When my husband and I were on our honeymoon, we met a couple who was celebrating their 10-year anniversary. They were happy, still affectionate with each other, and encouraged us in our new union. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to return for our ten year like they had. But I was also thinking, "I hope we can make it that far and still like each other!" The years went by quickly and last December we crossed our ten-year mark. God's grace has covered us on the days we've wanted to rip out our hair and call it quits. It continues to hold us into the future.
Our last ten years tell the story of lost dreams, disappointments, job losses, conflict, accidents, lessons learned, poor communication, passion, isolation, intimacy struggles, financial pressure, forgiveness, reconciliation, suffering, unconditional love, friendship, unmet expectations, unexplainable joy – plenty of mountains tops, valleys, curves and twists in the road.
But Jesus has been our rock, our hiding place, and the center of our marriage. He is why we are together today. I have a deeper appreciation and love for my husband more today than when we said, "I do."
Through all our dreams, differences, and difficulties in the first decade, we learned some valuable lessons that have encouraged and protected our marriage. They have helped our relationship to thrive rather than just survive each year.
10 Truths Learned in 10 Years of Marriage
1. Connecting with each other daily is a non-negotiable
In a fast-paced, plugged in world, connecting deeply with your spouse is one of the best gifts you can give them and lets them know you have their undivided attention. How's your day? How are you feeling? How's your heart? are good starter questions.
2. The first three years are some of the hardest
The first three years don't feel like you're still relaxing on an island. The expectations, in-law adjustments, petty fights, miscommunication, bad habits, and more are enough to make you think you married the wrong person. There is beauty in letting time run its course and working through conflict instead of running from it.
3. Your sinful-nature is still alive and kicking
I thought there was a number you could arrive at like your 25th anniversary, for example, where you no longer had to fight against sin and you begin to "always" love each other. You have to be prepared to fight against sin until the day you die.
4. Sex gets better
In those first few weeks of married life, sexual intimacy can be awkward and frustrating. Again, time is a beautiful thing. Sex gets even better over the years, learning and growing together. But it starts in the way you honor, respect, and love one another in all the small moments before the bedroom.
5. Children will grow your relationship closer and further apart
Children are a blessing from the Lord in marriage. They bring so much joy, purpose, and delight. I love our kids to pieces, but raising children is also one of the hardest jobs on the planet and causes strain on your relationship. Be intentional about protecting your time together and putting your marriage first. The best gift you can give your children is a healthy marriage and annual getaways as a couple.
6. Living in authentic community keeps you strong
When you allow trusted friends into your relationship to ask you the hard questions and hold you accountable in your struggles, it breathes life and encouragement into your marriage especially on the difficult days. Authentic friendship strengthens you to be a stronger wife or husband.
7. There is wisdom in guarding your marriage from toxic people
There are people you'll need to put up boundaries with, who are poisonous to your relationship. These people could be family, a friend, or someone you work with. Be mindful and careful of their counsel and advice. Is it building up your marriage or tearing it down?
8. Sometimes you have to fight it out
Sometimes you just have to fight out the conflict instead of shoving it under the rug. As Christ-followers, we've been called to work through conflict no matter how hard it is – to be peacemakers, not peace-breakers. Always work toward reconciliation and don't allow your pride to win.
9. Dating each other is a must
It's like hitting the reset button. Our relationship could be really struggling and then we get a babysitter, go out to eat, talk, have fun and we like each other again. Making date night a priority does wonders for your relationship. It also tells your children your marriage matters most.
10. You must choose forgiveness daily
Perhaps there's no greater truth in marriage than to cling to Jesus' command to forgive. Bitterness, resentment, anger and more can choke the life out of your relationship. Don't allow the molehills to become mountains. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.
Marriage is a battlefield, not always the bed of roses we often dream of. It's more about strapping up your boots and putting on your armor to fight against your flesh and sinful nature. No perfect marriage exists, but we serve a God who is able to restore, redeem, and renew our love for one another. No matter what year or decade you’ve crossed, the hard work you spend investing in your marriage will reap dividends in the future. Lean into God's grace in your relationship and watch him do great things.
Samantha Krieger is a pastor's wife, momma to four, and writer in rural Colorado. She writes about marriage, motherhood, and faith at www.samanthakrieger.com.