Next month my wife and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage. It seems like yesterday we were starting out, moving into our tiny one bedroom apartment on the westside of Cincinnati, and learning how to dance with one another through this crazy thing we call life.
Here we are … all those years later, still learning the moves to this dance. We’re older now. Maybe a tad bit wiser, too. We have both learned so much about life, marriage, love, and how to walk through the toughest battles imaginable.
Personally, I have learned so many valuable lessons. I could literally write a book. But, it would be a billion words in length and you would inevitably zone out a few chapters in. So, I’ll simply share the 17 biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past 17 years.
1. Marriage is a long-term investment, not a one-time deposit.
If you base everything on the wedding day, you’ll be disappointed. You plan a wedding, you invest in a marriage. And it’s an ongoing investment, not a one-time deposit. That doesn’t work.
2. Servanthood wins!
I learned a long time ago that if I put my wife’s needs above my own and choose to serve her everyday, our marriage grows in health and well-being exponentially.
3. Intimacy is so much more than sex.
In fact, sex makes up a very small percentage of intimacy. Intimacy in its truest form embodies the conversations we have, the moments we share together, and the life-long commitment we make.
4. Communication is the golden ticket.
Over-communicate everything in marriage. You’ll never find your spouse or partner saying, “You’ve told me too much.”
5. Put each other first, regardless of the season or circumstance.
Children, careers, home-ownership, friendships … they all take a backseat to your spouse, always!
6. Allow your spouse to be themselves.
Nothing fosters bitterness quicker than a spouse who stifles the personality or spirit of their husband or wife. If your spouse is taking advantage of you or acting like a jerk, this does not apply. Besides, a person who is authentic and genuine doesn’t need to act like a jerk.
7. Keep dating.
I know you’ve probably read this a million times on other blogs about marriage, but it’s true. Farm those kids out to someone else and get out of town for a bit. You both need it!
8. Share everything.
Bank accounts, a home, a bed, resources, possessions … everything! What’s yours is theirs, and what’s theirs is yours.
9. Learn the words “I’m sorry” and mean it when you use them.
Forgiveness keeps the fibers that bind your hearts together strong and healthy!
10. Fail forward.
You’re going to screw up, say things you don’t mean, and let each other down. You’re not perfect. When you fail … fail forward. Never stop growing.
11. Do not cling to the “love” you had for one another when you first met.
Mostly because it was more infatuation than love. Love grows over the years. The love I have for my wife now, 17 years later, wasn’t even possible when we first got married because we had to experience life together in order to have the love we have for one another now.
12. Be one another’s allies as you raise children.
Always be on each other’s side and on the same page in child-rearing. If you disagree with one another on the means, do it in private, not in front of your children. They will see your weakness and they will exploit it.
13. Love the life you’ve been given.
Be grateful, even for the tough times. You grow through the tough times. Celebrate every milestone and choose to always be in the moment with one another.
14. Keep your bedroom sacred.
Don’t allow your children to occupy space in your bedroom and limit their access. That’s your space as a couple and it’s sacred. Guard it, nurture it, and keep it as just yours.
15. Publicly honor one another.
Celebrate your spouse publicly in front of others. Give them credit and make sure others know how important they are to you always. Introduce them in a circle of people where they may not know anyone. Stand behind them so they can be seen and acknowledged by others. Nothing makes a spouse feel worthless faster than being in a public situation where they feel neglected or unknown.
16. Don’t be afraid of vulnerability.
There will never be (and should never be) another human being who knows you better than your spouse. Invite them in to the beautiful mess of who you are and allow them to see your wounds, scars, fears, and dreams. Do this without reservation. Vulnerability creates deep bonds that will hold through the strongest storm!
17. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Keep repeating the previous 16 things I’ve shared. Every day. All day if possible. Marriage will never be perfect, but that’s because the human race isn’t perfect. Celebrate your differences, your perspectives, and your unique view on the world. Agree to disagree too, and respect one another all the more for it. Nothing celebrates the diversity in us better than doing this.