I know each relationship is unique and has its own set of challenges and needs, but I feel like I have learned quite a few lessons over our five years.
Top Ten Lessons from Five Years of Marriage:
10. Never quit dating. Even though one may assume you see each other enough, going on dates is different than just being in the same room together. Turn off your cell phones, get out of the house or stay in, but make time for just the two of you. It is possible to keep dating even on a very limited budget. Make it a priority!
9. Find couples that inspire you and learn from their relationships. We know there is no such thing as the perfect couple but find people who can teach you what they have learned and observe them. Jeffrey and I have several couples we look up to. Kim and Dave Brede are such a huge inspiration to us; we went through two marriage small groups under their leading. They have taught us multiple lessons that we will forever cherish. Trent and Stephanie Ketchum are a younger couple that we truly love and respect. They have never really instructed us on marriage, but have simply lived as a couple we want to be like.
8. Do NOT compare your life with others. Although we have been inspired by others, we have learned that we must not compare our lives with others. It will simply make you and your spouse miserable. Houses, babies, cars, money, jobs, etc....DON'T DO IT! Enjoy where you are in life. There is no set time for one event. This can be challenging when everyone around you may be doing something else, but do what is best for you and your relationship.
7. Learn how to fight! Let's face it, we all have disagreements and think the other is wrong. It is how you go about your disagreements that will make all the change in the world. We have learned that you need to stay focused on the issue. Don't bring up a 100 other little things. Also, be careful what you are saying when you are angry. Sometimes, we just want the other person to hurt like we do, and this can be very damaging. Keep friends and family members out of your fights.
6. Support your spouse's passions and hobbies in life. This has personally been a challenging one for me. Jeffrey and I have very different personalities and very different interest. Talk to each other about stuff you like and figure out times where you can do those things without being inconsiderate of the other. Encourage and support their hobbies the best you can. Go to games, allow them time to practice, give them alone time to read, etc. Although it is important to keep doing what you love, you must also remember that this hobby should not be causing conflict to your marriage.
5. Stay Friends. Sometimes it is easy to drift into an area where conversations are always serious and you lose the fun. KEEP HAVING FUN! Talk about the little things. We have found that sometimes after being with someone for so long, you feel like you almost know everything about them. Keep trying to learn more. We're always finding little things we didn't know about each other.
4. Be Teammates. Marriage can be a big competition of who has done more for the relationship, the house, the other person, etc. We have learned that if you compete, you both just lose. Work together. Find which chores one person may not mind as much as the other person. Don't put all the housework on one person if you are both working full time. We have learned that marriage is not a 50/50 thing but more like a 100/100 thing. It requires a lot of work from both sides.
3. Find out how to best love and respect your spouse, and do everything you can to make it happen. Although some couples feel loved the same way, Jeffrey and I are very different. I feel loved when we spend quality time together and when Jeffrey does things for me (cleaning the house, putting clothes away, making dinner, etc). Jeffrey feels the most loved through words of affirmation and through physical touch. This can be challenging because sometimes we want to show love to our spouse the way we feel it the most, and that isn't really the best way for them.
2. Don't forget your vows. For better or worse- We have had some great times, and some really challenging times, but we both have committed ourselves to one another and have decided that we are going to do everything we can to last. In sickness and in health- Sadly, we fight a serious sickness more than I would ever wish on any person. It can be hard to be completely selfless and take care of the other person even when you don't feel like it because you're exhausted (especially when you can be a selfish person like me). Put yourself in your spouse's place and love selflessly. For richer or for poorer- We haven't hit that richer part, but we sure have lived through the poorer. Money is one of the number one reasons marriages fall apart. We have learned to really communicate about our spending, and we live on a set monthly budget. Another thing we try to focus on is the day we said those vows. There will be days when you don't feel loved or feel like loving, but you CHOOSE to love instead. We chose to live together for the rest of our lives, and we have both decided that this is the only option for us. We are going to make it work.
1. God, Spouse, everything else. This is the order in which we live. I know for some of you this may be hard to grasp, but the better Jeffrey loves the Lord, the better he loves me. The same applies for me. But besides our relationship with God, our relationship comes first above everything else. Above family members, above friends, above hobbies, above work, above everything else. If you want your marriage to be the best, you have to make it a top priority in your life.
I hope it doesn't seem like I think we have it all together because these are things we have learned the difficult way. These are also areas we still mess up in and are working on. I just feel we have really gained so much from our own failures and from learning from others. I wanted to just reflect a little on where we have come over the past 5 years.