Last week was my 14 year wedding anniversary. Add that to my usual end of year reflective state and writing prompts around family and connection and you have the outcome of thinking deeply about my marriage and the journey that has been. Anyone who is married or has been married knows that it isn’t always easy. I am very aware that many marriages don’t reach 14 years together. Honestly, there have been moments when I wasn’t sure we would either.
Over the years, there have been many challenges, highs and mundane times. While we are in a settled and secure place right now, I know that it is never guaranteed to stay that way. In fact, life will always throw up new challenges and opportunities to pull away from each other or draw closer together. I feel that we have just walked through a long season of these opportunities. Some moments were handled well. Others less so. But we have grown stronger and learned together along the way. Some of the biggest opportunities to grow apart that I feel we have faced in recent years come from the leadership journey I have been on. In many ways, I feel like I am a very different version of myself these days. These are some of the things I have learned along the way:
- Always focus more on the development you need to do than the development they need!
How easy is it to get stuck in a pattern of looking at your partner’s faults and ignore your own?! I know I have been guilty of that. We have blinders on when it comes to seeing where we need to change and grow. I want to get better at digging into those deep, hidden and painful places so that I can be the best wife I am able to be. I could give examples of times I have chosen to act and ask for forgiveness rather than discuss an issue as I don’t want to risk an outcome I didn’t want. I could talk about the times I avoid discussions because I hate confrontation. I could mention many times I haven’t thought about his needs and stayed selfish. We all have those issues in our lives that make being in relationship with us difficult. Imagine if every person was working on their own junk instead of finding fault in others.
Please don’t misunderstand and think I mean we never bring up an issue in our partner’s behaviour or let ourselves be walked all over! I simply mean we take responsibility for and put the most effort into correcting our own attitudes and behaviour.
- Make time together a priority
I am constantly reminded that my marriage is far more important and far longer lasting (God-willing) than any position I hold, project I have in front of me or even this season with my daughter. We are not always great at making time for the important in the midst of the urgent. While we aspire to regular dates (maybe next year we will make this stick), it is in the everyday moments that I notice the impact the most. I notice when we haven’t been spending time together. We become more snappy and irritated by little things. We notice the faults more. Ironically, the times I least feel like spending quality time with my husband is usually when I most need to. We do better at prioritising this more at some times than others. An area for continued improvement. Maybe this is one for your relationship too.
- Keep each other in the loop
I admit that this is something I am really not good at doing but am working on. Why do we assume that our partner knows what is going on in what we do each day or in what we are thinking? Or maybe it is just me who does that? We have to communicate. It is the basis of a functioning relationship. It brings our partner on the journey with us instead of leaving them behind. We can ask for what we need so that we don’t get annoyed by not having those needs met. We can listen to what the needs of our partner are. In supporting each other, we both win.
- Stay humble
This goes with the first point and underlies it all. When my pride grows and I let a title go to my head, it leads to unrealistic expectations and selfishness. This goes for all areas of life and not just a marriage.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life
Can you imagine a world where we all stay focused on what is good for those around us not just for ourselves?
I am not a perfect wife. I am not a perfect leader. There are still many more years of learning and growth ahead of us. I am writing this as a reminder of me as much as for you.
What are your best tips for keeping a marriage healthy?
Inspired by the Week 3 writing prompts for the Create: Summer challenge run by Amanda Viviers.