On Friday, Chad and I will celebrate sixteen years of marriage. I remember our wedding day like it was yesterday, and I clearly recall how shocking it was to try to settle into life with another person, even one that I loved with all my heart.
Even so, we have an amazingly happy marriage. Despite the fact that we are polar opposites in some areas, we managed to find more and more common ground as the years passed. So, since wedding season is upon us, I thought I’d share sixteen secrets that have worked for us through the past many years. I’m not saying that we always do or think these things, but when we do, it makes life more fun.
1. Enjoy individual interests and hobbies. When we first married I thought we should spend every non-working minute together. The truth is that we enjoy our time together more when we have freedom to do our own things here and there.
2. Don’t hold grudges. It isn’t fair to hold something against your spouse that happened years ago. Forgive and let it go.
3. Just put. down. the. phone. Chad and I got rid of our smartphones because they were taking over our family’s life. And we STILL struggle with computers. Look up. Talk. Listen.
4. Get involved in church. This was probably the most important element of our first two years of marriage. We were having a hard time learning how to be married, but once we started doing ministry together, serving, and hanging out with Christian couples who showed us how it was done, things changed forever.
5. Don’t keep score. Marriage shouldn’t be about entitlement. Keeping track of what one of you got to buy or got to do, and then demanding something equal just turns your marriage into a competition.
6. Let the person who is good with money handle the money. Neither Chad nor I enjoy keeping track of our money or paying our bills or setting limits. Earlier in our marriage, he would handle it for awhile and then I would handle it for awhile. But, then we realized every time I handled it we were overdrawn. Oops. Now he is in charge of the money, and we rarely have conflict over it.
7. Keep your word. This one is tough. But, little things or big things, if you say you will, try your hardest to follow through.
8. Talk it over…eventually. In marriage there are plenty of times when you feel annoyed, hurt, ignored, angry, and lots of other ways. In my experience it’s best (in most cases) not to speak up right away. When I wait, generally by the next day I don’t even feel that way anymore, and I have avoided an unnecessary conflict. If two days go by and I still feel the same, then I have had time to think over the best way to talk about it.
9. Read books. It amazes me how many married couples never pick up a book on marriage. You can learn so much about resolving conflict, understanding the way the opposite sex thinks, raising children together, the gospel meaning of marriage, living out God’s design for marriage, and so much more.
10. Never stop saying sweet things. You may think your spouse knows how you feel. You may think it’s unnecessary to compliment your spouse. You may think romantic stuff is for teenagers. All horribly, horribly wrong.
11. Think about and evaluate your marriage regularly. It’s dangerous to continually assume that all is well in your relationship. Take stock, consider how you can improve as a husband or a wife. Ask your spouse how things are going.
12. Don’t neglect physical intimacy. If you are physically able to do so, meet in the bedroom often (for more than sleeping). And, if you are having problems in your sexual relationship, seek solutions so that you aren’t missing this important bonding time with your spouse.
13. Enjoy your children together. Plan outings for the whole family. It doesn’t have to be a parents-only date to be romantic. Some of my favorite memories of Chad lean more toward bowling with the kids instead of candlelit dinners.
14. Have the occasional candlelit dinner. It is still important to have alone time when you can grab it here and there. Chad and I rarely go on dates, but when we do we really have a great time, talking without interruption and enjoying good food that we can’t afford when we have three other mouths to feed.
15. Make your spouse a priority. The world is always going to put lots of demands on your time. People will fill your time and energy if you let them, but always leave cherished space for your spouse. Think of when you were dating. Remember how you zeroed in on your loved one when he or she walked into the room? Try to do that now. Be aware. Be available.
16. Personally seek God. Your marriage will be stronger when you are individually growing in your knowledge of Jesus Christ. Your spiritual growth is ultimately your responsibility, not your spouse’s. (Although, husbands, you should be leading in this area.) Read your Bible. Pray. Get your family in a church. And enjoy watching God work in your relationship.
I can hardly believe sixteen years have already passed us by. So many lessons learned already, mostly by doing things the wrong way the first ten times. We’re nothing if not teachable (eventually). Who knows how many new lessons we have coming at us in the next sixteen years? Whatever they are, I’m looking forward to figuring things out together.