I haven’t been married all that long in the big scheme of life, but in the two years I have been married, I’ve learned a lot about true, genuine love.
When you look around in the media – movies, music, tv, celebrities, social media, you name it – love is portrayed to be something so robust and romantic and roses and rainbows. It’s very misleading really, and it leaves us often with unrealistic expectations of what love should look like. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we should have high expectations for who we choose to be in relationship with. But it looks more like expecting respect, time, and genuine care, not expecting roses and candle light and 100% undivided attention.
For a long time, I had the concept of love all wrong. I’m grateful, now, to have a man who has walked alongside me as we figure out what real love is together.
I’m certainly no love expert. Heck, the only real relationship I’ve been in is with the man I’m now happily married to! Other than that, I went on a few dates in high school and a handful in college. And, truth is, just being married doesn’t make me an instant love master either. But then again, I really don’t think anyone is. We all will forever be learning.
Here’s ten things I’ve learned about love in my first two years of marriage.
It’s easy to love someone in the beginning of a relationship. Everything they do is beautiful and perfect. They make you laugh and smile and feel all sorts of awesome things. But over time, those things can start to fade. Real life happens. You find that the everyday is more about working together than it is about all the romance and heart eye emojis. In the midst of the tough moments, in the midst of the pet peeves, in the midst of the annoyances and the late nights and the arguments, love is a choice. And it, like any muscle, grows stronger when it’s exercised despite the resistance.
To love someone fully and unconditionally is not in our human nature. It is only through the supernatural that we find it in us to push through the difficult times and love anyway. Our humanness makes us want to kick and fight and scream and leave to find greener pastures. But when the going gets tough, love still wins. And like any muscle, love grows and increases over time so that, ultimately, it may become the driving force in the relationship. When love is built on a firm foundation, it can stand strong in any storm. With every choice to love despite the annoyances, disagreements, and shortcomings, love becomes stronger like a tree growing deeper roots and gaining rings of wisdom and experience.
Marriage can be frustrating when different personalities and life experiences lead you to look at the same situation through different lenses, but that’s also the joy of having a partner in life!
You are not the Holy Spirit for your spouse, and vise versa. Yes, God may give you insight into something that is going on, but conviction, growth, and healing rests in God’s hands. It’s natural to want to swoop in and fix the other person when they are needing help or growth in a certain area, but most of the time, this just causes an interference. Love looks less like pointing out flaws and trying to control and a lot more like facilitating growth through encouragement and personal decisions. Bringing peace, love, and joy into the home facilitates the same in the other person. Vulnerability encourages the other person to be vulnerable. Making space for quality time fosters that in the relationship as a whole. Lectures are seldom effective. A brief and loving word, deliberate faith filled actions and, prayer and trust in the One who is able to bring real change, work far greater to facilitate growth.
When you get the focus off what the other person should change and focus on the areas God is working in your own life, it gives God the space to work in the other person’s heart, too. His ways are much higher than ours, and His love for your spouse abounds far greater than yours ever will be able to. If you step back and allow God to grow you, you can trust that He will also grow your spouse (and far more effectively than you ever could!). When we surrender our spouse to God, He is able to do far above and beyond what we could ever imagine.
Once the honey moon phase has passed, life can get busy and can get in the way of much needed time together. Even in the midst of the tiredness and busyness, making time for one on one time together is important. This doesn’t always mean an elaborate date night, but it also doesn’t mean veging out in front of the tv together. Trust me, we’ve been there. And it feels like you should get credit, but, really, zoning out at the end of the day to a tv show doesn’t equate to connecting with one another. Even if it’s just a few minutes before bed, take the time to lean in to connect. Whether it’s catching up on the day, sharing in a devotional time together, playing a game, going for a walk, or something else, creating the space for connection and intimacy keeps a relationship healthy. The less time you spend connecting, the less you realize just how important it is. Making it a habit to connect with each other daily keeps both of your hearts full and sets the relationship up for success even when things get difficult.
Wow, what a big one! Communication is key to a happy marriage and being able to love each other well. You set yourself and your spouse up for success when you communicate effectively. It’s so important to be open and vulnerable with one another both in the big things and the small things. Without communication, things get frustrating pretty quickly in a relationship. Whether it’s about how your day was, what you want for dinner, or something the other person said that hurt your feelings, communicating is always the best option.
Sure things may come out sideways sometimes. It can be awkward at first to be completely open and vulnerable with someone. But it’s so important to let your voice be heard and to hear the other person’s voice as well. Communication is a two way street, and, when done right, looks like both parties respectfully putting voice to their thoughts and feelings while allowing the space for the other person to do the same. And then, from that place, you can form a conclusion that works for both people or reach an understanding where there may have been prior confusion. In a marriage, both voices are important and necessary to the team. The best way to demonstrate that value is to communicate in the small, the big, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then together, you will be able to walk through any situation with mutual respect and understanding for one another.
Just because you get married doesn’t mean you lose your individuality or your God-given goals. It’s important to still make time for yourself. When you take care of yourself and foster the goals God has placed on your heart, you are more fulfilled and are able to bring your full self to the table in your marriage.
Marriage takes two people. And God has given each of us our own gifts and purpose on this earth. To abandon these things in the face of marriage would be to bench a valuable player on God’s team! Though in marriage the two become one, the two are also still individuals. You are not completed by another person. No, what God has made in you is already good! It is the power of two whole people that is made even more beautiful in marriage.
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Don’t abandon your personal hopes and goals. These are the things that bring vivacity to the partnership of marriage. Your spouse, in fact, will be able to encourage you and help facilitate making your goals a reality. In the same way, don’t forfeit all of your time to your spouse. Trust me, they will be grateful to you for taking the time you need to recharge and listen to God. It’s important to give each other the space to be the person God has made you each individually to be and to encourage that in one another. When two people support one another in taking care of themselves and pursuing the purposes God has laid on their hearts, God’s plan begins to unfold with exponential power.
Men and women have different roles, but it’s imperative that we pull equal weight in the relationship. As with any relationship, marriage is a two-way street. There will be times when one carries a larger load, and vice versa, but it should always even out and, for the most part, should stay in a sort of homeostasis where both members are working hard and giving their all for the relationship.
Beyond just being emotionally and relationally available, pulling equal weight looks very practical in marriage. Find a balance with one another in who does what. If you both work full time, split the chores. Find what works for both of you so that each person feels seen and appreciated. Men and women have different strengths by nature, but the work of the relationship should for the most part be equal. This keeps the marriage strong and both members feeling valued. Team work makes the dream work, as they say. And life is so much more fun done alongside a partner than fighting over who’s doing more than the other.
It can be uncomfortable to talk about, and most people stray away from it because they don’t want to pry or say something that may be offensive, but finances are one of the crucial pieces in a marriage. Get it right, and many other things seem to fall into place. Get it wrong, and things can fall apart like a house made of straw.
The biggest biggest biggest thing about finances is getting on the same page. It’s important to have the difficult conversations of how you plan to manage finances. Typically, one person will be the “business manager” of the family and will administer the bills, savings, etc., but it is still crucial for both parties to be on board. Set goals together for finances. Discuss monthly allowances. Set a budget. Look at your current and future expenses. Decide what’s important to both of you.
Some of the best advice my husband and I ever received was to find a way to live off of one income. It has been one of the best things for our marriage. Why? Because when you decide to live off of one income (basically, pay your bills and everyday expected expenses), you set yourself up for success even if the unthinkable should happen. You give yourself wiggle room for unforeseen expenses, and you also give yourself the space to save for those goals you’ve set.
Another biggy when it comes to finances is giving. As Christians, my husband and I have made a decision to tithe and give regularly. We give because we’ve seen the blessings come back ten fold and even more. Even when you’re in a difficult place, putting God first in your finances will always be the right way to go. It’s all His anyways!
This sounds like a no-brainer, but life can slowly creep into the way of finding time to just enjoy one another and have fun. You have to be deliberate about making time for activities and adventures. Go out to your favorite restaurant. Play paintball or mini golf. Go for a walk. Try something new. Start a DIY project. Go on a day trip or a vacation. Make the space for fun. And be intentional about having fun even in the midst of the chores and the day to day. Life really can be enjoyed along every step if you make the choice to have fun. And if things don’t seem super fun, be the fun yourself! Bring the fun to the table no matter what things look like.
A lot of newlyweds have this mindset that everything should be done just the two of them. And while that can be okay sometimes, isolation is never a good idea. Marriage is it’s own sort of art form, and there is so much to be gained from surrounding yourself with other married people and even older people with more experience and wisdom. Life was never meant to be lived in isolation. We are made for community.
Instead of trying to solve problems alone, seek out a mentor who can help give some third-party perspective. Instead of always hanging out just the two of you, spend time out with friends. Look for opportunities to be around good, godly people. It is these relationships that will support you and will give guidance when in the going gets tough. Life is more fun when we engage with others around us. Spouses are great, but life lived in community with our spouse by our side is even greater.
While it’s important to live in the present and enjoy where you are right now, it’s also necessary to a healthy relationship to look towards the future and dream together. Make sure you’re both on the same page. Get vulnerable. I mean really vulnerable. Tell your spouse that dream in your heart that you’ve never told anyone. Play out what you want things to look like in one year, five years, ten years.
And as you put voice to your dreams, align them together. The fact is, God has placed you in each other’s lives to enhance it. You both have the ability to help make the others dreams a reality. And likely, your dreams either are the same or are congruent or in support of the others. Find a way to marry your dreams so that they fit together in a mosaic where, yes, there are individual pieces, but the pieces form an even more beautiful picture as a whole. And once you have dreamed, get to it! Put action behind the dreams and goals you speak. Together, and with God’s backing, you will be unstable.
That seems like a lot even reading it back to myself. And, trust me, I didn’t end up here over night, and each of these lessons is a lesson I’m still actively learning to live out. But truly, it all comes down to this one thing: love. Love is the constant in the quiet and the chaos.
It can get messy, and it can hurt sometimes. But at the end of it all, love put into action is stronger than the difficult moments. When we stay in our own lane and let go of wanting to control and understand and instead give God the power, it becomes so much easier to love.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
In our own strength, it is impossible. In God’s strength, it is an overflow.
It is a beautiful thing to love and be loved.
Happy 2 year anniversary, meu amor.