10 years ago today, I said "I do" to the most incredible woman I have ever met. I'm still not completely sure how I managed to convince Aimee J to marry me. Nevertheless, she did and I'm glad! Now 10 years, 5 houses, 3 states, and 2 kids later, I have a slightly different perspective on marriage than I did September 30, 2006. By NO MEANS do I claim to have this whole marriage thing figured out. But in honor of our 10 year anniversary, I thought I'd share 10 things that I've learned in 10 years of marriage. These are not in any particular order...
1. Being right isn't always most important.
Some things just aren't worth arguing about. It's really just that simple. It took me a while to figure this out. When we first got married, I felt like I had to be right in every single disagreement. No more.
2. Figure out the finances before you tie the knot.
One of my favorite bands is the Eagles. A line in one of their popular songs says, "When we're hungry, love will keep us alive." Love alone will most certainly NOT keep you alive. You will also need food to keep you alive. You will need shelter to keep you alive. You will need clothing to keep you alive. Figure that out before you get married, not "on the fly" once you're already married. It took a lot of bounced checks and overdraft fees that first year before Aimee and I figured the finances out.
3. You'll never have "enough" money to "plan" for kids, but plan anyway.
There is some truth that you'll never really have "enough" money to have kids. Even if you have made plans and think you're in good financial shape for kids, there are always intangibles and unforeseen expenses that come along with kids (at least that's been the case with both of ours). But even if you'll never have "enough" money to plan for kids, you should plan all the same. Aimee and I wanted kids pretty early in our marriage. However, we were unable to conceive for nearly three years. Looking back, that was probably God protecting us from our own stupidity. When we started trying to have kids, we weren't ready - financially, emotionally, spiritually, maritally, vocationally, educationally, and probably a lot more "-llys." The point I'm trying to make is: no, you'll probably never have "enough" money to "plan" for kids BUT PLAN all the same!
4. Your day doesn't end at the end of the workday.
Early on I would think that my day was done when l left work. I couldn't wait to come home, sit down, and mindlessly veg out on something. But that cannot happen! If it does, you're robbing your spouse and your kids of the best thing they can possibly have: YOU! So now, I kind of view my days as two days: my day at work, and my day at home. Judge me if you want to, but I spend my drive home "psyching up" for my second day. When I put my truck in park my driveway, I take a deep breath and say to myself, "Ok, give your family the same energy that you gave everyone else at work today." Your day can't end when the workday ends.
5. Marriage is more important than parenting.
Early in marriage, Aimee and I began to see some couples kind of go crazy when their kids left home. Some of couples even divorced when their kids left because they had just spent the past 18+ years focused solely on raising kids and then didn't know what to do when that void occurred. So even now, we try to focus more on our marriage than our parenting. Not to say that we neglect parenting - not at all. But we reminded each other often, "Hey, we're gonna be here by ourselves for a lot longer than these boys are with us." Parenting is important. But marriage is more important.
6. Talk openly about sex.
Let's face it, sex can be an awkward thing for newly married couples. And to actually talk about sex may seem taboo. This does not need to be the case. The fear to talk about sex oftentimes comes from a concern that the other spouse might think less of his or her counterpart because they're bringing it up. Remember, only sex outside of marriage is bad. Sex within marriage is very good. Once me and Aimee learned to talk openly about our sex life, I believe we were able to enjoy it the way God intended to be.
7. Learn your spouse's "Love Language" and speak it often.
About year 5, Aimee and I went to a bed & breakfast for a weekend and went through Dr. Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. I wish someone would have told us to do that when we first got married! I'm not going to go into all of the "science" behind the book nor the details of the languages themselves. Please just trust me, get the book and go through it together! Two more thoughts about this: 1. Don't assume you know you or your spouse's language. Get the book and go through it together. 2. If you've gone through the book "years ago," get it and go through it again. Languages can potentially change during different seasons of life.
8. "Leave and Cleave" works best when you actually do it.
Genesis 2:24 says, "A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (ESV). Good ole King James says, "And shall cleave unto his wife." This isn't always the easiest thing to do - especially if the husband and/or wife has a great relationship with his or her family. But rest assured, it is the absolute right thing to do! Guys, once you're married, your wife's opinion trumps your mom's opinion. Always. Period. End of story. Girls, once you're married, your husband is now your go-to guy. He's the guy that needs to fix things, protect you, and comfort you - not your dad. Always. Period. End of story. And when it comes to interacting with family, guys handle issues (good or bad) with the guy's family and girls handle issues (good or bad) with the girl's family. It all just works better that way.
9. Never stop dating
Let's face it, once we're married we kind of assume the mentality of, "Game over. I win." However, it's important that you keep doing the things that made you fall in love with one another. I have to admit, we didn't always do this and it took its toll on our marriage. Some big reasons dating becomes difficult is time, finances, and kids. Life happens and time becomes more precious. But one of the most valuable things you can do is spend time on is your spouse. For various reasons, finances often become tight once you're married. But you don't have to spend money to date. Go on picnic, make a pallet in the living room and watch a movie, get creative and figure out how pull off a cheap date. And then kids...those little carpet crawlers can dig really deep into your time and finances. But remember #5: Marriage is more important than parenting. Do WHATEVER you have to do with your kids to figure out how to spend one-on-one time dating your spouse. Don't be afraid to call in favors for babysitters!
10. Marriage is hard work.
Marriage is not all lovey-dubby all the time. I don't think anyone expects it to be. But it's really hard work. I mean, REALLY. HARD. WORK. You can't have a marriage that looks like a 20 year marriage at year 2 of marriage. I can't expect my marriage to look like at 40 year marriage at year 10. The fact is, when you see marriages worth emulating, rest assured there are years and years of hard work that have been put into that marriage. Hard work means talking even when you're too mad to talk. Staying when you want so badly to leave. Keeping your mouth shut even when you know you're "right." If you see a marriage you think is worth emulating, ask them questions and ask for advice about problems you might be having. And at the end of the day, hard work is just a down-right unshakeable determination to do whatever it takes to make your marriage work.
I love Aimee Jordan Trawick unlike I have ever loved anyone. She literally loves me like Jesus loves me. I love living life with her. The past 10 years have been the best years of my life andI'm looking forward to the next 40 or 50 with her!