My husband and I will be married twenty years this week. Twenty years. Not sure how it’s even possible that so many sunsets have slipped by me.
As a twenty-five-year-old bride, I thought I came into marriage well-prepared. Relatively speaking, I did. My parents provided a good example of a long and faithful marriage. (Remote preparation.) I understood, more or less, what marriage entailed, at least as well as any never-been-married person can. We attended the Church-required marriage preparation and consulted with a priest. (Proximate preparation.) We discussed the important stuff: faith, babies, finances, and lifestyle.
And yet, surprise of surprises, the rose tint faded from our glasses somewhere along the way. Despite good health, steady employment, the blessings of children, and constant faith, married life has not been all sunshine and roses. Sometimes it’s been dreary and rife with noxious weeds.
I haven’t kept a meticulous accounting of our life together, but I think the good years have exceeded the bad ones. We’ve continued to love, even when it hasn’t been easy. Even when we didn’t feel like it. Even when love wasn’t deserved. Because that’s what we vowed to do.
As we enter the third decade of matrimony, here are ten of the many things we’ve learned – the hard way.
- Take risks. Not wild, devil-may-care risks. Calculated risks in the direction God is leading you. Trust Him more. Sometimes you have to step out in faith.
- Don’t wait. Things don’t have to be perfect to be improved upon. Things don’t have to be perfect, period. There is no time like the present.
- Make friends. Family friends. Couple friends. Same-gender friends. You’ll need them.
- Your home matters. Size does matter, but not as much as comfort. This is where you will spend the great majority of your time. At the least, you should make it into something you don’t hate. It’s also where you can foster friendships, yours and your children’s. Home should be a refuge, not a fortress.
- Don’t waste your time comparing – houses, jobs, income, vacations, clothes, physical beauty, relationships, family support – none of it. You’ll always come up short. Always. Even if that’s not objectively accurate.
- Don’t let anything steal your joy. A good cry notwithstanding, cultivate an interior life that allows you to weather the bad times and savor the good times.
- Just do it. Instead of thinking of all the reasons you can’t, figure out ways you can, even if the circumstances are not ideal. Not all dreams have to die at the hand of responsibility.
- Laugh more, even if no one else is laughing with you. Someone has to have a sense of humor. Don’t take yourself or life’s little disappointments and accidents so seriously. It’ll make the whole world a brighter, happier place.
- Be prudent with your money, especially if it’s tight. Save and spend on things that have long-term value: furniture, home improvements, education, a memorable vacation. Accumulate less “stuff,” most of which you’ll never miss.
- Your way isn’t the only way. Fail to accept the imperfect results of others and you’ll eventually end up having to do everything yourself. People can only take so much dismissal and correction before they just stop doing.