Marriage Advice I Wish I Had 10 years ago

Marriage advice from an imperfect marriage? Maybe that’s really the only kind there is: Imperfect, full of flaws and failures, but with two people determined to keep their promises.

Yesterday we celebrated our 10th Anniversary! We’re not quite the wide-eyed dreamers we were when we said, “I do,” but we made it. And I’ve gained some wisdom I wish I’d learned much sooner.

The song that was playing in the background the day my husband proposed in April, 2006 (see our amazing romantic proposal video below!) was “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts because our lives took convoluted paths to get to each other. But we were so grateful to have found someone to call home. As a military couple, home for us isn’t a place so much as it is our family.

Our wedding centered around the idea that two roads were becoming one journey; a wedding was just a day, but a marriage was a lifetime of love, joy, laughter, patience, forgiveness.

We both knew marriage would be challenging, but didn’t know how broken the road would be AFTER we said “I do.”

Bless the Broken road was our song, we didn't know it would be part of marriage too. Click To Tweet

We thought marriage would be bliss. We would finally be together after years of living in different states or different continents, but that wasn’t going to be the case.

Only weeks after he returned from his second deployment, we got married and had a couple of chaotic months together (wedding, moving, honeymoon and holidays) before he went away to various training schools.

Then we moved to a new duty station where he immediately began training to deploy while I worked full-time in a new teaching position.

Then he deployed again for a third year, and following his return, we underwent the adoption process while still trying to reintegrate as a couple, working around his training to deploy again.

He deployed again three months after our daughter was born. I was a “single” mom and he was in some of the darkest situations he had faced. And when he came home, the war did, too.

While grappling with the compounded effects of his four Iraq tours, we transferred to a new duty station with new challenges. He’s stateside, but works more than ever. And I’ve had health issue after health issue.

Marriage often took a backseat to just hanging on for dear life.

But the first piece of marriage advice I wish I had really known is that marriage isn’t the grand romance we envision the day we get married. It’s the romance in dancing through life together.

Marriage advice from an imperfect marriage? Maybe that's really the only kind there is. Imperfect, full of flaws and failures, but with two people determined to keep their promises.

Getting married wasn’t a solution to a problem. Expecting him to fill the broken places in my life was too much and unfair to him. It left us both feeling discouraged and empty.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

God is my portion. My hope and faith has to be in Him not my husband or I end up having unreasonable expectations.

My husband might be my hero, but he can't be my savior. Jesus has to be 1st focus of my heart. Click To Tweet

Truly learning to put my faith and hope in the Lord has allowed me to see my husband’s humanity in a new light. I’m able to offer grace in a way I never could before.

The Holy Spirit intercedes in my heart daily. Thank heavens!

My husband is just the captain of our team. We have to remember to be a team before we can do anything else.

Which means treating each him with respect and kindness no matter what is going on. Life often can feel like an emergency, but not much of it really is so important that I don’t have time to take a deep breath and respond with love.

Being kind and gentle under stress prevents conflict and builds up your partner during difficult times.

Proverbs 15:1 ESV  A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

I am still learning this lesson. Every. Day.

But my choice is to respond to life, stress, and even a harsh response with softness and the peace of Christ.

Time after time, I’ve seen how gentleness can affect even the most difficult situation.

The next piece of marriage advice I wish I had learned sooner is so simple to say but much harder to do.

Most arguments can be solved in two words, not a thousand perfect ones.

I’m sorry.

Not three – “I’m sorry, but . . .”

This one is really difficult for my flesh. I want to explain away my bad behavior. I want to put the blame on someone else, or point that nasty wagging finger right at him, but the truth is . . .

There is only one thing I can control in the entire universe: me.

Most arguments can be solved in two words, not a thousand perfect ones. I'm sorry. Click To Tweet

I have learned to take responsibility for my side and that’s it. Leave it right there.

Nothing anyone does justifies acting poorly. It sometimes explains my failures, but never excuses.

More often than not, he responds by softening and apologizing because I didn’t demand it or accuse him.

Which leads to the next piece of marriage advice God has really been working in me.

Listen.

We all want to be understood and respected. Taking the time to listen does both.

God has been working on me in this area a long time. I can demonstrate my husband is a priority in my life by focusing on him when he speaks. When I listen, I can hear his heart and share his joys.

I earn his respect in return because he knows that he is my priority.

Sometimes, I have to fight my selfishness when his desire to share with me interrupts my reading, television show, or just my busyness.

Again, God has challenged me to choose what to give my best attention to. Very rarely do I really need to ask him to pause and tell me later. Most of the time, I really can drop everything and listen.

Put your faith in the Lord, Respond kindly, Take responsibility for your side, and Listen.

And this advice holds true no matter how long you’ve been married.

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Beautifully Taken for Granted

Last night, I was giggling to myself over a sink full of dirty dishes because after 9 years of marriage, countless hours of diligent sacrifice, my husband finally, beautifully, has taken me for granted.

I have worked really hard to be taken for granted.

I started a couple of years ago when I stopped nagging him to pick up his dirty underwear, and instead started praying over it. His empty toothpaste tube left on the vanity gets silently replaced. His lunch is quietly waiting each morning.

Our marriage was in a rough place after his last deployment. Out of the six years we had known each other, he had spent three of those deployed. The trials of war were a heavy burden that I didn’t know how to carry with him, and he didn’t know how to let me.

We tried to pick up and move forward, but we had changed. I had spent a year just being a  mom, and he felt like an outsider to our little all girls’ club. We didn’t really know how to overcome the abyss between us.

Let me tell you, pretending it wasn’t there, wasn’t pretty. We were almost on the brink of disaster when Jesus began to intervene.

I wanted God to change my husband, who returned from war angry and different. I prayed and prayed that he would change. I got angrier and more bitter when he didn’t, sitting all self-righteous on my pious side of the room, waiting for him to change before I would.

But God began a quiet work in my heart. He answered my prayers for change by changing me. I began to see love, not as an emotion, but an active choice. I could decide to love him everyday.

However, my husband didn’t trust that love. He wouldn’t ask me to do his laundry. He wouldn’t ask for help with even the littlest things, and seemed perturbed when I would offer, like depending on me was weakness. He didn’t see us as a team. He was running his own life and I was a corollary player.

To change his perception, I had to learn to be trustworthy, be willing to serve, be gentle instead of nagging, instead of shouting louder, get quiet. I had to serve him without complaining, joyfully. I had to ask him everyday – what can I do for you? And then do what he asked, even if I didn’t want to.

So this week, when he dragged himself to bed after an 18 hour day, leaving his cold, stale coffee in his thermos, his dirty lunchbox full of trash, and a pot simmering on the stove for me to watch, a midnight load of laundry to do, I almost got frustrated. Hey, I’m tired too!

but then I heard, God’s quiet voice, ‘what a beautiful blessing.’

I went to bed last night giggling to myself because after years of marriage, long months of hard work, my husband takes me for granted. I have worked really hard to be beautifully, taken for granted.

A blessing? beautiful? to be taken for granted?

YES! Yes, the fiercely independent husband who wouldn’t ask for help, didn’t want to need me, now relies on my help, and beautifully takes for granted that I’ll be there and do for him.

Our marriage that almost ended in bitterness and anger, is stronger than ever, full of laughter again.

Psalm 85:10 ESV  Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.

This verse from Psalms almost brings me to tears today. I never could have imagined my marriage in it, but today the words leapt from the Bible into my heart.

I never thought I would celebrate being beautifully taken for granted, yet today on our 9th anniversary, while the words, “I love you” are more poignant than ever, hearing him say, “I know” means even more.