Recently, my wife and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. As I thought about reaching that milestone, I thought about the lessons I’ve learned over the years.
Initially, I planned on writing “15 lessons I’ve learned in 15 years of marriage.” But the more I thought through that, the more I realized I couldn’t write that.
An article like that is written by someone who has those things figured out. There aren’t 15 lessons I have sufficiently mastered I could share with you.
But what I can offer you are the lessons I’m still learning after my decade and a half of marriage. Here are 15 marriage lessons I’m still learning after 15 years.
I’m starting simple, but I think it’s important. When you are dating, simply holding the hand of the other person gives you a thrill. Continue to cultivate that feeling by continuing to hold your spouse’s hand.
The longer you have been married, the more that hand has clapped for your successes and wiped away your tears. Never lose sight of the simple joy of taking their hand in yours.
Small steps trump bold claims.
It’s true in our relationship with God and in our relationship with our spouse. Words are cheap. It will be easy to make big, extravagant promises. It is much harder to fulfill those things.
Make your priority to continually act in love toward your spouse today even in small ways, instead of talking about all the grand things you are going to do at some point in the future.
My spouse is there to help me, not complete me.
I can think of no burden more crushing than expecting our spouse to be the one who fulfills us. That is not their job. They’ll never succeed.
God has given us spouses to serve as our helpers, but they cannot be our saviors. To put them on that pedestal will only lead to their falling and hurting themselves and us.
A 50/50 marriage is destined for problems.
Yes, I realize virtually everyone has told you that marriage is a 50/50 relationship. I’m telling you they’re wrong and that advice could destroy your marriage.
If you think of your relationship as one in which you do half and they do half, you’ll constantly be judging how much they do and making the assumption that you are doing more than your fair share.
Marriage is a 100/100 relationship. Do everything you can to show love to the other person.
Marriage is about more than mere happiness. It’s about abundance.
Sometimes as Christians we can get caught up in making everything super spiritual and say marriage is not about our happiness, but our holiness. In one sense that is true, but in another sense it’s incomplete.
God has given us marriage as a good gift. It is part of our sanctification to make us holy. It is also brings us much happiness. In the end, for those who are married, your spouse is all of those things as part of the abundant life Christ has promised us.
Marriage exposes whether you are truly a servant or not.
You can tell how much of a servant you really are by how you respond when someone treats you like one. If you get offended because you feel your spouse treated you like a servant, you still have a way to grow.
As a husband, I’ll address this especially to men. I’ve seen way too many Christian husbands want to claim the title of “servant leader,” but the wife was the only one doing any serving.
Asking “Did you notice?” is a reminder that my motives are off.
I wrote an entire post directly about this point because I noticed how much it revealed about my heart. Most often when I asked if my wife noticed something I had done, I was fishing for affirmation.
If you’re serving in order to get something—attention, notice, affirmation, appreciation—then you’re not actually serving, you’re working for a wage. When you serve you don’t expect anything in return.
Newlyweds may feel as if they’ll never have a serious argument. Those who’ve been married longer may feel as if they’ll never be a time when they aren’t having a serious argument.
Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, make sure when you fight, you do so fairly and from a place of love. Part of that comes from assuming the best of each other and avoiding things you know will escalate things and bring unnecessary pain.
Tone often matters more than the actual words.
How we say something can be more impactful that what we say. This means two things: we have to guard the way we speak and the way we listen.
We can use tone to injure our spouse while feigning innocence. We can also read tone into the words of our spouse and assume motives that may or may not be there. Be careful in how you talk and give the benefit of the doubt in how you listen.
Love recklessly even though it means you’ll get hurt.
Too often, even in marriage, we want to love, but still hold something back. We want to stay protected, but that’s not what love or marriage is about.
Your spouse is going to hurt you, but that should not hinder you from loving them without abandon. Make the commitment to love them without consideration for how it could be used against you later.
Forgive as quickly as possible.
Let me repeat myself, your spouse is going to hurt you. Broken things cut. People are no different. Now what do you do about it? You forgive them as quickly as possible and as frequently as needed.
Holding onto a grudge for any length of time will only harm you and your marriage. Rush to be the first person to genuinely apologize and forgive the other person.
Sacrifice for the sake of your spouse as often as possible.
Make it a habit to seek out ways to sacrifice your desires and wants on behalf of your spouse. Again, not so that you can be “repaid” later, but because you love them.
Without any effort at all, we drift into selfishness. It takes work and intentionality to place others first. Cultivate that type of relationship by weaving sacrificing into your life.
Find a way to serve your spouse every day.
One way to do the previous point is by looking for ways to serve your spouse consistently. That may (and should) look different every day.
Maybe this is something big or maybe it’s doing a chore they usually do. It could as simple as getting out of bed to take care of something they forgot.
Work to be a better spouse.
This sounds obvious, but it can be easy to get into relationship ruts or simply become accepting of your own failings and inadequacies.
Note the things that annoy your spouse and work to fix them. It’s difficult. I know. This is why it’s on my list of lessons I’m still learning. But it can be a tremendous way to show love to your significant other.
Yes, marriage is stressful. There are times of pain. But you are spending the rest of your life with a person you love and enjoy being around.
Think back to when you were dating, you just couldn’t wait to spend time with them. Now you have that gift. No, they aren’t who you thought they would be—they are much more than that and you have the privilege of learning all that about them.
Marriage will have difficulties, but it doesn’t have to always be difficult. Have fun being together and being in love. You’re married after all.