Four years ago today I walked down the aisle toward my best friend. It was my best yes and even on our worst day, he will always be my best yes. Our anniversary is an excuse to share some of my favorite snapshots from our Columbus, Ohio wedding. More than that though, it’s an opportunity to reflect on lessons learned since the honeymoon ended.
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of love. We draw up perfect mate, the perfect proposal, the perfect wedding day and imagine a future paved with yellow bricks and smooth sailing. After all, that is what we see in movies, isn’t it?!
Four years ago, I would have said that Ryan and I had been through a lot together. And we had. Difficult family circumstances, job changes and some minor health issues were among some of the things that we had conquered together. We were young and confident that we could tackle anything. In the honeymoon phase that followed our wedding, Everything was new and exciting. We vowed “for better or worse” and we were living in the “better”.
I am so thankful for the honeymoon phase that allowed us to balance love and passion with learning how to live under the same roof, how to communicate and how to compromise. But I’m more thankful for the four years of everyday life that we’ve lived side-by-side since then.
Since our wedding day, we have had our share of “worse”. Marriage is hard. Life is harder. By nature we are selfish people. Marriage is designed to be a partnership, one in which we serve and love the other person, unconditionally, without expectation. Wait, what?! You mean I am supposed to give without expecting anything in return? That’s a tall order that is sure to leave everyone falling short (see what I did there?!). We so often seek our identity, our happiness and fulfillment in each other and then are left confused why we don’t always have that “warm fuzzy” feeling. Love is a choice. It’s a daily choice to choose your spouse and their needs over your own. Though the honeymoon is over, I am convinced that it’s in choosing to love someone day in and day out that we find true paradise.
I love Ryan with my whole heart and every day God shows me more of the amazing man, husband, father and friend that he is and continues to be. He has carried me through some of the most devastatingly hard moments of my life and picked me up and helped me to put one foot in front of the other (some days quite literally). He has seen me at my ugliest, darkest moments and loved me even more because of it.
We have learned many lessons (the hard way) since our wedding day and are constantly learning how to love each other better. Here are some of the lessons that we have learned:
- Grace over perfection- Forgive often; let go of unrealistic expectations. This is a daily battle for me! I am a perfectionist and am thankful for a husband and better yet a God that reminds me that perfection is not attainable, nor should it be this side of heaven.
- Ask each other these questions weekly: “How have I loved you well this week?” and “How can I love you better?” Here is the kicker: once you ask these questions you must listen. You can’t talk, argue or defend yourself. Listen and acknowledge what your spouse is saying. We got this idea from great friends of ours. Even after doing this for several years now, these are two of the hardest questions to ask one another, but this has been so significant in growing our marriage and has truly saved us from many arguments.
- Date Night– I love dating my husband. Whether you have kids or not, date night is essential. Intentionally scheduling time weekly (or every other week if that seems more reasonable to start) is a non-negotiable in our household. We can always tell a difference when we have had time to just be “us”. We have also found that having girls and guys nights out with friends is very important. We strive to make time for each of us to have a night out with friends once a month at the very least.
- Write notes– There is a reason that passing notes and love letters is nothing new. Hand written notes are a quick way to make a huge difference. Whether on a post-it or an “I Love You Because” Board (I made one out of an old frame and use dry erase marker), we love dropping each other a line, whether silly or serious.
- Know each other’s love languages– If you haven’t yet, read The 5 Love Languages. We read this while we were dating and it has been beyond helpful. There is also a Five Love Languages, Small Group Study Edition if you’d prefer.
- Hold your tongue– Words are powerful and can’t be taken back. I’ve learned this one the hard way. It’s so easy to try to “win” arguments, as if they were a battle of good vs. evil, rather than a team attempting to work together to accomplish a common goal. Often times, when my unrealistic expectations aren’t met it’s easy to point fingers, rather than look at the big picture.
- Admit when its a hard season– Marriage is not always easy and doesn’t always feel like a honeymoon. It is OK to acknowledge that something is off…you can’t fix the problem if you don’t admit it’s broken. It is much easier to work through it than to let it fester.
- No sleeping on the couch- This was an early rule that I instated. We don’t go to bed mad and we don’t sleep in separate rooms (unless of course we fall asleep rocking the baby to sleep). This only created bitterness and never solved arguments. True communication can’t happen if you aren’t face to face.
- Invest in each others interests– Guys, if you know me at all, you know that I know next to nothing about football. I love supporting the Bucks and the Bengals and know enough to get the gist, but Ryan is a diehard sports fan. Football, baseball, basketball, golf, hockey… you name it. Over the years, I have tried to learn more about the technical side of things (I even when to a clinic to learn all of the rules of football…albeit, the fact that they served food and wine might have been additional incentive). When we started dating and for a few years into our marriage, I had my own baking business. Ryan doesn’t like baking…heck, he doesn’t even like eating sweets (more for me to eat!). Yet he would help any way he could, staying up late packaging and making deliveries because he knew what it meant to me.
- Create a budget and stick to it– Money is said to be the root of many relational struggles. Regardless of where you are at financially, there are sure to be discussions about money and where it should or shouldn’t be going. Early on in our marriage, we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course. This has helped us to communicate regarding money and allowed us to take control of where our money is going, rather than to assume we are on the same page. This has been a huge stress reliever for both of us!
This is far from an exhaustive list and we are far from experts at this whole marriage thing. I pray that God would grant us decades more together. I am sure that if we are granted this time, one day we will look back and laugh at how young and naive we were even now. In the meantime, I pray that each day we would continue to choose each other every day and choose grace.
Photo credit: Thank you to Allison at Kismet Visuals for capturing our special day so perfectly. You were a joy to work with and we will forever cherish the these glimpses of our perfect day.
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