10 Things Learned in 10 Years of Marriage

Today Matt and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary!  This is so surreal to me. Time really has gone by so fast, especially since having Asher Wade. It seems not so long ago that we were enjoying our gorgeous wedding, and so much of the following months and years seem like such a blur, but then there were also some very challenging seasons that seemed to drag forever. Marriage is definitely full of seasons. The good ones go by so fast, and the more difficult ones take their time. Life is kind of like that in general, wouldn’t you say? Still though, we have weathered through some things and have stayed strong and happy and in love, and that’s all that matters to me. God has blessed us no doubt, and He’s carried us through everything and allowed us to rejoice in so much. I’m so thankful for this life I’ve built with Matt and this family we are growing, and I hope I always remember not to take a single day for granted.

A few years back I did a similar post titled “8 Things Learned in 8 Years of Marriage,” so rather than reinvent the wheel I thought I’d include those 8 things (maybe with a few updates) and then add 2 more. It’s safe to say I’ve definitely learned at least 2 new things since then;)

1. Marriage.takes.work. A lot of it. Very early on I thought this was a total cliche…something people just said. Let me tell you…there is nothing truer. In fact, now I firmly believe that if you aren’t working at your marriage, you’re slowing killing it. I don’t think neither Matt nor I believed this for the first few years. Maybe not even until we had a kid. Now that we have to put so much time, effort and energy in to raising a child, our marriage doesn’t naturally receive the attention like it used to. We have to consciously give it attention. The outcome is definitely worth the effort though.

2. You are going to annoy the heck out of each other. The things that were once endearing, are going to become like nails on a chalkboard. They will do things that drive you batty. Guess what though? You are equally as annoying in some way or another. No one is perfect, and to some extent, we’re all challenging to live with. Learn to accept it and move on. When it gets to where you are constantly focused on the imperfections, remind yourself that they were perfect in your eyes at some point. You don’t focus on the negative things during the early part of dating…you only see the good things. Although they were seemingly perfect during that googly-eyed dating phase, imperfections will reveal themselves a few years down the road, on both sides, but in reality there is no such thing as a perfect person. If you keep letting imperfections rule your thoughts, you’ll never be happy. Learn to accept, just as you have been accepted.

3. If you think the grass is greener on the other side, it’s only that way because they water it more. Instead of hopping the fence to greener pastures, maybe just water your own pasture a little more.

4. Marriage has no room for pride. This is hands down the hardest concept for us to grasp. Pride gets in our way more than anything else and most of the fights we’ve had have stemmed from one of us (usually both) being prideful. A lot can be said for being vulnerable and saying sorry. Chances are that it will completely change the mood and the other person will in turn apologize. The bottom line is that someone has to go first, so just be that person and quit agonizing over it. (Something else that our pastor recently said that really struck a chord with me was how the word “I” will be the biggest struggle you’ll ever face in marriage. Meaning that the biggest challenge is learning to put your spouse’s needs and desires before your own. It’s human nature to want to get your way, and it’s so difficult to set aside your own agenda to serve the needs and wants of another, but it really is such a crucial key to a successful marriage…something that we are still working on.)

5. If “Marriage” was a job listed in the classifieds it wouldn’t require any skills upon hire. This is because you learn on the job. It’s the most on-the-job-training you’ll ever get. The best thing you can do is go in eager and ready to learn. When things get tough, that means it’s time to learn some new skills. Just think of your current job – when a new challenge presents itself you don’t just clock out and say “yeah, that’s too hard.” No, you’d figure out what you need to do to accomplish this new task. Marriage has to be the same to be successful.

6. Criticism and requests for change are not the same thing. Learn how to differentiate between the two, and more importantly, learn how to express the two. You can get way more bang for your buck if you learn how to ask for things in a positive and encouraging way. Criticism just leads to hurt feelings, anger and resentment. Learn how to ask for what you want in a way that makes the other person want to give it to you, without being manipulative or critical.

7. If you feel the need to start a sentence with “I don’t mean to be rude/offensive/disrespectful…” you are going to come across as being exactly that, so maybe just don’t say it. Same goes for, “I’m not sure that I should say this, but….” Close your mouth. Take a step away from the situation and think it through. I have learned the hard way (as both a deliverer and receiver) that words can cut like a knife. They don’t just go away either, and they can be remembered for a long time. Choose your words carefully.

8. You need God in the center. Period. I don’t know how people make it work without God in their marriage, or some common ground and shared faith. I’m not saying that if you’re not in church together every single Sunday you aren’t going to make it. I’m just saying you have to have something to fall back on to remind you of the commitment you made, and remind you of the values and morals you share. Whenever we’ve hit a rough patch, we’ve always had God in our corner, talking to us quietly, whispering in our ears and reminding us of the covenant we made to each other and to Him, helping us see past the anger and frustration, and remember the love and friendship, and most importantly, the commitment we made. Also, remember that no problem is too big for God to fix.

9. Learn to serve your spouse. Figure out what their “love language” is or what makes them feel loved and cherished and important. What makes them happy? What do they enjoy doing? What helps them to relax? If they had a day to themselves, what would they do? Figure these things out and then try to do them. It’s not always easy, especially when you have crazy schedules and kids and jobs and just generally have a lot going on, but it can be as simple as putting away the dishes, cooking a nice dinner, taking the kid out of the house for a couple of hours, letting them pick the movie or restaurant, saying “Yes” when you really just want to roll over and say “No.”;) You get my drift. Figure out ways you can meet their needs and serve them and then take note of the change you’ll see at home.

10. Don’t let one bad season determine what marriage is to you. A season is just that, a season. It will pass. Things will get better. Just because you may go through a difficult patch, it doesn’t mean that is how all your years of marriage will be. I’ll never forget this one day when Asher Wade was a newborn and he had horrible colic and I was home with him on maternity leave and it was an incredibly difficult time. A friend called me to check in and I basically just cried and told her how hard this all was and that motherhood was nothing like I had envisioned. She gave me what turned out to be the best advice I received from anyone (and let me tell you, I received a lot of advice). She told me that what I’m going through right now is simply a blip in a lifetime of being a mother and I should not let this one challenging season define what motherhood will be like for me. You guys, that advice completely changed my perspective. It has kind of become my mantra in life, and it absolutely works for both motherhood and marriage. Like I mentioned above, you WILL go through challenging seasons in marriage, but that does not mean your entire marriage is, or should be, challenging. The good can far outweigh the bad. In fact, how you handle those challenging seasons can make you stronger as a couple and allow to revel in the really good seasons even more. Don’t let a challenging season define what marriage is. It’s so much more.

I love you Matt!  So happy to do this life with you…

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