ten years this marathon called marriage. 

1. Be on the same team. 

At a friend's wedding ceremony, their pastor said, "If you were in a jungle and found yourself encircled by lions (why you'd be doing this I don't know), you wouldn't waste time arguing about who's idea it was to get out of the car. You would stand back to back, together deciding how you were going to get out of it safely." 

Perhaps this resonated with me because I knew I would be tempted to blame him for getting out of the vehicle, when it fact, it was probably my idea and it would not change the fact that we were in a serious predicament. Denial runs deep. Blaming doesn't change where you are, it only determines how long you spin your wheels before moving together toward a solution. 

Marriage has an enemy and it's not your spouse. The Bible says the actual enemy (the Devil) is on the prowl looking to devour. If he hasn't already, he will try to devour your marriage. Regardless of yesterday, today can be the day that together, having each other's backs, you say "What are we going to do next?" We are on the same team.

In 10 years, you'll be glad you did. 

2. Fight for your spouse or you will fight with your spouse.

In the early years, exasperated with my not-so-subtle attemts, he said, "Why do you always want us to be better? We're fine!" 

"Because," I said (or maybe shouted), "I refuse to have a mediocre marriage!"

By the grace of God, I've learned how to fight for, rather than with. And believe me, there will always be some sort of fight. Decide where you will put it.  And hang in there because in approximately 9.5 years, he might even thank you.

In 10 years, you'll be glad you did. 

3. Do it God's way.

Around the time we got married, a book called Love and Respect came out. In a very small nutshell, a man's greatest need is to be respected and a woman's greatest need it to be loved. I used to think that respect was something to be earned. I was mortified the day I thought about the reverse: if he were to withold love until I was "deserving" of it. It was a step of faith to believe that it had little to do with what was deserved, and everything to do with what was needed. And I do mean needed. The rest of the world does a dang good job of making your man feel not man enough. Unfortunately, I spent the first few years adding fuel to fire.

Let his marriage and home be a place where he is safe and where his greatest need is met. If he feels like a failure at home, you better believe the enemy won't have to work too hard to make the grass look greener elsewhere. Ask God to make your marriage the place he feels the most successful. Where he feels successful is where he feels respected. Where he is respected, he will feel safe. Where is is safe, he can be vulnerable.

If you are like me and you don't like it and don't want to, and at first you don't succeed, try try again. Because not liking it and not wanting to doesn't change the fact that it is his greatest need. On the day when your husband is boldly stepping up as the man you always knew God intended him to be, and his marriage is a safe haven, and he loves coming home because he feels respected, you'll be glad you did.

Even if it takes 10 years. 

4. Go back to God.

In times of selfishness and frustration, I've often asked God, does this require me to forgive more than You've already forgiven me? Does this require more grace than You have given me? Does this require me to love more than You've loved me? For 10 years, the answer has been the same. Not even close. 

In 10 years, you'll be glad you did. 

5. Move toward.

The current will always pull you away from him. Schedules, jobs, kids, being tired, demands, other people, hurt feelings and hardened hearts. There have been many times where I was tired. Tired of initiating, tired of being the first one to apologize, tired of seeking reconciliation, or tired of forgiving. I told God these things, and He said: Do you want a good marriage or not? Move toward him. It wasn't him who would pay the price, it was us. (See #1).   

In 10 years, you'll be glad you did. 

6. Just go first. 

As Christian women especially, we tend to have hang-ups about role of the guy being the spiritual leader. (By the way, call me if you know exactly what that looks like, or write a book!) He's supposed to do this and that and go first. (See #5). If you want to strengthen your marriage, just go first in some small but steadfast way. "We" wins when someone does. If you do the waiting dance, you'll actually do the drifting dance.

In 10 years, you'll be glad you did. 

7. Pray first and always. 

A wise friend once told me, I always talk to God before I talk to my spouse. He has a way of showing me what's really going on.  Oh the fights that could've been avoided if I'd actually done this from the beginning. 

Only God can change your spouse. Good news, you're free to pursue your calling in life because that isn't it. Do what God tells you to do in your marriage and pray pray pray for Him to do the rest. And pray until He does.

You likely know your man better than anyone else. This means you are the insider who knows how to pray specifically and strategically for your man. You likely know what he's afraid of (even if he doesn't), what he struggles with, what he's insecure about, and what he's gifted at. No one knows how to pray for your man like you do. So, do it– be his prayer warrior until he is the man you know God intended him to be.   

In 10 years, you'll be glad you did. 

8. Invest regularly.

The 30's are when some people start talking about paying off mortgages, saving for retirement and planning for the future. We rarely think about what we need to do now so our marriage is thriving decades from now. 

We snuck away for a vacation in May to celebrate our anniversary a few months early. We wrestled a little with the decision because it seemed like there were a million more practical ways to spend money. Ultimately we decided it was an investment in us. Just like going to bed together is an investment in us. Just like having date night in or out is an investment in us. Just like not watching our show without the other person is an investment in us. Just like picking up his underwear and putting it in the laundry basket is an investment in us. Just like putting our phones down is an investment in us. Just like saying thank you is an investment in us. 

I suspect a marriage that is invested in will pay big dividends to each other, our families and those in our circles of influence for years to come. 

In 10 years, you'll be glad you did. 

9. Do Freedom Session. 

Mike and I went through this program last year and all I can say is I wish we would've done it sooner. We all have pain and baggage we bring into our relationships and marriage has a wonderful way of revealing what lies in our hearts. Marriage only intensifies insecurities, fears, pains and conflicts that existed before. Freedom Session is a tool that allows you to bring past pain to the surface, shows you how it is affecting the present and frees you to rewrite the future. Freedom Session will help you unpack emotional baggage over 28 weeks instead of over 28 years. 

In 10 years, you'll be glad you did. 

10. Let God be God so your spouse can be your spouse.   

It was about 3 months into our marriage, and the first of many nights I would be awake and upset only further aggravated by the fact that he was sleeping soundly. I sat in our living room crying and saying to myself, this is not what I thought it would be. I flipped open our premarital counselling workbooks, probably looking for some sort of ammunition for the morning. I opened to the big bold letters, "you can only change you."

I couldn't tell you now what the conflict was. Only that like everyone else who thought marriage would satisfy the deepest longing for love, security and significance, it didn't. Don't get me wrong, my marriage is a place where I feel loved, secure and significant, but only because I stopped expecting Mike to fill my soul in a way that only God can. I slowly, over many years, changed who I was looking to for those deepest needs.

Marriage is simply an earthly picture of a heavenly reality. God's design for marriage works in a way that reflects HIM. What better way for the good news of Jesus Christ to be understood than a faithful, loving husband laying down everything for His beautiful bride. And the beautiful bride accepting His invitation to submit to a permanent, secure, and faithful kind of love.  

This is the extravagent love of Jesus– God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. 

It's the fairytale we all dream of– being gently but relentlessly pursued by the ultimate and perfect lover of our soul who laid everything down simply to be us.

By accepting this invitation from God, you are taking the first step to the most intimate, satisying relationship that will free your spouse to be your spouse, as you let God be God. 

In 10 years, you'll be glad you did. 

Only by grace,