Yesterday Luke and I celebrated our first decade of marriage. We booked a room at a super fancy hotel and splurged on good food and spa treatment. But honestly, it felt a bit anti-climactic in light of the last ten years. Last month we passed our record of longest time in a home (currently 2 years 4 months and counting). We've moved 6 times, been 'homeless' for 6 months, had 4 kids, earned 3 degrees, visited 6 countries and immersed ourselves in a completely different culture. Pretty much the only thing that hasn't changed is the fact that we are married! In light of that, I felt compelled to reflect on a few things I have learned about marriage along this crazy journey.
1. It's Universally Different
As I have integrated with other cultures here in Asia, hands down the most frustrating difference is marriage. Some of the ideas about marriage are so different than mine that it is impossible for me to accept them as good and right, even if I understand the reasoning. I have had to break down my thoughts about marriage, picking apart what is truly right and what is shaped by my own time and culture. The things I'm writing here are pretty general and widely applicable across borders, but I have learned that what I value in my marriage may be completely offensive or unpractical in another.
2. It's Possible!
In the last ten years, I have known lots of other married people from a variety of backgrounds. Luke and I have both been blessed to have really amazing and faithful moms and dads who modeled marriage well to us. Not all of my friends have had that. I have learned to be incredibly grateful for the faith my parents passed to me that marriage can work and is good and worth it. What a gift!
3. It's Not a Competition
"The Luke Special" is when Luke goes into the kitchen, does some crazy cleaning magic and leaves it more spotless than I ever could. It's awesome! But sometimes I actually get angry. Why? Because I think he is trying to "one-up" me, to point out that I was being lazy, just sitting on the couch. I am still learning this one, that marriage is not a scoresheet or a competition, and that this attitude will never produce selfless acts of service or love.
4. It's Best in Community
Luke and I have always had great friends. We even lived with our best friends for a whole year! I think having common friends that you can have fun and laugh with is a huge blessing. So many times it has helped eased our tensions with each other and bring us closer together.
5. It's Never Perfect
The advice I find myself giving most to friends that are getting married is this : "When you are struggling with something in marriage, go ahead and assume that everyone else has also struggled with that and talk to someone!" A lot of times we look at other people's marriages and think that they must be perfect and happy all of the time. We think we can never share what it is actually like at our home. Be vulnerable and talk it out with people. You will discover that you are not so weird or terrible after all, and you will probably come away with some great wisdom.
6. It's Not Just about Us
One of my absolute, favorite things to do with Luke is to host dinner together. I prep in the kitchen, he cleans up the house, and we welcome friends and strangers into our home for a fun night of games and laughter, a casual night of chilling in front of our favorite series, or a serious night of talk and reflection over struggles. There are a lot of other ways we serve together, but this is my favorite. Using your marriage to bless others takes the focus off yourself and puts selfishness into perspective. For more about this, check out this great book!
7. It Needs Quality Time, but not too Much
We have had times where we are with each other all day, every day. And we have had times where we saw each other once a week at Chick-fil-A (slight exaggeration, but that's why I thought the cow deserved a spot on our collage!). There is really something nice about missing each other and reuniting at the end of a hard day's work. While finishing school, I hated feeling like we were living two separate lives; but now that we work together, I find myself taking Luke for granted, way too much. So don't got to either extreme. If you find yourselves constantly arguing over petty things, examine where you are on the pendulum.
8. It's a lot of Little Days
Most of our lives and marriages are not shaped by big cataclysmic events, but little tiny moments one after another, after another. One thing that has kept me going in times when I didn't feel like it, is the knowledge that small moments of pride and selfishness over and over reek terrible consequences that are harder to reconcile. I don't want to get to that place. So don't give in to the small temptations and apologize quickly when you do.
9. It Gets Better with Time
Just the other day, I was really missing the first couple years of our marriage when there was less pressure, less responsibility. We worked a normal 40 hour week and could not wait to get home each night. We'd spend a whole Saturday watching Lost. We painted our house crazy colors and tried building flower gardens in our yard. Yeah, those are nice memories, but I know the importance of the hard ones too. They are the ones through which I have really experienced Luke's love for me, and in which I have been challenged toward better love for him. I know that by the grace of God, the difficult times make us better people, and in the end better spouses, resulting in better marriages. I am hopeful and excited for the future us, grown and matured for years and years, knowing and loving each other so much better.
10. It's Just the Beginning
Ten years seems like a long time to me. It's an entire third of my life! But if God gives us a few more decades, I am sure this first little decade will only seem like the beginning. I have learned that I still have a lot to learn, and a long way to go to consistently practice the things that I have learned.
Luke and I are married and have four little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, education and graphic design.
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