It was 31 years ago this coming Wednesday that Mark and I promised to love one another for better or for worse. Of course, we had absolutely no idea what those words would mean from a practical perspective. If I had to go back and give my younger self some words of wisdom about marriage, here are some thoughts I’d share:
- Blending two family backgrounds is harder than you think it will be. Be ready to let go of “what was” and invest in “what is.”
- We all bring emotional baggage into marriage. The sooner you unpack your bags, the healthier your relationship will be.
- Counseling is a good thing.
- In marriage, the little things are the big things. Look for little ways to say “I love you” every day.
- Every couple is incompatible. You are two different people who have to learn how to blend your two personalities, temperaments and preferences into one relationship.
- Marriage will either bring out the child in you or will grow you up. You decide.
- There is no 50/50 in marriage. To the best of your ability, you both need to give 100 percent all the time.
- You’ll probably need to forgive your spouse about a dozen times a day (and your spouse will have to do the same to you!) You’re two imperfect people trying to live together and often not getting it right.
- Learn to give a full apology. Don’t stop at “I’m sorry.” Make sure it’s “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?”
- Apologizing is a sign of strength, not of weakness. When both parties can admit when they’re wrong, the relationship strengthens.
- Blaming has no place in a marriage.
- Emotional intimacy is the step before physical intimacy. Being honest about your feelings, your struggles, your fears, your hopes and dreams will make things better in the bedroom.
- Listen to understand, not to prepare a rebuttal.
- Be a student of your spouse. He or she will be different from you. Embrace those differences rather than considering them “wrong.”
- Learn what speaks love to your spouse and do it, even if you don’t like that or need that yourself.
- Date consistently. If the kids are little, get a sitter on a regular basis. If you have no children or they are out of the home, make sure you continue to date and spend intentional time playing together.
- Finally, keep faith at the center of your relationship. The closer you are to God, the closer you’ll be to one another.
Happy anniversary, Mark. Here’s to 31 more years!