Last month, my sexy ministry man and I celebrated 10 years of marriage!!! We celebrated by renewing our vows to each other on a beach in Mexico. We so fancy.
We have been together for over a decade. Wow.
I feel like we have accomplished something rare and great: 10 happy years of marriage and friendship. Not saying things haven't been tough sometimes; that we haven't let each other down, annoyed one another, or spoken words in anger, but we have always come out stronger in our friendship and more in love. There is no one I would rather dream, adventure, or hang out with, than my husband. I thought I would jot down a few things that have made our relationship successful over the last decade. (I look forward to learning even more and writing a top 20 in another decade!)
1. Love God the most
Thrive alone in the secret place, thrive together in prayer, and watch your hearts stay alive. This isn't always as easy as it sounds. Cause life happens, right? Jobs, ministry needs, CHILDREN, social lives, Netflix...
Sometimes I will be going off about something (you know the kind that isn't just venting, it's still an issue) and my husband will ask me how much time I have spent on it in prayer. Or we are getting frustrated and exhausted over our kids and they just won't stay in bed and all we want is to zone out on our phones or watch a show but what we really need to do is speak identity over them and pray for them. Jesus, give me strength.
2. Marital Check-ups
Think about your physical body, if you are sick, you go to a doctor, right? If you ignore an illness, it will get worse. Sometimes it’s just a cold and with some care it will run its course and go away. But if you have cancer, a team of experts will come around you to formulate a plan to try and help you attack the cancer and live.
Even if you aren’t sick, it’s recommended that you get an annual check-up to make sure you're healthy. If we are willing to do this for our bodies, why not for our hearts?
I’m so passionate about counseling. Jeremy and I annually submit our marriage to a trusted couple to kick the tires and see if there is anything that needs a tune up. Many times, just the act of explaining points of tension in front of someone else can bring clarity to how wrong he is. ;)
3. SEXY TIME
I want to write a whole series just on intimacy, but for now I will summarize with this: Sex is a relationship within your relationship. It isn’t automatic, and no, you aren’t the engaged almost-weds who would make out in your car for hours and could only imagine bliss under one another’s clothes. You get the sexual relationship you put the time in for. Your sexual relationship is like any other relationship; it has seasons of highs and lows, of exploration and frustration and of ecstasy and ease. Keep fighting for the sex life you want! If it isn’t where you want to be, talk about it. If you are unsure how to help it or where to go for a safe answer, contact me for some resources. I'm so passionate about Christian couples enjoying all of the precious gift of sex that God gave to us.
Sex is spiritual warfare that strengthens your marriage!
It’s vulnerable to say what you need. And sometimes harder to really know what you need let alone how to communicate it. (especially for sexy time) Even more so if your relationship is an unsafe place to communicate those needs. Become a really good listener. The point isn’t to agree, it is to really hear the other person and their heart. Validate what your spouse is saying. If there is conflict that has caused you both to break in relationship, pursue reconnection through your love languages before trying to solve the argument.
5. Love languages
You can love someone all day long the way you want to without seeing much of the response you need. However, that’s like kicking a soccer ball straight to a goalie until you know how your spouse receives love. Think of it as a secret password to their heart.
I remember when ministry man and I were in the whirlwind of new babies and as a quality timer, I was desperate for adult conversation at the end of the day. However, as an acts of service love language, my husband would come home and immediately be consumed by the decimation of our home and would immediately start cleaning while I sat on the couch begging him to sit with me. Most wives would be like, "Shut up woman! Let him clean!" But as a quality timer, over time, my heart began to hurt when he came home and began cleaning. My perception was that he must think I'm not doing enough, and conflict followed. Then I identified our love languages and tried an experiment. I was still overwhelmed by babies, but decided to try and make sure that the kitchen (the first room my husband would see when he came home) was clean. That day, when he got home, he put his bag down and walked straight over and sat with me on the couch. Eureka!
Knowing your spouse's love language is the fastest way to dissolve conflict, and the safest way to go into it.
If you don't know your love language, you can find it through the quiz here.
Be lovers AND best friends. Go out and be dumb and nerdy together. Not just dinner and a movie/Netflix. We learned early on that if we wanted to really talk about the stuff, we had to get out of our house. We didn't have money for dates, so we would make smoothies and walk to the park with our one baby (man, only one baby) on Tuesday mornings and hang out while he played on the playground.
Try doing something your spouse loves, even if it's not your thing. For me, it would be camping. For hubby, it's horseback riding with me. (Weirdo doesn't like horses. WHO DOESN'T LIKE HORSES!?)
7. Other Friends
You need a close friend to talk to, outside your marriage, who knows all your secrets. AND most importantly, has permission tell you when you’re wrong.
Freedom and safety in friendship is essential. Remember all the dumb things the disciples would say around Jesus? That’s because they felt safe enough to say what they were thinking- even if it was dumb, wrong, or embarrassing. And He still loved them!
This should be a person who encourages you in your marriage and chooses to see your spouse through God's eyes. (Note: Not a family member, a friend. And, for the safety of your heart and theirs, a person of the same gender.)
Now hear me: I tell my husband everything. I tell him things he probably doesn't want to know- I'm a very verbal emoter. (Unless, of course, it's another person's confidential information) But, there have been circumstances and moments of tension in my marriage where, while I always want to cover my husband, I needed a sounding board to work out my thoughts and emotions. He is a treasured gift from God to me. When dealing with big emotions, I want to make sure that I have the ability to communicate my needs in a way that still protects his heart.
One of my biggest exhortations to people is to CHERISH their spouse. Cherish means to protect and care for someone lovingly. Guard their heart from the devil that hates your marriage, anyone/anything who dishonors them, and from yourself and your words. Your spouse is the greatest gift from God to reveal his heart to you. Children are a gift too, but your spouse comes first! (If marriage is a mirror, then children are a magnifying glass!)
What happens when your dreams inconvenience your spouse’s? I like to tell a story about when my hubby and I were dating, and I was hung up on our “destinies” and how they were too different. We were on the verge of a breakup because I couldn’t see a future with room for both of us to get what we want.
He was quiet a moment and then asked me a question. “Do you know the first time the Bible mentions the word ‘love’?” (Of.course.not.) He continued, “It’s 22 chapters, 2 verses in. It’s when God tells Abraham, ‘sacrifice your son, Isaac, whom you love.’ Don’t you find it interesting that the God of love waits through all creation, and the first mention of love is coupled with sacrifice? Sometimes I will be asked to sacrifice for your destiny, and sometimes you will sacrifice for mine. That’s what love is.” (And then my face kissed his face)
That revelation marked our marriage and has been very true. When the time came to take my dreams back up, I communicated with him that I needed more than words; I needed our lives to shift in a way that made room for my dreams. It would be inconvenient to our routine, our finances, and our family flow, but he didn’t waiver from cherishing me.
Yes, this is no fun, but it's also a HUGE source of contention and anxiety. Set goals and a budget. No one is going to be perfect at this. But let’s say you are saving for a house, or care about taking a family trip, or need to account for Christmas presents, it helps to both know what’s going on. If one of you is more talented at making the budget or handling the finances, great. But make sure you BOTH sit down and go over the numbers. Monthly, quarterly, you choose. It removes the pressure of just one person having to carry the burden or be the task master.
No matter how in love you are or how faultless your spouse is, there will come moments: small ones, medium ones, and big ones that need forgiving. They will come daily or rarely, but they will come. Maybe it's getting annoyed that the dishes weren’t loaded in the dishwasher correctly...again, or maybe they make a choice that takes time to heal from. The longer you are together, the more you know, the more history you have, and the more complex things get.
There is no magic wand for forgiveness. Just choice. We teach our kids that forgiveness is automatic, trust is earned. Own your stuff. Be honest with yourself and own your percent of the conflict. Be the first to apologize and ask forgiveness without condition. As my little sister often tells me, "first one to the cross wins."
Y'all. I love my husband. In fact, it probably borders on obnoxious. But make no mistake, we have been through the s t u f f. We have this thing that we do in the middle of deep dark moments where we look at each other through tears or loss and say, "Are we still happy?" "Yeah, still happy and God is still good."
Your spouse's purpose is not to make you happy, they are meant to refine you. Love is choice, joy is a choice, my husband is a beautiful choice I make every day.
And just for fun...