This summer Paul and I celebrated 5 years of marriage. Both of us find it hard to believe that its already been FIVE years! How in the world is that possible? Even though at times we have felt the weight of that time together, there are moments that we simply are amazed at how time has flown by.
I think that when you are in the process of being engaged and contemplating what it means to commit yourself to another person for the rest of your life, it's important to gain perspective and wisdom from others around you who have experience in the subject. Granted, everyone's situations and relationships are different so its always wise to seek out those who share with you certain characteristics and qualities that the two of you also have.
That being said, I wanted to share some of my biggest insights after being married to Paul for these past 5 years. For some perspective:
- We have lived in 5 different houses, moved to a new state twice, I quit my corporate job and started my own business, we are raising two teenagers (my step-kids) and we lost a dog all during this time.
- We both have a relationship with Jesus Christ and he remains at the center of our marriage although we have definitely gone through periods where we were very close in our walk and relationship with him and times where we were very far away. I'll let you guess which of those times were the hardest in our marriage. ;-)
- We were both in our mid-30's when we got married and had a lot of stuff "figured out" by then. I think this has contributed greatly to our love and respect for each other
Alrighty, five major lessons learned from 5 years of marriage.....
The first year
We both heard over and over again...."the first year is the hardest". Especially since we didn't live together (which we don't think is necessary or Biblical) before hand. On the contrary, we thought our first year of marriage was the BEST and we had so much fun that year!
The first year we learned what it means to be pretty much attached to your best friend all the time. You have to figure out how to live in the same space, how to compromise, what the important things are (and aren't) and you get to say fun things like "my husband" and "my wife". And honestly, I think our first year was so fun and successful mostly because of the next insight from these past few years.
Talk it out
We decided long before we said "I do" that we would talk things out. No matter how small. Leaving things unsaid does NOTHING to benefit or grow your marriage. When something is bothering you, no matter how small, discontent and bitterness grows like weeds.
I can't tell you how many times these past 5 years one of us has said, "the way you said that hurt my feelings" or "what exactly did you mean by that because to me it came across like.....". Right then and there we were able to clarify or explain things and talk it out until the issue was squashed.
This one is SO HARD but SO WORTH IT! You don't always have the option to address something right then and there so you have to be committed to bringing it up later even though the moment might not seem right or you might be tired and not interested in having a "conversation". Trust me, do it.
All of those little things add up over time and create giant blowouts that no one wants. To this day, Paul and I have never had a major fight and I don't say that to sound like we have a perfect marriage. We have done a lot of work to maintain open lines of communication all the time and it can be exhausting at times, but in the end it keeps us from holding things in until they have to come out (by way of yelling and screaming.)
Most people who end up in marriage usually will have a similar sense of humor. I've seen it with the couples I've worked with and also with friends. Laughter and humor is something that joins us together with similar people with similar outlooks. DON'T stop laughing together. Be silly. Have fun.
The realities of life are hard and can be dreary and boring. Shake it up and take care of responsibilities but continue to look for the good in each other and enjoy those qualities that you fell in love with from day one. Just yesterday Paul and I were laughing so hard while we were driving around doing errands because we both made the effort to stop thinking about all the things we had to do and we just enjoyed being with each other. Make it a priority.
I can't recommend the book The Five Love Languages enough. We read this before we got married and its had only what I can image as a huge impact on our marriage. We figured out so early on how we both speak and feel loved and that has made a huge difference.
Paul is a total acts of service guy, but I am totally words of affirmation. If Paul only tried to show love to me by doing things for me and never affirming me with words I would probably not feel nearly as loved by him as I do now and vice versa.
Understanding these basic ways we feel and show love will not only make your marriage relationship more smooth, but pretty much ALL relationships you have in your life (kids, parents, clients...) Learn the language and then speak it.
As a Christian, I have a strong belief that marriage is an earthly picture of our relationship with Jesus in covenant with God. If you aren't a believer, that may sound a little strange to you, but to me it is the only way that marriage even makes sense. Putting two imperfect people together and expecting anything good to come out of that is seemingly impossible without God as an example of what love actually looks like.
Bottom line, it's extremely hard to give grace to someone when you have never experienced receiving that grace and the ultimate grace was given to us by Jesus on the cross. Once your heart is open to that, you can be with another person in a way that's not possible otherwise.
Prayer is essential to this. Praying with another person can be an extremely vulnerable thing to do, but I can tell you from a LOT of experience these past 5 years that times when Paul and I prayed together and for each other on our own regularly things were not nearly as difficult as times when we didn't. Its a daily struggle but when we make the time and effort to do it, we only benefit from it.
If you are about to enter the marriage covenant, I am so excited for you! Marriage is an amazing blessing provided to us by God and although there is a lot of noise in society that says marriage isn't worth it, trust me, it is!