Marriage is awesome.
It tends to be the butt of a lot of jokes and ridicule, so I like to be the contrasting voice as often as I can. Last year, I wrote about 3 Lessons From 4 Awesome Years of Marriage, and this year I’m back again with a few more things I’ve learned in the time I’ve been married to my wonderful wife, Mary. Just like before, this post is miles away from a comprehensive list, and I don’t pretend for a second like I have any of them mastered—but I think, whatever stage of life we’re in, there’s a lot of benefit to sitting down and sharing what we’ve learned on subjects like this. I hope you’ll chime in on the comments with lessons you’ve learned over the years, too!
1. Never stop dating
So right out the gate, this is probably one of my weakest points as a husband—and it’s the one point that every blog, article, and book on marriage is going to hammer home.
Why? Because it’s important, and because, historically, we men are absolutely terrible at it—so for just this point, I’m going to be talking mainly to us.
During the courtship phase of the relationship, wooing our ladies and winning them over is at the top of our priority list. It’s not even that much of an effort—we’re so moonstruck that it just sort of comes naturally. All the way to “I do,” the courting is easy.
But once that’s done—and right there is the first problem, “done”—life gets in the way real fast. On the other side of “I do” are all the real life things that haven’t played much of a role in our relationship so far. Bills and budgets. Home repairs. The work-life balance. Scheduling doctor’s appointments. Laundry, the dishes, and other responsibilities around the home. Having to share a bathroom with someone who fundamentally disagrees with your definition of “clean.”
Things like that.
And the problem, I think especially for us guys, is that we can get so caught up in tackling those new challenges that we forget about the courting. We forget that dating isn’t “done” once we’ve said our vows. We forget that we should still be making an effort to show our spouse how much she means to us, just like we did before she was our spouse.
To be fair, it’s kind of hard to remember to take the time to stare dreamily into each other’s eyes when you’ve spent the last two days staring angrily at a confusing diagram, trying to figure out what exactly a fill tube is and what it has to do with the fact that your toilet won’t flush. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? The dating is easy to put on hold, easy to push to the side temporarily, because there’s always something more urgent to take care of. It was Paul who said, “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:3).
Granted, Paul was being a little more… uh, specific when he talked about rendering affection, but the general point still stands. The women we wooed deserve men who will keep on wooing, even when life gets crazy.
2. The foundation matters
I feel like, even just in the past year or so, the world’s definition of marriage has gone absolutely haywire. The popular view right now is that it doesn’t matter whether you live together beforehand, it doesn’t matter what genders are involved, it doesn’t even matter what genders the people involved believe themselves to be—marriage is a fully customizable right available to anyone who wants it, however they want it to work.
We forget—or ignore—or rail against the fact that we didn’t invent marriage.
He joined the first man and the first woman, so He gets to set the terms for what marriage looks like. What’s good and acceptable. What isn’t. And that’s important, because marriage is like a construction project—and unless you and your spouse agree on the blueprints, you’ll never build anything worthwhile. You need to be in agreement about where it’s being built and what it’s going to look like and what it’s even for. So many marriages collapse when the fog of infatuation wears off and all that’s left are two people with radically different views of what the marriage relationship means and how it should work. If both parties aren’t building on the foundation of a belief in God and His plan, then it really comes down to a matter of personal preference—and that’s no foundation at all.
It was Paul again (good old Paul) who wrote, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). It’s not enough that you both agree to build on the same foundation—it’s that you both want to build on the same foundation. The right foundation.
When Mary and I hit road bumps in our relationship, I’m incredibly grateful that we’re able to address them with the same understanding of what God designed marriage to be. That gives us valuable fenceposts we can work inside while we sort things out. We’re still left with plenty of room for individuality and preference, but it doesn’t leave things as a total free-for-all. We both have the same goal and we’re both walking in the same direction, because we’re both building on the same foundation.
3. Marriage is bigger than the two of you
This has a lot to do with the previous point, because it doesn’t make sense unless you’re both building on the same foundation.
I love my wife. I love her more than I could possibly put into words. But our marriage is about more than just her. It’s about more than just me. It’s even about more than our little daughter growing in her womb.
Marriage—done right, done the way God intended it to be done—gives us a glimpse of God.
It’s the closest frame of reference we have for understanding the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. It’s the closest frame of reference our children will have for understanding God the Father. Husbands are to love their wives “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Wives are to submit to their husbands “as also Christ is head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23). In that leadership and that love, in that submission and that sacrificing, we come to understand on a deeper level what Jesus did for us and how we can better follow Him. And the first person children will think of when they hear about God the Father is their own father, for good or for bad. God took these most intimate of human relationships and said, “These are the keys to understanding Me and My Son.”
But it goes beyond even that. If you and your spouse are building on the foundation established by God, then you’re not just two people living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed. You’re partners on your way to the Kingdom of God. You’re strengthening each other, refining each other, and supporting each other not just as husband and wife, but as co-heirs of salvation (Romans 8:16-17).
What a blessing that is.
Two days from now, five years of marriage ticks over to six years for Mary and me, and I’m sure this coming year will be full of even more things to learn—especially since this is the last anniversary we’ll share before our little one makes her way into the world. In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful Sabbath. Please don’t forget to share your own lessons in the comments below!
Until next time,