Wow! It’s been a long time since we’ve written a blog post. Summer got busy with children going here and there between camps, church activities, and our family vacation. Somewhere in the midst of all of that chaos, we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. It’s been an amazing journey, but God’s faithfulness has overshadowed our own human weaknesses and sustained us through many trials and hardships. So in light of all of that, we thought we’d share 16 things we’ve learned over the course of those years. This isn’t exhaustive by any means, but these are things we’ve practiced in our own life that have helped keep us together and eager to face another 16 years. Many of these are great principles for any relationship, not just marriage.
1) Draw close to God. Inevitably, when our relationship is struggling, one or both of us are drifting spiritually. When we are both drawing close to God, He unites us with Him which also brings us closer to each other.
2) Pray together. This is a great way to draw closer to each other and to God. It helps with unity as well because in the process, you learn about the heart of the other person.
3) Pursue God together. Talk about the sermon on Sunday. Talk about a cool thing you read in the Bible or a new (sometimes even weird!) concept of faith you’ve just discovered. Listen to their insights into the Scripture as well.
4) Look for ways to do ministry together. You learn a lot about someone when you work alongside them, and what better way to do that than in serving others?
5) A little humility goes a long way. Being willing to admit you’re not perfect and laughing at your mistakes goes a long way in helping smooth over disagreements and misunderstandings.
6) Leave changing the other person in God’s hands. It is not your job nor your responsibility to change your spouse (not to mention, it is virtually impossible). God alone is in the business of changing hearts.
7) Pray for your spouse. Prayer changes things (and people) as well as brings God’s perspective into your relationship.
8) Allow hardships to push you together, not pull you apart. Don’t look at your spouse as an enemy but a fellow soldier in the fight. Some of the greatest growth in our marriage was in some of the deepest struggles in our life because we realized we were both on the same side.
9) Leave behind your time as a single person. If you constantly look back with longing at all you had before marriage (old friends, family relationships, etc.), you will find a way to get back there. Instead, embrace the blessings of your life together and enjoy it to the full.
10) Find contentment where you are at. This is similar to the previous one, but it encompasses more than just the former life. Don’t grumble about what you think you lack. Grumbling about what you don’t have only leads to growling at each other. Instead always be on the lookout for what is good. Count your blessings.
11) Practice the art of patience. None of us are perfect so don’t expect perfection in a spouse. Patience covers over the little irritations and loves the person in spite of them. The golden rule is a great guideline: treat your spouse as you wish to be treated.
12) Avoid the concept of “me” time. You’re not entitled to it, so if you don’t get it, don’t grumble. Learn to find the value of “us” time instead. We find talking to each other about anything and everything to be one of our favorite pastimes.
13) Communicate with words. Unlike our book, there’s no real-life link that gives our spouse insight into our minds, and we’re not as good at reading people as we think. So talk it out, and make sure to listen when the other is talking. Create an environment where each person’s feelings and ideas are valued.
14) Don’t assume you know what your spouse wants. Even if you know they really enjoyed something once doesn’t mean it’s what they always want. Your spouse is also not a stereotype. When we assume what someone else is going to say or want, we have undermined the environment where they are valued.
15) Don’t keep secrets. This doesn’t mean surprise parties cannot be planned, but even there, be careful. Secrets can lead to suspicions. We have a rule that whenever the other asks what we are thinking, we tell them. But beware: sometimes this sparks some interesting topics of conversation (see #12).
16) Don’t compare your spouse to others. Each person is unique and has their own gifts. Learn to love your own spouse in how God made them and who He is transforming them into, not in who you might wish them to be.
This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, and I think we could do a full blog post on each point. These are just some of the things that we’ve found have drawn us closer together and closer to God, enabling us to weather all of the storms that life has thrown at us. We hope they encourage and bless you as well.
~ M. B. Aznoe