This week, Racer and I celebrate 11 years of marriage. Some days have been really hard. Some days I’ve wondered if we would make it. Let’s be honest, when you put a guy who has parents that were divorced, together with a gal who has been divorced… well, the odds are NOT in our favor.
But we’ve worked hard. We’ve loved hard. We’ve had friends praying hard. And we’ve laughed a little along the way.
So today, in honor of 11 years of loving even when we didn’t feel like it, here are 11 things that I’ve learned about marriage:
- Some days, you have to love even when you don’t feel like it. Seriously folks, love is a choice, an action and when we choose love, somehow the emotion of it grows.
- Laughter really does help change the trajectory of a conversation. There are countless times that Racer and I have been in a heated conversation that was spiraling downward when one of us (usually Racer) chooses to make a joke. It stops the spiral. That is a good thing.
- Being a safe space for your spouse is important. Racer and I both have vocations that are demanding (in different ways, but still demanding) on our schedules and emotions. We need to be the safe and trusted space for the other to celebrate the stuff you can’t put online, mourn the stuff you can’t share and be angry about the stuff that no one else knows about. We have to trust that the other will understand when we have “work stuff” that we can’t talk about and that what we do share will be kept between us.
- Dates are really important. Really, really important. Married folks need to remember the spirit inside of the other that attracted them in the first place. Married folks need to talk about stuff, have fun and be just a couple (not simply parents or employees) sometimes.
- Knowing a spouse’s Love Language is really important. For years I unintentionally hurt Racer because gifts are one of his top love languages (and at the bottom of my list). I didn’t think through gift giving and didn’t make special occasions important. I have learned that Racer needs those special occaisions to be made special, and he need to be able to purchase something for me (even if it’s small) as a way of showing love.
- Being specific about what you would like a spouse to do for you is okay. We aren’t mind readers and if we want to be loved well, we need to clearly communicate what our needs are. Whether it is gift ideas for an upcoming special occasion, what you need when in a crabby mood, what chores you need help with around the house – be clear in telling your mate what you would like from them.
- If you have children, allow your spouse to parent differently than you. We need to be on the same “page” about parenting – consequences for behavior, rules/expectations – but how we love our kids can be different. How we interact with our kids can be different. And that’s ok! Often Racer’s way of parenting has worked better for some of our kids during different stages, while mine works better for other children during some stages. Parenting differently makes us a good team!
- Apologize when you’re wrong. Trust me, I’ve had to do it a lot. It’s hard to do and sometimes I have to write/type it because I’m ashamed at my own behavior. “I’m sorry” needs to be said each time we’ve acted a fool.
- Change is hard. If we really mean “I’m sorry” then we will change our behavior with our spouse. We will try to do things differently and making those changes is hard. We need to remember that when we are working to change and when our spouse is working to change.
- Noticing the small, kind, sweet, minor things your spouse does is important. Watch for those small gestures and comment on them!
- Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all our sin. (Yes, it is a line in a hymn, but perhaps the most important. God’s grace has to be the glue to hold it all together.)
Racer and I look forward to more years of loving God together, learning to love each other well, and growing our children in grace. Help us on that journey and share one thing below that you have learned about marriage!