Today my husband, Craig, and I will celebrate our 10 year anniversary! We have learned much, are still learning and will learn new things. Below are 10 things that I have learned in the 10 years I’ve been married to my best friend.
1. Seek your identity in Christ first. Your identity is not rooted in your marriage nor who you are married to. Yes, your marriage is a significant part of your identity as is your spouse, but that is not where you identity is (or should be) rooted. If your identity is based in Christ (and is continually deepened) your defenses will fall, confidence and compassion will increase and you will more deeply love and readily forgive. During a difficult couple years in our life and challenge to our marriage, Christ used these challenges to further root me in him.
2. Allow your spouse to be human. I fully expect Craig to mess up, to hurt my feelings, to sin and to be imperfect. I am not saying that he does not seek to be more like Christ nor am I giving him excuses, I am just being realistic. He will sin, he will hurt my feelings, he will be selfish … he is human. Allowing Craig to be human begins with expecting myself to be human and giving myself the grace that Jesus gives me.
3. Pay attention and notice. In an age which we are constantly losing the ability to focus and pay attention to another or even notice another, we need this in our marriage. Notice when they have done something brave, notice when they are faithfully serving day after day, notice when they are sad, notice when they are tired. Pay attention and notice a life outside of your own … really pay attention. What helped me? Taking time to sit with God and beginning to notice God in my life and in the world.
4. Spend regular time with God. Whether it is five minutes a day, 1 hour a week or even 1 hour a month. Spend regular alone time with God. Just do it. I would go to Starbucks for 45 minutes and just sit and drink tea … I literally stared out the window and opened myself up to however God would lead. I did this about every other week when our son was a toddler and daughter just an infant. I needed it and so did my family. Craig was great as he took care of our children while I had my time with God. He was happy to regularly give me this time because of the radical difference in me between when I left and when I returned.
5. Ask for what you need. Oh, this is a tough one. First of all, it is sometimes even difficult to realize you need anything and when you do you don’t even know what and then if you figure out what it is hard to ask. This independent spirit had a hard time with this one and it wasn’t until I was at a point of desperation that Jesus deepened my understanding of my needs and the strength to ask for help.
6. Listen well and let the other person lead the conversation according to their chosen topic. My husband is gifted in teaching and I am gifted in shepherding … and talking. We love our new ideas, things we have discovered and influencing. We are essentially in love with ourselves. We had to make it a point to let the other person lead the conversation and listen to what they were taking about, the direction they wanted to go and what they were really looking for from the conversation. We still have much to improve in this area.
7. Share your fears. Oh vulnerability. This had to grow in us, this took time and we can see we are more vulnerable with one another than day one. Hopefully your spouse is the safest person you can share your fears with. Giving voice to your fears gives you freedom, shatters isolation, unifies you more deeply and breaks your pride.
8. Confess your sins and let them confess theirs … and then forgive one another. It is amazing the freedom that comes when sin is put out in the open. Some sins are hard for me to confess because they have to do with deeper parts of me and I don’t want Craig to take them personally. (#7 is closely tied with this one). Sometimes we are afraid to confess because we are unsure of our spouse’s response. My hope is that in prayer and deepening of your marriage, the confession of sin and forgiveness would be an increased and welcome value.
9. Let them struggle and find their way … and be there for them with grace. We often just want to do things for others, take care of them and make life easier. Being gifted in shepherding I find it a little easier to let people struggle because I know that struggles can lead to strength. Saying that, I still find it easy to do things for Craig that hinder his growth. Sure there is a fine line between serving and enabling and I don’t always know where that is, but I do know that there are times that only experience can teach us. Same thing goes for our spouses.
10. Have fun! Confession … Craig and I are pretty wound tight and we thank God we have loosened up over the years and there is still more loosening to do. After going through the “littles” stage of our children we have recently started doing the fun things we used to do together. We’re not exhausted at the end of the day anymore and merely in survival mode – woo hoo! So, with that said, have fun!! Enjoy this gift that God has given you!