Last Friday, my sweet husband and I celebrated another milestone – 33 years of marriage. Phew! We made it another year and I’m so thankful. As we reflected back on the years together, here’s what we’ve learned.
- Marriage is a covenant not a contract. When I said, “I do” I made a promise to my sweet husband, to the witnesses at our wedding, and to God. Through the years, I’ve learned that a covenant relationship requires commitment to the other person’s wellbeing even when I don’t feel like it. Covenant is a promise. As a person who wants to be known for integrity, I must keep my promises. Covenant is broken only by death.
- There are times when I don’t like my sweet husband, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love him. This was a hard one to reconcile. But honesty dictates this reality. There are days when, for whatever reason, we have a hard time getting along. Usually that means one of us – or both – is being very selfish. Or, one of us is deeply hurt by the other. In each of those times, I have a decision – do I work hard to come to reconciliation or do I choose to quit. My answer always comes back to Lesson 1 above.
- I really am selfish. How I hate to admit this one but it’s true. Most of my struggles in this marriage relationship have to do with selfishness. I want what I want when I want it. Sound familiar? Want to make it even messier? Bump my selfishness into my sweet husband’s selfishness. Now that can get ugly.
- Forgive quickly. Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs against your spouse. Just like I want to be forgiven when I screw up (and I screw up very often), I need to extend that same forgiveness to my sweet husband. When I have problems exercising grace and forgiveness, it usually goes back to my selfishness. And then I’m back to Lesson 1.
- The adage “do not let your sun go down on your anger” is best practice. Anger isn’t wrong. Let me say that again. Anger, in and of itself, isn’t wrong. It’s an emotion. What I choose to do with that anger can be wrong. And when I use my anger to punish my sweet husband, I’m definitely wrong.
Sometimes we choose to go to bed angry. When we do that, I don’t sleep well, and wake up even more grumpy and hurt than when I went to bed. My mind spends the night debating the “what if” and “yeah but” scenarios with abandon. Not helpful.
Sometimes this means forgiving the other person (see item 4) even though the issue isn’t resolved so we can at least sleep on it.
Sometimes we stay up late wrestling through to forgiveness and resolution. We’ve learned the importance of having the tough conversations.
- The only person I can change is me. And even then I need help. To believe any different is a fallacy that leads to frustration. I can change my attitudes and behaviors. I can’t change anyone else. When I finally got this into active understanding, my stress level plummeted. I’m responsible for my actions, attitudes, and behavior. Period. What do I need to do to make this marriage work?
- I’m quirky and so are you. Our personality quirks are just that – quirks. My sweet husband has his own quirks. When our quirks are functioning at optimal capacity, life can get ridiculous. Laughter is the best medicine. It does your marriage good. And, your heart will thank you, too.
I’m not discounting the issues we deal with in marriage. We are human which means we make mistakes, struggle with flaws, and can drive each other crazy. And, there are situations where a marriage absolutely cannot survive.
Yet, the extraordinary truth is that marriage works. It’s never perfect, but it’s worth fighting for.
I’m thankful my sweet husband has stuck by me through all the messiness of life. I’m thankful for grace and forgiveness.
What do you do to make your marriage work?