My husband and I recently celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. It is hard to believe that it has been so long and yet our wedding day seems a lifetime away. We have been through so many valleys, climbed so many mountaintops, gotten lost a few times, and yet we are still here, holding each other’s hand. I read somewhere that relationships take an average of 14 years to really find their flow and get their rhythm down. While I think we have a great flow and rhythm going, I still feel like there is so much to learn and so many ways that we can grow in our relationship. However, if I had to narrow down what I have learned so far on this marriage journey, I think I would say these four things:
- Lower your expectations. We often keep our eyes half closed to our partner’s imperfections during the dating years and then after the vows our eyes are open wide to the fact that our Prince Charming is, in fact, NOT perfect. It would be better for us to keep our eyes wide open while dating, and half closed once married. We are all imperfect human beings. I like to say that we all have a dark side and unfortunately our partners see that dark side more than anyone else. Familiarity can breed contempt. So be prepared to forgive and forgive often. Be prepared to take a lot of deep breaths and bite your tongue so you don’t say something you will later regret. And lower your expectations. It may not be a fairy tale. It may not be perfect. But with two people willing to put in the time and effort, it can become something beautiful in time.
- Change your perspective. It takes time to learn how to change your perspective. Anyone have a spouse that doesn’t know how to change the toilet paper roll? Who leaves out socks or shoes? Who leaves freshly trimmed beard hairs all over your nicely cleaned sink? I learned how to change my perspective years ago but am still practicing. A LOT. Because it is anything but easy. Changing my perspective looks like this: when I see the freshly trimmed beard hairs on my sink, or shoes left out, I say something like, “Thank you, Lord, that I have a husband to clean up after.” Sometimes I say it through gritted teeth, but I say it over and over until my heart softens. It helps me to think about how many women are out there praying for a husband right now who don’t have one. Or how many women are out there who have lost a husband and would give anything for just one more day of being annoyed by them. It’s a sobering reminder that my husband is indeed a blessing even in those moments.
- Remember TTT. (Things Take Time). It takes time to build a relationship. The old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” still holds true. The Roman Empire’s influence still affects our world today and if we want to establish a marriage that will leave a legacy for our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, it is going to take time. You need patience to allow each other to grow, learn, and to figure out how your life is going to work. You need patience to lower your expectations and forgive each other. You need patience to change your perspective. There is no way to rush it. No magic formula. Things take time.
- And above all else: Seek God. I remember being told that marriage is in all reality, a partnership between three people, not two. Think of a triangle with you in one corner, your spouse in another, and God at the top corner. The closer each of you moves toward God the closer you get to each other. So, if you want a better marriage then you need to work on growing in your relationship with God.
If you put in the time and effort, your marriage can be beautiful, but don’t worry if it is not there yet. Marriage is a journey. A journey that takes a LIFETIME. A journey that can be rather difficult. But at the end of the most difficult trails we find the greatest rewards.
Do you have any other advice that you would offer a younger couple or a younger version of yourself?