Today my husband and I have been married four years. In that four years, we’ve had four kids, bought a house, lost a brother, changed jobs (or in my case, stopped working), and done a multitude of other things that have given these four years some major highs and lows and made them the most difficult, hectic, and transformative years of our lives thus far.
In the scheme of life, we have only been married four years, and I am an inexperienced wife. My inexperience shows through in the mistakes I make – the ways I mishandle situations and repeatedly mess up. Apparently I best learn what is right by doing it wrong.
Still, when I look back at where I started four years ago, I realize how much I’ve learned and changed. If my inexperience has led to mistakes that led to growth that led to a stronger marriage, perhaps it’s not really so bad.
So on my fourth anniversary, here are four things I’ve learned so far:
#1: HOLD MY TONGUE
This has been the hardest for me to learn. Some say that the key to a good marriage is open communication, but for someone as innately open as I am, the best advice is really to JUST SHUT UP. I don’t need any encouragement to share my feelings – they compulsively spew right out of me until suddenly my mind catches up to my mouth and I think, did I just say that?
I’m not really a grudge-holder, so more than half of the “problems” I choose to bring up with my husband could be easily be resolved by just waiting a day. There’s at least a 50% chance that whatever is bothering me right now I won’t even remember tomorrow. How many arguments could be avoided if I just DIDN’T say something? Many things are better unsaid; many issues are better not brought up. My marriage goes better when I force myself to BE QUIET – to hold my tongue, get over myself, and let the little things go.
#2: KEEP MY CHILDREN IN THEIR PLACE
The strongest marriages prioritize the marriage over their children. My parents were experts at this prioritization and I hated it growing up. But alas, they were right. When children become the center of the family, the marriage suffers (and arguably, so do the kids).
To keep our marriage in its proper place, we have to put our children in theirs. Examples of this are putting the kids to bed early, making them sleep in their own beds, having regular date nights (where you discuss things other than your children), showing respect and affection to each other in front of the kids, and not allowing them to interrupt us when talking to each other.
#3: DON’T LET MYSELF GO
I’m a stay at home mom, so the temptation to spend all day makeup free in sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt is pretty strong. But I have to remember that my husband spends 45+ hours a week in a coed work environment, surrounded by women who aren’t in sweatpants – many of which don’t have kids and therefore have unlimited morning time available to make themselves look nice. Now, my husband is a good and loyal man, but he is not impervious to attractive women. And let’s not forget that our relationship was initially sparked by physical attraction (as most dating relationships are) – the way I looked was what drew him in first.
If I want to keep my competitive edge here, I can’t let myself go. He may be around one hundred other women every work day, but I want him thinking about ME. I want him to be thankful and proud of what he has waiting for him at home. There are a lot of factors outside of my control (stretch marks, saggy boobs, wrinkles), but I do consciously try to keep up with my appearance to the best of my ability. I don’t want to get to the point where I’m so comfortable in my relationship that I stop trying to impress my husband. With that in mind, I get dressed, do my hair, and wear mascara every.single.day.
#4: SEEK ADVICE FROM OLDER WOMEN
This has been the most important one I’ve learned. It’s good to have friends that I can go to for advice and encouragement in regards to my marriage. Good friends make great cheerleaders. But the best advice comes from the women who have been married many, many years and have both experience and perspective. I’ve sought out relationships with a couple of key older, wiser women, and I’ve learned more from them than I could ever have picked up from my peers.
Four years is nothing. Our marriage is essentially still in the toddler stages. I have much to learn. But I’m encouraged by how far I’ve come – how far we’ve come – and how God has used our relationship to refine us as individuals. I’m more in love with my husband than I’ve ever been and I’m excited to see what our fifth year brings.
(Which is hopefully not a fifth baby).