10 Lessons I’ve Learned In 10 Years of Marriage

Our Wedding 0425We’ve been celebrating for the better part of a month now, but today is the actual day: our tenth wedding anniversary. TEN YEARS. Holy moly, how did that happen? I swear, just yesterday we were mere babies (seriously, at 22 years old we WERE mere babies) walking down the aisle and swearing our forever love for each other before God and everyone. Then I blinked, we had two babies of our own, we moved NINE TIMES, and here we are today: ten years older and wiser.

These past 10 years have been a roller coaster of ups and downs and exciting twists and turns that we never anticipated in our wildest dreams. They’ve been wonderful years, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Yet, as I look back at our 10 years of marriage, I realize that the roller coaster has also been full of learning.

We’ve learned about each other, about ourselves, about what it means to be fused to another human being…for LIFE. So, yes, these first 10 years have been wonderful, but they’ve also been incredibly humbling. In the scheme of things I’m still just getting started on this whole marriage gig, but here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned during my first decade as a wife:

1. Pray together every day.
I received a simple piece of advice at my bridal shower, and it stuck: Pray together every day. We took this counsel to heart, and we have never missed a day praying together–even if we’re tired, or cranky with each other, or the kids drove us bonkers that evening, or whatever–we always end our day in prayer together. For 3,650 days in a row, we have come together in prayer. And you know what? It’s done wonders for our marriage. Some of our biggest decisions and greatest joys have come as a direct result of our daily prayer time. Simple, yes, but profound.

2. Set your priorities: Jesus, spouse, family, everything else.
Here’s the thing: life is BUSY. And the longer you’re married, the busier it seems to get. It helps, then, to set your priorities straight from the beginning. Number one has to be Jesus–this is the firm foundation upon which your marriage can be built and stand the test of time. There is nothing–NOTHING–that a marriage can not overcome as long as Jesus remains at the center.

After Jesus comes your spouse. This is the one person in the world who you have committed your entire self to, and that takes an extreme amount of sacrifice. This means that you support your spouse, you stand up for your spouse, you love your spouse, you choose your spouse–even when you don’t want to. They are yours forever–cherish them!

Next comes your family. Notice that “family” comes after “spouse”. Kids are wonderful, important, life-changing additions to a marriage. But they are not THE marriage. In a flash, your kids will grow up and move out and begin independent lives. And you will be left with–you guessed it–your spouse! Even though children are seemingly all-consuming (of your time, your energy, your money, your food, your sanity) they must take second seat to your spouse. Nurture your children, but never neglect your spouse at their expense.

Finally comes everything else: your job, your hobbies, your (dis)comfort with noise/mess/obnoxious eating habits. ‘Nuf said.

3. Be honest.
Without a doubt, this has been the greatest lesson I’ve learned in our marriage. So much confusion, hurt, and anger could have been avoided if we’d simply been honest with each other.  This goes from the trivial (Saying “I don’t care” when he asks you what movie you want to watch tonight…even though you’re hoping he remembers that you already mentioned 4 days ago that you’d love to see that new Bradley Cooper movie…) to the ├╝ber-serious (your baggage from your past, your finances, your fears and dreams). In marriage as in life, honesty is the best policy.

4. Have fun together!
Oh, what a drag marriage would be if you weren’t having any fun! On a scale of 1 – awesome, I’d rate our marriage as EXTREMELY awesome. We try to find fun in the mundane (like when we crank up the music and have a dance party as we clean the house). We laugh together. We go fun places together. We look for opportunities to sneak in fun where it really doesn’t belong. After all, life is a lot more enjoyable if you’re…well…enjoying it!

5. Don’t always win the argument. 
Truth: Jon and I don’t always agree on everything (probably because I’m pretty much always right). In the end, though, it usually doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong (or righter or wronger). Some things are just not worth the battle. Peace in your relationship is worth more than being right (even if you are almost always right).

6. Honor your spouse’s differences.
This is one that I keep re-learning, pretty much every day. As much as I love him, Jon is NOT me. He thinks differently, behaves differently, has different preferences and aversions. He likes beer, and I like NOT-beer. He could spend every waking moment of his life tinkering with electronics, and I don’t even know the basics of a circuit board. He likes to relax after dinner, and I like to let nobody relax until the dishes are washed and put away. You see? We’re different. We were created different, and we are supposed to be different. I’m working to learn what makes him different so I can let him be him, without trying to make him be me. Bam.

7. Learn his favorites.
Nothing screams love like giving someone their favorite whatever. When you remember someone’s favorites, it shows that you are paying attention to them and that you care about their personal enjoyment. This can take on many different forms: making his favorite breakfast on the weekend, stocking his favorite brand of facial tissue (this is kind of a big deal in our house), tucking his favorite treat into his work bag, buying a few extra pairs of his favorite jeans when they go on sale. Related to this is learning to speak your spouse’s “Love Language”–which may be quite different from your own.

8. Be the kind of souse I want him to be.
This definitely falls into the category of “easier said than done”. Seriously, though, it’s crucial. If I want him to be patient, I need to be patient. If I want him to spend his weekends working on x, y, and z around the house, then I need to be willing to help him achieve those goals. If I want him to happily send me off for my mom’s nights out, then I need to let him enjoy those beer bashes after work (without making him feel guilty for abandoning me in my greatest hour of need: dinner time with two cranky children).

9. Carry your weight in the relationship.
Imagine a teeter-totter: on one side there is a child, and on the opposite end there is a grown man. No matter how much each of them teeters and totters, that teeter-totter will never find balance. The same is true in a marriage. If one person is doing all of the giving, and the other is doing all of the taking, there will never be balance. You do your share, and help your spouse to be successful in doing their’s.

10. Tell him you love him. Often.

So, there you have it: My sage advice from a decade of “I do’s”. I hope that you have found some encouragement in these words, and may God bless your relationships as He has blessed mine!

Now excuse me while I go find some cake to shove in my handsome husband’s face.

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My Philosophy Of Discipline

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I know that this is a touchy subject for a lot of people, so I will attempt to tread lightly here. Each parent needs to approach discipline with their children in the way they see best for their family–and, with that, each individual child may require different approaches. I’m not suggesting that my approach to discipline is the best or the only way–if anything, discipline is the area of parenting that I struggle with the most! As a mom and a former teacher, though, I know how important discipline is for kids. In this post I will share a bit of my personal “philosophy of discipline” and how we handle discipline in our family.

Why discipline?
The Bible tells us that “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). We discipline our children for this very reason: because it is for their good, so they can become more like Jesus.

I have seen first-hand, in both the classroom and in my own home, how appropriate discipline can help children thrive. Kids not only need discipline–they want it! Kids expect boundaries and limits, and they learn life-skills from appropriate correction. Plus, discipline helps everyone live together in harmony. Nobody wants a chaotic toddler running the show. Trust me.

What is discipline?
The word “discipline” stems from the word “disciple”: to guide someone to become more like Jesus. As such, the purpose of discipline is to train a child for correction and maturity so they can follow in Jesus’ ways. The focus of discipline is on lovingly correcting the child and changing their future behavior. Discipline means that the parent applies appropriate consequences to encourage the child to make better future choices.

There is an important distinction between discipline and punishment. Discipline is NOT punishment. Punishment’s purpose is to inflict a penalty for an offense with the focus on past misdeeds–it’s basically “I’ll make something bad happen to you for your bad behavior”. Where punishment results in fear and guilt, discipline leaves a child with a sense of security and a positive focus for their future.

How Do We Discipline?
In our house, we have a tiered-approach to discipline: some offenses warrant lesser consequences than other more serious behaviors. Here are the discipline steps we follow with our son:

1. When our son does something that breaks a family rule (like throwing food at the dinner table) he goes straight to time out. There are no warnings, no arguing, no negotiating. He knows the rules and he knows that he needs to follow them at all times. We follow the rule of one minute per year of the child’s age for time-outs (David is 2, so he has 2-minute time-outs). His time-out spot is the first step of our staircase. When he is in time-out he is not allowed to play with toys or talk to us. I don’t mind if he talks to himself, moves his feet or plays with his hands. If he needs to move his little body a bit, that’s fine–I just want him removed from the situation–and our attention–that could instigate further inappropriate behavior. If he gets out of time-out before we come to get him or if he refuses to go to time-out, he gets a spanking (more on that in #2).

2. If the behavior is something that could harm himself or others (like hitting his baby brother or running into the street when I tell him to stop), he gets a spanking instead of time-out. Serious offenses warrant a serious consequence.

This whole spanking thing is very difficult for me. I was never spanked as a child and I never thought I would spank my own children. After a lot of prayer and discussion with my husband, though, we came to the conclusion that spanking is one tool we will use for discipline in our family. We use spanking sparingly and it is not our first line of defense. When we do use spanking, though, our goal is always to train–not hurt–our son.

When a spanking needs to happen, we wait until the parent who is giving the spanking is calm and collected. Sometimes this means David needs to go have a time-out in his room for a few minutes while we gather ourselves (or soothe the crying baby that he just walloped with his lego tower). Then we take David to a private place–we don’t want to add embarrassment to the mix–so he can get his spanking. Just one quick swat to the behind, then it’s over.

3. For all discipline, whether it’s a spanking or time-out, we always have the same “script” that we follow. Depending on the situation, we either go through this at the beginning or the end of the discipline time. I want little David to start learning the specific vocabulary of “sin” and “forgiveness” now. It’s so important that kids learn that bad behavior isn’t just “bad”–it is actually going against God. But, in that, there is always forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Our script goes something like this.

“David, you are in time-out (or getting a spanking) because you chose to do _____. That breaks our rules (and can hurt you/other people). When you do _____ it is also a sin. Sin breaks God’s laws and makes Him sad. Mommy and Daddy love you and want you to be more like Jesus, so we need to discipline you now.

Now, let’s pray together (we have him repeat phrases after us): Dear God, please forgive me for (_____). Please help me (obey, play nicely, share, etc.) so I can be more like you. Amen.”

We end the discipline time with David apologizing for the specific behavior (“Sorry I threw my peas at you, Mommy.” instead of just “sorry”). Then we give each other a hug. If he hurt someone else, he also tries to make amends with that person. If he made a mess, he helps to clean up the mess. Done.

4. Go back to “real life”. Don’t dwell on the bad behavior or keep bringing it up. If it’s been dealt with properly, then it’s time to move on.

Final Thoughts
Again, this is how we do discipline in our family. Every family has different children and different parents, so I know that this model is not the best fit for every family out there. In fact, it may not even be the best fit for our family 5 or 10 years down the road. The important things will always be important, though: lovingly correct your children so they can be more like Jesus. And try not to pull your hair out when that sweet little darling gets sent to time-out for the 480th time today.