9 years ago today, my husband and I stood at the end of a long aisle in our church and committed our vows of marriage to one another.
As I reflect on all that we have been through over those 9 years, there are a few things that I have learned about marriage that I wanted to share with you…
1. Preparation is good, but investment is everything.
My husband and I completed 6 months of pre-marital counseling before we said, “I do.” Those meetings were helpful and gave us insight into the marriage relationship that we had not yet fully considered. I would definitely recommend pre-marital counseling and cover as many topics as you can to prepare your heart and mind for marriage. However, do not be naive like me and think a few months of pre-marital counseling is enough to help you through a life long commitment to marriage. I guarantee things come up once you are married that you could never have prepared for while engaged or dating. That is why I believe it is critical for husbands and wives to invest in their marriage. Remain teachable. Be willing to get counseling if you need it, read books, go to conferences, do everything in your power and with the resources you have to continually invest into your marriage. The more you invest, the greater your return and the more enjoyable your marriage will be. With investment, comes growth. And growth will equip you for the experiences you will have in marriage. The first few years of our marriage, I did not acknowledge investment as a necessity. It wasn’t until our third year of marriage that I read my first marriage book, given to me by a friend (No More Headaches by Dr. Juli Slattery). Don’t wait any longer. Learn what you can about marriage. Soak it all up and let your heart be refined.
2. Love, even when you don’t feel like it.
So much of our culture teaches us that what we feel is everything. Its not. Although feelings can add so much to an experience, they are just feelings. More than feelings, we need to rely on truth. In the beginning of my marriage, when hardships crashed down on us, I didn’t feel very in love with my husband. In fact, I wanted to divorce him and try again. I thought that we had made a mistake. If I continued to make judgements and decisions based solely on how I was feeling, I wouldn’t be celebrating 9 years with my husband. What I have learned is that unconditional love is so much more powerful than a feeling, because it is a choice. It is a choice to love even when you do not feel so in love. This kind of love is powerful, transforming, and long-lasting.
3. Things happen, be flexible and faithful.
Things are going to happen. Our expectations will not always be met. Instead of sulking about it or throwing a pity party, remain steadfast and faithful. Be flexible and remember that you are in God’s hands. Trust God with your life and marriage. Embrace change and obstacles and unwanted circumstances. Let God use those times to teach you something about Himself, or let them grow your character as you exercise your spiritual muscles. When you are in a situation that requires patience and you exert that, you are becoming stronger. Marriage requires flexibility often. And no matter what, stay faithful to your vows, even if you don’t feel like it. Doing so shows that kind of love that I mentioned earlier and it shows the kind of person you are: loyal, trustworthy, loving, kind, forgiving, awesome.
4. Keep your eyes on Christ, no matter what.
Keep your eyes on Christ and the examples shared about Him through scripture. The more you study the character of Christ, the more your own character will resemble Christ. The story of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane is a powerful depiction of unconditional love and it transformed my husband and I . I would even say it had a huge role in saving our marriage. Thank You Jesus! His example for us to live by is full of love and grace and wisdom. I share about our marriage and specifically the impact of what Jesus did in my book The Unveiled Wife.
5. Justifications are useless and hurtful.
Every time I realized I hurt my husband or made a mistake, and was called out for it, I immediately wanted to justify my actions. They came spewing out of my mouth so fast. All I was really doing was trying to cover up my sin. And sin kills marriage! Don’t make excuses for your sin and don’t justify why you think you were in the right. Just acknowledge what you did and turn from it. Be determined to be a better person for your spouse’s sake. I wish I learned this one earlier on.
6. Don’t ever stop playing with each other.
My husband and I don’t play together nearly as much as we did when we were dating, but it is something we have learned that we need in marriage. Playing, whether physically or a game or something like that helps us take our minds off adult stuff and reminds us of our basic needs. We need to be close and we need to be affectionate. Playing together helps us laugh and helps us relieve unwanted stress.
7. Prayer is essential, do it every day.
Prayer is essential and it is intimate. Going before God to petition for your marriage and to submit it before the Lord is a beautiful thing. Prayer is unifying and affirming. I can’t tell you how many times I was feeling off or we were fighting and my husband turned to me and said, “We need to pray.” Immediate peace would cover us. Pray for your marriage, pray for yourselves, pray for one another and pray with one another. Every single day. If you are not sure how to pray check out this awesome resource HERE.
8. Marriage is a target.
Marriage is a target for the enemy. God loves marriage and the enemy hates God. The enemy hates marriage. His aim every day is to attack it, I don’t doubt that for a second. A marriage following God is an even bigger target. Be prepared for the battle by armoring yourselves up. Know the Word of God and know it well. Keep in my that your husband is not the enemy!
9. Marriage has purpose.
I have learned that marriage has extraordinary purpose. God designed marriage to refine us to become more like Him. Marriage also serves a great purpose of reflecting God’s love story – a mystery shared in the scriptures. When we operate in obedience to God’s Word our marriage is a tool to draw others closer to Him, which I think is honorable and beautiful. Knowing that my marriage has purpose, changed my perspective drastically. Marriage is sacred and it is important to society as a whole.
10. Good community is crucial.
My husband and I almost called our marriage quits. It was hard and seemingly impossible. We were both operating out of selfishness and didn’t understand how to fix what we had. Our brokenness was deteriorating our relationship. It wasn’t until our third year of marriage that we found a community of married couples who were honest about their relationships. Their vulnerability gave us the courage to be vulnerable and get the help we needed. They also provided insight into our marriage, perspectives we never considered before. To this day, my husband and I value community and understand the power of good community. Even though we moved to another state a few years ago, we prayed for good community and the Lord provided. Don’t go through life alone and isolated. Let people in and do life together. Let them help you, encourage you, carry you, laugh with you and cry with you. It is good for your soul and your marriage.
These 10 things I have learned about marriage are the large things that have dramatically changed me and shaped me into the wife I am today. I thank God that He has revealed these things to me. Among these 10 are hundreds more that the Lord has showed me. It seems every day I learn something new. If I remain humble and teachable I know I will grow. And my hope is that you are growing too!