GETTING married and deciding to BE married are two totally different decisions and are typically made years apart.
I wish that I could tell you that the 22 year old girl standing at the alter with her Prince Charming knew exactly what she was saying when she said her vows… But that would be far from the truth. I knew I loved him and he loved me, but we had never made tough decisions or truly cast a vision over our marriage and our lives. We thought we would live on love alone and that eventually our marriage would grow into perfection, naturally. ~Yeah, it was as crazy and irrational as that just sounded.
Flash forward 12 years: I’ve had a few people recently say that they admire my relationship with my husband. Those comments usually come from younger people who have the same illusion that I had: “True love is magical and easy.” I typically respond to their admiration of our love with a comment that implies it was REALLY hard work to get ‘here’.
While reflecting on the last 12 years I was able to recall THREE pivotal decisions that changed the course of our marriage. I wanted to share them with you!
1. Friends and Community – Our first 2 years of marriage were lonely. We had each other, but we only had each other- if you know what I mean. We looked at each other in a moment of honesty and said “we need friends”. Since we had a 6 month old and didn’t really know where else to go to meet people (that was wholesome) – we began going to a local church in our hometown and over a few months began making connections in a Sunday School class. The leaders of that class and some others from it loved on Ben and I when we were quite ‘un-lovable’. We participated in small groups with them, learned about Jesus, and really lived life together. Surrounding ourselves with people that were encouraging, positive, and loving changed our marriage. We were able to watch others navigate life and were able to shoulder one another’s burdens. That group of young adults seriously changed our life.
2. Communication – We all know that what we say is not nearly as important as HOW we say it. Communication is as much speech as it is body language or action. Communication is not just speaking – it’s listening too. It took a while, but Ben and I finally learned how to communicate with one another.
We had some friends go through an adultery situation. It was bad and quite honestly it ROCKED our world. It made us question everything about our relationship. I guess that it showed us just how vulnerable we were to having our relationship broken. We were living with so many stress fractures in our marriage at the time that we both knew it would only take one thing to fully shatter our marriage. We decided at that time that we would lay everything on the table. We were open about EVERYTHING – From what frustrates us about the other, to temptations we may have, to sex expectations, parenting, and personal needs. It was a brutal few months of honesty, but goodness, our marriage changed! Instead of fussing at him for not taking out the trash I would say “I feel comments”, so I would say, “When you don’t take out the trash I feel like you are taking me for granted.” We got to the core of the issues instead of fighting about the surface level non-sense. Enough rounds of that type of communication and having receptive hearts helped us learn how to serve, love, and respect one another.
3. Finances – Ben and I made really good money when we were first married… and we spent every last dime we had. We wrapped ourselves in debt, over committed financially and got to a point where we were paycheck to paycheck. Then we thought having a child, or two, or three would be a really idea too. Ben and I were so bound by our financial decisions that money began to wedge itself between us. Our pay checks weren’t enough, we resented each other for filling the cart at Walmart, and we felt bound to the house because we had no vacation fund.
When Ben and I were dating and engaged we would talk about all the things we were going to do when we got older – we dreamed together, we believed in impossible dreams. Yeah we were naïve then, but in those dark financial times I couldn’t see until the next paycheck, much less DREAM about a vision for the future – UNTIL – we did the Dave Ramsey Study.
This was one of the most defining moments in our marriage. We came to terms with our poor financial decisions and began to cast a vision over our future. Over the last 6 years since doing Dave Ramsey we eliminated $60,000 in debt (credit cards, vehicles, student loans, etc.) and have a retirement fund! We sacrificed, worked two jobs, I pimped a 1997 LeSabre for 2 years, we sold our possessions (including a custom built home), and began to manage our money. We were able to dream again. We went from allowing our paycheck to determine our future to directing our finances to serve the vision we cast for our family. Because of Dave Ramsey we are able to homeschool our children (my hubs stays home with them), we pay CASH for vacations, we don’t have credit cards, and we have a vision for our financial future that I never thought was possible.
I hope that reading a bit about the 3 defining decisions that built our marriage was helpful to you. We don’t have it all figured out, but we are so far from who we were in those first years of our marriage. So whether your marriage is almost in shambles like ours was, or whether you have it all figured out I hope that something I’ve said here encourages you to keep pushing through and to keep trying to improve your marriage. It is possible – whatever state your marriage is in.
Please click on the links within this blog post to start pouring into your marriage, or share a defining moment from within your marriage in the comments!