Hey, welcome back! Here’s 20 Lessons Learned After 20 Years of Marriage (Part 3). I’m picking up the pace with this one and covering #8 through #14. Keep in mind, these are not in order of importance. I’m simply writing them down as they come to mind.
8. Genuine apologies are gold. There’s been many occasions when we were stuck in a rut…arguing about something and getting nowhere, when one of us decided to push past our own emotions and say,
“I’m sorry for my part in this mess we’ve created”, or “I can understand why you would feel that way”, or “I’m sorry for what I did (or said)…I won’t do it again.” We’ve learned that a genuine apology is characterized by humility and an effort to understand how the other person feels; and it has the power to tear down the walls between us. I’ve failed at this more times than I’ve succeeded, but after 20 years I’m finally starting to get a clue.
9. Forgiveness is constant. The flip side of learning how to apologize is learning how to forgive. I don’t know the exact number of times we’ve forgiven each other for stuff, but I’m certain it’s a big number. And it certainly goes better when #8 is a part of the equation. Regardless, we’ve learned that forgiveness isn’t occasional, but a consistent and constant part of our relationship; and it’s simply a decision to let something go.
10. Financial teamwork is awesome. This is one of the nicest surprises thus far in our marriage. When we were first married we never thought about our money; about ten years into marriage we made a few mistakes; and now we’ve come to learn the power of teamwork in this area . We’ve gone from arguing all the time about money to actually enjoying talking about it. Getting on the same page financially, living on a budget, and making decisions as a team (not just one of us doing all the work), is worth every effort and sacrifice.
11. Laughter is an indicator. We love to laugh together. We’ve enjoyed countless moments of spontaneous laughter over the years – mainly silly things. In fact, we’ve learned its essential to our relationship because it serves as an indicator. The absence of laughter is an indicator that we have too much going on, we’re under too much pressure, and we’re taking our lives WAY too seriously. In other words, its time to have more fun together.
12. Words are powerful beyond words. It’s been said the #1 predictor of divorce is an atmosphere of criticism. That alone should stop us in our tracks. Criticism indeed kills. However, #12 isn’t just about removing negative words; its about adding affirming words. We’ve learned the importance of seeing each others strengths, gifts, talents, and character…and verbally expressing them to each other. In other words, using our words to build each other up and remind each other of who we are and how God has blessed us, gifted us, and wired us. We’ve learned to be each others greatest cheerleader in private and in public.
13. Loving the in-laws. Even the very word, “in-laws” conjures up something negative, right? It doesn’t have to be that way. Another pleasant surprise is how we love each others parents. Have there been times when they tested my patience? Of course. But I bet I’ve tested theirs much more, even though they’ve never said anything to me about it (which, ironically, makes me love them even more). When I married Debbie I got an additional set of parents. How cool is that? I could say a lot about #13, but for now I’ll close by saying that I love the way Debbie loves my parents, and she loves the way I love hers. Perhaps its one of the ways we love each other.
14. Praying together. We’ve learned that praying together as a couple is an act of teamwork that draws us closer to God and to each other. It’s also an act of intimacy because we learn a little more about each other as we listen to each other pray. And it’s also an act of warfare because there are many forces that oppose marriages these days, and praying for our own marriage has been essential over the past 20 years.
What about you? How long have you been married, and what is a lesson you’ve learned that immediately comes to mind? Feel free to leave a comment below.
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