Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary. We’ve come so far considering we could have been a “statistic” based on the factors we had: only teenagers when we married, we only had a high school education, we had our first child within the first year of our marriage, my parents were divorced, we only knew each other for a few months before getting married, we had a long distance relationship (me in California, and he in Florida), and we had terrible conflict and communication skills.
We had our “ups” and “downs” over the years, and I was even on the verge of getting a divorce earlier in our marriage. Yes, we saw a counselor and took marriage enrichment classes/seminars, but the turning point of our marriage was when we turned everything over to God. I’ve learned so much these past 33 years, and these are the three biggest things that I learned:
- I learned that I had to stop trying to be “right,” and to realize that no one is perfect so I had to be more forgiving.
It seemed that I was in a competition with my husband all the time. I wanted to always prove that I was right to a point where I would get angry about it. I spent more time arguing my case that I never really listened. When my husband did something wrong, I would use it against him and bring it up when we had arguments.
No one is perfect (especially me). If I don’t want people to expect perfection from me, then I shouldn’t expect it from other people, most especially my husband. Since I make mistakes all the time, I know that my husband will make mistakes too so I have to forgive him, just as I would want him to forgive me. I’m not always right; I had to listen more and talk less, and I had to realize that just because he did things differently that it doesn’t mean that my way is “right.”
- I learned to “pick my battles,” to let the “little things” go, and to choose my words carefully when there is a real issue.
I remember arguing about how the toilet paper should be placed on the holder, and how that argument would expand into other issues from the past. Does it really matter how the toilet paper is put into the holder? No! I realized that there are more serious issues. When these issues arise then that’s when I have to say something, but I had to choose my words (and tone of voice) carefully so that my words can be received.
- I learned to truly love my husband, to appreciate him, and to build him up as often as I can.
It used to make me so jealous that my husband had a photographic memory. He breezed through the doctoral program and graduated with a large dissertation after four years, while I struggled and nearly dropped out. The two years that followed his graduation were extremely difficult for me, but he encouraged me when I felt like giving up, he proof read my work several times, and he picked up the slack at home. I graduated after six years of being in the program, and I could not have done it without him.
I’ve come to appreciate how much smarter he is compared to me; and even though he is smarter, he never rubs it in my face. He brings out the best in me, so I try to bring out the best in him. I encourage him by pointing out the positive things about him, or about the positive things he has done or is doing. I am there if he is having a bad day and he needs someone to listen to him. When he gets a migraine, I massage his head until it goes away. I also tell him that I love him every day (they say action speaks louder than words, but words are still important).
Thirty-three years seems like such a long time, but I still have a lot to learn. I don’t think we ever get to that point in our marriage where we can stop trying to love, to support, and to serve our spouse.
Most of all, I continually thank God for His intervention in my marriage, and thank Him for the wonderful man He has given to me to be my husband.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights… Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger… No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need… serve one another through love… And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (James 1:17, 19, Eph 4:28, Gal 5:16, Eph 4:32, CSB).