In less than one week, Keith and I will have been married for thirteen years. In some circles, this seems like only a matter of days, but in others, we win the “Longest Married Award” by far. We may barely be in our forties, but having over a decade of marriage under our belts, we’ve learned a thing or two. So today, I present thirteen lessons from thirteen years of marriage! Some of these are biblical, some practical, and some are just fun 😉
- Put God in the center of your marriage, and first in your own life. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 to “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Seek God first by yourself, and then as a couple together. This is perhaps the best thing you can do for your marriage.
- Pray for your husband. In Colossians 1, Paul is praying for the people in the church at Colossae, and he prays that they will be filled with knowledge, live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way, grow in knowledge. Go read Colossians 1:9-14. We should be praying these things, among others, for our husbands.
- Pray with your husband. A few years ago, Keith and I took a marriage Bible study together. One of the assignments was to begin praying out loud together, for one another. Specifically we were to start praying with and for each other, not just generic “easy” prayers. Of all the things we learned in that marriage Bible study, this has been the best. We pray together every night before he leaves for work, and we pray about everything: our attitudes, our future, our child, our families, our friends, our fears, our hopes, our dreams…everything.
- Fight well. Keith and I fight. But we both know Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger, do not sin.” Do we argue? Yes. Do we argue passionately and loudly? Yes. In front of our kid? Yes. Do we make up and apologize? Every time. In front of our kid? Yes, because he needs to see a real marriage. Both sets of our parents got divorced before we were even old enough to realize what marriage meant; we want our son to understand that marriage is work, and that involves having strong opinions, arguing passionately (but most often kindly), saying you’re sorry, and making up.
- But laugh over ridiculous things. Having said all of that about fighting, I will definitely admit we laugh way more than we fight. In fact, I have said almost since day one that Keith is not the bring-me-flowers romantic type, but he makes me laugh every single day. That is so much more precious to me. Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there is a time to laugh. Every couple should have inside jokes, things that bring them to fits of laughter, and a reason to smile every day. Laugh over ridiculous things, like your pets having specific individual voices.
- And realize that almost anything is, eventually, ridiculous. I cannot begin to tell you how many fights we have had over the years, but eventually they all become ridiculous. Most of them even become something we laugh about together. Not all of them, mind you; there are serious conversations that we have had that shall forever remain serious. But *almost* everything becomes ridiculous. I don’t care what we are fighting about today; tomorrow is coming. This isn’t a biblical saying, but it is wise: “This, too, shall pass.” And it’s true. Whatever giant issue is bothering you today will probably be ridiculous to you in a short time. (Please understand I am not talking about abusive situations.)
- Go camping. Speaking of ridiculous! I think this is one of the best – and most ridiculous – decisions we ever made. We started camping. Our first trip involved a tent no bigger than a toddler bed (and a resulting trip to the nearest Walmart), and a lot of testing of each other’s patience. Yet in the eleven years since that first trip, camping together has allowed us to get away easily, quickly, cheaply, and often.
- Realize that having children DOES change everything. I had heard this countless times before our son was born. But it’s true, and now it seems like it’s a dirty little secret to admit I really miss my husband. I miss our Saturday morning breakfasts out. I miss our late night chats. I miss the spontaneity of picking up and just going and doing something whenever we wanted. I miss my husband. He is a fabulous father, and being parents with him is incredible, but I see why marriages fail at an astronomical rate after children are born. So if you also feel that way, you aren’t alone!
- But also realize that date nights aren’t some magic solution. We don’t have date nights. In our current stage of life, they are next to impossible to manage. We can’t really afford them, Keith is exhausted almost all the time because of his schedule, childcare options are limited, and, frankly, we’d rather spend time together as a family while we have that opportunity. So for every article you read about how date nights are the glue of successful relationships, well, here’s one telling you that isn’t necessarily the truth.
- Hold hands as often as you can. In the car, at home, at church, walking along the road, at the grocery store. Staying connected in this small way is powerful and important.
- Watch what you say on social media. Wives, please please PLEASE quit bashing, belittling, and shaming your husband on Facebook. How would you feel if he took to social media to mock you while you were sick in bed? Or what if he made fun of you because you couldn’t do something that he does every day, so he perceived you as useless and stupid? If you are disrespectful to your husband on social media, don’t expect him to treat you differently in real life.
- Realize “submit” isn’t a dirty word. Biblically, wives are called to submit to their husbands, and husbands are called to lay down their lives for their wives. Both spouses have hard callings, theologically speaking. But on a practical, daily level, someone has to make the decisions, especially the big decisions. Husbands don’t have to make every decision, but in marriage, there will be decisions that you will not agree upon. That is life; two sinners living together day in and day out are going to disagree, frequently. When push comes to shove, someone has to make the final decision. Lay down your pride and let your husband be the leader God commands him to be.
- Finally, realize your husband will never make you happy. Don’t place that expectation on him. Only the Holy Spirit can bring you true joy (Galatians 5:22); no human being can or should be expected to do what only God can do for you. Too many wives expect their husbands to be the fulfillment of their lives, and that simply isn’t how it works. That is unfair, for both of you.
I love being married. I have loved it almost every day since May 31, 2003 :). The world needs more examples of strong, lasting, biblical marriages, and it is my prayer that I will have thirteen more things to share in thirteen more years!