Yesterday was my fourth wedding anniversary. I told Jake that sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but other times it feels like it’s been forever. It’s true. Building a life with another person can make it feel like your separate lives happened eons ago. But I can also still taste the champagne and smell the roses from that beautiful, sunny day four years ago. I can still recall all the anticipation and joy I felt for the adventure ahead.
So much has changed since then, but thankfully, those changes have been an aggregate good. Please indulge me as I share some of what I’ve learned along the way!
- Quality time together doesn’t just happen. In fact, it seems like everything in life tries to rage against quality time together. Careers, kids, social obligations, extracurricular activities—they’re all good things, but they have a way of taking over if we’re not careful. If we’re not intentional, we can go weeks without having a conversation about anything meaningful. It’s usually pretty easy to get in quality family time—AKA kid time—but quality married time is harder to come by. Recently we decided to build a weekly date night into our schedule. It’s been nothing short of miraculous. Just a few hours out of the house, away from everything, dedicated to spending time with each other. I can’t believe it took us this long to make this a thing, but we will not make that mistake again!
- Boy brains and girl brains are different. Like, really different. I’m not being sexist or trying to propagate gender stereotypes here—there’s plenty of scientific evidence that points to inherent cognitive differences between men and women. Engaged couples should have to take a course in this.
Here’s just a short summary of some of those differences: Women hold stronger memories of emotional events than men do, which can explain why we tend to react strongly to emotional things—and why men can sometimes see this as “overreacting.” Moreover, women’s right and left brain hemispheres talk to each other more than men’s do. Men’s brain activity tends to be more concentrated in local brain regions. This difference may explain why women tend to tie various events and emotions together, whereas men often compartmentalize the events and emotions they experience. That’s why an argument over who was supposed to buy the toothpaste can erupt into a full-on analysis of every miscommunicated expectation in your relationship, leaving the woman distraught over whether her marriage is really what she thought it was, and the man confused as to how toothpaste could possibly relate to his wedding vows to honor and cherish his wife.
Learning about these fundamental differences has been huge for our marriage. We’ve discussed these concepts at length with our marriage counselor, and this understanding has improved our communication skills, helped us to compromise better with one another, and turned the intensity dial down on our arguments.
- There are seasons when marriage doesn’t feel fun. Whether it’s because we’re weighed down by overpacked schedules or we’re dealing with adverse circumstances, life together isn’t always the exciting adventure we’d like it to be. That’s okay. That doesn’t mean we have a bad marriage. As long as we cling to Jesus and move forward in love together, those seasons pass. Sometimes they require extra work to get through—extra prayer, tough discussions, schedule changes, counseling, etc.—but we’ve found, time and again, this extra work is worth it. I’m forever grateful to have a spouse who is eager to put in the work to have a thriving marriage.
- Building one other up is fundamental to a loving relationship. In the early days of a relationship, it’s so easy to compliment the other person, encourage them in their pursuits, and sing their praises to other people. As time goes on, it somehow becomes easier to criticize their shortcomings and talk negatively about them behind their backs. We’ve got to combat this tendency to criticize and replace it with a habit of earnestly building up our spouse. Instead of festering about the little things that bother us, constantly strive to show one another gratitude and affection. It’s amazing how small your husband’s inability to properly load the dishwasher seems, in comparison with his tender parenting or his lavish hospitality.
Married life has its challenges, but I am so grateful for this loving, supportive lifetime partnership. Here’s to a hundred more years with you, Jake.