7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Marriage
Well, folks, my husband and I have just about wrapped up Year Seven since saying, “I do” one especially warm October afternoon in western Oregon. And I know the phrase that just came to your mind…admit it…
…The Seven Year Itch.
The dreaded year. The year everything went bad. That year you wish you could delete from history. The year you and your spouse only reference when you’re telling horror stories or “lessons to learn from” anecdotes.
It surprises me how much I hear about this year, as a matter of fact — even among Christians. I suppose that’s because we’re actually ending our best year yet! No joke! Mike and I have had anything but an “easy” year with multiple hospitalizations (a couple very scary ones), lots of travel, a second pregnancy, another international move and so on. But let me tell you, it’s done wonders in my “training” as a wife.
I could seriously type multiple pages on the background, our personalities, our experiences and so on, but let’s just get right to it. I’ve compiled a list that’s dear to me. I hope it becomes an encouragement or challenge to you in your own marriage!
1. Talk, Talk, Talk
I don’t mean nag and I don’t mean ramble. I mean, when I decided to get intentional about my conversations with Mike, I could see some changes. With jobs, ministries, children and separate downtime interests, it was really easy to crash in the evening and turn on Netflix. Even if we were sitting next to each other, I felt like I was wasting away my life and my marriage. Don’t get me wrong – we are such different people that finding a decent TV show we both could enjoy gave us a connection and things to reference or laugh about together. This is good stuff. However, I regret a lot less the times we spent just talking.
It often turns deep, meaningful and memorable – these conversations. We’ve shared fears, experiences, work stories, struggles, frustrations and (one of my favorites, of course) we occasionally discuss books! It’s amazing what comes of just putting your to-do list on the back burner (or even in the pantry) and talking.
2. Bite Your Tongue
Then there is the reverse! Keeping my mouth shut… I’m a far cry from perfect but I’m so much better than I was seven years ago, it is lovely to see the progress.
My man, as wonderful and wise as he is, can be wrong. (Yes, I got his permission to say that!) Almost 100% of the time (barring extreme circumstances) it’s not my place to tell him. It is, however, my place to swallow what I want to say, be submissive and respectful and to allow the Holy Spirit to guide him in his growth toward wisdom. It is my place to pray for him. And it is my place to biblically love him and show him the grace and mercy that God shows me all day, every day.
There, of course, comes a time when discussions need to be had concerning things that may not be “extreme circumstances” in order that home and family life continue going well, but that’s a tangent… Like I said, I have much to learn but am thrilled that the idea of biting my tongue has actually penetrated my thick skull to an extent. Ways I zip my lips and move on could fill a whole other post!
3. Talk Him Up
Fortunately, I learned this bit of advice even before marriage: Never, ever ever ever ever talk negatively about him to anyone. I would add: even to your mother or best friend who promise to (and may) keep things secret.
There is something special about knowing I’m only building him up to others. I’m helping his respect and esteem stay firm. I may not even say anything directly positive like, “Mike takes out the garbage all the time!” but I’d like to think that just my silence and complete omission of anything negative gives him credit.
I believe that if I went down the track of adding to the ladies’ complaints in various circles, it would only be harmful, it would teach others to complain and it would reduce or belittle him in others’ eyes. There’s just no way, from my view, that there’s any benefit to this.
4. Let Him Talk
We’ve all heard the statistics on how many more tens of thousands of words women say in comparison to men each day. A man would probably have even made that sentence shorter!
So when he wants to talk, I work so hard at a) not interrupting and b) having an encouraging response. I think it’s vital for the leading man of the family to feel like the leading man of the family. I’ve found the more I work at letting this be, the happier we all are!
I now have morphed so much into this part of my wifely role that I’ve become greatly dependent on him! I enjoy seeing him lead, watching him make and put into place decisions for our family and to be fulfilled in that role. I have no education in marital counseling and certainly not a lot of “head/book” knowledge, but I sure have seen this particular lesson do miracles for our relationship.
5. Write It Down
For a very long time, I have kept what I call my blessings journal. It’s a basic notebook that’s just one giant list! I will write down anything and everything, from the silly to the serious, from the tiny to the huge.
At one point, I flipped back and skimmed through pages and what did I discover? A vast majority of them had to do with my husband! I’ve reflected on this a bit and think it’s something I would recommend to, oh, anyone. Even if your husband doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus, even if you’re going through a huge fight, even if you’re just coming home from your honeymoon…
It has done absolute wonders for my heart. I’m telling you, keep lists in whatever format works of ways your husband is a blessing. God will use your attitude and willingness to see your spouse in this light and He will smooth out certain bumps in your relationship you didn’t even know where ahead of you.
Lastly, it’s ridiculously easy to observe other men or friends’ husbands or even your own dad and say to yourself, “I wish my husband did that.” Avoid even having those thoughts by writing down three things you’re glad your husband does do!
6. Talk It Out
In my own experience, the instruction in Ephesians 4:29 (don’t let the sun go down while you’re still angry), is the classic I hear from just about everyone. And there’s a reason. It’s God-ordained and it’s just plain wise!
I can distinctly remember a time in our drafty bedroom in Arequipa, Peru within the first year of our marriage, Mike standing over me on my side of the bed and shaking my shoulders. “You can’t go to bed angry,” he said. I hadn’t fallen asleep yet so I’d say that’s the worst it ever got for us as far as fights, ha. 😉 I sat up and we talked completely through whatever issue it was.
(That makes me want to go open my blessings notebook and write how thankful I am for a husband who was already versed in that discipline!)
I alluded to our marriage being pretty tame in the argument area when I reviewed a book last month. It’s really true. I have countless faults or weaknesses in many areas. I’m human. But I really think, with my husband’s leadership, God’s guidance and my willingness to grow (and be humbled) in this area, we’ve got one thing right. Nothing has ever been important enough to truly fight about. This is my experience.
7. Pray It Up
Over the years, I’ve heard many reasons (all valid and very important) for why couples should pray together. So let me just add to that list something I haven’t directly heard as much…
So many of us have our plans. 5-Year Plans. 10-Year Plans. Education Tracks. Career Dreams. Family Planning. And on and on… Some of those may even have been God-given at the time so we just think we’re good! Don’t need to pray about that again! Some of those plans may have been planned out before marriage or even once we were married.
Well, what I’ve discovered is that when Mike and I truly let the Lord lead, promising obedience even in those “planned” areas, things happen. God doesn’t always but may very well change our path, and because we recognize that as a couple, it brings us closer together to a degree I can’t really describe or could have fathomed seven years ago.
I have chapters wanting to burst out of my fingers on this last subject, so another post… But let me say life gets awesome when I go through changes, tribulations or even fun adventures all in sync with my husband and my God!
Let me quickly reiterate what I started with – there is an abundance of relatable and vital advice for God-centered marriages out there (in fact, let me know about any favorite books on the subject!). But I just wanted to share my heart with you tonight. I pray it was an encouragement. Bless you, friend, in your own marriage and may you stay focused and on the track God has planned for you.