Let me start this out by saying I am no expert in marriage. Trust me. 4 years does not make anyone an expert. But you don't have to be married 20+ years to have learned a few lessons here and there. Truth be told, you should be learning something new every day!
As David and I celebrated 4 years of marriage (and by celebrated, I mean really we are unpacking our household goods), I wanted to share the top 4 lessons I learned in the last 4 years.
1. Replace Compromise with a Servants Heart
You can read more about this in "Why You Should Never Compromise In Marriage." The most offered advice David and I received when we were engaged was to compromise. The problem with compromise was it left me feeling bitter and resentful. I felt like our marriage was lopsided, with me “compromising” way more often than David. In the past year, I came to realize marriage was more than compromise. I started reading a book called Sacred Marriage, and I learned that marriage was more than just making me happy. Marriage is an others-focused union in which we are often called to show God's love, and grace to another sinful human, and boy is that hard. See instead of focusing on compromising and holding on to our wants, wearing a servant’s heart allows us to focus on the needs of others without condition. Isn’t that what God requires of us? We should be wearing a servants heart and serve our spouses without expecting anything in return.
But what does this look like practically? Each marriage is different, but in my marriage, this shows in the motive behind how I serve my spouse. For the first couple of years, I would "serve" David and then keep tabs. A specific example would be making the bed. I couldn't care less about making the bed each morning, but this one habit is hugely important for David. When I was the last one up, I would begrudgingly make the bed and put the little action in a piggy bank I could cash in later to get what I want. That clearly went over well. Now, I make the bed each morning (okay most mornings) because I love David more than I love my lazy, selfish desires.
2. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but also, "out of sight, out of mind"
Most military spouses can probably agree with this one. For the first year of marriage, David and I lived apart. We were able to visit each other for about a weekend every 2-3 months, and those visits were extremely special. We had limited time together, and so we didn't waste it on arguing or things that didn't matter. I learned to appreciate my time with my spouse, and when we weren't together, I yearned to be closer to him. This wasn't always the case though. As you proceed in marriage, being married becomes habitual. Meaning you can just go living life without intention or purpose. During TDY's or deployments, it was so easy to be "out of sight, out of mind." This is where many marriages fail in the military. Things like "what happens on TDY, stays on TDY" is a very real thing in some circles.
Communicating can become a chore at times. The deployed member is so focused on the mission and the new setting around them, they may find themselves struggling to make communicating a priority. In military marriages, communicating takes sacrifice for both parties involved.
As for the spouse at home, life just gets busier. Contrary to what others may believe, you don’t stop living life because your other half is away. The hard part is when schedules conflict, making communicating with each other an extreme inconvenience. When you’re taking care of a child all day, and finally have two seconds to sit and breath, suddenly your spouse calls and as much as you love and miss them, part of you needed a silent moment to yourself. Again, communication can become a chore and requires sacrifice.
3. Pick your battles, learn how to fight.
No matter how in love you are, there will be battles. What matters is 1) how you fight your battlesand 2) how you pick your battles. You will argue in your marriage, there is absolutely no escaping it. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean your fights have to be all out screaming matches that leaves someone storming out the house.
When you find yourself in the center of an argument, you need to ask yourself “Is this truly worth an argument?” For me, if it isn't compromising my beliefs or values, nor does it harm anyone, then it usually isn't worth it. Instead of fighting those battles, I express my feelings about the situation and then move on. Legit move on---don’t make a list in your head about this argument to bring up at a later time! When I feel strongly about a topic, then I fully pursue the discussion, but always within boundaries. We do not curse at each other, nor do we raise our voices at each other. When someone crosses that line, as happens on occasion, they apologize. Boundaries and ground rules look different for each marriage, but they are essential in making sure no one inflicts more damage than intended. This is a hard one for many couples! Usually, we want to pursue our emotions and can find ourselves being irrational and saying or doing things we later regret.
4. Love Languages Matter
I think I saved my favorite for last. Love Languages genuinely do matter. In the book Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman discusses the 5 different love languages in which people receive and give love. Often times, couples don’t share the same love language which leaves someone feeling unintentionally unloved. This was/is very much the case in my marriage. My number 1 love language is Words of Affirmation, and my husband is a man of few words. I didn't understand why he would rarely give me compliments that I so desperately wanted. For David, his love language was "Acts of Service" and "Physical Touch," and this was exactly how he showed his love. The issue was that "Acts of Service" was my last love language. I struggle to receive love in this fashion, and this was the way David wanted to give me his love.
We still struggle in this area, but the important thing is I am aware of the differences and can now be rational and know that just because he doesn't tell me I'm pretty doesn't mean he doesn't love me. Instead, he shows me his love when he washes the dishes and takes out the trash or kills the spiders and stink bugs and bugs galore that find their way into our home. In an ideal marriage, we would give love the way our spouse receives it. In reality, marriage is much more complicated than this. So all we can do is love our spouse the best way we can, and pray that God works on our spouses.
You can take the Five Love Languages Quiz here.
Products mentioned in this post
A Faithful Step is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.