What I've Learned in 17 Years of Marriage
Updated: Aug 3
Whether you're dating, married or single, I think you'll find something of value up ahead.
It's hard to believe that I've survived ahem, I mean, celebrated 17 years of marriage! 🤣 Yet, that's a drop in the bucket compared to those married for 30 or 50 years. Kudos to them-we should be congratulating these rare specimens and learning their secrets.
Although I'm no expert at love and marriage, it's safe to say I've learned a thing or two in the past two decades. Whether you're dating, married or single, I think you'll find something here of value worth considering.
Perhaps you identify with one of these situations:
You're single and hope to find the right "one".
You want to stay single but are afraid you're not normal.
You're dating & wondering how to tell if this is THE ONE.
You're living with someone & feel there's no point to getting married.
You've been married a bit & are struggling.
You're blissfully married! 🤵👰 Congrats!!! Please share your tips in the comments.
Let's address each of these situations (this is a GINORMOUS undertaking, so bear with me 😉).
You're Looking for the Right "One"
How can I put this nicely? Ok...forget nicely, let's go with honestly!
There's no such thing as the right ONE! Let me explain before my happily married friends ream me out.
I grew up believing that everyone had one true soul-mate and my mission was to search the world over until I found that ONE person I was meant to be with forever. (This is a sweet romantic notion developed by someone who hates women, ok maybe not hate....but what possessed them to teach us that??? 🤔)
The reality is, in a lifetime we could be attracted to or have chemistry with multiple people. The pressure to find that one-true-love can be dismissed right now. You can come to love or be compatible with more than one person (never at the same time though!!!) In other words, you could be happily married to anyone that you respect and admire, but may not be soul-mate worthy.
By all means, if you meet your soul-mate, and he or she checks all of the other right boxes marry them!!! But rest assured, this is a rare situation.
In the meantime, while you're waiting for the person of your dreams to show up...what should you be doing?
Working on yourself.
If you want to get married, you MUST take the time to become the RIGHT person for someone else. This doesn't mean becoming someone that you're NOT.
It means working hard on qualities such as kindness, forgiveness and humility. Identify your values and work to accomplish your dreams. Get to know yourself and what you need in a partner.
But ultimately know that no one should rely on a relationship to feel happy or complete.
Enjoy being around yourself (& by yourself) then others will be drawn to you
Want to Stay Single?
There's absolutely nothing wrong with that!
No one should ever feel obligated, pressured or coerced into a relationship or marriage.
Staying single has NUMEROUS benefits!
You're in charge of your life & decisions (well mostly, life can be funny that way).
You don't have to cook if you don't want to.
You don't have to share your closet, bed, bathroom or thoughts with another.
You can focus on your goals and dreams.
You don't need to consult with anyone about going out or what you buy.
You don't have to worry about creating little monsters, I mean children, that look, talk and act just like you, who daily remind you of your imperfections. (I love my child, really I do! 🤣)
You don't have to deal with in-laws.
You can sit back & relax while your married friends are "working" on their marriage. More time for you, yay!
Staying single and getting married are gifts from God; it's how you view your situation. Both circumstances have their good, bad and ugly. There's no right or wrong answer here. Getting married is a personal decision!
Unfortunately, there are many who want to get married but haven't found what they're looking for. I encourage you to cultivate gratitude for whatever situation you're in and pray for the strength you need to endure. Solid, understanding friendships are a must!
How Do I Know If I Should Marry the Person I'm Dating?
Hmmm. This is a tough one and could potentially be it's own blog post!
The truth is...there are no guarantees in life not matter who you marry. This may sound frightening but it's an unfortunate reality. Circumstances change, people change and some may be overcome by temptation, weaknesses and flaws.
So although there's NO guarantee, there ARE things you can do to make a decision with an open mind and wise heart.
#1 Take your time in getting to know the other person.
There isn't a perfect amount of dating time. I've seen couples date and marry within a year and are happy. I've seen couples date for years and end up miserably married. Still, it does take time to get to know someone but more importantly it's what you do with that time!
Don't just do fun things together. Observe the other person in all aspects of life. Go food shopping together. Go on a trip. Work together, especially on a project that requires cooperation and communication. These types of activities can reveal the true person of the heart and not just what they want you to see. It may not make or break the relationship, but at least you will know who you are marrying.
#2 Get to know the real person, not just how they act around you.
It's true, and normal, to put on our best selves for another person, especially if we want to attract them. But it's critical to see beyond what the person projects.
Interview their friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances. Find out how they act and treat others. Really listen with an open mind to what other people say about them. This can be difficult if you've already fallen in love, which brings me to point #3.
#3 Don't involve your heart, just yet.
A friend once told me while I was dating; "don't get your heart involved". At the time I thought it was the STUPIDEST thing I had ever heard. I was young, inexperienced and thought, "how does your heart NOT get involved??? I'm dating this person because I LIKE them." Well, now I know that was one of the BEST tips I ever got.
Ladies, hold on to your hearts!!! 💖
Guys...reign it in!!! 😍
Giving your heart away too soon is a recipe for disaster and heartache. So many couples end up marrying the wrong person knowingly because they are too wrapped up in the relationship to walk away.
Their "love" could also have blinded them to who the person really was or they excused the troubling behavior because they thought that's what people in love do. (Hint...married people should do that, not couples while dating). Remember the point of dating is to understand if this is the person you want to marry. So if the answer is no, walk away.
#4 The qualities you should be looking for.
I don't care if your boyfriend is tall, handsome and athletic. Or if your girlfriend is model gorgeous and can dance the bachata.
External features may initiate the attraction but remember, beauty fades and girls stink too 🦨. People shrink or go bald as they age. Your list of must-haves is a cute, fun exercise to do with your friends, but if the following qualities aren't on your list...I would worry.
These qualities (or areas) help a marriage thrive:
Spirituality (must be evident by the choices they make, big & small)
Generosity (with time & money)
Honesty in all things
Being a handyman or managing a household well (if not, is he or she willing to learn?)
Having a job or a decent skill set
Wise money & debt management
Lightheartedness (can take a joke, laugh at themselves)
Other questions to ask yourself and observe:
Who are their friends?
What do they find funny?
What goals are they working toward?
What are their hobbies? (sorry but video games & sports aren't hobbies)
Do they have responsibilities & how do they care for them?
Is the person (or a family member) living with a mental health condition? If so, how does this person handle it?
How do they treat the elderly and children? (Doesn't matter if you want children or not, this is a great indicator of personality. Children are intuitive, if they don't like a person, there may be a good reason).
Let's talk about in-laws for a moment (all jokes aside). I wish someone had told me that you marry your in-laws as well! It's true for 2 reasons.
No matter how much you try to be different than your parents, at times you'll behave just like them. Hey, genetics are strong and the environment you were raised in influences how you think & feel.
You will have to deal with your in-laws and extended family on a regular basis! You'll do this whether you love them or not. They're your family too now and treating them with respect is a sign of respect for your mate.
Girls....look at his father. Do you like and respect him? How does the father manage his household and treat his family? What are his habits?
Guys...your girlfriend's mother...do you find her irritating or annoying? How does she treat her husband? What are her habits?
Hear me out...I'm NOT dooming every person to be exactly like their parents. However, we inherited their DNA and have spent our lives observing, learning from them. So whatever environment your beloved grew up in, that is what they are familiar with.
Also, look closely at your romantic interest, can you imagine having a little one just like them? All the good and bad of that person will get passed on to your future children. So if something annoys you about that person, know that you will potentially create someone just like them. This can work for the good too however. 😉
I'm in a Committed Relationship, Why Bother Getting Married?
Have you noticed that marriage has become an outdated and old-fashioned tradition? Young and old alike are choosing to live together without ever marrying. Some have lived together longer than I've been married!
Just one generation back, that is 30 or 40 years ago, living together was not the norm. And before that generation (think your grandparents) it was even rarer and frowned upon!!!
Why the change?
Here are some possible reasons:
Divorce rates & broken families are the new norm
Getting a legal divorce can be expensive, complicated & traumatic
Cost of living is high, moving in together has economic benefits
Sex before marriage is no longer viewed as a sin, neither is living together
Fear of commitment, it's easier to walk away without a marriage contract
Some feel a piece of paper is not necessary to prove commitment
Interestingly, the divorce rate in the U.S. is falling, but that's mostly because marriage rates are at an all time low. According to The Institute for Family Studies: "For every 1,000 unmarried adults in 2019, only 33 got married. This number was 35 a decade ago in 2010 and 86 in 1970." Click here for the full article.
This got me wondering, can you really be committed to someone without getting married?
Which is more important, commitment or loyalty?
Let's break it down...
A commitment implies duty, it's an obligation you agreed to fulfill no matter what, whether you like it or not (like showing up at your job if you want a paycheck).
Loyalty on the other hand implies faithfulness based on emotion, it's a choice you make to attach yourself to someone because you love or care for them.
Which do you prefer in a relationship? At first glance you might say loyalty. Who wouldn't want that?
But consider, if the person stops loving you or cares less than they used to, what will keep that person loyal to you? Especially during difficult times?
To thrive, a relationship must include commitment and loyalty
When you get married, you make a commitment (sign a contract) with the other person and if you're religious, with God. Have you ever read the vow? In part it says that you remain together...for better or worse, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.
Marriage is a promise to take care of that person come what may.
Making that vow is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give another person. It's public. It goes on record. You sign your name to it and if you have a wedding, it's celebrated before onlookers.
As you can see, it's NOT to be taken lightly. It's one of the most serious commitments you'll ever make in your life.
Here's how commitment with a piece of paper works. On those days when your spouse is NOT your favorite person in the world...you will stay put, whether you like it or not. On those days your mate feels like walking out, they won't. Neither of you will fear that the other person is leaving, because leaving isn't easy when you've made that kind of a commitment.
If this frightens you, stay single. (Just kidding!!!)
It's not as bad as it seems IF you've chosen your partner wisely and highly esteem the vow you made. Remember, God made families. He designed that a man and a woman should come together in a lasting union that benefits both. Marriage is designed to work!
What are the benefits of marriage?
You've got a partner for life who has agreed to be there for you no matter what.
You have a permanent date to go out with, so treat each other to that 🙂.
You'll have a steady roommate and your heart can find a home.
You'll have two paychecks and split expenses.
Couples get a break on their taxes.
You have two families for guidance and protection, not just one.
If children come along, one of the best gifts you can give them is the security of having parents in a committed & unified relationship..
What if Your Married but Fear You've Made the Wrong Choice
Would it surprise you to know that no matter how long you've been married and that even in the best of marriages...couples have moments when one or the other wishes to be single or wishes to be elsewhere? Yes, there will be moments when you'll look straight at your partner and question your sanity.
Well...it's true, it's normal and the same goes for parents. You love your children dearly, can't imagine your life without them but there are times when you dream about running away (especially when potty training doesn't go as expected or the little squirts talk back).
So bad days in a marriage DO NOT mean you married the wrong person. A marriage is a union of two imperfect people from different cultures and backgrounds. It takes A LOT of hard work and cooperation.
Here are some expectations that new couples may struggle with:
-Expecting things to be 50/50 in a relationship, teamwork right? Well, that's not always realistic. Inevitably, there will be times when you or your partner need to give more or carry more of the weight. This could be due to changing circumstances like health, jobs, stress, exhaustion, etc. This was a tough one for me. I'm a big believer in teamwork but I learned after 17 years of marriage that sometimes one of the players has to work harder than the other. The worst thing you can do is complain about it.
-No matter how long you date or are intimate with someone, you'll never know everything about that person. Sometimes there are surprises after marriage. You might discover something you don't like about that person and it could be serious. But you can't just walk away. I've watched couples suffer through serious issues but the longer they stayed together and worked through their problems, the better their marriage became. I'm grateful to have seen those real life experiences with my own eyes.
-Dating was fun, but marriage is not. Why? Because it takes hard work and self-sacrifice. The daily grind of life and problems that arise may cause resentment and if the couple doesn't work out those kinks immediately, it can threaten their future together.
A Man's Perspective
I couldn't write this in depth article without asking for a man's perspective. So I bravely 😋asked my hubby what he had learned in 17 years of marriage.
Here are his nuggets of manly wisdom:
Having it your way is not always important.
Learn to be self-sacrificing.
Learn to let things go-forgive daily.
Respect is important to a man.
Men should think before they speak.
I asked for clarification on this last point and he explained that men say stupid things to each other all the time. But they immediately smooth it over and move on as quickly as possible. There's no need for discussion or explanation. Then he said, "you cannot do this with women! Women remember everything you say and hold it against you."
My 8 year old son chimed in with, "you have to be respectful to women."
I also surveyed my other married friends (both men and women). I asked them; "What's your best tip for a successful marriage?"
Here are their wise replies:
"Love God more than each other."
"Put the other person's needs ahead of your own."
"Listen to understand, not to fix or correct."
"Patience and listening. Often we guys have a tendency to hear but not be patient enough to listen to the issues behind what's being said."
"Marry your best friend, someone who you look forward to coming home and telling everything to."
"Show love by overlooking and ignoring your spouse's faults and habits that are annoying but not harmful to you."
"Use humor as much as possible to diffuse situations."
"Be specific when asking for what you need and use words like please and thank you."
"Lavish on the praise and appreciation for thoughtful or kind deeds."
"Don't expect your spouse to be a clone of you, liking everything you like or doing everything you do."
"Reminisce about good times you've had and fond memories you've made together."
Extra Reading Material
In case I've left you wanting more information, here are a few other resources I've found useful.
One of my favorite books for couples is The 5 Love Languages by a counselor named Gary Chapman. It's interesting to understand how and why your partner expresses love. You can take the quiz and find out your love language and that of your partner's here.
Gary Chapman also has a book about the Languages of Apology, which was an eye opener for me in understanding why my partner apologizes the way he does.
Actually Gary Chapman has a whole series of books worth checking out, for singles, couples, children, teens and parents!
Recently I read this article: How to Deal with Your Spouse's annoying traits. Definitely worth a read!! https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/family/annoying-trait/
As I mentioned earlier, since God is the designer of marriage, doesn't it make sense to go to him to understand how it should work or how to fix it when it's broken?
Blissfully Married Couples
Please share your secrets, tips, whatever in the comments below or on Train of Truth's Facebook Page!
Thank you for reading all the way to the end!!!