Three Lessons I’ve Learned in Five Years of Marriage

When you take your wife out to dinner to celebrate your wedding anniversary, you don’t necessarily plan on misspelling her name on her to-go box, taking a leisurely drive through a local cemetery, or filling up your tank at a seedy gas station. All those things did recently happen, and yet Shannon and I still enjoyed the evening. (She also forgave me for the spelling mistake—which is a big deal, coming from an English major.)

Yes, this past weekend Shannon and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. The time has both taken forever and flown by. (Not quite sure how that happens.) In this short period, a lot has transpired. I won’t bore you with the details, but I did want to share three things I have learned—or, rather, am still learning—at the outset of this lovely journey called marriage.

1. You can’t rightly love if you can’t rightly see love

The more I grow in the Christian faith, the more I see how much of a difference there is between knowing something and believing something. I know God has forgiven me, but I often think and act like He’s still holding a grudge against me. I know God is patient and longsuffering, but I often think and act like God is fed up with my imperfections and recurring sins.

When I see God in this negative and inaccurate light, my actions toward others—especially behind closed doors, when no one but my wife is present—are detrimentally affected. If I see myself as under God’s condemning gaze, I can be tempted to be unforgiving toward Shannon. If I see God as impatient toward my faults, I can be impatient toward Shannon’s. It’s not a pretty picture.

But as I’ve been slowly learning (specifically here and here), when I’m bulldozed over by God’s unrelenting, unconditional, and even joyous love for me, I am better enabled to pour out that same mercy and grace on Shannon. After all, if God’s disposition toward me is love, even though my sins against Him have been grievous, how much more can I show a loving disposition to Shannon, whose sins against me are exceedingly small in comparison? Yes, understanding and truly believing the good news of the gospel can radically change your marriage.

2. Your wife is the key to discerning the state of your relationship

There’s an almost foolproof way to test your marriage’s strength. How? By simply asking your wife how she thinks things are going. I’ve had to swallow my pride several times, but Shannon’s perspective has often led to course recalibrations that have served our marriage well.

Yeah, I know it’s easy to think your wife tends to overreact when talking about the problems in your relationship. It’s easy to dismiss many of her concerns as unrealistic or emotional. But I think God has given women the unique ability to feel a marriage’s pulse better than men.

If you really want to find out where your marriage is strong—and where it needs improvement—ask for your wife’s input. She might not always be able to explain it perfectly, but she has a valuable perspective that you would do well to consider. Otherwise, you’re basically shooting yourself in the foot. Yeah, you can still hop around, but where’s the dignity in that?

3. As time passes, good marriages only get better

When you hear older couples talk about how love, romance, and intimacy just get better and better, it’s tempting to think that’s just a quaint ruse. But even only after a handful of years behind us, we can see that those couples are right. Through God’s enabling power, we’ve seen that sowing faithfulness and devotion into your marriage reaps staggeringly good results.

Sure, there’s a sense in which our life is getting harder too, but as I’ve pointed out earlier, nothing truly worth holding onto is easy. The most rewarding things in life are those which require a lot of effort. Gold medals, financial stability, successful children—all of these things, while ultimately the result of God’s grace—come about through hard work and sacrifice.

So there you have it. Three lessons (among many more!) that God is helping me to learn in my marriage. They’ve served me well, and I hope they can serve someone else too.

photo credit: LollyKnit via photopin cc (edited for horizontal orientation)