Marriage

26 Things I’ve Learned in 26 Years of Marriage

Tomorrow is my 26th wedding anniversary. My husband and I married on a lovely Tuesday evening between Christmas and New Years in a church bedecked with pink poinsettias. And six kids, several houses, and a few dogs later, here we still are, plugging away at this “‘til death do us part” thing. There have been a lot of “for better” times, and some “for worse” times. Days when we celebrated “for richer” and years when we survived “for poorer.” A few “in sickness” moments, but, praise God, we’ve mostly lived “in health.”

There’s a lot I didn’t know about living with a completely different person when I first said “I do,” but here are some things I’ve learned both in my own marriage, and from friends’ marriages, over the last twenty-six years.

1. This, too, shall pass.

It’s easy to look at one fight, one difficult time, and think, in the moment, “That’s it. This marriage is over,” but after a while, you realize this is just one tree in the forest of your marriage. At some point, things will calm down and you’ll be on the other side of it. Marriage is a cross country marathon, not a sprint on smooth pavement. Keep going.

2. “Not tonight, Dear…”

Every couple has to come to their own unique mutual agreement and understanding of each spouse’s wants and needs when it comes to sex. Coercion and manipulation are neither appropriate nor biblical, but neither is depriving each other. There are going to be times when you’re not in the mood for sex but your husband is. If lack of “the mood” is the only thing causing you to say no, say yes anyway, and do it joyfully and enthusiastically. Think of it this way- your husband probably isn’t always “in the mood” to go to work or take out the trash or help with the kids, but you want him to do those things anyway, with a happy heart, because he loves you. Marriage is about serving each other in all aspects of life, whether you’re in the mood at the moment or not.

3. Submit

Biblical submission is not, as secular feminists might have you believe, for weak women, but for strong, godly women. It takes much more strength to exercise self control and obey God’s word than to just do and say whatever you feel like doing and saying. Take it from a headstrong, opinionated gal who thinks she’s always right- it’s not easy, but biblical submission will make your marriage better, healthier, and more Christ-centered, and will grow you to be more like Jesus.

4. Some things are better left unsaid.

You don’t have to verbalize every thought that comes into your mind, especially when those thoughts are critical, whiny, argumentative, “I told you so,” constantly corrective, complaining, cutting, or in any way unchristlike. Sometimes your most shining moment will be keeping your mouth shut.

5. Forgive quickly

You won’t find a passage of Scripture that says it’s OK to hold a grudge or dangle your forgiveness over your husband’s head until he has groveled sufficiently. The Bible says we are to be kind and tenderhearted and to forgive the way Christ forgave us. Do you forgive your husband the way Christ forgives you?

6. Put your husband first.

After your relationship with Christ, your first love, loyalty, service, confidentiality, and time belong to your husband. Not your children, and not your mother, sister, or best friend. Your husband comes first.

7. Don’t undermine your husband with the kids.

God gives your husband the ultimate responsibility for and authority over your family. While you and he can and should privately discuss how to handle disciplinary issues with the children and other family situations which arise, he makes the final decision. Do not collude with the children, argue with your husband in front of them about his decisions, keep secrets from your husband, or otherwise attempt to circumvent his directives. Support him, submit to him, and present a united front.

8. Affirm your husband privately and publicly.

Women can practically turn complaining about their husbands into a competitive sport. Don’t go there. Would you like for your husband to sit around with his friends and complain about you? Don’t do it in a braggadocious way, but, as opportunities arise, let others hear you affirming your husband and thanking God for him. And be sure you do so when it’s just the two of you, too.

9. Don’t publicly shame your husband.

As Christians, we should always – privately and publicly – behave in a way that honors God. As married women that godly behavior will also honor our husbands. Don’t ever berate or belittle your husband in front of others (or in private, either), including on social media. Don’t behave in public in ways that would embarrass him. When others think about your relationship with your husband, you want them to think, “Wow, he’s really blessed!” not “Poor guy.”

10. Divorce is not an option.

This is the mindset with which couples should both enter marriage and handle normal¹ fights and difficulties. Do not bring the “D-word” out during an argument. God says marriage is for life. It is not disposable.

11. Pray for your husband and for yourself as his wife.

This is probably the most powerful thing you can do for your husband and your marriage. Pray for your husband’s walk with the Lord, situations he’s facing at work, weaknesses he’s struggling with. Pray that God will help you to be a godly wife, and that He will show you how best to support and encourage your husband. Want your husband to change in some way? Don’t nag, pray for him, and pray that God will help you to respond to your husband in a Christlike way.

12. You were always on my mind…

Don’t those little acts of thoughtfulness from your husband – unexpected flowers, doing the dishes, a love note – brighten your day and deepen your love for him? Your husband feels the same way. Cook his favorite meal, send him an occasional text letting him know you’re thinking about him, wear the lingerie he likes. Make him feel special and loved.

13. Extend grace.

Your husband is going to mess up. Often. So are you. Don’t turn his every mistake and sin into World War III. The Bible tells us that love covers a multitude of sins. Extend the same love and grace to him in his offenses that you want him to extend to you in yours.

14. He’s your husband, not your child.

Don’t speak condescendingly to your husband, order him around, or otherwise treat him like he’s one of your children. He’s not. Show him the respect, support, and love a godly wife is to give her husband.

15. Be on the same page, theologically, before marriage.

The Bible is clear that we are not to partner with unbelievers, and the most painful consequences for disobeying this command are often seen in marriages in which a Christian marries an non-Christian. But even if you both profess faith in Christ, it’s important to be in agreement on things like which denomination or church you’ll join and why, what the Bible says about salvation, men’s and women’s roles in marriage and the church, parenting, giving offerings, regular attendance, and other theological issues.

16. Admit when you’re wrong and ask forgiveness.

If you’ve sinned against your husband, crucify that pride, admit it, and ask him to forgive you. And don’t forget to repent and seek God’s forgiveness as well.

17. You’re not your husband’s Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict your husband of his sin, not yours. Certainly the two of you should talk things out, and it’s OK to kindly and lovingly discuss how his sin affects you, but no amount of preaching at him or castigating him with Scripture will change your husband’s heart, so don’t try. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.

18. God made you the helper, not your husband.

Every family operates differently when it comes to careers, childrearing, and household chores. Couples must reach a mutual agreement about who will carry out which tasks, and should help each other whenever the need arises. That being said, biblically speaking, God has placed wives in the role of helping their husbands, not the other way around. Your husband should not have to work all day and then come home, make supper, clean the house, and raise the children while you pursue hobbies or leisure activities. You both have responsibilities to take care of. Make sure you’re helping him take care of his by taking care of yours.

19. Thank God for your husband.

Don’t forget to thank God for blessing you with your husband. Especially when what you really want to do is hit him with the car. Pour your heart out to God about your anger, sure, but then start thanking God for all of your husband’s good qualities. You might be surprised at the way it changes your heart, your frame of mind, and your ability to forgive.

20. Take joy in the simple things.

Marriage is not a Hallmark movie, a jewelry store commercial, or a Carnival Cruise brochure. It’s just not, so don’t expect it to be. Enjoy just spending time talking, working on a project together, or doing chores side by side. Sometimes it’s not “He went to Jared,” but “We went grocery shopping,” that can bring the most joy.

21. Your husband can’t read your mind.

Your husband wants to do things for you and give you gifts that please you. If he asks which restaurant you want to go to, don’t say “I don’t care” if you do. Tell him. Don’t tell him whatever he gets you for your birthday will be fine and then pout because he didn’t get the gift your heart was set on. If he does something that bothers you, discuss it with him. Don’t make reading your mind a test of your husband’s love for you.

22. Don’t go behind your husband’s back.

Unless what you want is a husband who feels betrayed and doesn’t trust you. If he makes a decision, abide by it. If he asks you not to do something, don’t. If you think he’s wrong, discuss it with him privately, kindly, and lovingly. But, unless it conflicts with Scripture in some way, respect, support, and submit to your husband’s leadership and decisions.

23. Another man is not the answer.

You might go through some rocky times in your marriage. Confiding in or seeking comfort from another man will only make things worse or irreparable. Don’t be the foolish woman Proverbs 14:1 speaks of who “tears her house down with her own hands.” Another man is the source of more problems, not the fix for your current problems.

24. Help Him the way He needs to be helped

Your role in marriage is to be your husband’s helper. But sometimes your idea of how to help will be different from his idea of what’s helpful. Maybe you think his socks should be sorted by color while he prefers them organized categorically (dress socks, atheletic socks, etc.) Whenever possible, help your husband in the way he prefers to be helped, not the way you prefer to help him.

25. Your Husband is a valuable resource

God has given you a unique human being with his own background, perspective, education, experiences, and thought processes as a live-in resource. Take advantage of that gift! Trying to figure out how to handle a situation at work or at church? Wondering if you should move the couch across the living room or underneath the window? Attempting to master the art of grilling? Ask your husband for his advice or input. The old saying, “Two heads are better than one,” is true, and he might just wow you with a skill, talent or knowledge you didn’t know he had!

26. Perfection is an Unrealistic expectation

Social media, rom-coms, romance novels, other couples at church – sometimes it seems like everyone has the perfect life, the perfect marriage, the perfect husband. Don’t buy into that lie. Movies and books can afford to idealize – they’re fiction. And the real life husbands and couples you see in your newsfeed and on Sunday morning? Sure they might be doing well in an area you’re struggling with, but they’ve got problems in other areas. There’s no such thing as a perfect husband or marriage, so don’t compare yours to someone else’s. Be thankful for the strengths your husband has and the healthy aspects of your marriage, and pray about or work on those aspects that need godly growth.

God has been so gracious to my husband and me over the last two decades. I have often failed at many of the things on this list, while God has protected us from the others. I could probably list at least twenty-six more things, but it all boils down to this: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ, and love your husband the way you want him to love you. That’s the number one thing I’ve learned in the last twenty-six years, and I’m so grateful to God for sanctifying me through my marriage and blessing me with my dear husband.

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¹We can all think of exceptions and extraordinary circumstances to all of these points. This article pertains to generally healthy Christian marriages.

17 thoughts on “26 Things I’ve Learned in 26 Years of Marriage”

  1. GREAT list!
    But you missed one:
    “Keep yourself in excellent physical shape. Work out together if possible”.

    This goes for husbands too. I’m a guy (found this blog from another blogroll), and I refuse to give my wife a fat, sick old man to take care of in old age.

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    1. Great advice, Joe. We should all do what we can to be healthy. I would just caution all of us to remember that growing old together is a blessing. The older you get, the more insurmountable the wrinkles, the aches and pains, the limited mobility, etc., become. Unless God takes you home at a younger age, your body will get older and older and more and more worn out, and all the exercise and healthy diets in the world can’t stop that. But walking through all of that together in Christ is just as honorable as any other aspect of marriage.

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  2. Well said! After 27 years of marriage, I feel like I could have written all of those… I’m still working on a few… 😉 Happy Anniversary! 🙂

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  3. Great list and love the photos! Congratulations to you and your husband. Thanks for always pointing us to Christ and His Word. My husband and I recently celebrated 40 years of marriage. We have weathered so much and have seen God’s faithfulness sustain us through it all. Our marriage is stronger today thanks to our wonderful Lord. I agree that this list is great to give to engaged women planning their future. It will help them avoid so many pitfalls and problems. God bless you both!

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  4. “Biblical submission is not, as secular feminists might have you believe, for weak women, but for strong, godly women. It takes much more strength to exercise self control and obey God’s word than to just do and say whatever you feel like doing and saying. “

    Excellent point! Reminds me of “Blessed are the meek”, where meekness means strength under control.

    Great list. With it, who needs any of the multitude of books on marriage? I know it was one item for each year of your marriage (congratulations!) but if you made it 30 or 31 items, it would be a great list for wives to read one item each day of the month as a marriage-enhancement tool. I don’t know of any equivalent for husbands, but it would be great if there was.

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  5. Happy Anniversary, God has truly blessed you. My husband proposed to me 3 days after I met him with “I think we’d make a great team – when are you gonna marry me? No one thought we would last but God had it all worked out beforehand.

    After 49 years of marriage, we’re still a team and couldn’t agree more with your observations. It’s totally easy to love someone during the best of times but God must anchor our souls during the worst. One’s spouse should always be their best and closest friend; then together they’ll honor our LORD thru that bond.

    You’ve touched and inspired our lives this year and we thank you for that Michelle, ❤ Blessings for a fabulous New Year

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  6. This is a great post! Congrats on 26 years of marriage! I have a thought for men that I’ve learned is so important: “Wash your wife with the Word and Love her as Christ loves the church” Christ loved us even when there was nothing within us that deserved to be loved. He loved us unconditionally and sacrificially. If we as husbands learn to love our wives this way (which is only possible through the power of Christ in us and working through us) then we are fulfilling our duties as Christan husbands and living a marriage that is glorifying to God. It took me far too long to learn this, but so grateful that I did! Wives that follow these 26 lessons make a husbands job so much easier, but regardless if our wives are doing them or not, we have a responsibility to love them regardless. Love is not conditional and contractual, it is unconditional and given freely. Hope you have a great 2019 and heres to 26 more! 🙂

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