The last week of 2017 Shawn and I celebrated 12 years of marriage. We have now been together longer than we haven't.
One morning at breakfast- side note, I loooooove vacation breakfast. It's my favorite thing to do while we are away- Lots of coffee, no rush...and croissants! YES. Anyway, we started talking about some of the things we've learned over the years. Most were lessons we'd learned the hard way- and continue to learn. Some things could be their own book.
But for the sake of self-actualization, and in hopes that they might benefit you, dear reader, I wanted to list out Top 12 (one for every year- get it?!). Let’s dive in:
- When you’re at life’s crossroads (major life changes), be together. This is more fully (and more eloquently) explained in Ann Swindell's book "Still Waiting". I love the concept of still being "together"- with God and each other- as you face new challenges (which WILL happen).
- All feelings are valid and are often indicators of deeper heart issues. Listen to your spouse- their feelings deserve respect even if they don’t make sense to you.
- Dream together. Finances, careers, family, giving. Share your BHAGs often (big, hairy, audacious goals). Most of the time, our best tools to execute those BHAGs are our bank accounts and calendars. The way we manage them determines how our life is run.
- Margin is important- time for kids, health, finances, alone time. Again, this has to be part of the calendar to happen.
- Kids have been the most wonderful, joyful "interruption" we’ve encountered in marriage. Before we had kids, we would consider all the things that we’d no longer be able to do once they were here- but the truth is, once we had them, we just wanted to do those things WITH our kids.
- Praying together really matters. I posted about how we use focus words to pray for our kids- well, we do this for each other too and it has massively helped us encourage and establish identity in Christ for each other.
- Sex gets better. Just in case you were worried. :)
- You’re on the same team. Support each other publicly and privately. Show up for their stuff. Respect them with your words and actions (especially in public). I struggle with this as sarcasm is one of the many languages I am fluent in.
- Your spouse is going to change just like you will. Always referring to the “good old days” can be damaging and dishonoring to the person your spouse has become. They’ve likely worked hard to improve certain areas of life. Evaluate and change expectations as needed- of your spouse and of yourself
- Counseling is a good idea. Even if you don’t have “issues”. Do it regularly and without shame.
- Infidelity can take different forms- financial, physical, emotional. Don’t let those seeds grow, much less get planted. Establish mental, emotional, and physical boundaries that are agreed upon by both spouses (this means you have to talk about it together). Some of our boundaries are: no time alone with a person of the other sex, all-access to each other's phones & computers (this includes knowing passwords and checking social media messages and activity) and using outside internet monitoring services and filters. Set up trustworthy accountability partners of the same sex and use them. This means be intentional with another man/woman in biblical, honest, soul-bearing vulnerability. It’s awkward sometimes, but it’s worth it.
- Marriage takes priority over care for our children. The BEST thing we can do for our children is to keep our marriage intact. I believe that our generation's biggest challenge as parents will be to raise children that aren't entitled. Teaching them that they are loved and important but that your marriage comes first is essential to their understanding of where they fit. When we were first married, someone advised us to date monthly, retreat quarterly, and vacation yearly. So far, we've done pretty well. It hasn't always been easy and many times I leave with a heavy amount of mom guilt, but that soon fades after a full night of sleep with no tiny feet jumping on me at 7 am. :)
I must say- these lessons are not hard and fast. We are not professional counselors or ministers- but thank goodness for those who are- we rely on them heavily! We’ve seen them help godly people overcome addiction, infidelity, major disrespect and broken trust. We also lean hard on Jesus.
Here's to braiding well, Shawn. You, me, and Jesus.
These images are all from a fast trip to NYC we took for our 10 year anniversary.