Last week Tasha and I celebrated 17 Years of Marriage! Part of this year’s anniversary celebration included some time for Tasha and I to reflect on lessons from our first 17 years of marriage.
In last week’s post I started walking through our list of 17 Lessons from 17 Years of Marriage by providing some commentary on the first four items. This week I’ll continue the journey as we walk through lessons 5 – 8. Before I do so, here is a quick overview of our 17 Lessons again:
- Prioritize Time Together
- Keep Short Accounts
- Laugh Often
- Learn and Speak One Another’s Love Language
- Appreciate, Don’t Expect
- Celebrate One Another, Including the Differences
- The Kids Are #2
- Ride the Waves like a Pro with the Ups and Downs of Life
- Keep the Friendship, and the Romance, Alive
- Give Tech a Timeout
- The Grass is Greenest Here
- Enjoy the Mountaintops and the Mundane
- Dream and Grow Together
- Change Yourself, Not Each Other
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
- Listen and Learn
- Stay Connected to the Vine
So here we go: Lessons 5 – 8 with a bit more detail.
5. Appreciate, Don’t Expect
Somewhat of an extension of our previous reflection on learning and speaking one another’s love language, managing our expectations has been very important for us. Tasha and I have learned that we cannot expect each other to “read one another’s minds,” though we often want that. When we come to expect something from each other, we often are setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Rather, Tasha and I continue to learn the importance of appreciating rather than expecting. A mindset of appreciation helps us to receive from one another with gratitude rather than implicitly demand from one another with our expectations. A focus on appreciating nurtures the spirit of grace and gratitude we desire to have with one another rather than a contractual, quid-pro-quo type spirit. We are learning the joy of generously giving to one another and returning this generosity with appreciation rather than expectation.
6. Celebrate One Another, Including the Differences
Celebrating both common values and complementary personalities has been a key for Tasha and me over the years. This translates into genuinely celebrating one another. From a common core of values, such as our common faith in Christ, we are able to enjoy and treasure our differences.
For those that know MBTI personality types well, we are a marriage of an INTJ and an ENFP. Although we share our common “N” of iNtuition, we are on opposite sides of the continuum on most of the other personality dimensions. While this is only one way of looking at our differences, for us the adage that “opposites attract” feels quit true for us. From the way we approach work, problems, parenting, and beyond, our differences regularly complement one another.
Though early in our marriage these very differences often became points of frustration, over the years we have learned that these commonalities and complements enrich our lives and make us better people. Both the commonalities and complements are to be enjoyed and celebrated in healthy relationships, and Tasha and I are learning to do this a little better each year of marriage.
7. The Kids Are #2
With five children in our family, parenting is a major part of our lives. Although we treasure our kids, Tasha and I feel that one of the best things we can do for our kids is to show them that when it comes to Mom and Dad’s relationship, the children come second (sorry kids!). Rather than being the center of our relationship, children are an outgrowth of our marriage relationship.
Marriages that are centered on children often run into difficulties when children are launched from the home. Conversely, marriages that celebrate and prioritize one another often stand the test of time. We are not talking about being selfish and withholding what kids genuinely need. Rather, it is about affirming that the best gift we can give our children is a stable, loving, and health marriage. Part of fighting for the joy of our kids is by keeping each other, our friendship and our romance, as the priority in our family as the years of parenting move forward.
8. Ride the Waves like a Pro in the Ups and Downs of Life
As Tasha and I once heard musicians Sara and Toby Groves joke about in one of their concerts, we also sometimes say “We’ve been happily married 15 years, and married for 17.” While we joke about this, there is certainly truth behind the humor.
Not every year of our marriage has been full of joy and ease. We have had significant seasons where frustration, arguments, and depression have colored our relationship. For us this came around years four and five of our marriage especially. As we think back on those difficult days, we are grateful for the help of pastors, counselors, friends, family, and neighbors who supported us along the way.
In addition to the support around us, Tasha and I are also thankful that early in our marriage we banished the “D” word (divorce) from our relational vocabulary. Though we have had difficult seasons, we have drawn on our promise to one other to stay, and part of this has been to never channel our feelings in such a way where we would threaten each other with the language of divorce.
As we are now 17 years into this journey of marriage, one key benefit is the perspective that comes with the gift of time together over these years. When we had a difficult year after only four years together, it was challenging to find perspective. But now we have more shared history in life together. This history provides perspectives for us to see that the ups and downs are a normal part of life together in relationship.
Like surfing pros find the most joy in turbulent waters, 17 years into marriage Tasha and I are learning to ride the waves together through the highs and lows of life. We promised each other we would stay “for better, for worse … till death do us part,” and we actually meant it. There is no one I’d rather go through the ups and downs of life with than my bride.
As you consider the principles of (1) appreciating over expecting, (2) celebrating both commonalities and complements, (3) prioritizing our spouse over our kids, and (4) riding the waves through the ups and downs of life, what is your biggest takeaway this week?
I’ll pick up with lesson #9 in the next post.
Here Are the Links for The Entire Series: