I've only been married for 8 years. So I'm aware that I'm not an expert on marriage, but I've seen many couples that have gotten married after me and are no longer together. I've learned a lot so far that I'd like to share and, hopefully, it will be useful to someone.
Here are 8 marriage lessons I've learned in 8 years:
1) Take time out for yourselves. Lives get so busy with kids and jobs and church that it's important to go on dates. At least once a month. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money... drive around a look at Christmas lights or grab a cup of coffee or dessert somewhere.
2) It's not all about me. It's 100% about the other person, and the minute I begin to think that it's 1% about me, I get selfish.
3) It's important to be on the same page with everything! If you aren't on the same page about things like finances and the way to discipline kids it makes life hard. Matt and I sit down once a month and write a budget. The #1 thing couples argue about is money, we very rarely argue about money. Because at the beginning of each month, we've already made money decisions together and know how everything is going to be spent.
4) Never talk bad about your spouse... ever. Sometimes for me as a woman, this is hard. This is what women do, right? Complain to their girlfriends about their spouse? What would I have to talk to my friends about? But I've learned that there are many things to talk about. Like, how my daughter threw up all over Old Navy on black friday or that my son asked me why the Walmart greeter was so different or how my grandma with dementia introduced herself to me 49 times during thanksgiving dinner. There are always things to talk about. :)
5) Don't compare yourself to other couples. Steven Furtick says "Don't compare your behind the scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." I love this quote. It's easy to think that others are doing well when you see them in public... their kids are well-behaved and well-dressed, they drive a nice car. But you have no clue what is going on behind the scenes. Kelle Hampton says, "Because, once a long time ago, I had a white picket fence, but it fell down. And while I didn't choose the crazy colored one that was erected in it's place, I had grown to love it. I wouldn't change it for anything in the world, and if there's one thing I've learned it's that you can never ever go wrong with vibrant color." This makes me think about my picket fence in my back yard... it's old and falling apart. It hasn't been well-maintained and is in desperate need of repair. Recently, Warrick pulled a board off of it. I feel like this is a great analogy to go along with marriage. If I don't maintain my marriage, it will fall apart and need serious maintenance. But if I take care of it daily, it will be strong and withstand the storms of life.
6) Listen (and write it down if necessary)! I am a bad listener, I would like to blame it on kids who distract me, but I think I've always been a bad listener. There have been so many times that Matt will say something like, "Remember, I have a meeting tonight and won't be home for dinner." And I am baffled...I just put dinner in the crockpot. Well, he's told me close to 7 times throughout the week, but I don't listen. Now when he tells me things, I write it down.
7) Be in God's word daily. The only way I can be a great wife is if I'm in a close relationship with God. Every time I stray or slack off on my time with God, I'm a bad wife. It's inevitable.
8) Communicate! There have been times in our marriage that I'm mad about something that Matt had no clue about. When we finally discuss it, he says, "Why didn't you just tell me that was bothering you?" I would love my husband to be a mind-reader, but unfortunately, he is not. So I have to clue him in to what I'm thinking :)
Couples aren't married for a lifetime because it was easy and perfect all the time. They are together because they worked hard and put God first. My husband is amazing, much more so than me and I am blessed to be on this journey with him. Now if only he would fix our fence....