Year one of marriage has been jam-packed with laughs, tears, and everything in between. In a short 365 days (the quickest of my life), Blake and I experienced high highs, as well as some lows. The expected and unexpected. But, most importantly, we experienced them together, hand-in-hand. That is the beauty of living life with your best friend.
To summarize our first year, marriage with Blake is better than I could’ve ever imagined. Harder, but definitely better!
As an individual, I’ve grown immensely over the past 12 months, including learning a great deal about myself- how I handle conflict, express my thoughts and feelings, prioritize, and so much more. Just as Blake has. And, together, we’ve matured in ways we never expected. Not only have we grown closer to each other, but also to Jesus. One thing is for sure: when you get married, you greatly recognize your need for a Savior, and the endless amount of grace and forgiveness to follow.
Marriage is a commitment between two imperfect children of God. Imperfect, apart and together. However, just as Christ loves His church unconditionally, Blake and I have the privilege of loving one another, unconditionally (to the best of our ability). Despite his flaws, weaknesses, and imperfections, my job is to love Blake every day, just as Jesus loves us. And vice versa.
Furthermore, our imperfections are better together than apart. Blake’s adventurous, happy-go-lucky spirit compliments my type A, structured personality so well. The Mrs. Clean engrained inside of me compliments his tendency to leave dirty clothes on the floor. And, guess what? We can use our imperfections to serve God’s Kingdom, together.
It didn’t take long to determine 12 lessons to share. As I said earlier, this year has been full of new lessons, as we discover how to be a better spouse to each other. I had a giant list of lessons to pick from and did my best to narrow it down to 12. So, here we go. 12 lessons, one for each month of learning, growing, and loving in marriage.
- Marriage is not about me. This concept was introduced to Blake and I during pre-marital counseling and it’s importance became a reality throughout the last year. I think there are far too many people stumbling into marriage wondering how their spouse can serve them, but they’ve got it all wrong. The purpose of marriage is not to serve me. And, it’s not about what I can get out of it. Marriage is about serving my husband and my God by loving unconditionally and selflessly. Striving for and maintaining a selfless mindset makes marriage so much better because it’s the way God intended it to be. Marriage is the closest example, on this side of Heaven, of Christ’s love for His church. And, I couldn’t tell you of a more selfless, sacrificial kind of love.
- The power of prayer. Marriage is basically a big red, flashing arrow pointing to Jesus and my need for Him. Thank goodness for a Savior who hears our prayers and makes them powerful in His name. The power of prayer has humbled me when seeking forgiveness for who-knows-what, extended grace when dirty clothes are left on the floor for the 100th time, and provided surpassing peace when life’s challenges get the best of me. Praying, not only in times of need, but also in times of thanksgiving, have changed my heart (and will continue to). Also, I’ve come to learn the importance of praying for the Lord to mold me, shape me, and use me to meet Blake’s needs. As well as praying for Blake and our marriage- for protection and provision, wisdom and discernment, forgiveness and grace. The enemy is real and he hates marriage. Don’t give him any wiggle room within your marriage, and more importantly, do not downplay the power of prayer.
- Laugh every day. Blake deserves an A+++ in this category. He is the absolute best at making me laugh, even when I’m in no mood. And you know what? I am always so thankful for the laughs we share, including the ones that are sometimes forced out of me. Making time to laugh, every day, reminds me of the joy Blake brings into my life and how incredibly grateful I am for it. Laughing also provides the opportunity to not take life too seriously.
- Know each other’s needs and intentionally meet them. This should be lesson #2, right behind learning to love my husband selflessly. I’ve realized I often love Blake in the way that I want to be loved. For example, I feel most loved and taken care of when Blake cleans the apartment or does the dishes. Does that mean Blake feels most loved when I clean the apartment or do the dishes? Nope, absolutely not. Sure, he’s appreciative, but he doesn’t necessarily feel loved by acts of service. Instead, when I affirm Blake’s character or looks, he feels my love from his head to his toes. The assessment, Relational Needs, is how Blake and I became the most aware of our own needs and the needs of one another. I highly recommend taking a few minutes to complete the assessment and review your results with your spouse. The book, The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman is also a great way to start learning your spouse’s needs.
- Ask for forgiveness. With the imperfection of humanness comes hurt feelings, hard conversations, bad attitudes, let downs, and regretful words. So, thank the Good Lord for forgiveness. No matter how much I love Blake or he loves me, stumbling across these challenging moments are inevitable. I’ve learned to ask for forgiveness and extend forgiveness more times in the past year, than in the 24 years prior. But, through conviction, repentance, and forgiveness, I’ve become a better person, wife, and Daughter of the King in one short year, which I’m incredibly thankful for.
- Reality is not as it’s portrayed on the big screen. Almost every movie, tv show, Instagram feed, or entertainment platform portrays romantic relationships/marriages as a fairytale. Playing up the idea of romance to be like a fantasy has given us a false sense of what it’s truly like. Our expectations have become somewhat skewed. From where I stand, romantic relationships in Hollywood are portrayed to be nothing but wistful and passionate. Sure, every marriage should have a healthy dose of passion and infatuation, but it’s also okay (and normal) to experience times without the roses and daisies. Throughout the last year, Blake and I have recognized the giant need for honesty and transparency when it comes to the portrayal of marriage. (One of the reasons I decided to share this post.) While being married has been the biggest blessing and most satisfying experience of my life, let’s be real, it’s not 24/7 butterflies and giggles. It’s choosing to love Blake, day after day, despite “how I feel.” It’s holding each other’s hand as you push through the inevitably hard times. And, even though it’s not all daisies and roses, it’s the greatest reality ever.
- Playing the comparison game isn’t in anyone’s best interest. Due to the relevancy of social media today, I find myself immersed in others’ lives and relationships, leaving me to assume everything is as it’s shown on Instagram. Enter stage left: comparison. Scrolling through photos of others’ depicted reality has made me feel less than content about my own. Whether it’s the shiny, new car a friend purchased, the all-American family (who I don’t even know) with the perfect marriage, 3 kids, and Labradoodle, or the stunning trip of a lifetime to somewhere in Europe, I will never really know the reality behind those photos. When it comes to moments of comparison, I’ve decided to turn potential envy into joy, peace, gratitude. Joy for how the Lord is using my life (past, present, and future). Peace in the truth that I don’t write my own story- God has that covered. Gratitude for the opportunity to steward what God has given me. Can I get an amen?
- Make each other a priority. Life was busy before marriage. And, guess what? It does’t get less busy. In fact, it’s busier! It’s sad how easily I become caught up with chores, to-do’s, and daily tasks, leaving Blake on the sidelines. This past year, more than ever, I have learned to be intentional with my time. Prioritizing what matters most: quiet time with Jesus, quality time with Blake, and pursuing relationships with my closest friends and family. Sometimes I imagine my life several years from now. Ten years in the future, will I regret the times I skipped vacuuming the carpet? No. Chances are I won’t even remember such a trivial task. Will I regret picking up the vacuum when I could have loved my husband well instead? A thousand times, yes. “Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious, but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us, but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” Ephesians 5:2. Let this verse serve as the tagline of your marriage- I know I will.
- Date your spouse. I recently received a marriage-related question on Instagram. The soon-to-be bride asked, “how do you keep the honeymoon phase of marriage for as long as possible?” I admire her for taking time to consider such a significant idea. In just a year, Blake and I have experienced how easy it is to get lost in the throws of life, the day-to-day, the simple and mundane. In my opinion, maintaining the honeymoon phase of marriage takes work. One way to combat the mundane in marriage is by continuing to date one another. We make it a priority to go on dates nights, just the two of us. If not every week, at least every other. We get out of the house, divert from the normal routine, enjoy intentional conversation, and going back to #3, laugh, a lot.
- Lean on each other. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.” When we said “I do,” Blake and I made a commitment to God and each other to be lifelong partners. I think one of the greatest blessings of a spouse is the bountiful support a partner can (and should) provide. A few synonyms for “partner” include companion, ally, and friend. All of these words are simply a different way to identify someone to lean and rely on. We weren’t made to do life alone. Regardless if you are married, dating, or single, our Father purposefully created us to need each other, to need community. Now, in married life, I’m experiencing “community” in a whole new way and depth. It’s the coolest thing to have Blake’s shoulder to cry on whenever I need, and although a little smaller and weaker, to extend my shoulder when he needs.
- Set expectations. We talk about it all. I mean, all: weekend plans, his and her chores, nightly routines, sex, professional and personal goals, names of future children, relational needs, etc. Nothing is off the table with Blake and I. The more we talk, the more assurance we have that we’re on the same page. Without setting expectations, we leave room for assumptions, and that never ends well. Agreeing on clear and realistic expectations with one another is key.
- Blake & I vs. the enemy. This is one of my favorite lessons learned so far. You gotta save the best for last, right? Early on in our first year, during our Sunday newlywed class, we discussed the topic of “conflict.” The speaker shared how, in the face of trials and conflict, despite your feelings, it’s always you + your spouse against the issue. Blake and I stand on the same side of the line, while the source of conflict is on the other side of the line. Truth be told, whatever the conflict may be, the source is always the enemy. When we partner against the conflict, together, we don’t allow the enemy to have the upper hand. We stand firm in our love for one another and for our Heavenly Father.
On August 18, 2017, I made the best decision by saying “yes” to a lifetime with Blake. Since that special day, I’ve gained a clearer picture of Christ’s love for us- perfect, unconditional, and sacrificial. Through marriage, I’ve also grasped a better understanding of the drastic differences between us, the children of God, and Jesus, our Savior. He gives perfect love. We do not. We need Him, so badly. He doesn’t need us, yet He wants us. He demonstrates the way we should love. We try our best and fail anyway.
So, praise the Lord for endless opportunities to love like Him, an imperfect husband who loves me and Jesus so well, and the blessing of spending a lifetime with Blake. These are the things I will cherish forever.