12 years and counting
On Sunday Kevin and I celebrated twelve years of marriage. Twelve years packed full of beautiful moments, moments filled with tears, moments of great joy, and moments of great disappointment. Each year wrapped in the choice to work hard at love or the choice to give up and walk away. Time and time again we have watched many of our friends decide to take the second approach.. And so we started a tradition in those early years of the anniversary high five. At the start of the day on our anniversary we give a high five, congratulating each other for making it last another year. In our modern culture wedding anniversaries are something to celebrate. And we always make a big deal of the day. This year we spent the weekend away with our entire crew at Rehoboth beach thanks to some very generous friends who let us stay at their beach house. Kody took this picture of us on the porch at Cracker Barrell. For our current season, that is living it up!
I said "I do" at the age of 22. I had lots of ideals and dreams of what the years ahead would bring. But I don't think anyone really has an idea of what marriage will require until they are actually in the trenches of living it out. You are living daily in a relationship with another human being who is not perfect, just like you, and things are bound to sometimes get messy. The road hasn't always been easy but twelve years of learning and working together has left Kevin and I with an incredible gift. These past few days my thoughts have been swirling around lessons learned. Here are my top ten. Hope something encourages you to try again, to bring new life to your relationship and to chose to love with all you've got.
1. Give what you want to get.
The basic idea is this: if there is something you desire from your relationship, set the example and do it for your spouse. Pouting only makes everyone miserable and nagging is even worse. Just like the famous saying of catching more flies with honey, loving actions will attract loving actions. This doesn't guarantee that he will reciprocate, but I have found that it does change my attitude and my focus. And changing your own attitude is more than half the battle. Which leads to number 2.
2. Work on yourself, not your spouse.
If you are a doer by nature, if you like to help people... if you can sometimes think that you know what everyone else should be doing.... then this one is for you. Your husband is not your project. You are not responsible for his behavior, actions or attitude. You are, however, responsible for your own. Until you are absolutely perfect in every way then there is something that you could be focusing on growing in yourself. And maybe, just maybe God wants to use whatever is bothering you about your husband to purify your own heart.
3. Always speak well of your husband in public and in your home.
Don't tell stories that would bring embarrassment or shame to your husband just to get a laugh. Talk him up to your kids. Tell them about his good character qualities. Find opportunities to express to them how much you love their father and and what an awesome guy they have for a daddy.
4. Be a student of your spouse.
Remember when you were dating and you would go out of your way to figure out how to make him feel special. Look for ways to bring that back into the relationship. Find ways to encourage and support him. When he is going through a difficult season make your home a cozy place for him. This is a great time to stock up on his favorite foods. Play his favorite music. Arrange your schedule to allow for keeping the home calm and cleaned up. Get the kids to make him a special card or art work. Leave love notes. Whatever you can do that will demonstrate you are giving your time and energy to making sure he knows how much he is appreciated and loved.
5. Give freedom.
When we were first married I was whiny and self absorbed. If Kevin wanted to go out with a friend I would pout and be filled with jealousy. Over the years I have learned a little secret.... if Kevin gets to go do something that he enjoys and I approach it with a good attitude things go much better. And the husband who gets to play comes home energized, happy and renewed to then fill my own love bucket. Win -win.
6. Be honest.
This may seem pretty basic, but it was something I had to learn. I had tendency to say things just to keep the peace or to stuff my feelings and not say anything at all. Kevin taught me how to open my mouth and share my heart. It isn't always pretty, but it is always real.
7. Make him a priority.
Being a mom is busy. There is always something to do. Kevin would want me to just sit and watch a movie with him. You know, like we would do when we were dating, when I would stop the world just to sit next to him. I felt guilty doing this because there was "so much to do". I shared this with a friend who was further down the road of life. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, "So spending time with your husband is a waste of time." I often think about her statement. I don't want him to ever think he is a waste of my time. This can be carried over to your relationship with your kids... but that is another post.
8. Create Boundaries
When we were first married I didn't think I would ever be capable of having an affair or entertaining any ideas of calling it quits. Somewhere around year seven I began to understand. We had back to back to back years of babies who were up all night. My tank was empty and one day it hit me how hungry I was for someone to notice me. It scared me to death. It came about the same time I was learning #7. I was involved in leading not one but two mom's ministries in our community, working part time, attending a bible study... all "good" things, but it was taking me away from home many nights every week. He felt like I didn't know him and I felt the same way. We knew changes were needed or we were going to be in trouble.
So for us one boundary is not making a bunch of commitments that we cannot do together. Boundary number two, if any relationship outside of our own causes stress in our marriage then it is let go. Third, we do not have deep relationships with people of the opposite sex. If I have contact with any male friendships through facebook or email, Kevin is copied. These fences provide protection for something very precious, something worth protecting at all costs.
9. Grow Together
We met young. We have changed. You can either change and grow apart or change together and grow closer. Share your dreams. Play together. Be willing to take an adventure. Seriously nothing will grow you together more than a crazy life adventure.
10. Fill your lives with grace and laughter.
We all make mistakes. We all have bad days. Give your spouse grace, give yourself grace. Laugh like crazy and don't take yourselves too seriously. Life is hard. If nothing else marriage should be fun.
Okay that technically makes 11, but prayer should be weaved in, over and around all other 10. Early on in our marriage we read a study that said this: divorce rates of those who pray together are less than 1%. So the number one thing needed in marriage is prayer, prayer for each other and most importantly to pray together.
I am not the same person I was twelve years ago. I look forward to who I will be twelve years from now. I'm sure this list will make me giggle at how little I knew. I look forward to the journey and what it will bring. And maybe you have something to get me started on the next leg? What would you add to my list?