It has been no surprise over the last couple months on this blog that we were coming up on our 10th anniversary! This feels like the first big milestone for our marriage, like maybe we've accomplished something. We've said yes and stayed committed for a decade now and in this day and age that is a big deal. We've seen a lot divorce before hitting year 10. We knew getting married young that the statistics did not favor us staying married but we were fully committed to walking through this life together. And it has been an amazing journey and wonderful to get to completely and entirely grow together and build a family and a life supporting each other. Our hearts and passions have evolved and grown together in such a beautiful way too!
Has it been easy? Absolutely not. We've faced challenges and pettiness and heart break just like any other marriage faces. Those early days were spent with financial stress and a lot of immaturity on our parts. But we eventually grew up! And then there have been hard days in the middle of our marriage that we also had to grow and stay committed through. Peter said to me just a few days ago that he no longer questions whether or not I like him. And I kind of scoffed, but you know what, I do remember those days a few years back where we were committed to one another but it didn't necessarily feet like we always loved each other. Of course we did, but we were preoccupied with other aspects of life and didn't have the time to nurture our relationship as we would have liked. There's stability here in our relationship now and a deep, deep love for one another. I thought I was on cloud nine in my relationship ten years ago but Peter and I can both sit here today and say that we are genuinely happier today than we have been at any point in our relationship previously.
These last couple years we have dug in deeper and put in effort to be open and honest and vulnerable with each other and that has paid off in huge dividends. It was not always the easiest thing to do. We still have rough moments here and there and I know there are going to be tough days we continue to face over the next 10 years and beyond. But I am so grateful for this life I have with the man I married! I would like to think we've learned a few things along this journey so far and I thought now would be a good time to offer up some thoughts on the things we've experienced and discovered as keys to our happy and successful marriage!
1) Communicate Openly
We don't want to leave each other guessing. It is so easy for assumptions to be made. And sometimes it is easier to not say how you truly feel, but that isn't healthy and your partner can't get on the same page with you if you don't communicate your thoughts. Also hand in hand with this is to be respectful and calm in the delivery. This can be especially challenging in the heat of the moment, but we have to control our emotions. Communicating openly has been one of the key components in allowing us to grow in our vulnerability and develop that deeper level of relationship these past couple years.
2) Value Trust
One of the most important aspects we placed on our marriage right behind our commitment to one another was to keep our partners trust! Trust is hard to earn back once it has been broken. When we stood at that altar we promised to stay committed through thick and thin. We knew that the other person wasn't making that commitment lightly and that we needed to do our part to always keep and honor the trust they were putting forth in us. This counts for the big things and the little things. Lying has no place in a marriage and this is another important aspect to build to develop true vulnerability with one another.
3) Grow Spiritually Individually and Together
This one I openly admit is still a work in progress. But our spiritual relationship is so important to our marriage. Men, please step up and be the spiritual leader in your family. Pray for your spouse and the things they are going through, hold hands and pray together before bed. Attend church together, read your Bible and discuss and challenge each other spiritually. As you grow closer to God, you will grow closer to one another too.
4) Always Make Time for Physical Intimacy
I read an article not long ago that this is one area couples really struggle with when they have young children at home. I get it, but this is one of the few aspects of a marriage relationship that is a need that can only be met together. It is an important, fun, and easy way to build a connection with one another. This is another area to practice vulnerability and be open and honest about your desires and needs. With a bunch of small kids at home, it is easy to come up with excuses as to why not, but it's also an area that if you make the time and effort or maybe even lose some sleep when you're already tired, you'll never regret it!
5) Take Time For Self Care
Sometimes we need to take care of ourselves to keep the relationship healthy. In our home we have a husband who works long hours and sometimes needs to debrief doing things that he enjoys doing. Sometimes that is just him needing some quiet time to himself. Other times that might be playing video games or watching a movie. I think it is very important to not overdue the video game addiction, however I do understand that there are times that he just needs to be able to shut his brain off and do something he finds enjoyable. For myself, I find that going out for a run or a walk really helps me clear my mind after a long day with the kids. I also find a good book and a jacuzzi bath enjoyable and relaxing. I am able to verbalize when I need that alone time and have a spouse always willing to jump in and help create the time or environment I need to chill and that makes a big difference.
6) Quality Time
Typically in a marriage we already spend a considerable amount of time with one another. But if it is distracted time, it's not really quality. I get how hard this one is as it is not all that uncommon for us to have children talking over us anytime we try to start a conversation. But finding time to connect has been so important for us! Regular date nights, even if it is just an in home date night (Hello Date Box! go a long way. Putting down your phone and having real conversation when the kids are asleep. I need to feel like I have connected with Peter on a daily basis and that typically means me talking his ear off for awhile and then I feel close and reconnected. Sometimes I look forward to those long car rides together because usually that results in some deep conversation and connection. Another thing that we've always avoided is a tv in the bedroom, this has made our bedroom an important space where we are connecting with one another not just on a physical level but emotionally too.
7) Be Respectful
This is an area that I still struggle with and we've worked hard to be respectful, even in the heat of a bad moment. We know words cannot be taken back and that there are certain words that will never be uttered in our marriage. It is possible to be upset, take a breath and still be respectful. It also makes it easier for your point to be heard and understood. On another note of respect, I remember a certain situation recently where I mentioned I was feeling a little bit uncomfortable. I was open and willing to discuss it from Peter's perspective but in the boundaries of protecting our marriage above all else he immediately agreed with me, said that was no problem. The fact that he valued my concerns and respected my boundaries meant so much to me! Respect one another, and respect the boundaries placed to protect your relationship.
8) Continue To Pursue Purity
Purity is such a theme prior to getting married but it's not really a word you hear often after the wedding. The theme might change but that doesn't mean temptations end when the marriage begins. It is no surprise that pornography is a major struggle for most men across our country. I believe this is a battle that requires men to stand up and continue to fight for purity in their marriage relationship. I also think that this can be a struggle for women too - especially when it comes to reading romance novels and such. This requires openness and honesty on a level that can be very difficult to discuss, in fact I think it is often a completely silent battle for men and I find that sad. Set up safeguards in your relationship and homes, be honest and supportive as you pursue a truly pure relationship with one another. Be mindful of flirtatious behavior towards members of the opposite sex. Keep your eyes, mind, and heart pure for only your spouse and I promise your relationship will grow so much!
9) Grow In Your Passions Together
I think this was a really cool area to see develop and I didn't really see it coming. But growing in our passions together has been a beautiful gift. I've always had a passion for loving children who need someone to love them and you know what was amazing? Peter started to carry this dream and passion too and now I find him almost more passionate about it than I am! Through our journey to Ethiopia to meet our son, Peter developed a passion for mission work in Ethiopia. And you know what? I tagged along with him and developed that passion too as we worked together! Peter loves video games and I've found from time to time I can have fun with him by playing with him. I love to read and over the years Peter has started to pick up books and read right alongside me. It is fun to develop a love for something important to your spouse.
10) Get On the Same Page About Finances
Ah, money. It seems 9 times out of 10, if we are going to fight, it will be about financial stress. Being content through the financial journey is hard. One of the best things we have done for our marriage is seek financial peace. Has cutting back on fun spending to put it towards a purpose easy? nope! Has it been worth it - absolutely. I am just beginning to understand what the term "financial freedom" means. Set a budget and work hard to keep it. Get out of debt, build a savings. Think ahead to retirement, but also give generously while you are going through the process financially. We had our struggles at first but we diligently worked together to get on the same page, make a budget, and meet and stay up to date on how we are doing. All the money is OUR money and we strive to spend responsibly, keeping that in mind.