Fourteen years ago everything changed for me when I accompanied a friend to a local church small group, and met Michelle for the first time. I would say it was love at first sight, not because I wished for that kind of thing, but because it truly felt like what I experienced.
Michelle and I enjoyed a year of close friendship, not wanting to rush things, and then several years of dating each other through Bible College…. and this month we celebrated 10 years of marriage! We are also just recently celebrating our first child over the past year as well.
I know people are all over the board in their experience of marriage. Marriage is under scrutiny in our culture, because so many people have felt it is not plausible or possible to stay-in-love.
Michelle and my experience has been different – marriage is incredible. Michelle is still the love of my life. 10 years later, and we would do it all over again a thousand times if we could.
Here are 10 of the best things we’ve learned from 10 years of marriage together:
1. Know them through all seasons before marrying
Even though I felt it was love at first sight, Michelle and I wanted to build our relationship off friendship first, not dating. Too many times people rush into their relationships, and even rush into marriage without really knowing the other person enough first. Passion is not enough to sustain a lasting relationship – friendship, compatibility and commitment are super important. As my wife’s grandma says, “know someone through all seasons first.” The Bible tells us to guard our heart above all things, for it affects our whole life.
2. Look for a spiritual match before marrying
The Bible tells us to not be unequally connected. Just because someone talks spiritual, doesn’t mean they are. We had friends who rushed into dating and marriage – they were passionate and talked really spiritual, but when it came down to it, there were not deep roots in the guy’s spiritual life, and their marriage eventually fell apart.
Anyone can talk spiritual, but do they walk with integrity, and have consistency? You want someone who is growing deep roots of faith and wisdom, who is a student of God’s Word, and who wants to give their whole life to God (and to you), not just a brief, passionate season of their life.
3. Happy wife, happy life
Men, be the man. More often women wants to invest in the marriage, and to see it flourish, but the men fail at investing in and changing to make the marriage better. I truly believe if men would take responsibility, the vast majority of all marriages would flourish.
Be a student of God’s Word
Strive for purity
Regularly pray for your family
Faithfully lead your family on the right path
Set the example, and encourage your family to be faithful participants of a local church
Be the first to apologize, forgive and admit you were wrong
Make your highest goal to be patient, kind, gentle and loving (fruit of the Spirit)
Treat your wife and kids like absolute treasures
4. Always help around the house
Both of you should look for ways you can help around the house. Michelle and I naturally acclimated towards certain household chores. I enjoy some chores, and she enjoys others. I’m not sure if every couple splits chores naturally, but I it is important to divide them up. It shouldn’t be one spouse’s responsibility, even if they are not the primary breadwinner – both of you should help.
The Bible tells husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the Church. How did Jesus love the Church? By serving and giving everything for her.
One of my greatest examples was watching my father-in-law who was a respected businessman and church leader clean up the dishes after meals. My mother-in-law cooked, and so he wanted to do his part to clean. This spoke volumes to me, and I’ve since discovered joy is found in serving, rather than always being served.
5. Whisper sweet nothings to each other every day
Too many times people are cordial and friendly with people they hardly know, and harsh with those closest to them. Marriage (or a college roommate) brings this out of us more than almost anything. Marriage and kids are a training ground to learn to be less selfish.
Look for ways to compliment, thank and praise each other everyday. This could be one of the greatest habits you could ever develop. Life is too short. When we regularly tell our spouse how much we love them, we will live a life of no regrets.
6. Always take time to talk
Marriage is a beautiful partnership of two broken people. Because we are broken, imperfect people, there will be challenges, fights, and tough times.
It’s so important to care enough to invest the time to talk through issues as they arrive. Women naturally do this better than men. Guys need to realize how important it is to spend time talking with their wife. Don’t act like it’s a burden to spend time communicating. This emotional connection is vital for a healthy and happy marriage.
Fight fair. When frustrations do arise, be careful with your words, and work to bring healthy resolution and peace to your home everyday.
7. Pursue your purpose together
Stand with each other and help each other towards careers, callings, dreams and goals. This makes for a beautiful, sweet partnership. Sacrifice for each other, guide each other in wisdom, and believe in each other’s dreams.
8. The grass is greener where you water it
“The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greener where you water it.” Pray for your marriage. Invest in your marriage. Wake up everyday excited to love that person next to you in ways they need. Never put another person or project before the most important person God has given you. Include your spouse on important financial decisions, life decisions, and in processing all of each other’s daily thoughts, concerns and experiences.
9. Honor each other’s families
The Bible tells us to honor our parents, so our lives won’t be cut short. This goes for parents-in-law too. It’s so important to respect and honor and enjoy each other’s families. Make spending time with them a priority. Speak well of them when they are not around. Pray for them. Love them. You do not just marry your spouse, you get a whole crew of family that comes with them – treat these people well.
10. When you love Jesus with all your heart, you can love your spouse with all your heart
God has given us everything in His Son Jesus dying on the cross for us. When we believe in, and surrender our lives to Jesus, it changes everything. Trusting our lives and our marriage to Jesus is the most important decision anyone can ever make.
When we build our lives and marriage on the gospel, there is a joy and peace that permeates our relationship. Love and serve Jesus together. Trust Jesus together, to do what you cannot do, and there will be an impenetrable strength in your marriage.
This article was originally published here and is used with permission
Dave Willis is one of the most popular relationship bloggers on the internet with more than one million monthly readers. He's also the author of several popular marriage and relationship books including the new release, "The 7 Laws of Love." Dave, his wife Ashley and their four young sons live near Augusta, GA where Dave serves as a pastor at Stevens Creek Church.