On our 15th wedding anniversary, I’m excited to share with you the 15 things I’ve learned in 15 years of marriage!
Today, my husband and I have been married for exactly 5,478 days.
We were married on August 14, 2004. It’s so hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since that day!
I remember my bridesmaids and I getting ready for the big day. My sister-in-law saved me from a panic attack when I went to put my wedding dress on and found a giant crease in the train. She calmly and skillfully pressed my satin gown with an iron as my anxiety started to melt away.
I remember my mother walking in as I was getting ready – she looked so stunning in her plum-colored dress that tears welled up in my eyes.
I remember my flowers being delivered from the florist and being shocked that they were NOT the flowers I had ordered. As panic started to rise up within me again, my sister reassured me that even though the flowers were not what I was expecting, they were still beautiful. She reminded me that at the end of the day, I would be married to the love of my life, no matter what the floral arrangements looked like.
I remember gathering into our pastor’s office. Me, my bridesmaids, my flower girl, my pastor’s wife. David and I didn’t want to see each other before the ceremony, so my photographer had me stand on one side of the office door while David stood on the other side. He had us reach around the door and clasp hands, then snapped a picture.
I remember holding my love’s hand, not being able to see him, my cheek pressed against the wooden door between us, my heart pounding out of my chest in anticipation.
I choked back tears as I smiled for the camera while telling David through the door how much I loved him and how excited I was to become his wife.
I looked at the other people in the room while our photographer snapped away, and there was not a dry eye in sight.
This was one of my most cherished moments of that day and I will never forget it.
In just a short 20 minutes or so, the ceremony would begin. I would walk down the aisle, and before God, our families, our church family, and our friends…we would become husband and wife.
I stood at the altar with David, and when our pastor had us turn to each other to join our hands together and recite our vows, it was as if time suddenly stood still.
I gazed into David’s dark brown eyes as I promised my life to him. My words were barely a whisper as I tried hard to profess my love without spilling into a puddle of happy tears.
Us Then…And Now
I was only 22 years old on our wedding day, and David was 26.
Fifteen years later, I still get butterflies in my stomach when my 41-year-old Italian husband looks at me with those chocolate brown eyes that could pierce your soul.
Sure, his wavy black hair has a little (okay, a lot) more silver and white strands and the corners of his eyes now have lines that didn’t use to be there.
But he’s all the more gorgeous to me because of that.
You see, those lines on the outsides of his eyes came from 15 years of laughter. And those gray hairs? Well, my husband will tell you that came from living with me. 😉
But in all sincerity, I have to say that on the day I married David, I loved him with all of my heart, with every fiber of my being…him being second only to our God.
I don’t even know how it’s possible, but I love him even more.
The Last 15 Years of Marriage
These 15 years have been filled with joy and sorrow, triumph and failure, full hearts and heartache.
We’ve traveled together, grew in our careers together, started a family together, built a home together, and weathered all the storms that life threw at us…together.
We’ve been through an early miscarriage, a stillbirth, and the joyous births of our four living children that the Lord has somehow entrusted into our care.
We’ve had seasons where we’ve been completely in sync with one another, and seasons where we had to put a lot of effort into our relationship.
It’s not a perfect marriage, but it’s one that we have grown in and learned a whole lot from.
We’ve learned a lot about who we are as a couple and who we are individually.
We’ve learned the things it takes to stay committed to one another and how to be supportive of each other.
We’ve learned how to bind together when trials come our way while trusting in the Lord’s plan for us.
We know so much more now about our love and what it really meant on that day fifteen years ago when we said, “I do.”
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15 Things I’ve Learned in 15 Years of Marriage
1. Love Isn’t Enough
At the beginning of your marriage, you are quite literally in the honeymoon phase. Everything is exciting and new, you can’t stand being apart from each other, you may still even get flutters in your stomach just thinking about your new spouse, and loving him or her is just so easy.
As newlyweds, life seems blissful and perfect.
It’s easy to love someone at the beginning of a marriage because, usually, you haven’t had to go through any difficult trials together yet. Your relationship hasn’t had the opportunity to hit a rough patch and make it to the other side. You’re just starting out, everything is new, you’re giddy and in love.
As wonderful as the newness of marriage is, I will have to say that THIS is not where the magic lies. A newly married couple hasn’t even gotten to the good stuff yet. The stuff that makes you realize you and your spouse are in it for the long haul, no matter what life throws at you.
What kind of stuff am I talking about?
I’m talking about when you’re sick with the flu and gross things are happening to you in the bathroom, you’re completely mortified, yet your spouse is there to take care of you.
I’m talking about when you or your spouse gets laid off, you’re not sure how you’re going to make ends meet, but you work through it together.
I’m talking about when you get the news that a friend or relative has passed away, and your spouse is there to hold you and support you.
Losing a job.
Losing a loved one.
The list goes on and on. There are so many trials that couples will have to face in their marriages, and sadly, it is way too common today for one or both parties to just call it quits. To take the “easy” road out and decide that they want to just end the relationship because “it’s not working.”
Whatever happened to the days where if something was broken, we would work on fixing it?
Too often, in today’s culture of immediate gratification, if something is not working or seems to be broken, we are so quick to just toss it and start with “something new.”
That new thing will get old, too, my friend. Nothing stays new forever.
The point I’m trying to make is that fifteen years ago, on our wedding day, my husband and I made vows to each other. We vowed to love and support each other, in sickness AND in health, for richer OR for poorer. Until death do us part.
We never said we’d love each other until the medical bills started piling in and we were too stressed to handle it.
We never said we’d love our spouse only as long as he or she was always happy and never struggled with any kind of depression or anxiety.
We never said we’d stick around only if things weren’t too tough or too serious.
We promised to be in this thing together until we took our last breath.
And you know what?
It’s not always easy to love your spouse once the honeymoon period starts to dwindle a little bit.
People are imperfect beings. We’re going to get cranky sometimes, stubborn sometimes, hard to live with and hard to love.
Love your spouse anyway.
You made a choice on your wedding day to marry this person, so sometimes, you have to make the hard choice to love your stressed-out, grouchy spouse when they’re going through a difficult time.
Sometimes you have to make the hard decision to just love on them when they’re having a bad day and they aren’t being so loveable. Or maybe it’s more than a day, maybe it’s a season.
You need more than just the puppy love from the beginning of your relationship to make it in marriage. You need to sometimes dig deep and make the CHOICE to be all in, loving, and supportive on those days or seasons when your spouse is going through something difficult and loving them may be hard.
2. There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Argue
With all that said above about loving your spouse through the difficult times, that’s not to say that there won’t be times when you and your spouse argue.
Arguments in a marriage are a fact of life. They happen because, again, we are imperfect humans and sometimes our feelings run away from us.
A perfectly calm conversation can easily start to get heated, and before you know it, you’re yelling at each other. Maybe even getting in some verbal jabs and name-calling.
I urge you not to go there. Don’t let it get to that point.
What you say in the heat of an argument can sting for hours, days, or even YEARS later.
The Bible talks about the tongue being unruly. So, naturally, it’s difficult to bite your tongue, so to speak, and not say the thing that you’re itching to say in the heat of the moment.
But I promise you that spewing that awful thing you want to say will NOT give you a leg-up or a victory over the argument. It will not only deeply hurt your spouse, but it will hurt you, too.
How do I know this?
Because. I’ve been married 15 years, friends. And we’ve been there.
My husband and I have both said things during a heated argument that we have immediately regretted and wished we could have taken back.
But that’s the thing with spoken (or shouted, as it may be) hurtful words. You can’t ever take them back. Once they’re out of your mouth, they’ve already pierced the heart of the person you’re saying them to. And that wound is difficult to heal.
My husband and I have argued like that a few times in our marriage, but we’ve made a very conscious effort to not let that kind of arguing to continue.
Through prayer, better communication, and a bit of God-given wisdom over the years, we are much better with our arguments.
Oh yes, we do still argue. But it’s now more of an effective discussion, with opportunities for each of us to voice our opinions on whatever it is we are discussing.
Yes, it does still sometimes get a little heated or even loud (I mean, I *am* married to a hot-headed Italian 😉). But, by the grace of God and our desire to continue to love and respect the other no matter what, we don’t ever let it get ugly.
Keep your arguing fair, kind, and cordial and I promise it will make a world of difference.
Oh, and one additional thing I’ve learned about arguing with your spouse – a heartfelt apology when you are wrong is hands-down THE most effective tool for diffusing a heated argument and getting you and your spouse back on track.
It seems simple, but offering a sincere apology in the middle of an argument is a surprisingly difficult thing to do.
3. You and Your Spouse May Express Love Differently…and That’s Okay
At the beginning of our marriage, as a young and naïve new bride, I wanted to shower my husband with love, affection, gifts, etc. to show him how much he meant to me.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but when it wasn’t reciprocated in the same way, I’d feel a little disappointed.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like my husband never came home with a surprise bouquet of flowers to give me “just because,” for example. He’s certainly done that before, but rarely.
My husband’s version of showing me his love is by acts of service – things like going to work to provide for the family, taking the garbage out so I wouldn’t have to lift the heavy garbage bag (especially when I was pregnant), helping me with the dishes after dinner, etc.
My husband and I are wired a little bit differently in that way.
In my husband’s mind, he loves me the best way he knows how by providing for me and our family as best as he can. I love on him by showering him with attention. We’ve actually learned recently that we each have a different love language, and we both want to be loved in different ways.
When I first realized how my husband likes to show his love, I figured I could choose to be happy with the way my husband is wired…or I could choose to be discontent with it.
If I had decided to be disgruntled because he didn’t show me his love in the same manner that I did, then that’s on me. I’m then choosing to be miserable instead of choosing to be happy with the sacrifices he makes every day for our family.
I now recognize when my husband is showing his love for me by doing some extra act of service that will make my life easier. And he’s learning more about my love language and how I like to be loved. Likewise, I’m trying harder to love him better in the ways that speak to him more, too.
4. You Cannot Change Your Spouse
I chose David as my husband for a whole bunch of reasons.
I fell in love with him exactly the way he was and loved everything about him – faults, quirks, and all.
But as the newness of our marriage began to fade, I started finding that those faults and quirks weren’t so endearing. Some of them were downright annoying, if I’m being honest.
And guess what?
He got annoyed by my own faults and quirks as well.
I know that early on in marriage everything about your spouse seems so perfect and you’re able to easily gloss over those little annoying undesirable traits. It’s like we have blinders on, just seeing what we want to see.
And if we do notice those things we don’t like so much?
Well, we figure that they won’t matter or maybe we even think those things will change.
But I have learned (and my husband has also learned) that you cannot change your spouse.
What you see is what you get, and you better embrace EVERYTHING about your spouse – the good AND the bad.
That’s not to say that you may not influence your spouse one way or another. David and I have learned a lot from one another and certain habits and such have kind of rubbed off on each other.
We certainly have an influence on our spouses, but we can never change them. If they do change, that’s only because they themselves wanted to change (like for example, if they were a couch potato and decided for themselves that they wanted to start getting in shape).
After 15 years of marriage, I have to say that David’s little quirks and faults are what make him unique and real. I’ve learned to embrace them, even laugh with him about them…and he does the same about my imperfections and faults, too.
5. Your Spouse Cannot Read Your Mind (or Your Body Language)
As embarrassing as it is to admit, there have been times in our marriage where I was upset about something and would audibly huff, stomp around, and expect my husband to automatically know why I was upset.
He’d ask me if something was wrong, and I’d reply with:
I would be visibly annoyed that he didn’t just know what was wrong.
I mean, he’s my husband. He should know, right?
Looking back, I realize how childish this silly game was. Opening up and talking to him about why I was upset always led to a much better resolution of the problem.
I realized that an honest heart-to-heart talk was way more effective than throwing a silent (or not-so-silent) adult tantrum.
I don’t ever expect my husband to read my mind and know how I’m feeling anymore. That’s a really unfair expectation of him and it’s much easier to just sit down and tell him how I’m feeling and why.
6. Life is Short
We’ve all heard this saying before: Life is short.
But I think we can get so caught up in our day-to-day lives that sometimes we don’t really grasp just how short life is.
My husband and I have lost many, many loved ones over the years…to all different things, and people of all different ages. A lot of them unexpectedly.
You never, ever know if your spouse walking out the door in the morning is the last time you’re going to see him or her. As morbid as that sounds, it’s true.
Life is precious and is too often taken for granted.
We’ve learned to never leave each other in the middle of an argument or after saying something we’d regret later. Even worse, could you imagine saying something awful to your spouse and then never seeing them again?
It’s just not worth it to hold a grudge.
We’ve learned to set aside our differences and reconcile before walking out the door for work or an errand.
Additionally, we’ve learned to appreciate each other more in the day-to-day.
We make it a point to hug and kiss often, and to tell each other regularly just how much he or she means to us.
7. Hard Times Can Make or Break Your Marriage…But it’s YOUR Choice
Hard times will come, that’s for certain. The Bible says that it rains on both the just and the unjust.
When those times come, are you going to let those circumstances push a wedge between you, or allow the trial to draw you closer together?
If you lean onto the Lord – together – you can weather anything.
We found this out the hard way when we lost our son at 37 weeks a few years ago.
Our world came crashing down when the worst possible news we ever could have gotten was delivered to us in the hospital.
How does a couple cope with such a crushing tragedy?
Well, sadly, studies show that couples who have experienced a stillbirth together have a 40% higher risk of separating than those who have not had a stillborn baby.
That’s heartbreaking to hear, but I also know firsthand the kind of struggles a couple goes through when they lose their child.
The grief process was difficult and complicated for us.
Our grief was rarely in sync – it would tend to go in cycles, often opposite of each other. Sometimes, that was comforting as the “stronger” one would be there to support the other. But other times, the one suffering in that wave of grief would pull the other one into that same suffocating wave (and then feel guilty about that).
But here’s the thing.
We had been married for almost 9 years when we lost our son. We had 3 other children at the time – our two sons, and our infant daughter (our stillborn son’s twin).
We were still a family. We still loved each and every one of us in that sweet family. Despite our gut-wrenching loss, we were still very blessed. And we weren’t about to squander those blessings.
My husband and I clung to each other in our grief. We didn’t allow it to push a wedge between us. We didn’t allow it to create resentment, distance, or strife in our marriage.
We were BOTH going through the SAME loss.
And while we may have grieved a bit differently from each other, we still loved and needed each other. We knew exactly what the other was feeling because the hard truth is, nobody understands the immense pain and suffering of losing a child like someone else who has lost a child. We BOTH lost that child, and were experiencing that grief together.
And the most important part – God.
We prayed about our grief. We prayed for ourselves, for each other, for our children who lost their brother, for our extended family who was also grieving this loss.
And we prayed for our marriage.
The enemy will take any opportunity he can to drive a wedge between a husband and his wife. We weren’t about to let that happen, so we prayed and asked God for protection over our marriage during this extremely difficult time.
8. Laughter Helps Keep a Marriage Alive
On a much lighter note, I have to say from experience that laughter will definitely keep your marriage alive.
My husband is one of the geekiest, corniest men I have ever met.
And lucky for him, I have the same corny sense of humor.
There are times when I legitimately thank the Lord that my husband and I can both find humor in the dorkiest things. Because that silly humor has truly bonded us not only as husband and wife but also as friends.
I consider my husband my best friend. And there’s nothing I love more than sitting on the couch with him and laughing until we’re crying over the silliest of things.
We just get each other and are blessed to have the same sense of humor.
We literally laugh and are silly and tease each other on a daily basis (just ask my kids, who are still young but old enough to give us an eye roll at our not-so-amusing-to-them antics).
One of my favorite things is to find a ridiculously funny meme on the internet, grinning from ear to ear as I show it to my husband, and watch his nose crinkle up as he throws his head back and belly laughs.
I live for those moments. 😊
9. Making Time for Each Other is Extremely Important…Especially if You Have Kids
Do you still date your spouse? Like, have regular date nights?
If you don’t, you should.
The responsibilities of life can sometimes make it feel like Groundhog Day.
Day in and day out, the same thing, over and over. Get up, get dressed, kiss hubby goodbye, work online until the kids get up, nurse the baby, make breakfast, start a load of laundry, begin homeschooling…and so on until the evening…where you go to bed just to start the same old routine over again the next day.
Before you know it, you’re burnt out and feel distant from your spouse because you haven’t spent any real quality time together.
I know this because we’ve been there.
Someone once told me that our marriage began as just the two of us and no kids, and once our children grow up and leave the nest, it will be just the two of us again.
That struck a chord with me.
Will we wake up one day and not even know who we are as a couple anymore? Will our last child leave the house and will we become empty nesters but not have a single thing to say to each other?
That thought terrified me.
I talked it over with my husband and told him that I felt it was incredibly important for us to nurture our relationship while we are still in the parenting trenches.
I told him we needed to date again. And he agreed.
So now we make it a priority to give ourselves some regular kid-free date nights.
Sometimes, it’s dinner out but other times it’s just enjoying coffee on the deck together while we chat and watch the sunset.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but it does have to be intentional, regular, and marked in our calendar as an important appointment.
Because our marriage IS important. And totally worth nurturing.
10. You Don’t Have to Do Everything Together
As important as it is to get regular quality time together as a couple, that doesn’t mean that you have to do every single thing together.
This concept was actually hard for me in our early years of marriage.
I’ve learned recently that my love language is actually a tie between quality time and physical touch. I am very touchy-feely, love to hug and kiss, and enjoy cuddling. I also relish having uninterrupted quality time with my hubby.
There’s nothing wrong with either of those things.
But when we were first married, I wanted us to do EVERYTHING together. I wanted to spend every waking moment together.
Six months into our marriage, my husband took a new job that had him frequently traveling across the country. He was often gone for a week straight, would come home for 3 days, and be off to the next destination.
It crushed me.
We were still young newlyweds, still in the honeymoon stage, and now my husband was gone more often than he was home.
I remember kissing him goodbye at the front door of our home, wiping away tears.
I missed him so much when he was gone.
Then one day, I realized that I could choose to be sad about something I couldn’t control, or I could get over it and find something to fill my time with.
I went out more, went over to friends’ houses more, and even took up some new hobbies.
As silly as it sounds, I realized how much I was depending on my husband’s companionship while missing out on other parts of life. Granted, we were still only 6 months into our marriage and still very infatuated with each other. But it was time to come up for air and branch out a bit.
When my husband’s traveling slowed down a bit, we were thrilled to be able to spend more time together. But we both had interests and hobbies that we enjoyed independent of each other, too.
11. Always Speak Positively to Others About Your Spouse
No matter how annoyed or upset you may be with your spouse, never air your dirty laundry and speak negatively about your spouse to others.
I once sat uncomfortably at a baby shower where a woman went on and on about her “stupid” husband, laughing and joking about what a fool he was.
It was extremely awkward, and my heart sank for her poor husband who had no idea that his wife was slandering him in front of a group of other women.
It’s never a good idea to speak unkind words about your spouse to others. Or to gossip about him or her. Keep private conversations, embarrassing details, and intimate moments between just the two of you. Make it so that your spouse knows he or she can always trust you with the private details of your marriage.
Besides, how awesome would your spouse feel if he or she overheard you singing their praises? Not only is it important to speak kindly to your spouse, but it’s important to speak kindly about them to others as well.
12. No Marriage is Exempt from the Attacks of the Devil
On each person’s wedding day, we all like to believe that our love will stand the test of time and that nothing could ever separate us.
But the sad truth is that 40-50% of U.S. marriages today end up in divorce.
What a heartbreaking statistic.
Everyone would like to think, “Well, that would never happen to us.”
But the thing is, it could certainly happen. To anyone.
I know of several seemingly rock-solid couples who are no longer together today for one reason or another. And not necessarily by any fault of their own, but because the enemy seeks to destroy.
My heart breaks for marriages that don’t make it, and I am not naïve enough to believe that my husband and I couldn’t ever fall victim to the demise of our marriage. I am well aware that Christian marriages are under attack and that the devil is working overtime to subtly sneak into each marriage until he’s successfully destroyed them.
Praying God’s protection over your marriage isn’t just a nice thing to do – it is an absolutely necessity.
You and your spouse can’t just coast on your love for one another and hope for the best. You need to get on your knees daily and plead the blood of Jesus over your marriage.
13. Intimacy is Super Important
When I say intimacy, I mean both physical AND emotional intimacy.
There’s something to be said for sacred pillow talk. For those times when you crawl into bed, bone-tired, yet somehow you find the energy to spark a conversation with your spouse.
You start with a question, maybe: “Did you remember to set the alarm?”
And before you know it, you’re chatting about your hopes and dreams, your insecurities, burdens, failures, and desires.
That’s the emotional intimacy I’m talking about.
Those times when you have those deep, heart-to-heart conversations with your spouse, where you can bear your soul to them, reveal your delicate feelings and vulnerabilities, and know that they will handle it all with care and grace.
Those moments of emotional intimacy are so important in a marriage because they help bring you closer together as a husband and wife.
It’s the deep friendship part of a marriage that is so vital to have.
And of course, there is also physical intimacy, which is incredibly important for a thriving marriage as well.
God intended for that sort of intimacy to be shared between a husband and wife as another way to connect with and enjoy one another.
Both of these types of intimacy can be so edifying to your marriage and can help strengthen the bond between you.
14. Don’t Rely on Your Spouse to Make You Happy
Your happiness does not come from your spouse, but your spouse can certainly be a contributor to your happiness.
Let me explain.
Your worth and happiness should never be dependent on another flawed human being.
Your spouse is not perfect, and he or she will fail you at some point or another. If you expect them to be the “best” husband or the “best” wife, or to do a certain thing or act a certain way to make you happy, then they will crumble under the pressure of your expectations.
It’s not your spouse’s responsibility to make you happy and it’s unfair of you to require that of them.
No one human being has the ability to create true joy and fulfillment in another. Only God can fully complete us.
Look to Jesus for your happiness, and the joy of the Lord will spill over into your marriage.
You’ll be a better husband or wife.
You’ll serve your spouse better.
You’ll contribute to his or her happiness.
And, if they are seeking their joy and happiness through God and His word, then they’ll be able to contribute to your happiness as well.
15. Keep God the Center of Your Marriage…and Your Lives
This is probably the most important point here.
God is first, always.
Before your spouse, before your kids, before anything and everything else.
God is the center of our home and my husband and I strive to keep Him the center of our marriage as well.
We can’t control what trials might come our way, but keeping our eyes on Jesus as we grasp each other’s hands and forge on through life –together – is the only way to ensure a happy and successful marriage.
Thankful for These Last 15 Years
I have learned quite a bit in these last 15 years of marriage.
I’ve definitely gotten older and a bit wiser. But that doesn’t make me an expert at marriage.
I don’t have this marriage thing all figured out, but I’m praying that I have another 15+ years to continue working on it with my love.
This post is dedicated to David: Tu sei l’amore della mia vita
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