My husband David and I have been married for ten years. I was 35 when we got married and even though I had worked in relationships education for several years at the time – it still came as a bit of a shock. Theory is one thing – practice is quite another!
As our first decade together comes to an end, I thought I would take a moment and reflect on some of the things that I have discovered or am still discovering about marriage and myself.
1. I am more selfish than I thought
This was perhaps the first and hardest lesson of all. Being married was like having a mirror held up to myself every day. I could suddenly see how selfish I was and that wasn't a pretty sight.
Proverbs 27:17 says, 'As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.' Marriage, I soon learnt, is good for helping rub down some of my more selfish and less desirable edges!
2. Nagging doesn't work
This is one I still have to remind myself about. Repeating a request again and again rarely has the desired effect. I've noticed that I tend to nag when I feel most stressed or out of control.
I hate it if (and when) my mother nags me – so why would I think it a good idea to try it on my husband?
Our latest approach is to create a list together at the start of the week or day. That way we both know what we are meant to be responsible for and don't need to be constantly reminded.
3. Humour helps
I love it that we can laugh at ourselves and situations that we can find ourselves in. It is like unscrewing the pressure valve – it releases tension and stops us taking ourselves too seriously.
When we went through fertility treatment David had to give me daily hormone injections. Somehow he always managed to make me giggle which helped relax me and took my mind off what was going on.
4. Thinking isn't always a good thing
I've noticed that if I can get stuck in my thinking especially when I am hormonal, hungry or tired. I have what can only be described as irrational or unhelpful thoughts and the more I stew on them the worse they become and the worse I feel.
It has taken me a while but I have now learnt that it is not a good idea to address big issues with David or try to make big decisions when I am overly emotional or stuck in my thoughts. I now know to wait until my mind and emotions have settled and I can once again experience clarity, wisdom and the 'still small voice' of God's spirit.
5. My husband doesn't have super powers (well – he says that he DOES have super powers but I'm not sure that Lego super powers or football super powers really count)
I used to think that David should just 'get' me and that he should know what I want and need. But I have come to the slow realisation that he can't actually mindread.
If I want David to do something or if I need something from him – I am getting better at asking him for it.
6. There's always an 'us' solution if we keep on looking
Our arguments or disagreements often happen when we are pitting 'me' against 'you'. Often when that happens it ends up with one of us giving in or having to compromise. I have found that that never feels very satisfactory even if I am the victor who has apparently 'won.'
We now try wherever possible to look for the third way. It isn't my way or your way but it is 'our' way. It often takes longer to discover what that way is but when we do it is so much better because it is a solution we have come to together and we both can own it.
7. Love is a choice
One of the readings at our wedding was 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. We also have it written on a wall hanging in our room as a reminder of what love is.
Have you ever tried swapping your name for the word 'love'? I find that very challenging. Am I patient, and kind? Am I never envious, boastful or proud?
I know one thing – if I had to wait to always 'feel in love' to do those things – we'd be in trouble. Feelings of love come and go. But what I do have is choice – I can choose to act in love. That isn't always easy when I am not feeling it but what I find is that the feelings will eventually return if I make the choice to love anyway.
8. Hard times build resilience
We've hit a few bumps along the road in the last decade. I would never have asked for those times but looking back I can see how they have helped build up our resilience as a couple.
We have had to learn to look to each other, to God and to friends for support in difficult times. It helps to look back and think – we got through that and to remind ourselves to keep holding onto hope if and when things get bad.
9. Our marriage is bigger than the two of us
For good or for bad, our relationship impacts those around us. When we are vulnerable and authentic about our marriage it gives others permission to talk about theirs. When we argue badly or deal with differences constructively we model to our son different approaches to conflict.
Whether we like it or not we are having an impact and that is a challenge. The question we try to ask ourselves is what kind of impact do we want to have and how can we make that happen?
We've discovered that we can't do it on our own. We need God and supportive friends to help us to be the couple we want to be. We need people around us who can support us, encourage us, pray for us and also challenge us when needed
10. Marriage is an adventure
I have found that my marriage is a bit like a three-legged race. It can be difficult and frustrating at times adjusting our strides to each other but it can be fun and exciting being in the race together.
I have learned so much from the last ten years of life with David. I am looking forward to learning even more this next decade, I have no idea what to expect but I am certain of one thing – it will be an adventure.