This year (2014) Marcus and I will have been married for 16 years. The average length of marriage these days is about 8 years – we have doubled that! After 16 years of marriage, I can say with much confidence, Marcus and I have gotten to the ‘good stuff’.
We look back on our first years of marriage and say to each other “we knew NOTHING back then!”. It was very hard in those early years. We were just figuring life out together and then we had kids (no, I wouldn’t change that! Because now our kids are older and it’s just easier that way!). Marriage with kids in early childhood is exhausting.
So – what have I learned in 16 years? How do I keep my marriage smokin’ hot?
- The most important point – make Jesus the center of your marriage. My marriage isn’t just between Marcus and I, but it also includes Christ. It is much easier to make a marriage work if your love is going through Christ’s love first. Ensure you are fulfilling the first commandment Jesus gave – love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, strength and soul. I find when I am doing my best in this command, I love my husband more deeply and passionately.
- I don’t look to Marcus to give me my identity. God created me and He is the only One who can rightly and truthfully tell me who I am. I can’t look to Marcus to fulfill me, give me my identity, tell me who I am, to rescue me or to save me. He is NOT supposed to be my idol – I must never place him in a position above God. God alone rescues and saves, He alone is worthy of my worship. When I stopped looking to Marcus to fulfill me in the way that only God could, a lot of freedom entered our marriage. Marcus was never meant to carry that burden. It is unfair of me to give it to him to carry. When I learned that truth and began living it and seeking Jesus to give me my needs, I started to become the wife Marcus deserved.
- LAUGH! Laugh a lot. Spend more time laughing than arguing or crying.
- Flirt! Flirt with each other every day!
- Make sure you take the time out to be with each other. NO EXCUSES!! If you don’t have your parents or in-laws around to help you with childcare, then make arrangements with another couple for childcare and switch off. I can’t tell you how important this is. Make time for each other regularly – this doesn’t have to be a set ‘date night’ every week, but don’t go more than a month without really connecting. Will this cost? Will you have to sacrifice something in order to do this? Most certainly, but whatever you will have to sacrifice in order to spend time with your spouse will not cost nearly as much as the price you may pay if you don’t.
- My mom always told me to appreciate my husband – to always say ‘thank you’ for things – even menial tasks such as taking out the trash. I need to make sure Marcus knows that I appreciate him and all that he does. Always speak highly of your man!
- Selflessness – one cannot be selfish in a marriage! Give, give and give more. Just keep giving. When you don’t think you can possibly give anymore, look to your heavenly Father – He will give you strength to continue giving.
- Keep bedroom stuff in the marriage bed – in other words, don’t let outsiders like porn, lust, people, etc into your sex life. One little allowance eventually leads to bigger allowances. I have seen this happen and it is so sad. God’s word says to ‘drink from your own cistern’ and to ‘rejoice in the wife of your youth’ (Prov 5:15 & 18).
- Forgive – this one is said a lot – but it is one that needs to be done a lot! Choose to forgive right away – don’t hang on to stuff.
- Give the benefit of the doubt – most of the time, Marcus doesn’t mean what I thought he meant! Many times my imagination will get the best of me and I will replay a conversation or something he said and try and figure out what he ‘really’ meant by it. The truth is that he did not mean to hurt my feelings.
- GRACE! Grace goes hand in hand with forgiveness and giving the benefit of the doubt. Extend to your husband the same amount of grace you would want him to give to you when you screw up. Better yet, extend MORE than what you’d want to be given to you.
- My hubby has said one thing that makes our marriage work is being able to voice feelings and thoughts and while the other person might get upset, it doesn’t last long. If it is a problem or an issue, it can get resolved quicker with both people working on it together – openly and honestly.
- I don’t say anything bad about my husband to anyone. Yes, there are frustrations at times and I have been able to discuss them with a very few friends, but my expectation would be for them to support me and encourage me in my marriage. I would rethink any friendship that encourages me to bash my husband – that is so wrong.
- PRAYER!! I don’t think marriages thrive when prayer is left out. I ask Marcus to pray over me, especially when I am having a hard time. I also know he regularly prays for me during his private prayer time. I pray for him as well. I pray for his priorities, daily Bible reading, ministry, role as husband, role as father, work, finances, personal walk, sexuality, health, humility, protection, integrity, thought life, words, leadership, self-control, wisdom, peace, relationships and love. He has been a strong man of God for many years, but since I started praying for these areas specifically about 1 1/2 years ago, the growth has been AMAZING!
- I fully and completely trust my husband’s heart towards me and our family. He might make decisions that I don’t like, but I know that his desire is for our family to be happy, healthy and full of God’s love. We are working towards the same goal. If I am struggling with a decision he has made, I am able to talk to him about it and sometimes we can work out a compromise – or I just have to be submissive and trust him.
- When those decisions are ‘wrong’, I DO NOT rub it in his face. No, no, no. Years ago, the urge may have been the ‘I told you so’ garbage, but our marriage has matured enough to know that those kinds of words cut deep and are just not helpful. Instead I say “oh well. If you had made a different decision earlier, it might not have turned out great either. We can’t change it now. Let’s just figure out where to go from here.” Just because I might have wanted a different choice doesn’t mean mine would’ve worked out better in the end. We are a team.
- Here’s a BONUS one! Finally, I ask God to give me His love for my husband. I can love Marcus only so much in my humanness, but with God’s love, I can love him so much more.
I hope these little bits of wisdom help you in one way or another – or give you encouragement to continue on in your hard journey of marriage. It isn’t easy, it isn’t for wimps. But it is worth it.