My husband and I just celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary in April. In some ways it feels so weird because it seems like just yesterday that we were saying I do and yet it also seems like we have already been together a lifetime. And I mean that in a good way. It's hard to remember what my life was like before him.
We love each other more today then we did back then. We understand each other, and marriage, more today then we did back then too.
When you are young and in love and getting married it's so exciting and there are butterflies and goosebumps. It's all very romantic and emotional. After 14 years there is still romance and emotion, some new and different emotions have come into play though. These don't come with butterflies but with tears and angry words.
I have a good marriage, strike that, I have a GREAT marriage. But it doesn't always feel great and it always takes work.
When we are young we take so much time planning the wedding that we forget to prepare for the marriage.
Weddings are great. (I only wish Pinterest was a thing back when I got married but that's why they have vow renewals and epic anniversary parties.) But in the end the wedding is just a day. It's a wonderful day filled with love and beauty, but it's just one day. What about all the other days that are going to follow? What about the days that aren't wonderful and beautiful but tragic and frustrating?
Great marriages take great effort. You have to learn the art of honest communication that is covered by love and grace. You have to practice compromise and selflessness. You have to choose to love even when its hard to like.
So, yes, I have a great marriage but that doesn't mean it's perfect. What it does mean is that we don't take it for granted.
While I'm no expert on marriage I can share with you a couple of things that have helped my husband and I make it work.
1. Don't wait until a fight to take stock of things.
We make it point to ask each other often if we are happy, if there is anything we can do to be a better spouse, or help. It's part of our routine and there isn't any magic in it. Sometimes the answers sting a little and often we fail a bunch before we get it right. The point is we ask the questions and listen and try.
2. When you do fight, do it nice and forgive quickly.
Fights will happen. We haven't had many but we have had them and it would be easier to let them stew and fester for the sake of winning. The win isn't worth it. Sometimes losing is really winning so lose graciously; apologize, forgive, love, move forward, don't hold a grudge.
3. We keep each other accountable.
We push each other to be better, to be growing, as spouses, parents, pastors and Christians. It's not about control but it is about loving someone so much that you help them to become the best version of themselves.
4. We do routine maintenance.
Routine physicals are good for your body and your marriage. What does a marriage physical look like? Well, for us it's reading and assessing. We don't wait for symptoms of sickness to show up to analyze things under the surface. We have done the Love Dare, we have learned our Love Languages and we recently worked through You and Me Forever. Be it books, marriage retreats or couples counseling, you don't have to wait until things are bad.
5. Our marriage comes before our kids.
We love our kids. We would die for our girls. But they don't come before our marriage. This means getting a babysitter for a date night, putting them to bed early to watch a movie together sometimes telling them no so we can tell each other yes. It seems easy but it isn't. Kids take a lot of time and it's hard to tell them no sometimes. But modeling a healthy marriage will hopefully help them one day have a healthy marriage. Plus, they will grow up and leave our little nest and my hubby and I will be just us once again. I still want to like him when that happens.
6. Our marriage doesn't come before God.
This one gets stickier then you might think because we are pastors. But ministry is not the same as God. Our marriage and our family come before ministry, they do not come before our individual personal relationships with Jesus. So we make time with Jesus a priority and we help each other be accountable to that. I don't get jealous when my husband wakes up early to spend time with God but won't wake up early for coffee with me. (To be fair he would if I asked him to but you get my point.) And He doesn't get jealous when I ask him to wait because I was getting ready to spend time in prayer. We love each other but we love Jesus more. A great side effect of this is, the closer we are to God, the closer He brings us to each other.
Marriage is hard. Marriage takes work. It is totally worth it.