My husband and I designed our home to be a space of freedom and exploration for our children, but one area remains off-limits: the corner of our main hallway. In this nook resides our wedding invitation and my dried bouquet. They rest upon a table built by my groom – an anniversary gift.
It didn’t take long for our little ones to learn: Do not touch something so sacred.
And the great irony is this: I wish I had been so careful with my actual marriage these last seven years.
But, the truth is, no man or woman enters into marriage half-heartedly. I knew commitment would be difficult. I knew energy and time would be required. What I didn’t know, however, was that many lessons after “I do” come at a great cost.
Earlier this week, my husband and I celebrated seven incredible years of marriage, and I couldn’t help but consider the numerous and varied moments of wisdom the blood, sweat, and tears of our love has produced.
Of all my learning, here are the seven most important nuggets I have gained:
- Practice vulnerability – daily.
Being intimate, praying together, accepting that you are wrong – this is what marriage requires, and we need to do it often if we are to grow with another person.
- Don’t insert family, friends, or anyone else into the equation.
All relationships have their ups and downs, but, let’s be honest, people who love us are going to be biased. And, if we are angry, they are going to be upset right alongside us. This conflict of interest only works against our marriages.
- Share a goal in your marriage. Share a goal in your family.
How will we live in communion? What will we pursue? I am grateful for the four years of marriage that preceded our first child, as we were able to dedicate ourselves to accomplishing a clear mission: Lift up one another to strengthen each other’s unique callings.
- Don’t view your spouse as the source of your happiness or joy.
It’s not fair or sustainable to rely so heavily on your significant other. And, from my experience, there is nothing that creates distance quite like unhealthy co-dependence.
- Respect dreams…they won’t go away. Listen to them and honor them – as best as you can.
Dreams – the kind your spouse wants to pursue – will likely bring hardship for a time, maybe even a long time. Don’t dismiss them outright and brainstorm together a way forward. They only intensify the longer they go unrealized/unvalued.
- Sacrifice – over and over and over again – with the promise that you won’t resent anything you give at a later time.
As a marital counselor once told me, “Nothing corrodes marriage faster than resentment.” And, sometimes, amazing things – the kind that benefit BOTH of you – can only happen through bold moves.
- It will look different than you expected, but it will be good.
Unemployment. Infertility. Loss. This is what real marriage must endure. Don’t spend precious years questioning the closed door. Remember, you have someone to help you move forward.
In full disclosure, my husband and I neglected to have a date night or any real celebration of the vows we exchanged all those years ago. I think we did steal approximately three minutes of morning snuggles before our early bird emerged from his nest.
But just last night, in the middle of an extremely disheveled playroom, I found my dear groom conducting a post-space interview with our son, who had just flown his Lego rocket to the moon. My daughter, not to be outdone, was desperately climbing for a spot on his highly coveted lap.
In that moment, I remembered why – despite countless setbacks – we press on in our union. Life was never designed to be about what we can gain, what we can achieve. Rather, our days matter by what we choose to give to those whom we love.
I’m thankful for the one who hasn’t given up on me just yet. Our children may destroy nearly every possession we own, but – that special corner in the hall – my husband will protect with his life.
And, deep down, I think we both knew the itch never stood a chance.