Five Lessons I Learned from One Year of Marriage (That I Should have Learned a LONG Time Ago)

One month ago today, the mister and I celebrated our one-year anniversary.

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December 29th, 2012 (Geoff Duncan Photography)

As one can expect, living with someone of the opposite sex for the first time can be quite an experience, and as I’ve been doing some reflecting, I’ve been amazed at all of the things I have learned. To be honest, picking what to write about is quite hard, for I feel as though there are many options.

For example, I could tell you about how the things you simply don’t care about (the ‘fluffiness’ of your pancakes) might really matter to someone else (like, your spouse), how the movies you think are absolutely amazing (“March of the Penguins”) may not be of any interest to other people (like…your spouse), or how coming up with other ways to describe household items (like a duvet cover or a Crock-Pot liner) may be needed to help someone else (yep…your spouse) know what you’re talking about.

The list could go on and on.

However, if I had to narrow everything down, I would say there are five main lessons I’ve learned in my first year of marriage. The funny thing is, I think these lessons apply to life outside of marriage, too. In fact, I wish I had put them into practice more as a single person.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to share them with you.

Here are the 5 biggest things I have learned in one year of marriage that I should have learned (or practiced more) while I was single:

1. You can only be responsible for you.

Now before you start thinking that I’ve gone off on some “Mrs. Independent-only-think-about-yourself train,” let me reassure you that I haven’t. What I’m talking about here is the concept that in conflict, and in life, we can’t control or change anyone except for our self.  Or, in other words, only God can change hearts, and we’re missing the point if we’re focused on what He needs to do in another person’s heart and not on what He needs to do in our own.

In conflict, this plays out when you die to yourself, own your own faults, ask for forgiveness, and do your best to reconcile things, even if the other person is unapologetic or uninterested in the examination of their own behavior. It’s looking inside of yourself and praying for clarity on the places in your heart that are in desperate need of God’s touch – and admitting them. (See Matthew 7:3.)

In action, it’s not doing what you feel like you can do because the other person did something that you feel justifies your response. It’s choosing to not seek revenge or have a hard heart. It’s choosing to use gentle words to explain your case, even if the other person is not. It’s responding rightly, even when it’s hard. (And for me, it’s always hard.)

It’s saying, “Neither one of us did things perfect here, but I’m going to focus on what I did incorrectly, how I caused pain, and ask God to work in me.”

It’s choosing to not waste time pointing fingers at someone else when an opportunity for self-reflection, humility and growth is staring you right in the face.

2. Your hope, identity and satisfaction can only be found in one place.

This one is really difficult for me.

After two big moves (one to Boston and one to Midland) I’ve had to rely on my husband socially more than I ever thought I would have to. In Dallas, where my life was pretty well settled, I had a community of friends, a church I was active in, and a schedule that was full of events. Moving to Boston changed everything, and I looked to my husband to fill in the gaps.  Even the ones he was never meant to fill.

The Lord, through it all, has sweetly reminded me that only He truly satisfies – and his satisfaction is deeply fulfilling.

My husband cannot fill me up. No matter how awesome he is (and he is AWESOME), he will crush my expectations and leave me disappointed – and I will do the same to him. Life isn’t easy and marriage is hard. I cannot put the burden of my satisfaction on his shoulders. He was not created to carry such a heavy load. And no one else is either.

Your job, your family, your boyfriend, your friends, your diet…none of them can truly bring lasting satisfaction. Temporary pleasure? Sure, but it won’t last.

In John 4, we find a story about a woman.

Not only is the woman a Samaritan, which means she’s a social outcast, but she’s also quite promiscuous. Her need for affection or security has drawn her into the arms of five men, none of which are her husband. One day she goes to a well to draw water and she meets Jesus. They talk.

As the woman reaches down to fill her bucket with water, Jesus says to her:

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13 & 14

The satisfaction and fullness that is found in Jesus is beyond comparison. He brings eternal peace and joy. He’s the solution. When all else fails – and when everything is going well – he can be trusted. He quenches our deepest thirsts so that we don’t have to run to temporary things to feel complete. He satisfies.

3. Words are powerful.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned this one the hard way.

Ephesians 4:29 reads like this:  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

When emotions are roaring and when conflict hits the fan, these are hard words to live by. Sometimes, instead of speaking the truth with gentleness and in love, I choose to say whatever I think of in whatever manner feels best – and sometimes it hurts others.

Proverbs 17:27&28 reads, “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Words are powerful. Calm down, take a breath, and use caution.

4. There is danger in comparison, so watch what you feed yourself.

In every woman’s bible study, this truth is touched on; however, I’ve come to realize that I need to be reminded of it often.

We are officially living in a technology driven world. All around us are status updates, Instagram pictures, and Tweets about how great someone else’s life is. If we’re not careful, we can lose sight of the things the Lord has blessed us with.

I remember the year I graduated from college…

I was on Facebook one night looking at all of my friends who were traveling the world sharing the Gospel with the lost or helping orphans in some foreign country. I remember thinking I was a pathetic individual wasting time in corporate America when there was a life that really meant something out there waiting for me. Instead of thanking the Lord for the place He had me and surrendering to Him to lead me wherever He would choose, I became discontent. I wanted to be anywhere besides where I was.

If I’m not careful, the same thing can happen today.

I see a friend who goes on a romantic date and I start wondering why my husband and I never go on cool dates. I see new moms with their precious new babies and wish I had one. I see pictures of fancy vacations and immediately start wishing I was on a beach somewhere…

I think we’ve all been there.

Lately, I’ve been challenged by this verse found in Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent and praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Although I have a wonderful husband, a roof over my head, and a God who loves me, it’s easy for me to get distracted. When I start comparing my life to the lives of those around me, negativity slowly creeps in. Instead of trusting the Lord with my circumstances and walking with Him through them, I start wishing he had me somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong; social media can be used for great things. At the same time, however, it can be a rather dangerous thing. Comparison is a thief. Choose gratitude.

5. Understanding is the goal.

The Mister and I are very different. He likes numbers, while I like words. He likes thoughts, while I like feelings. He likes to fly, but I like road trips. He wears shoes outside…and sometimes I don’t.

We are VERY different.

Over the past year, I have come to appreciate our differences, for in them is our biggest strength as a couple. They make us a good team. It seems as though his passions and strengths balance out my disdains and weaknesses – and vice versa. Through our differences, we are able to stay balanced and well rounded. At the same time, however, I’ve learned that our differences push us toward conflict and, if not monitored, our conflict can turn into a war.

In pre-marital counseling, we learned that the goal in conflict is not to win but to gain understanding. I think this truth, though hard, is worth remembering.

Most of the time the issue worth talking about isn’t the issue that’s being talked about. For example, it’s not the fact that you HATE talking about finances, it’s the fact that he probably feels disrespected when you won’t. Sometimes it’s not the issues on the surface that are the issues but something a little deeper.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peach of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15).

I am no expert in this marriage thing (obviously), but I am grateful for the Word of God and the fact that it is reliable. I’m thankful for the paths He takes us down and the things He shows us along the way. He truly is a guide to the lost and a breath of fresh air to the lifeless.

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December 29th, 2013 (Photo creds to Doug Klembara)

The road goes on forever, and the party never ends! (Line taken from Robert Earl Keen although, in this context, it probably doesn’t mean what he intended it to mean originally…) Cheers!

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