August 12, 2014 will mark mine and Dalynn's 14th wedding anniversary. We are both quickly approaching the point where we've been married for longer than we were ever single. Pretty crazy, all told. We got married at the tender ages of 22 and 23. Neither of us had any idea what life had in store for us.
In our marriage, we have flown to the highest heights and we have seen the bottom of the world, the pits of despair. From amazing family trips where we made extraordinary memories, to dealing with our oldest son falling prey to cancer... and surviving. And many, many things in between. In that time we have been at each other's throats, but much more often we have acted as a support for one another, bearing each other's burdens, giving solace when necessary and a swift kick in the ass when it wasn't.
I have to say, she is my best friend, the person I want to talk to every day. I value her opinion and perspective above all others, so much so that I've given her the rip cord to my life's parachute. She has pulled it on several occasions.
There are a few things I've learned in that time. Take them as you will and consider them for your own life. What works for us may not necessarily work for you, but I'd like to think there is some store of wisdom here after 14 years.
- No matter how angry you are, always consider how you can best serve the other person. Marriage is about serving. If you bring a selfish bent to the table, it's not going to last. Often, taking this stance diffuses your own anger and helps you see what your spouse truly needs.
- When faced with supporting the world or your spouse, support your spouse. The only time this doesn't hold true is when your spouse is engaging in self-destructive or damaging behavior. Guys, if it comes to your mom or your wife, your wife, every damn time.
- Put your money where your mouth is. Everything in one pot, everyone shares it. Nothing can divide a house faster than "It's your turn to pay the rent."
- Live your life as one entity when it comes to the important things. If your spouse sees something as sacred, you should, too. This is not to say you can't have differing opinions on topics, or that you have to live life glued to each others hips, but it does mean that you may need to hold two opposing things sacred at one time. This is not easy.
- Don't be your spouse's conscience. You were not designed to tell them every time they are wrong, nor are you capable of judging their righteousness in all facets of life. You are there as an advisor, a trusted confidant. Put bluntly: Don't nag and let your spouse make mistakes.
- When one of you cries, you both do. If that's ever not true, it's time to examine your heart.
- A good and well placed boundary is worth a thousand comforting whispers.
- Give 100% without requiring or asking your spouse to do so. The only way this thing works is if you focus on your side of the equation. Marriage is not about two people meeting half-way. It's about two people going all the way. Caveat: this does not hold true if one side is engaging in abusive behavior.
These past 14 years have seen the absolute best in my life, and the absolute worst. I would not take a single day back. I feel blessed to have the wife that I do and to have the marriage that we have. My life would be a mere shadow of what it is now without her.
But it has not always been easy and every day involves some sacrifice.