Note: nineteen years ago today, Paul and I got married! Amazing. Here are a few thoughts for this week’s column:
Paul and I recently celebrated our nineteenth wedding anniversary. Crazy! Couples who have been married longer than us realize that nineteen is a blip on the radar — it’s a complicated number that sounds huge if you’re a newlywed but once you’ve arrived to this point seems like it came in a flash.
Nineteen years is a long time to be married to someone. Isn’t it? I don’t know, I feel obligated to say that but the truth is getting this far into marriage is strange. I can’t believe it’s been this long and yet, I can barely remember anything different. Haven’t we always been here, together in this house, sharing life, enjoying this fantastic ride?
I was (obviously!) very young when Paul and I got married. Fresh out of college, it seemed like one month I was getting graduation presents and the next it was wedding gifts. We have both changed so much in these years of marriage, and we’re always happy when we realize that the person we married is no longer the same — change is good! Growth is important. Of course you don’t marry someone wanting to change them, but over the years you learn to be a better person, to make life less about you and more about those around you. Hopefully we do.
As I reflect on my marriage thus far, on how it works and what makes us truly happy, I’m surprised really. Keeping in mind that these tips apply to healthy relationships and not dysfunctional situations, I have found that:
1. Oddly enough, one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to stop trying so hard to make yourself happy. True freedom comes from thinking less about yourself. Really. Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? I want to be happy. So I let things go, as often as I’m able.
2. Each day when you wake up, ask what you can do to make your spouse happy. How can I serve my husband? How can I bring him happiness? If I set out to give one hundred percent — not fifty percent waiting for him to deliver the other half — then I am going to be very happy. Ideally, Lord willing, the other spouse is waking up each day asking the exact same thing. Each of us, on the very best days, are asking what we can do to make our spouse happy. What a wonderful way to live!
3. Don’t focus on how your spouse can be better. Oh sure you can address issues that need work, that’s good and necessary. But if your go-to frame of mind is figuring out ways for your husband (or wife) to be a better person, you are going to be very unhappy. Stop trying to change him. Enjoy who God made him to be. And most importantly: don’t compare! So your friend’s husband gets home from work earlier each night. And your neighbor’s wife makes the best pot roast. Good for them! Now turn your gaze back to your own spouse and enjoy all the things you love about the person right here in your home.
4. Trust Jesus and his plan for your family. I’ll be honest — when Paul and I got married I was thinking three children would be good for us. That’s what I was sure I was capable of. God opened our hearts to a bigger family than we planned and we thank Him every single day for having a better plan for us that we could have ever dreamed. Trust Jesus in every area — finances, your time, your hopes and dreams as a couple.
5. Seek God’s will for your life, for your marriage, for your family. Life is an adventure and if we aren’t asking God to be at the helm of our ship, we sell ourselves short.
These years being married to Paul have been beautiful. I’m so often humbled by God’s love for me, in sending me a spouse who is so tender and caring. Paul’s focus is to be a servant in our family — to guide us, to be our protector and provider. But he knows he’s nothing without Jesus — none of us are. True happiness and freedom comes from letting it all go and giving it all to God for his doing.