These eight lessons have helped me develop the strongest relationship of my life
Earlier this week, my wife, Kristen, and I celebrated eight years of marriage! It was exciting to look back over the time we have been together and see how we have grown. It’s crazy because we have experienced a LOT of life in those eight years.
It was only nine months from the time we met until we were married. Yes, you read that right. And no, the nine months didn’t mean anything. But, we did get pregnant about six months after our wedding! That was NOT a part of the plan. Also, in that first year of marriage, my dad died unexpectedly. Over the next two years, that entire side of my family disowned me, my mom, and my sister. Kristen and I have moved four times, and we are moving again in a month. This is just a taste of our years together. Yet, through it all, we have only grown closer. This is a big deal. Many relationships crumble under this amount of stress, anxiety and change. So, what is the secret?
First, our faith. That is the bond that keeps us connected. But besides our belief in a Savior that loves us, here are 8 other thoughts on what has helped us grow closer over the years. I hope they inspire you to grow closer to your spouse, as well!
8 Lessons from 8 Years of Marriage
Sex is a thermometer, not a thermostat.
Why do Christians downplay sex so much? It’s like we are afraid of it! Yes, our culture uses sex during burger commercials, and porn is a serious problem. But let’s not forget who created this thing! This was God’s idea. Sex is His creation. And when sex is enjoyed within the guidelines that it was intended, it is amazing! Personally, I’m a big fan! (Go God!)
In our marriages, sex is a great thermometer. But it is a horrible thermostat. Thermometers tell us the temperature. Thermostats set the temperature. Sex cannot be used to set the “temperature” of the relationship. If your communication sucks or you don’t see eye to eye on finances, having more sex isn’t going to fix the problems. It is just masking them. And the sex won’t be good, either! But let’s be honest about the other piece of this… Sex is a great thermometer. Whenever our relationship is strong and we are enjoying each other’s company, it is reflected in our physical lives. Christians, please stop acting like your lack of physical intimacy is almost a godly thing. It isn’t. Read Song of Solomon. It’s in the Bible for a reason. God is smiling down on this couple!
If you say you have a great marriage, but aren’t enjoying this amazing aspect of your relationship, you may have some serious talking to do. One of you is probably not as happy as the other thinks! Sex can’t fix a bad relationship. But it sure can be an indicator of a good one!
Submission is a two-way street.
Can we please stop being afraid of this word! I know everyone cringes when it is mentioned in whispers and behind closed doors. But that is merely a reflection of our misunderstanding of the word. It gets a bad rap because of Ephesians 5. “Wives, submit to your husbands.” Oh, the horror. But, let’s back up and read the verse that acts as the topic sentence of this passage. Remember topic sentences from seventh grade English class? They contain everything we need to know about a paragraph. Here is the topic sentence, or thesis, of this section of Ephesians 5:
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” -Ephesians 5:21
We are instructed to submit, yield, listen to, and love each other. It isn’t a one-way street. Let’s get rid of this idea that wives are weaker or that the Bible is teaching us that. Actually, the teachings of the Bible have a MUCH higher view of women than Greek or Roman culture. The verses right after “Wives, submit to your husbands” tells the husbands to love their wives like Christ loved us and died for us. This is submission on the husband’s part. Don’t think of submission as master and slave. Strong and weak. Ask Google for a definition for “submit” and you get: “Accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another person.” That is what we think of when the Bible mentions submission. But I think the Biblical view of submission is closer to def. #2: “Present (a proposal, application, or other document) to a person or body for consideration or judgment.” This is like submitting a paper at school. This is also a great view of submission in marriage. Kristen and I don’t know where we are living in 5 weeks. We are praying and seeking God. When I have an idea, I submit it to here. She also submits her ideas, thoughts and feelings. We discuss them together and talk it out. This is submission. It is mutual love and respect. She is not under my thumb, and I am no warlord. Which brings us to #3…
I don’t know it all. I can’t fix it all. Sometimes, I just need to shut up and listen!
As a man, I just want to fix stuff. If Kristen needs to vent or share something with me. I immediately think of five ways to fix the issue. I must find a cure! But, I have learned that I can’t fix it all. Actually, there are very few things I can fix. And that’s ok. She doesn’t need me to fix it, even if I think she does. Sometimes, she simply needs me to listen. She needs to share her thoughts, feelings, even fears. Because-and get this guys!- it isn’t about the problem. It is about growing deeper in relationship and knowing the other person more intimately. Men who are single or newlyweds… If you get this one thing, you will be miles ahead of most of us poor saps who’ve had to spend years learning it!
It takes more than love.
All you need is love? Nope! (If that was the case, Yoko wouldn’t have ruined The Beatles!) It takes more than love. Yes, love is the most powerful thing in the universe. But that type of love is the pure, God-love that humans simply do not possess. We try. And we get close at times. But this is pure, selfless, I-need-nothing-in-return type of love. And we aren’t there, yet. So, a strong marriage takes more than love. It requires commitment. Good, old-fashioned, I’m-not-going-anywhere, commitment. There will be days you don’t feel very loving. There will be days you don’t even know if you want to be married. Commitment says, “I believe in you, and I believe in us. We will get through this, and I am not running away or giving up.”
(Just to be clear, I am not referring to an abusive relationship. That is an entirely different conversation. If you are in the middle of one of these, contact me or Kristen. Seriously, you don’t have to do this alone! firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Family first”: Family is my first calling.
We all have a calling- that drive that pushes us to meet our goals and reach our deepest desires. But let’s keep some perspective. Actually, let’s order a whole boatload of perspective! Men, your responsibility to your family is greater than your responsibility to your job. Your wife and your children will be by your side (hopefully!) way longer than your boss. I am not saying that we don’t give all of our effort at the job we are called to do for the time we are called to do it. There are times when we need to work harder and stay at the office later. But 95% of the time when I have to choose, I choose family. No job, hobby, career, or even church is worth more than your family. If you’re going to say “family first”, you have to live it.
My job doesn’t end at 5 o’clock.
This lesson goes hand in hand with the last. If you’re going to come home at a reasonable hour from work to spend time with your family, then spend time with your family! Don’t check out mentally when you walk through the door physically. Take 15 minutes to rest and grab a snack. When the break is done, engage with your family. Talk to your wife. Play with your kids. Help with dinner or the dishes. Like I said earlier, submission is a two way street. It’s about serving. So, serve your wife. Your job didn’t end when you got off work. You just clocked in to the one that really matters- at home.
Dating isn’t just for teenagers.
If you read any good website or blog on marriage and relationships, they will tell you to date your spouse. So, why aren’t we doing it? I sucked at this one for years! As a matter of fact, it is still one of the hardest areas for me. I can come home and pick up my baby girl and love on her for an hour. I can play with my boy outside. I can help with dinner. But finding a babysitter? Ugh. Being creative and finding a new place to try with a decent wine list? I’ll just go do some laundry. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad. But it isn’t easy, either. Kristen and I do ok in this area. I still have room for improvement. But it makes the list of 8 lessons because we have learned how truly valuable dating is for our relationship. And there’s a great bonus for dating married! (Hint: see #1)
My wife is more than than the mother of my children. She is… My wife.
Ok, this one is going to take a little explaining. That is why I left if for last. But I am also very passionate about this. My wife has given me two amazingly beautiful children. She is loving and caring to my oldest daughter from my previous marriage. I love that all of my children are blessed with such a great mom. But I don’t look at her that way. For me, she is my wife. And there is a huge difference!
Guys, we have to be careful about always referring to our wives as “your mother.”
“Where is your mother?”
“What is your mother doing?”
“Don’t talk back to your mother!”
It’s true, my son should not talk back to his mother. But if I hear him talk to Kristen in a way I don’t like, I let Noah know that he cannot talk to my wife that way. Yes, he needs to respect his mother. But no man, especially one living in my house, is going to talk to my wife in that tone of voice. You may think I am being silly or splitting hairs on this one. But I am telling you, it does something to us, guys. When we are always saying “your mother”, it is like we are subconsciously forgetting who she is in relation to us. I am amazed by the mother that Kristen is to our children. But when it comes to respecting her and honoring her, she is my wife.
So, there it is. Eight lessons I have learned from the past eight years of our marriage. It’s been an adventure, but I wouldn’t change a thing!