13 Lessons From 13 Years

The 2 greatest joys in my life are being a child of God and being a husband to Charie.  After 13 years, I am crazier about her now than I have ever been.  I intend to keep it that way.

But in order to keep growing in love, affection, attraction, and service to each other, there is work to be done.  Lifelong, Christ-centered marriages don't happen naturally.  Left to the forces of nature (the sin nature), marriages fall apart because the 2 people in the marriage are selfish sinners who quickly grow weary of giving and sacrificing for the good of the other person. 

The power of the gospel to save us and give us new life is also the foundation that we are able to build our marriage on.  We love each other because of Jesus and His love for us.  We work hard, daily, to love each other.  Here are 13 helpful insights that I hope will bless you in your current or future marriage.

1.  (Really) talk to each other every day - You would think that living in the same house would make it easy to talk, yet we all know that busyness, kids, jobs, and fatigue make meaningful conversation difficult.  Regardless, fight for at least a few moments of face-to-face conversation every day.

2.  Give gifts - stop trying to figure out the big, awesome, epic, ultimate surprise, and settle for small, thoughtful gifts on a more regular basis.  I get Charie flowers, bags, scarves, earrings, neclaces, shirts, her favorite coffee drink, and $15 gift cards to her favorite stores.  Small things are big things.

3.  Give compliments - this is so easy to do!  Form the habit of noticing good things about each other then take action by saying it to them.  Compliment their clothes, hair, body, complexion, work, meal they prepared, attitude, athletic ability, yard work, etc.  Your spouse will never tire of hearing you compliment them.

4.  Get away - The longer you're married, the more you will need to "leave the vicinity that causes the anxiety."  Short trips, a long lunch together, or an overnite getaway to a hotel or a bed and breakfast will refresh your affections, clear your mind, and reset your perspective.

5.  Take vacations - Charie and I get away together, just the 2 of us, at least once a year without our kids.  It makes us better parents and rekindles our love and attraction for each other.  We save up during the year so the cost doesn't cause anxiety.

6.  Pray together - We figured out that frequent, short prayers together actually mean more to us than trying to schedule a 60 minute daily prayer marathon.  It's not always possible to pray together for half an hour, but we can always find time to pause, hold hands, and bring a request to God, together.

7.  Stay cool - You are going to argue, disagree, and fight.  I've learned to stay calm and not assume that she hates me, that she is going to leave me, or that she doesn't love me anymore.  Be aware of your insecurities and find your identity in Christ.  This helps when you're tempted to freak out in a disagreement.

8.  Be quiet - I try to never miss a good opportunity to shut up.  When your spouse begins to share, talk, gush, spill, or vent...resist the temptation to defend yourself or to correct their flawed thinking.  Just be quiet and listen.  WIthin a matter of moments, the air will clear.  My wife needs to be understood, not fixed.

9.  Play together - You should know what hobbies your spouse enjoys by now.  Learn to do it with them.  Walking, yoga, musicals, movies, working out, basketball, running, hiking, shopping, concerts, tractor pulls...you get the idea.  Do these things together and don't complain!

10.  Pitch in - maybe the most practical thing I've learned is that my wife needs and wants me to help out around the house and with the kids, not because she is weak, but because she wants us to share our home, our family, and the responsibilities of our marriage.  This includes laundry, dishes, meals, and taking the trash out.  Help each other.

11.  Make time to make out - Because we have kids and jobs, physical intimacy doesn't come as easy as it did on the honeymoon.  We create space for intimacy by planning for it.  We anticipate "alone time" when we know it's on the horizon.  Hire a babysitter if you have to.  Set a time to "hang out" and then talk about it, text each other, have fun looking forward to it, and when you finally get time together, it will be more special than "spontaneous times" that rarely happen anymore.

12.  Coordinate calendars - Once a week we sit down and go over the next month, day by day.  We plan baseball games, trips to the airport, babysitters, haircuts (for Charie), date nights, meals with friends, football practice, homeschool schedules, and media interviews.  This has proven to be the secret sauce that makes our marriage work.

13.  Love like Jesus - We talk about the gospel all the time...at meals, at family prayer, in the car.  This helps us to forgive each other, give each other the benefit of the doubt, offer grace to one another, and practice service and sacrifice.  We don't get it right every time, but we give lots of room for improvement.

What lessons have you learned in your relationship?  What would you add to this list?