A Decade of Love & Learning

My husband and I are celebrating 10 years of marriage today… 15 years of falling in love.

I’m not entirely sure why 10 years gets so much attention — maybe it’s because you’re entering into double digits. Maybe it’s because it has this new name that sounds so accomplished — a DECADE — … Maybe it’s because when you’ve been living with another person for a DECADE, you finally start to feel like you’re possibly beginning to get the hang of it a little bit. For us, celebrating 10 years is a big deal because it’s not 6 years or 8 years — those were hard, HARD years for us — but we made it, and we’re stronger, and we’re happy about it {and also happy that we’re not in year 6 or 8 anymore 😀 }. Maybe we’re able to focus on celebrating a little more because we’re not changing any diapers this anniversary… though, you know, there’s still a chance someone will wet the bed tonight… 😉

It is true that fifteen years is a long time to invest in someone; Ten years is a long time to be voluntarily bound to someone. We’re lucky that our marriage is fun {for the most part} and that we’ve come to be on the same page about a lot of things — those factors make it easier to enjoy life together. Though I’m not sure lucky is a very accurate word — we’ve put in a lot of hard work to get here. And I’m sure there’s much ahead of us. That’s something I feel like no one tells you about marriage. It’s hard. But also very much worth the hard. We tend to either get this picture that marriage is one long romantic comedy or that it’s the end of the world as we know it and something to be terrified of. I’ve found it to be not much like either.

Here are a few things we’ve learned during this first decade of marriage… things that at face value may not seem worth celebrating but OH. ARE. THEY. EVER. Many of these are things we pray our daughters learn BEFORE they get married. Though some can only be truly realized through experience. If you’re not married yet but think maybe one day you possibly might be {careful writing it off too quickly there — at 16, I didn’t plan on ever getting married…I also met my husband at 16…ha. ha. ha. 😉 } — I hope you’ll take these things to heart. If you’re currently married, and you’re in a season of HARD — I hope you’ll find encouragement here at least in knowing that you’re not alone. If you’re in a really fantastic season of marriage, I hope you’ll tuck these away to draw strength from when it gets tough. Maybe your marriage will always be a bed of roses, but that’s not our story…unless you consider that the gardener forgot to remove all the thorns before making that bed we’re laying in… 😉

  1. Love is a VERB. It takes action. True love {and no I don’t mean Disney fairy tale princess love where your eyes meet from across the room and suddenly you live happily ever after…or, having never met you, he kisses you while you’re sleeping, and you live in some deranged world where you don’t wake up and knock his teeth out for the audacity…okay, sidetracked}… TRUE LOVE requires action. effort. work, if you will. You may even find yourself feeling like you are literally fighting for it. My best advice is to get on the same side and fight for it together.
  2. Being High School Sweethearts does not set you apart on a pedestal of romantic hierarchy. Nor does it doom you to misery, as some would have liked to convince us was our future. But for us, it definitely meant extrawork. Because as grown as I thought I was at 16, 17…22…I was not. We both had a lot of growing, self discovery, and change ahead of us that we were not prepared for, independently nor to walk through together. I honestly believe it would be in the best interest of everyone’s hearts to not get romantically involved until you’re in your mid twenties and you’ve hopefully really discovered who you are and what this life has to offer. It’ll be a different kind of hard to meld 2 lives that are well established, but that brings me to my next point… 
  3. “You Complete Me” is a load of {you fill in the blank with anything that smells unpleasant} destined to lead your heart and your relationship into {you fill in the blank again, still unpleasant}. DO. NOT. attempt to “find yourself” in someone else. Do not walk into someone else’s arms while attempting to find yourself. While I 100% support and encourage having friends and mentors who walk alongside you as you discover who you were created to be and determine how you’re going to embrace that, it should be a primarily independent seek & find adventure, at least in terms of who you’re committed to {or distracted by}. If you have tied your heart to another before you have found yourself as a complete person, you will {possibly inadvertently} tie your identity to that person rather than to your destiny… see below ::
  4. Your identity, and the confidence you walk in, should be defined by your Creator & Savior. No one else can rescue you. And really, expecting them to is unfair to both of you. Trust me, I’ve been there. I was broken… he seemed strong, made me smile, built me back up…so I put my faith in him. That was wrong. I set him up for failure, set myself up for disappointment. He is a person. and people will always let you down. It’s not an excuse, just a reality.  We have let each other down many times over the course of 15 years. I’m confident we will let each other down in the future, try as we may to avoid it. But we have also learned along this journey where our faith, hope, trust, joy, and ever present help come from — and it’s not one another. There are a lot of things we can, should, and love to do for one another. Filling the role of Savior should never be one of them.
  5. Unspoken expectations are the ammunition of a loaded gun, waiting to be fired. If you’ve been within 50 feet of relationship advice, leadership advice, interacting with people advice… you’ve probably heard “communication is key” — it’s truth. That’s why “they” say it. all. the. time. Set aside time to be open and honest with one another {when you’re not in the heat of a spirited debate} about your needs, about the expectations you have on yourself in this relationship and how the other person sees those, what you want to be and may need help with, what you feel like you need from your partner, what you would love to see, experience, what you dream of doing independently and together. Approach this time prayerfully and with as much of an open mind and spirit of grace as you possibly can. Your relationship will be richer for it. See point 1 ❤
  6. Connection is the other key. Without connection, communication is cold. Marriage is so much more than a contractual agreement. Remember why you wanted to marry this person in the first place. Reflect on their charm. Remind them of it. Give yourself space and permission to discover new things you love about them. Find something you both enjoy to do together — and make time to do it. Invest in your relationship the way you would when you were dating. Love on them through their favorite things. Has it been a while and you’re not so sure you know what his/her favorite things are? Ask. And then follow up with action.  If you don’t know your spouse’s primary love language(s), figure it out! It’s an easy place to start — and could be a great date night focus. Kindling connection will keep the spark alive and help to burn that fire around which you can enjoy authentic communication.
  7. Your marriage bed is sacred. This is a hard one to put out there on the internet. In the world of acceptable Christian issues, this one is still pretty scarlet. Listen to me, I believe this is ESPECIALLY important BEFORE you are married. It is of course equally important having entered into marriage, but I think too often we discount the things that happen “outside of marriage” when we weren’t married at the time. This is mostly directed at those of you who are young and maybe even think yeah, yeah, you know, you’ve got it. Or maybe you’re searching for the why and struggling to understand it in the heat of your relationship. For those of us already married, or already having “given up” this sacrament, read on to #8. But for those of you who hold it, whether intentionally or by circumstance — hold fast. Maybe you don’t find the Bible making a convincing argument. That’s fine. I didn’t either. So hear mine. EVEN IF you marry the person you are intimate with outside of marriage, in my experience, there is a whole world of emotional baggage you could avoid, both in your inner personal battles, and in your relationship, pre and post marriage, by abstaining. We use the word intimate for a reason. It is a deeply personal connection that is filled with vulnerability. There are plenty of other things that will be messy and require your emotions — don’t let this be one of them. Let it be beautiful.
  8. This one applies to so many aspects of life but I also want to highlight it in reference to those of us who feel the pangs of guilt when reading #7, — and not as a permission-giving excuse to those addressed there {because I promise you it is just. not. worth it and there are always consequences that ensue and must be carried}, but — our God is a great redeemer of ALL things — and I believe this to be no different. Surrendered to Him, He will make it new. He will heal the hurt. We may carry scars but He brings beauty from ashes. And this to all realms of our relationship — bring your hurt, bring your troubles, bring your doubts, bring your struggles, and surrender them at His feet. I pray, so hard, that you are able to do this together as well. That your marriage will be unified under a loving Savior and great Redeemer. Yes, there are times, many times, to come to Him personally, but coming to Him together as well brings a whole new level of strength to your relationship. I believe He wants you to walk in freedom and in unity and though I may not know you, I am praying that over you with hope today. ❤ 
  9. Community is priceless. Your relationship NEEDS other relationships. Growing together with others you relate to personally, and learning from couples who are a few steps ahead of you, one day imparting wisdom on those coming behind… being embraced in an encouraging community can be such a powerful catalyst to the growth and development of your marriage!
  10. Never stop learning. About each other, from each other, for each other. If you’re going to be invested in this relationship, learn to love it. You will never arrive there. Encouraging, right? We are multi-faceted creatures, ever changing, planted in an ever turning world where influences come and go and grow and wither… these lives we’re living never stop changing, and we are encouraged to never stop growing — but growing comes with pain, it comes as a result of effort and investment, it comes bearing beauty and strength — and in a marriage, there is someone next to you, with whom you aim to be intertwined, who is also changing, and hopefully growing — and you can either get tripped up in the process, irritated by their change, distracted by your own, or you can make the choice to be better together — by learning to love the process and to process the love. Wash, rinse, repeat. Keep your relationship in the light of Grace, allow it to be watered by your community, and learn to love learning to love.

Happily Ever After requires intentional investment. There’s a slew of helpful resourcing out there, and even this is a list I’m sure I’ll be coming back to myself, because no one’s got it all together, least of all me. In learning to love actively, I have to remind myself to find my completion in my Creator, to kindle the connection with my husband, to cultivate open communication, to engage in encouraging community, and to celebrate the freedom found in the constant truths of Christ and the beautiful change of established growth. It is such a beautiful journey ❤ 

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally.