A decade is a long time–ten years, to be exact and much happens in this span of time. Just consider the past ten years of your life? Where were you in 2006? How have you changed? How has your marriage and your family grown? Who was in your life that is no longer around, or how many new friends have you made in this span? It’s amazing to look back and see how much has changed. Yet daily we hardly notice any change at all.
This is what has prompted this new series. Tom and I just celebrated our 37th anniversary–nearly 4 decades of marriage. I want to look at each decade we’ve had and share with you what we’ve experienced through it in an effort to help you where you are today, as well as give you insight into the decades yet to come.
The First Ten Years
This is a decade of new beginnings. In this decade you really get to know each other–the good, the bad and the hidden. For us, it took three years to really become gut-level honest with each other. I’m not sure why, but that was the year God decided to unveil our hearts to each other, and it wasn’t the dream marriage I had hoped for. This was real. This was painful. This was hard, in fact the hardest thing we had experienced together up until this point in our marriage.
Before year three, we were still in the “getting to know you” phase that many couples discover when dating. Tom and I lived in different cities, so our courting relationship took place long-distance. We talked a lot via the phone and snail-mail, but doing life together and having regular dates didn’t begin until after we said “I do!” And it was so much fun to no longer have to say goodbye.
These fun years didn’t prepare me for the challenging season that barged in like a dirge on my “happily-ever-after” theme song. I was crushed. And there was no one to tell me at the time that this was quite normal for any marriage. How I wish there had been, which is why I’m sharing this with you! There comes a day when vulnerability comes knocking and you’re not quite sure how you’ll be received or how you’ll like what you see looking back at you.
This is when your marriage vows become your roadmap.
You have to put them front and center to stay on course. Otherwise you may want to check out! Fortunately, when Tom and I began this third year, we didn’t have any really close friends yet, so we had to talk to each other. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we found out how much God is a present help to us in our time of need. It’s amazing to me now that without any direction from someone wiser we navigated this turbulent time side-by-side moving forward or should I say–crawling forward together.
After you get to know each other a bit better you discover that better times always follow horrible times if you stay committed. Many couples walk out at this point and never find the silver lining, or the testimony that makes the hardship worth it.
Advice: If you’re in this “getting to know you” phase, my encouragement is to stay. Do what you vowed to do–and love your spouse even when you may not like them very much. If possible, seek help too. I wouldn’t recommend doing it the way we did. We are grateful that we had excellent marriage teaching and examples being demonstrated for us during this time, but the friendships hadn’t deepened enough to seek out their counsel. At least our pride didn’t let us at the time.
Usually in the first decade is when your careers are being established, you may purchase your first home, you start having babies–all these changes cause tension in the marriage. The carefree, fun-loving couple suddenly becomes responsible adults with babies who spit up and don’t sleep through the night. It can be stressful balancing life, bills, schedules and colic!
Advice: If you’re currently struggling with all these types of changes, communicate! It is imperative that you not only share what’s on your heart, but that you listen to what’s on your spouse’s as well. You may hear what your spouse says, but not understand what they’re saying. The most practical advice we’ve ever been given is to ask, “This is what I heard you say, is that what you meant?” Many times asking this one question will clarify a misunderstood comment that could have caused a huge argument. Make sure you’re hearing and understanding each other accurately. As you can imagine, this type of communication takes time and commitment, but it is of most importance if you want to grow and mature during this decade. Make a habit of regular date nights where you have time and no interruptions to focus on each other. If you do this now, it will serve you well for the decade to come.
If you’ve made it past the first decade, how did it go for you? What advice would you offer to those currently in this season? Let’s start a conversation of hope and help for those who may be struggling.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6 ESV