My husband and I have been together for nearly 17 years, married for 13 years today. Every moment I share with this man is greater than the one before and every day, he supports me even more abundantly. As time flies by I find myself stopping every now and then, realizing that I’m in awe of how far we’ve come together — it’s almost unbelievable that after all of our struggles and fighting so hard just to get it right that we’ve finally arrived at OUR kind of perfection.
People often ask us how we “do it” — how we keep it all together, remain so close, and trust so strongly when we’re apart so much… how we stay so focused on one another with so many children between us. About 6.5 months of every year, we are separated by 700 miles – as we are today on our anniversary – but distance has no power over a love that penetrates the soul. The truth is, most people have no idea what to expect out of marriage when they say, “I do.” There are couples every day who watch their marriages die because they thought being in love was enough. The number of marriages that end in divorce is staggering, but even more heartbreaking is the percentage of those couples who are still in love when it ends.
Why? Because at some point, the passion starts to fade… the fire burns out and they forget how to reignite it. Life starts to get in the way. They begin to feel unfulfilled. They allow the world to come between them. Temptation creeps in. Or resentment takes over. Times get hard. Blame is placed. There are a million reasons people drift apart even though they still love one another, but the one thing they all have in common is that they forgot the most important part of marriage – the other person. To us, there is nothing greater than our love and there is no option but to nurture it. We’re never too tired for our love. We’re never too busy for our love. There is nothing that takes priority over our love. And there are no exceptions to our love.
#7: No one can compare to or compete with your spouse.
There will always be someone “better” out there — someone who is doing more, living higher, someone who seems to possess better qualities, or has more ambition. There will always be somebody willing to do more of something or less of something, someone more exciting or more responsible. There will always be someone with different potential, different experiences. I’m sure there are women out there more desirable than I am, women who cook better or are better at keeping house — women who are more submissive and talk less shit lol There are always going to be men out there who make more money, expect less from their partner… who are more attentive or more adventurous. Whatever the case may be, there will never be anyone as perfect for you as the person who committed to spend the rest of their life with you.
I may not be the most beautiful woman in the world, but I’m the most beautiful woman in the world to him. Because no one compares to my husband, I want to make sure that I understand and value his needs and he does the same. His needs are mostly physical. My needs are mostly emotional. Despite how different our needs may be, we both understand the importance of fulfilling one another and making ourselves completely vulnerable. There is no area of my life that I have to be self conscious about with him. There is no area of his life he will ever feel inadequate about with me. To us, we are each the epitome of perfection, no matter how the world may view us. There is unwavering trust between us because there is no competition outside of our marriage. There is no question about our commitment. There is no insecurity. I know I’m his queen. He knows he’s my king.
#6: Don’t expect your spouse to know and don’t expect words to be enough.
My husband often tells me, “I can show you better than I can tell you.” This is the way he lives his life. He’s not a man of many words, but he is a man of ample action. That doesn’t mean words aren’t important because they are. I need those times when he tells me he’s proud of me. He needs those times when I tell him how much I appreciate him. We both need to hear how much we are loved. But we need to see as much as we need to hear… and we do that by putting each other first. I am not the most important person in this marriage to me. My husband is. My husband is not the most important person in this marriage to him. I am. And that is one thing that despite EVERYTHING we’ve faced over the years has never changed — and because that never changed, we’ve overcome all of those things TOGETHER. We never became enemies.
The times our marriage almost failed were the times that we lost sight of the importance of cherishing the person we fell in love with, not only with words… but with how we treat one another. We use our words. We communicate. We try to be as direct as possible so that each of us have a clear understanding of the other person’s feelings on matters that affect us as a couple. But we also use our actions because with many elements of our relationship, the proof is in SHOWING rather than just TELLING.
#5: Accept your spouse as they are, but both should always act out of love and respect for the other.
My love and acceptance of my husband has nothing to do with whether or not he’s flawless – it’s about letting him know I accept him despite his flaws. I don’t hold who he is against him. There are mannnnnny things we both find highly annoying about one another — many things that have caused arguments, that have made us feel as though we are talking to a brick wall… because we used to expect those things to change. But eventually we learned that it’s better to love those quirks too than to make each other feel inadequate. Even so, because we love each other, there are things that we are willing to gradually work on about ourselves — we become better in time because we WANT to do whatever we can to make each other feel fulfilled, but neither of us try to force change.
Merging two lives together is a process, one that can sometimes be difficult. It’s important to note that BECAUSE we put each other first, our primary goal is to make sure that our marriage is one that leaves both of us feeling emotionally understood. There is no room for things that are hurtful. There is no room for pride. There is no room for bitterness or resentment. It’s essential that couples always choose their words and actions carefully, and that each is always motivated by love and respect for the other. Don’t expect your spouse to change who they are just because you’ve expressed that you want them to be different — that’s not only unfair; it also communicates that who they are is no longer good enough for you, which depending on the issue can be downright cruel.
#4: Don’t take your spouse for granted – their presence in your life is a privilege, not a right.
People may see it as a bit odd that I often tell my husband I’m grateful just for him being with me. They may think it is strange that he often thanks me for being his wife. After 13 years of marriage, you would think we’ve said these things enough… but on the contrary, we can never say these things enough. Every day that we share is a privilege. A choice. Every day we choose one another all over again. Every day I’m grateful for his choice. Every day, he shows me his gratitude for choosing him. We remain thankful for promises kept, for memories made, for moments cherished, for the unconditional love that we continue to share. Remember how exciting it was when your spouse FIRST chose you? That first date. That first kiss. That moment when you just knew they were the one. That is the moment we recreate all the time – the excitement I feel when he smiles at me for no reason and I just understand the emotions going through his head. We appreciate one another and the value we each add to the life we’ve made… and we continue to make a life that is greater than we imagined with experiences that are irreplaceable which makes each of us equally irreplaceable as well.
#3: Get to know your spouse over and over again.
We’ve grown and changed a LOT over the years – we started out when we were just kids (I was 14 and he was almost 16) but we never grew apart because along the way because we paid attention to one another and even now, we just continue to get to know one another and love each other as we are. It’s not always easy but through EVERYTHING, we remain a team and we stay on the same page. We honor one another. We cherish one another. We handle each other with care and we study each other incessantly. When I turned 30, a lot of things about me changed. I began finding myself after so many years of being just a wife and a mom without really considering who I am just as me – as a woman, as an individual. Every role I’ve ever occupied was dependent on what someone else needed from me. When I finally took the time to examine myself without any of those roles attached, many things changed. And I felt comfortable finding myself regardless of what changed because I was confident he would love those things, too. Likewise, over the years, my husband grew and changed within himself. I was used to having a lot of the control initially because we were young and he wasn’t so responsible back then (lol) but there came a point where I had to learn that he was purposed to lead and that I had to take my hands off to let him fill his role. Marriage is about compromise – it’s been said a million times. It’s about knowing your strengths and weaknesses, working together to build your life, and being able to recognize the positives when change takes place. Are there things we don’t necessarily LIKE about each other? Of course. Is there anything I’d ever let get so big that it caused me to give up on us? Never. I study him. He studies me. Because of that, we will never be those people who wake up one day and realize they live with a stranger.
#2: Be considerate. Literally, consider your spouse in EVERYTHING.
Each of us considers the other one in EVERYTHING and that consideration translates into both of us feeling valued, special, and supported. Those feelings translate into stronger love and passion for each other. Those feelings translate into a happiness in our marriage that is unshakeable and a bond that is unbreakable. Some of our worst arguments were because one of us — or both of us — felt a lack of consideration. Once we learned that lesson, everything became easier. There is never a time one of us takes an action or speaks a word without considering, “What would he think about this?” or “How would she feel about this?” Those questions keep us strongly grounded in one another. He spoils me, not with things but with deeds… with thinking about me. He considers me enough to listen to me, not just hear me. To take care of things not because he wants to but because it matters to me. Consideration goes a long way in marriage.
#1: Above ALL else, keep God first in your relationship. Period.
If I had to provide you with one single solitary key to our happy marriage it would be keeping God first. Because we honor the vows we made before God, we remain united under one common goal – to keep the promises we made to one another before Him. We may never know why God made us for each other, but we’ve never doubted that He DID make us for each other and that is enough to make us feel blessed in what we share.
This journey with him has been long. There have been parts that were so bumpy and full of gravel and potholes, we completely fell off the wagon, but even when we’ve fallen, we’ve never let go of each other so we fell together, got back on together, and started back down this road — maybe a bit more slowly than before … maybe a bit more cautious until we reached the pavement — together. I’ll say that one thing that covers ALL of this is the pact we made before we even got married which was that we were going to live this life TOGETHER, no matter what came our way. And we have.
Happy 13th anniversary to the man who makes all of my dreams come true… And a heartfelt prayer to every married couple out there going through a rough patch. Remember what is important and let go of what isn’t. You’ll be much more likely to keep it together :)