Only a year and a half into our “fairytale” marriage, there was doubt we would be married another year.
We entered this journey prepared—at least we thought we were prepared. For years prior to our wedding day we both read relationship books like addicts getting their fix. We went through premarital counseling with a well-known church in our area, and we had support from those people closest to us.
But the harsh reality is nothing can prepare you for living with a full length mirror that shows you the snags, flaws and issues you haven’t seen before.
We fought our way through it and last month my wife and I celebrated our 5th anniversary. Each year is better than the one before, and we thank God for the time we have together.
As a tradition, we take time together to reflect on what God has done in our marriage over the previous year. It is a moment of celebration we enjoy together as we recount the pains and joys of our marriage.
After we did so this year, I took some time later to do my own soul searching. What were the truths we’ve discovered about marriage over the past 5 years? I didn’t just search for truth from our relationship, but from the marriages of our friends, family, and acquaintances. Here are a few things I discovered.
1. Nothing Will Make Marriage Easy
Marriage isn’t easy. Everyone knows this to be true, but, like much truth, it doesn’t resonate until we experience it. We tend to think that, done right, marriage should be easy. But, the truth is, it takes work. No matter what, it takes work.
It’s not all romantic dates, decorating your dream house and lots of sex. We’ve had tough arguments. A multitude of tears have been shed because we’ve hurt each other. There were seasons when there was a lot less sleep in the Valentine household, because we could not comprehend the actions of the other. But we’ve also had seasons where we didn’t stop laughing.
Both of us are better individually and as a couple, because we did the hard work of working it out. Ultimately, marriage is tough, but if you commit to each other and work it out, your marriage will be more beautiful than you can imagine.
2. You’ve Got to Listen.
When we first got married we heard what the other said, but never listened. What I mean is we could both proficiently regurgitate what the other said in a conversation, but it rarely changed our behavior.
Over the past two years we started listening to one another. For the first time ever we listened to dreams and let them sink deep into the fabric of our relationship. We stopped assuming the other person was attempting to pull a fast one and actually listened to their advice.
Listening proved each individual’s love towards the other in previously undiscovered ways. When we started listening, every facet of our relationship greatly improved. After all, relationship necessitates communication.
3. Protect Your Time Together.
If you’re alive then you’re most certainly busy. My wife and I could go weeks without intentional one-on-one time if we allowed ourselves to. Home group, jobs, friends, personal time and mindless entertainment can all get in the way of what’s most important—us.
We have found the best rhythm for our house is having one night a week to just hang together at the house with no other distractions, and one date night every week just the two of us. It’s a hard schedule to maintain, but we do it because it’s vital for the health of our marriage.
4. Take Fun Seriously
There’s some stigma going around marriage that you have to be a “stuffy grown up” who pays bills and works the 9-to-5 career job. While growing up is important, it does not mean you have to be stuffy. You’re married, you live with your best friend, and they’re hot. Dance, go to theme parks, watch dumb movies, play hide and seek in Ikea, and remember: It is supposed to be fun!
5. Fairytales Aren’t Read, They’re Written.
And they lived happily ever after. Isn’t this what we all want? We all long for the fairytale love story which is always red hot passionate love.
The reality is fairytales are not read, they are written. You can’t be passive in marriage, because you are a character in the story. For life to be a fairytale, the characters have to overcome real difficulty in order to develop and achieve the ending they so desire.
You are a character in your own fairytale, so embrace the harsh truth that suffering will come. This suffering is not in vain. It is all leading to the climax when the characters can look back on their hard fought story and bask in the pleasure of their “happily ever after.”