My husband and I celebrated 12 years of marriage last week!
We love to get away for our anniversary but due to the current state of the world, we stayed home, exchanged gifts, enjoyed good food and a quick trip downtown.
I am so happy and thankful for where we are today.
We had a bumpy start to married life. So much so I worried about our future together. I was particularly sad because conflict, which we had plenty of, seemed to send my husband packing.
That’s why I am passionate about helping couples connect because we’ve lived through disconnect and feeling like we made the biggest mistake getting married.
Next month, I am excited to share my most comprehensive resource yet, on how to navigate conflict in marriage. It is a great resource to help knock down communication barriers so you can enjoy being married again.
Update: Course now available! Click here to sign up.
In honor of our 12th anniversary, I am going to share lessons 12 things you can learn from 12 years of marriage. These are the things I wish I’d known sooner than later.
Without further ado
12 things you can learn from 12 years of marriage
1. You never stop learning.
Two weeks ago, I learned that I didn’t know my husband as well as I thought I did.
Well, his food preferences, to be exact. He loves chicken, and I assumed he liked it so much that he’d eat it no matter how it was cooked. It turns out there’s ONE way he doesn’t want his chicken.
For a second there, I wondered how I’d missed that detail these many years. Then it occurred to me that we never stop learning. In fact, quirky discoveries can make a relationship feel like an endless adventure.
2. You can’t have it all (although sometimes you feel like you do.)
Because of priorities and seasons, sometimes you have to let go of personal dreams and ambitions for the sake of the marriage or your spouse.
If you believe marriage is that place where you get to do everything your heart yearns for, and your spouse just has to put up with it, you might be in the wrong institution.
Still, marriage can feel so good, despite letting go of some dreams that it feels perfect. Gratitude, the ability to focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t, is good news for the married heart.
3. The divorce rate is lower than 50%.
Have you heard of the famous statistic, that 50 percent of Christian marriages end up in divorce? That the church is “doing as badly as the rest of the world?”
Well, the statistic is wrong. The percentage of Christian marriages that end up in divorce is much lower.
Researcher and author Shaunti Feldhahn, partnered with George Barna (of the Barna Group, the same research firm from which the statistic originated) to reexamine their 2008 data.
They found out “for those who were active in their church, the divorce rate was 27 to 50 percent lower than for non-churchgoers.”
And there are other interesting facts about marriage and divorce.
1. The general divorce rate has never hit 5o percent.
The 50 percent number by the Barna Group was based on projections, based on the divorce trends of the day, not hard data. Fieldhahn says “we’ve never come close to hitting that number.” The divorce rates continue to drop, not rise.
2. The divorce rate among the general population is likely around 30 percent.
3. According to numerous studies, the divorce rate among practicing Christians (people who keep Christ at the center of their life and home) is likely about 15-20 percent.
It’s still a high number but much lower than what has been widely circulated. It’s encouraging to see these numbers affirm what we’ve always known: that godly values make a difference.
4. 72% of those who have ever been married, (Christians and non-Christians) are still married to their first spouse. And of those marriages, four out of five are happy.
Shaunti Feldhahn Bursting cultural myths about marriage and divorce, Got questions Is the divorce rate among Christians truly the same as among non Christians? , Lifeway Do half of all marriages really end up in divorce
4. Wives often struggle to draw the line
Maybe because we feel the pressure to “make marriage work” or perhaps because the majority of women are nurturing by nature.
Notwithstanding, a healthy marriage involves two people taking ownership of their part of the marriage. When one spouse won’t take responsibility, and the other enables it, it leads to more problems.
In my upcoming course, I dedicate a few lessons to discussing boundaries and taking ownership of our issues so we can truly connect. (Check out a preview of the course here.)
5. You don’t need everything people say you need to have a whole marriage
When we moved to America nine years ago, our lives underwent a massive reversal.
We got off the plane on a hot humid summer night with four suitcases, $100, and boundless hope.
We moved in with our sister and started life from scratch.
It was hard.
I had lost control of life as I knew it and, in my grief, tried to latch on to anything that would give me back a sense of control. But there was nothing to hold on to because everything had shifted.
We’d lost friends, our social and emotional networks, jobs, a business, church, mentors, most of our close family, and all other type of normal.
Our marriage felt the crushing weight. But it turns out that being stripped of everything is a blessing in disguise.
It forces you to grow. (Force, being the key word.)
You begin to talk because no one else can understand your problems. You start to realize that your spouse is the only ally and friend you got. You begin to figure out what is important and what is not.
And finally you get it. You don’t need everything to start your journey to deeper health and wholeness. You can start right where you are because God, you and your spouse are the main ingredients.
Community, friends, jobs, money, enrichment seminars – they are important too. But they are not the main ingredients.
Certainly, some marriages require outside intervention/connection as a first step. If you need counseling, you need to go get it. If you are unsafe, you need that place of safety right away.
But many marriages are not at that “need-outside-mediation” level. A lot of relationships are difficult but there’s a level of goodwill present in both spouses. And they can leverage that grace to start positive momentum.
Never underestimate the power of “stripping” – where you start to work with what you have, instead of waiting for what you don’t have.
6. Marriage does get better
If your foundation is right and you keep growing and giving grace (and truth!) to each other, marriage gets better. It’s just the natural blend of time + practice.
Here’s more information about the beautiful signs of a maturing happy marriage.
7. Bad things happen to good people, and that doesn’t mean God is mad at them*
When I got sick, one of the first things that kept me up at night (besides the pain) was the thought that I had wasted the last many years of my life.
That I had invested thousands of hours, building a ministry and business, from scratch, that was not God’s plan and the painful condition that brought my entire life to a standstill was God’s megaphone: He made me sick to catch my attention.
It turns out bad things happen to good people, and the presence of suffering does not mean God’s absence.
Certainly, God can use hard seasons to draw our attention and wrong choices will lead to painful consequences. But we also live in a broken world and when we suffer, it doesn’t automatically mean we are doing something wrong.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 35, 37-39
8. Marriage needs tending; otherwise, it becomes stale.
I haven’t been married for that long, in the grand scheme of things, but my season in marriage-ville has taught me there’s nothing like un-intentional happiness.
Taking your hands off the steering wheel of marriage while expecting a smooth ride is foolish hope.
Nobody gets to a happy, healthy place without a level of intentionality. In fact, when we don’t steer, we almost always crash. Which leads us to # 9
9. Kindness (being nice and sweet to your spouse) is one of the most underrated qualities of a happy marriage
You verbally attack your spouse and think you can make up for it by buying her a gift. You crack jokes about his mental quickness and convince yourself it’s harmless social banter.
You quit practicing the small things that got you married (calling each other “just because,” using your “sweet voice,” being playful, thinking the best of each other, etc.) and wonder why your relationship feels bleh.
Fact: A good marriage needs daily doses of functional goodness. Goodness is an application, not a natural state of a relationship.
Small positive gestures and habits add up to change the heart’s feelings and the atmosphere of the marriage. And all that goodwill, invested and stored up over time, makes it easy to navigate the hard places of the relationship.
You should be the first person that comes to mind when your spouse tries to draw a mental list of people who are nice, kind and generous.
Ps: Being nice doesn’t mean overlooking wrong. And sometimes a spouse’s dysfunction means they’ll never notice or appreciate the kindness that is extended to them.
10. We overreact to regular marriage problems
As a new wife, I overreacted to some of our problems because I didn’t know what was normal and what was not. When we disagreed, it felt like my whole world crashed down.
Even now, 12 years in, sometimes I have to talk myself off the ledge because my brain can zoom to worst-case scenarios quickly!
Here’s a post that talks about newlywed problems and the solutions that can save your marriage.
For the mid-life to seasoned marriage, here’s a post discussing perseverance in marriage and the two critical questions to ask yourself.
11. Marriage is not meant to fill you up.
We make the mistake of wanting our marriages to make us feel complete. Only to turn a corner and find the next disappointment waiting.
But we were not created for an institution to satisfy us. We were made for Someone greater than anything the world has to offer.
When we expect marriage to give us something it was not meant to provide, the relationship becomes our most significant source of pain, disappointment, and frustration.When we expect marriage to give us something it was not meant to provide, the relationship becomes our most significant source of pain, disappointment, and frustration.
12. Marriage will reveal your wounds
A few months ago, my husband and I were talking about my “daddy issues” and I shared how my perspective of my dad is shifting.
I’ve discovered that my dad was not as disapproving or as distant as I had made him be: I too came into the world broken.
My hunger for a father’s approval and affirmation godly yes, but marred because I was born broken (in sin Romans 3:23): With a hole that only a heavenly Father could fill but a big appetite for my earthly dad to fill it entirely.
I am learning that even women with “perfect fathers” have father issues. A place where they have to make peace with dad’s humanity. And their own. No father or daughter is perfect.
Whether you’ve put daddy on a pedestal or are nursing a gash from a wound or you are numb because the hole he left is inconceivable: we all have varying degrees (some extremely heavy) of dad disappointment.
But here’s the thing – moving forward is not on our father. Certainly, it might be healing to reconcile some of our wounds, mending to have those conversations that bring closure.
However, at some point, we have to decide to be defined by who our heavenly Father is, not who our earthly father wasn’t. We have to determine to use our past as a learning point and refuse to use it as our point of defeat.
Marriage will surface deep issues because God uses the seasons of life to draw us to Him.
And these are the 12 things on my mind this week.
I’d love to hear from you – What lesson stood out to you? What is one habit, experience, or idea that has had the most significant impact on your marriage? Let’s talk in Comments!
And don’t forget to sign up for the marriage course!