Recently, my husband and I celebrated our thirty-sixth wedding anniversary (yay!!). In years past, we’ve always tried to take a vacation of some sort during this time. But this year, we decided to keep it simple. We planned to have a short staycation and just hang out close to home…no agenda or schedule, just take things as they come. But…like most everyone else in the DFW area, I came down with the flu (bummer). So, I spent the day of our anniversary, and many others, in bed with tissue, Tylenol and tea (hot tea with honey and lemon).
I’m the type of person that prefers to be left alone when sick. Don’t hover over me, just occasionally toss in some toast and juice from the bedroom door and quietly walk away. It keeps my crabbiness to a minimum and I have less to apologize for later. I know, not very nice, but…I’ve found that it’s so much better to accept that which you cannot change about yourself and just put it on a plaque for all to see, don’t you agree? And hubby has this down to a science now, moving in and out of the bedroom like a cat. Juice and crackers just appear on the nightstand like magic (he’s great!).
Anyway…this requested solitude left me with a little time to think (between Hallmark movies, of course). You ever get those moments when something just seems so amazingly unreal? Maybe it was the fever, but I kept thinking over and over in my head, have we really been married for thirty-six years?? And raised three kids? And now have four grandchildren? Can that be right? Of course, the answer to each of those questions was a resounding YES, but it made me think about our marital journey, with its many peaks and valleys, and a few of the most important lessons we’ve learned along the way.
1. Put God first.
To be honest, it took us several years to figure out exactly what that really meant. But what we learned over the years is that a marriage focused on Christ and not on ourselves offers us guidance from the Bible and teaches us how to love. Did we have a bad marriage before we finally figured this out? No, we didn’t. But since then, since we’ve shifted our focus from our own desires and the belief that we are in control to understanding that God has a plan for our lives, that the final say is His and we should keep our eyes on Him, we’ve had experiences in our relationship that are beyond amazing. Now, don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have issues arise or never feel the need to “express” our opinions. It means that we handle those things in a much different way.
2. Put away the score cards.
There are some that will say marriage is 50/50. And on the surface, the 50/50 plan makes sense. You both take care of your half of things…in whatever way you have defined that to be, and all is well, right? But what about when life happens…busy schedules, sick kids, unemployment….and 50/50 becomes 60/40 or 30/70? What happens is a score card appears and is maintained in the back of your mind. And then comes bitterness and resentment about who is or isn’t doing this or that. Marriage is a 100/100 relationship. You and your spouse must both give your marriage 100% effort…to do whatever it takes to make the family work. And when life does happen (and it will), there is no need for a score card. Toss that thing out with the garbage! Love and respect each other enough to be supportive through all situations and do what needs to be done (refer to point #1).
3. Stay in your financial lane.
Money and/or the lack thereof can be a major stumbling block in a marriage. So, it’s very important to communicate regularly about your finances. Both of you should be aware of your overall financial status and be on the same page when it comes to managing your money and setting goals. Live below your means and avoid credit card debt like the plague (please!!). My grandmother used to say, “everything that glitters ain’t gold.” So, don’t worry about the Jones’s big house and shiny car down the street. You might be surprised by how much tarnish you’d find if you look behind their financial doors.
4. Keep dating.
Before you start a family, date night is a bit easier to manage if you make it a priority. Continue to enjoy each other and have fun. Don’t get so wrapped up in careers and such that you take each other for granted.
It’s a little trickier when you have kids. But remember this…there is one thing that is inevitable when you have a family…your children will grow up and leave home (although sometimes they do come back but that’s a story for a different day.) The point is, they will eventually have their own lives. So, it’s important for you and your spouse to remain a couple, to maintain and nurture your own relationship. Schedule a date night, at least twice a month if not more. It can be tough to manage sometimes between soccer games, business meetings and orthodontist appointments, but it’s no less important than any of those things. The last thing you want is to look across the dinner table one day after the kids are grown and gone and wonder who the heck is that person looking back at you. I mean, they look familiar but…did they always chew that way?
5. Put God first.
There is nothing more important than this so I had to list it twice. Because…if you do this, everything else will fall into place.
“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9
By no means do I claim to know everything about marriage…I only know about my marriage and what has worked for us. I hope at least one of these things will be helpful to you or someone you know.
What lessons have you learned about marriage? Please share!