After 14 Years of Marriage

I recently celebrated 14 years of marriage.

When my husband tells people this information, he always adds, “to the same person” because, sadly, it’s a question that he’s had to answer far too often. Double digits seemed a long way off when we were in our early 20’s and spending $450 a month on rent.

While we are scheming about what to do (and where to go) for our anniversary for our 15th, this year there was no exotic getaway, and no luxurious gifts exchanged. We did what we’ve always done, choosing experiences over things, and time together over the one big show of affection. It’s worked so well for us, and we figure we best not ruin a great thing.

Below are some other things that have worked for us. Some have been painful lessons, others more light-hearted and graciously given from more seasoned couples. I hope that wherever you are in your relationship journey, there is something worth taking and holding on to. May this list offer hope and encouragement for those who find themselves discouraged. May you be challenged to try something new or different. May you be inspired that greater days are still to come.

Here are 14 pieces of wisdom after 14 years of marriage:

1. “Fine” is not an acceptable response. To any question, at any time. Don’t settle for mediocre connection or communication. Dig deeper.

2. Take note of the following perfectly adequate dinner options: leftovers. Takeout. Cereal (or any breakfast food). PB & J. A beautifully crafted (or quickly thrown together) cheese board.

3. Silence can either be a weapon, or an offering of grace. Choose it for the later.

4. Pray together. At the beginning of the day. Before you fall asleep. As you sit down for meals. When you’re driving. The where and when and for how long, are much less important than the regularity of making Jesus a part of the equation.

5. Find new hobbies to explore together. Don’t be the couple that spends nights and weekends doing your own thing. Seek out new adventure. Choose to learn, to get uncomfortable, to try new things together. Dip your toes in, or cannon ball your guts out—together.

6. Sex gets better after kids. It may take a little while to figure out navigating the mommy-brain/body as well as creating time and space for sex to become a priority again. But it’s worth it.

7. Ask yourself “what’s really bothering me?” because it’s seldom the socks on the floor, or the in-laws being in town. The fight is rarely about the argument you’re having.

8. Dream together. About your family. Your kids, finances, and future, but also for one another’s individual goals. Ask them questions. Be their cheerleader. Make those things a priority.

9. You can’t be their only friend. You cannot be their only sounding board, the sole person that they vent to and share with. At some point, you’ll need them to connect with other people. Encourage it and make room for it to happen.

10. A joy-filled and content life comes from being grateful for what you have and being generous. If you can’t be happy eating pizza on the floor of your crappy first apartment, then chances are you’ll struggle with contentedness later in life when you find yourself surrounded by all the “more” you dreamed of achieving.

11. The truth will eventually be known. Come clean early; don’t try to hide your sin. The hurt will sting, but typically less than the knowledge of it being concealed.

12. Remember what it feels like extend grace. The conversations filled with shame, guilt, and repentance is something that you’ll circle back to, and you’ll want to recall what it felt like to offer forgiveness because you will want it in return.

13. Hug and kiss more. Sure, it may lead to sex. But if it doesn’t that’s okay too. Leaning in, instead of away—lingering in the embrace is about offering both time and affection. It’s saying, “I’m choosing this moment, and I’m choosing you.”

14. Laugh often. Create silly traditions. Watch things that make your sides hurt. Send funny texts that make them smile. Have all the inside jokes and pet names. Reminisce together. Make it a point to see your spouse laugh every day.