As I approached my 10 year wedding anniversary, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the lessons I’d learned through a decade of wifing, as I like to call it. There are hundreds of things I’ve learned about me, him, and certainly about God, so I decided to make a list of the lessons that have been life-changing.
1. Age isn’t an excuse to quit.
I was a mere 21 years old when we said, “I do.” That’s pretty rare these days. “Getting married young,” is a common excuse I hear when it gets hard and people are looking for reasons to “escape” the marriage. I’ve heard it a lot during my wedded days—friends, celebrities, and strangers alike often cite it, but marriage is hard and good and worth fighting for. Just like you, me, and wine … it gets better with age.
2. Marriage is not 50/50. It’s 100/100.
I know. Mind. Blown.
You’ve heard it said, and have probably said it yourself: marriage only works when you both give 50%. But, that breaks down because inevitably there will come a time when your spouse gives less than that (or worse, you perceive they’re giving less), so then you give less, and you start growing apart, inch by inch. Mile by mile.
So no, I dare say it, marriage is about you giving 100%, and trusting God that your spouse is going to give 100% too, but choosing to give all of yourself to that man. You vowed it. So you do it.
3. Marriage is the safest environment for kids to grow up in. But it can’t be for their benefit alone.
Now, this is biased. I didn’t grow up in a traditional home where marriage was valued, but my husband did (but no family is perfect and there were childhood wounds in either case—such is life, I suppose). We chose to wait to start our family until we felt like we were stronger in our marriage—so 8 years in. It is my hope that our son (and future sibling, fingers crossed) will grow up feeling confident that their parents love each other, and not just because we want it to be ‘easier’ for them … but because we truly love and value each other. I think too many people stay together “for the kids” and their kids are actually smarter than that. They know what’s really happening. When that’s the case, it teaches them that marriage can become co-existing and it’s ‘the same.’ Well, it’s not. Your child needs to see you fight for love in your marriage. Then they will learn to do the same.
4. Prayer is most often the answer to your marriage problem.
About two years in I found myself swimming in disappointment, unmet expectation, frustration, and downright fear of the future never being any better. I sought counsel from wise women around me who encouraged me to pray. I agreed this was a good idea, but I didn’t know what else to pray except “God, change him!” … I know. That is so proud.
Thankfully, I found a book and it put words and prayers to the issues I was (and still am) dealing with as a wife, but now I’ve developed the habit of praying more than I grumble. More than I nag. More than I allow bitterness to build up. Now, keeping it real—I still grumble, nag, and get bitter, but less, because I’ve learned from personal experience that prayer is more effective. I highly recommend The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O’Martian.
Because of this strong conviction that prayer is crucial, I started a daily live Facebook video for wives wanting to develop this habit—friend me on Facebook (you can even just click to follow!) and you can be a part. It’s just real talk for wives like me—or women who hope to one day be a wife, start praying for your future husband even now! I also wrote more about this important habit here.
5. No marriage is perfect.
How could it be? You put two incredibly selfish people (let’s be honest, mmmmk?) living in a house together (and in our case, who have never lived together or with another relationship partner before) and expect them to each make good on their promise to put the other person first. Most days, that goes against every fiber of your being!
There are arguments. Disagreements. Boring seasons. Busy seasons. Stressful seasons.
We can start comparing our marriage to the exciting relationship that just became official on our Facebook feed, or even to the honeymooners we used to be… and all of the sudden comparison steals our joy and we become dissatisfied in our marriage.
But wisdom says to focus on watering your own grass, so it stays nice and green.
6. Learn from those who’ve been married longer.
We had the massive blessing of having 9 months of premarital counseling before we said ‘I do’ and have also had several couples invest in us over the years. We’ve been in small groups with other couples who were willing to be real and raw, and we’ve chosen to be honest with couples who would tell us like it is. We’ve also had professional help at times!
If you believe you are always growing and learning as an individual and have no problem seeking advice as a woman, or a mother, why wouldn’t you put that same effort into your marriage? Asking for help is not weak, it is WISE.
We have a specific couple that actually shares our anniversary. One year we did a weekend staycation together to celebrate. We still reach out to them often when we find ourselves in a rut or disagreement that needs mediation.
So, don’t be afraid—reach out. Not sure where to start? Church is a great place to look!
7. Be his biggest fan.
It’s no secret—our men need attention. Lots of it. (OK… Truth be told, WE DO TOO!)
Sometimes I knowingly let this slide and don’t give him the attention he deserves—and this is dangerous. I don’t want him looking for it elsewhere, do I? Too many marriages are currently in trouble (or have ended) because one or both spouses stopped pursuing the other.
A few days ago, a friend issued a challenge to stop whatever you’re doing when your husband gets home to give him an undivided 10 minutes. Convicting! But wise wise words for wives. Our men need to know we see them, we still think they’re the bomb, and no other woman could ever love them more.
I often think of Philippians 4:8 that tells us to “focus on the fine, good things” and I allow it to remind me to think about the man I married—and then go a step further—to tell him what those good things are…regularly!
8. Take time to unplug and focus on each other.
We are not the best at this, and it’s pretty easy to see that when we DON’T make quality time as a couple a priority, we just get…off.
Work. And our son. And chores…they all pile up. Sure, they are important, but if we don’t take time to invest in US then it’s bad-news-bears for everyone.
So, to celebrate our anniversary we went away to take time and focus on each other! We really needed the opportunity to do so!
9. Expectations can ruin EVERYTHING—if you let them.
When you get engaged you have lots of ideas about how marriage will be… Full of happiness, compromise, and excitement all the time…
Then you’re married and all of a sudden things aren’t as you expected. Most of the time.
Now expectations themselves aren’t so bad—it’s when they become deal-breakers and you choose to cling so tightly to them that no spouse can ever measure up. This is a recipe for disaster in a marriage.
We’ve had more than our fair share of unmet expectations. They sneak up and ruin things All. The. Time. But—in marriage, you’ve got to learn to call out that expectation—and then make like Elsa and LET. IT. GO!
For the sake of the oneness… The unity… The US.
I’ve been practicing this very concept a lot lately, and I encourage you to keep it in mind too!
10. The biggest and most important one: Marriage is not for me.
You read that right. It’s not for me in that it’s not ABOUT me. It’s not about me and it’s not even about my husband.
Marriage is about Jesus. It’s for Him. It’s a picture of how deeply, unconditionally, and fully He loves His bride—the Church.
When I stood at the altar in my pretty white dress and said “I do” to the man of my choosing, I promised to love him and to be faithful to him out of my love for God. I promised to represent God in my wifing and devote myself to one human for the rest of my life (or his). I said YES to a daily process of having my selfishness tested, my comforts tried, and my independence set aside. I choose to submit myself to Paul because God said that’s how He ordered marriage. I choose to do things “God’s way” because I trust God and want to honor Him. He went the full distance to secure my salvation, so I can choose to give my full life in service, submission, and selflessness to Paul.
Note: I fall disappointingly short as a wife most days. Yet, because God is so good, He loves me anyway. And so does Paul. When Paul falls short of his responsibility to protect or provide or lead—I choose to give grace—because I’ve been given said grace.
Because marriage is not about us.
It’s a gift—a covenant that isn’t changed by circumstances or feelings. It’s a promise of unconditional love.
It’s really great, really hard, really rewarding, and really underrated. It’s really, a picture of grit and grace.
Since this article was published in August 2016, Julie has become a widow. You can read about her journey to find love again, here: When Will I Be Ready to Date After My Husband’s Death?
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