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  • Leah Outten

10 Things We’ve Learned in 10 Years of Marriage

My husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary last weekend.

I’m proud, to be honest. It’s a huge milestone and accomplishment in my mind! We beat odds that statistics set against us as young parents of only 19 and 20, plus society’s “just give up” mentality when it got hard. Here’s a few things that we’ve learned in our marriage over the last years. I could add so much more, but 10 is a good start for the occasion.

Love isn’t just a feeling– it’s a choice

I grew up knowing I wanted to do things differently with my own family. I wanted stability for my children, and two parents committed to love and marriage. Of course, in reality that can be so hard! But love isn’t just the butterflies and ignoring the things that irk you about each other, it’s a choice. When I said I do– I meant it for life. Divorce is not a word we use, ever. Even when the temptation is there to throw in the marriage towel over our differences, it cannot be used as a threat. Love unconditionally, with forgiveness and grace extended when we mess up– just like Jesus does for us.

Make each other priority over kids

I struggle with this one so bad as a mom of 5 who works from home. I admit it (and I apologize, my sweet hubby!). It’s easy to dismiss your relationship as a “I’ll work on it later” dot on your check list, when your kids are begging for their own quality time or work emails are swishing in. But here’s the truth– God calls us to a standard order of the family. God–> spouse–> kids–> others. We can get that so jumbled up! #guilty

Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”

Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Date nights are essential – even if it means at home

On the same note as above, time together should be priority. Now, we have 5 kids and not a huge budget so we often stay home for dates. Over the years we’ve done many different at home dates, whether it’s a movie night to reading a book together to board games. We get all the kids to bed, or have the older ones situated and stress to them the importance of us having time together for a strong marriage. Our kids want us to be happy together, so they (usually) are respectful of that space.

I can only change me

This was one lesson that stuck when we went to a marriage retreat years ago. I cannot change him, I can only change me. When we are disagreeing over an issue, I can fairly express my ideas or needs, but I cannot manipulate to change him. I’ve learned that one of the best ways to change my husband is actually to change me first! Ironic, I know. But when he sees me making changes in my habits, or working through personal issues of my past, it drives him to often do the same within his own life. Be an example of the change you want to see.

Learn each other’s love language & fill love tanks

Around 5 years into our marriage we hit a rough patch and we sought counseling with Dr. Burnie Perry to help us through. He has a book of all the things he taught us– GO BUY IT NOW! It’s a short, quick read. He helped us understand how we each feel loved and how that differs from one another. Mark is a more physical and gift language, while I feel love with quality time and acts of services. So, he may try to show me love with gifts, but my heart is not receiving the message– it doesn’t “fill my love tank.” Or, I may make a nice night of us talking about my heart’s deep secrets over candle lit dinner, but it does nothing much for him to feel close to me that way.We found 90% of our arguments stemmed from not feeling loved. When we don’t feel loved, we turn bitter, nag, and argue more. When we take the effort to show each other love in little ways everyday in their love language– we are a peaceful, happy team. That over flows into everything else, including parenting. Even if we have disagreements, we can more easily come to a resolution because our internal heart needs are met first. And yes, it’s hard. So hard to “speak” another language that isn’t native to our own, but, so worth it!

Take trips alone together

This is like a “restart” button to marriage! It has the potential to spark those fireworks and butterflies all over again. Make time at least once a year to have a weekend (at least) together to get a full night’s rest, focus on each other with out distractions, and do fun things together! You’ll come home recharged and ready to get back into the chaos and stronger together.

Find a common interest & hobby

I’m the “I’d rather sit still and read a book” kind of girl, while my husband is the active sports guy. For so many years we struggled with finding a common hobby to do together. And sure, we take turns doing what each other liked, but magic happens when we find an interest we both like. It took us about 7 years to really find that for us– we found it in board games. It spoke to his competitiveness and to my sit still and talk desires. His man cave is now covered in board games and that’s often how we spend our date nights at home now. We also recently discovered kayaking together when we can get a sitter– outdoors for him, yet not too active for me 🙂 Keep searching for new things to try together!

Accept the differences we bring to the marriage table

Mark and I are very different people in many ways. We parent our children in different ways sometimes, clean differently, disagree on health and food issues, etc. Sometimes I wonder if God made a mistake picking him for me– just kidding! In those times, I have to remind myself that God has us together for a reason and we can learn from each other to find compromises. While I am more thoughtful in how I approach parenting, food choices, vacations, whatever, I love that he can make a quick decision when needed and help me to not overthink things. We balance each other out. Instead of seeing each other as the enemy at times, recognize we are fighting for the same team and have different qualities or ideas to contribute.

Respect each other’s need for their own space & friends

One of the best things Mark has ever done for me is to kick me out of the house. Not forever, of course, but for a few hours. Not even joking, he did this today! He could tell I was snippy, stressed, and needed a break from being mom, so he told me to go out to write or get a massage. Done! Years ago, we learned that we both need time to ourselves, whether with friends or alone, to refresh our internal batteries and do something we love. We both respect that need, and now have a weekly appointed day that we take the night off from parenting duties. Self care– it is crucial, y’all!

Only God can change their hearts

There have been many, many times over the years that I felt strongly about something being from the Lord but my husband wasn’t “there” yet. Whether it was with expectations of his leadership role, to the completion of our family, I longed to see change but sometimes it has taken time to see God working to make those changes. Along with the idea that I can only change me…only God can change their hearts if it’s a lesson or plan of His will. Be faithful and prayer and submit it to God! He knows what is best and has access to those deep places in our spouse’s soul.

What’s your best marriage tip?

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