Today marks 11 years married for Sarah and I. It is also exactly 12 years since we first became officially boyfriend and girlfriend. Yes thank you! It’s all true! Sarah and I are very excited about it! And what’s more? 3o days after our 10th anniversary we had our son. He definitely made our 10th year of marriage more special than we could have imagined.
When we were first married our 10 year anniversary seemed so far away, and I don’t think either of us even imagined life at 11 years. But here we are. It sincerely feels as though we’ve only been married a week or so, yet I do not remember my life without Sarah. It feels like she’s always been there, and I can’t imagine my life without her.
When Sarah and I first started dating I could not understand how any girl as beautiful as she was would want to be around a guy like me. Every hour that passed I wondered if she’d grown bored and would want to go home. I’d ask if she wanted to do something and she’d say yes. I would wonder when she’d realize that I’m just some kid who is too “nerdy” to be with her.
I remember driving her home one night after one of our first dates. We were 17 and 18 at the time. I drove a light blue 1993 Chevy Lumina sedan. My best friend, Chipper Day, was in the back seat, I remember both Sarah and my elbows shared the arm rest between us. We came to a stop sign on the corner of Excelsior and 14th avenue. When the car stopped I reached over and put my hand in hers. I felt a lightning bolt shoot through my hand and I held on for dear life. I held her hand until we arrived at her house and said goodbye. The next night Sarah and I stood outside her house late on a mid-summer night. We talked for a while, I have no vivid recollection of what, but I very clearly remember her saying, “we need to have a serious talk. Last night when you held my hand it was electric.” This was incredible to me. She’d felt it too.
We’ve been married now for 11 years. I feel we’ve earned the authority to give advice on being married. Consider it for yourself, and decide if it is advice for you. But do consider it. We’ve now been married 3 years longer than the average American marriage, and I am confident that the average American marriage was dissolving a few years before that (if not at the very beginning). However, our marriage is the most healthy it has ever been. So I sat down and wrote out the 10 points of advice that I’d like to share with any couple looking to foster a healthy marriage.
Note: Please understand that Sarah and I are also devout Christians, so some of this list will have some religious charged statements, but I will make a strong effort to keep everything universal. Thanks a lot!
1. Get counseling.
If it’s just by yourself or together, get it. Don’t wait till things are falling apart. That’s like having your home sprayed for termites when the bugs have already destroyed or compromised the structure of your home. You can get rid of the bugs, but everything holding the home together is falling apart. It also doesn’t matter if your spouse doesn’t want to go to counseling with you. We’ll address why in number 2. Just know that one of you working on the health of the marriage is better than neither of you working on it. Sarah and I have been in personal and marriage counseling/therapy. Not because our marriage was falling apart, but because we wanted it to be healthy. We both believe counseling is one of the biggest elements that has made our marriage now the healthiest it has ever been.
2. Change yourself not the other person.
I think the fundamental problem with most marriages is wanting the other person to change, instead of focusing on what you need to change (i.e. he(she) yells too much/doesn’t do enough/doesn’t listen to me/always complains/etc.). Sarah and I have experienced this through out much of our marriage. Both of us, on our own, were too concerned with what the other person needed to change. I realized, in counseling, that I can not control how Sarah reacts to me, but I can control how I react to Sarah. I can choose to stop yelling/to do more/to listen more/to stop complaining/etc.. But the catch is, I have to do these things because I am whole as a person, and because I want to contribute health to the marriage, not because I secretly want her to change.
3. Plan a date night without your kid(s).
This is a little new for us. We always had “date nights” when we were childless, but it definitely became harder to do when we had our son last year. Spending time together away from your children allows you anxiety free time to get on the same page, connect as best friends, share about the intimate things going on in each others lives, and have sex in an environment without worrying about waking up the kids. You know, important things like that are tough to do with kids around.
4. NEVER buy flowers because you messed up.
Sarah’s favorite flower is the lily. Preferably star gazer lilies. If I bought Sarah lilies after every fight, she’d begin to associate our fights with those flowers. And every time she saw one at the store, on the street, or in a photo she’d have that sinking feeling she gets after a fight. Buy flowers when something great happens, whenever there’s clouds in the sky, or every time the 49ers win a game. Each time she sees those flowers she’ll be reminded of happy times, and how much she loves you.
5. Say “I love you” every time you think of it.
Say it before you get off the phone, before you leave the house, before you leave the room. Just make sure they know. This could be the last thing you say to them ever. Tomorrow isn’t promised. Do not let them wonder if you love them. Make it outrageously clear with your words.
6. Chocolate and Nice guys finish last.
Chocolate cause it’s chocolate. And nice guys finish last, if you know what I mean.
7. Everything is ours.
That’s not “your” car, that’s not “his” house, that’s not “my” money. It’s “ours”. It doesn’t matter how much you hate that car, the house, or how little money the other person makes (if any at all). It is ours. Sure one of you gets to drive the “good car” more often. But it is still “ours”. The minute you start claiming ownership over something that you “let the other person use/live in” is the same minute you become master and subservient, and no one is going to stay in that kind of marriage.
8. Support each others crazy ideas.
It doesn’t matter how “dumb” you think it is. Your spouse wants to study basket weaving and start a basket weaving multilevel market business? Let them. Encourage them. Let them try. If it fails it’s better to be the one that believed in them, rather than the one that says “I told you so”.
9. It’s not about who’s right, but what’s right.
You say Dog the Bounty hunter is 59 and they say he’s 58. He’s actually 61 but who gives a crap? Neither of you created the guy, neither of you are better for knowing it. Worry about what is correct, not who is better or right. Marriage is not a competition, if only one of you gets to win then you are both going to lose.
10. Pray together every day.
This ought to be elementary for the devout Christian or anyone devout in any faith/religion. Pray together before you leave for work, and pray together before you go to bed. Try to stay on the same page spiritually by going to the same church and being involved in the same ministries and in the same christian circle of friends. There are few things more reassuring than knowing your spouse is there for you spiritually. If you don’t pray, then spend some time talking for at least 15 minutes every night. Share your concerns for friends or loved ones, and keep it brief. Nothing heavy right before bed, but still enough that you know what is on each others heart and mind.
11. Pray alone every day.
Spend time with God. Remain close to Him, listen, head His word, and ask for His will to be done above all things including your desires. Doing so will put all other things into their place. Many times Sarah or myself have knelt down to pray when we were angry or upset with the other person, or just worried about something in our lives, and during prayer we were reminded of the previous advice I’ve shared. I promise that you, your spouse, your church, your church friends, your non-church friends, and the whole world will all fail you. But God will not fail you. And when it all looks its worst, when everything in your life doesn’t make sense anymore, He will still be there ready to help you walk in your marriage. There have been many times that I have felt like giving up, or “doing my own thing”, but I am often reminded that my life is not my own. God has called me to love my wife the way He loves the church and therefore, regardless how I “feel” towards my wife, I will love her with the same love that enabled Christ to be hung on the cross for His church. I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, and so my life is no longer mine but His. It is this faith, this personal prayer time, this personal time spent with God, that has brought me to understand the verse in Philippians about having peace beyond understanding. When I don’t understand my wife, my marriage, or my life, because I have given my life over to Christ, I can have peace despite what I don’t understand.
If you don’t pray, or have a religious faith then this one may not make sense. I encourage you to spend time considering the future, and consider it for more than just yourself. Consider, each day, where your marriage and family are, and how you can grow and become more healthy in the future. Spend time every day meditating on the great things, just the positive things, in your life and marriage, and be grateful for them.
Thank you for letting me share with you today. Help Sarah and I celebrate our eleventh anniversary by buying someone flowers. Maybe even come back here and tell us how it went. Thank you again for letting me share with you.
God Bless You,