Daniel James Hendrickson and I have officially been married 7 years this weekend.
I think it feels like an accomplishment because of the “7-Year Itch” people always talk about – that stereotypical rough season in a marriage when things can start to fall apart if you aren’t careful. Don’t get me wrong, marriage is hard no matter how long you’ve been married. But I think the 7-year mark was stigmatized for good reason. The honeymoon season is over, and you’ve probably entered parenthood and learned how challenging it is. In the busyness of life, you might feel like your relationship is on autopilot. You may start to feel distant from each other and wonder if this is all you have to look forward to for the rest of your life.
For anyone wondering: it doesn’t have to be that way.
In some ways, I kind of feel like we’ve beat the odds. There are so many things stacked against marriage in the world today, especially biblical marriage, and I’ve watched A LOT of marriages end in my lifetime. In my honest human moments, I’m proud of us for sticking together through the good times, the really good times, the boring times, and the really really really NOT good times. But at the end of the day, I have no right to be proud, because we couldn’t have done it in our own strength. Without God writing our story and guiding our steps, one or both of us probably would have called it quits a long time ago.
I am really thankful that Daniel and I have a healthy friendship after almost 10 years together and 7 years of marriage, but the two of us – the selfish, broken pieces of the puzzle – could not have manufactured enough of our own warm bubbly love feelings to survive the valleys we have dragged each other through, things that tear many couples apart. We aren’t still together because we’re amazing at relationships (although…I mean…come on, we’re pretty great). God has been very good to us. Not to say that bad things haven’t happened, but in the hard seasons, He has humbled us, refreshed us, and sustained us, and we are so much better for it. ♥
7 things I’ve learned in 7 years of married life:
Marriage was designed to last for a lifetime, and a lifetime is (Lord-willing) a really long time. Make sure you pick someone who makes you laugh!
Keeping score (even if it’s only mentally) is a terrible idea, because nothing in marriage is equal at all times. One person is almost always giving more. That’s just how it is. Chores probably won’t be divided up 50/50. Neither will child-rearing, or cooking, or money-making. And you know what? That’s okay. Marriages aren’t supposed to be each person giving 50%. The best marriages come from couples who both give 100/100. And yeah, your spouse may be giving 45% on one particular day, but you still need to give 100%, because that’s what you promised you would do on your wedding day. I’m willing to bet that you didn’t say, “I promise to keep my vows as long as you keep yours.” You can’t control what your spouse is doing, but you can control what you do.
Conflict does not mean something is permanently wrong with your relationship. Conflict is just a natural byproduct of two sinful people blending their lives together. Remember that you are teammates: you’re both on the same team! It’s “the couple vs. the problem,” not “the husband vs. the wife.”
Some things are worth getting upset about (harsh words during an argument). Some aren’t (eating the last brownie). Learn what’s worth having a discussion about, pray for a soft heart and willingness to admit when you’re wrong, and let the rest go.
You aren’t just marrying one person. You’re marrying dozens of people. You might think you’re only marrying the person who’s standing across from you on the stage on your wedding day, but you’re also marrying the person he is with his family members, the person he is at work, and the person he will be 15 years from now. It’s about much more than loving who is in front of you right this minute. “That’s the unspoken miracle of marriage: you vow to keep loving someone who keeps growing into a mysterious stranger” (Ann Voskamp). Your vows are not just a promise of current love, but a promise of enduring love.
If your goal in marriage is to make yourself happy, you will literally never be happy. Sorry to disappoint you, but when you sign that marriage license, you aren’t signing up for a lifetime of someone else meeting all of your needs and fulfilling of all of your desires while you run around doing whatever you want. Marriage is meant to be a lifetime of intentional, loving service from BOTH people. The point should never be to ‘get something out of it’. Dare to be the one who does more, the one who outserves, the one who outdoes the other in showing honor (Romans 12:10).
This last one is probably the hardest one. Sometimes, YOU are the one who needs to change. Movies and TV shows have given us unrealistic expectations for the things our spouse is ‘supposed’ to do and say and be, and you need to know that for every expectation you have for them, they will have one for you too. Just because you feel very strongly about something does not automatically mean that you are right. If your pattern in marriage is finger-pointing and never accepting responsibility for your own failures and mistakes, you have effectively put a cardboard box over a plant, starving it of any chance to grow. Pray for humility and maturity, and ask God for the strength to apologize to your spouse and ask for forgiveness. He WILL give you that strength. He’s in the business of reconciliation, after all!
Thanks for putting up with my sass for 7 years, Daniel. You’ll always be #1 in my heart! ♥
If you’re married, which of these lessons has been the hardest for you to learn?