25 Unforgettable Lessons from 25 Years of Marriage

Jenifer and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this week. It floors us that we have experienced a quarter-century as married people. Along the way, there have been good days and bad days. To be honest, there have been good years and bad years. Some seasons are just more challenging than others.

We started talking over breakfast this morning about lessons we have learned along the way. Jen suggested that we see if we could come up with 25 principles for marriage that God has revealed to us in our journey.

That discussion quickly evolved into an idea for a blog post. We organized our thoughts into ten things that Jen has learned about me, ten things that I have learned about her, and five general things that we have learned together.

Our 25 years of marriage has produced five awesome kids, two beautiful grandchildren, and (hopefully), some lasting fruit in the lives of others. It has also produced 25 lessons learned. We hope that God will speak to you through them:

From Jenifer: 10 Unforgettable Lessons About Your Husband

1. Your husband can’t read your mind.  Whether you have been married for 6 months or 60 years, you’re going to have to regularly tell him what is important to you.

2. He probably feels like a poser. Your husband is often insecure about his performance in the world. As confident as he might seem on the outside, he often questions his capabilities. That’s why your encouragement is so important to him.

3. Respect is the air he breathes. Your husband needs love but he probably defines it differently than you do. While he likes affection, what makes him come alive is your respect for him. Respect equals love to most men.

4. He doesn’t need your help in the car. Your husband knows how to drive and is perfectly able to find his own parking place.

5. Your words and tone matter. Here’s a great way to examine how you talk to your husband: If you heard your son’s or your brother’s wife talking to them in the harsh way you sometimes find yourself talking to your husband, would you be okay with it?

6. He may not be a perfect parent overnight. When you have babies and small children, your husband may not know what to do with them. Don’t get frustrated with him for that. Instead, patiently help him to learn. (And be okay when he does something a bit differently than you would.)

7. He is probably happy with your looks. Contrary to what our “pornified” culture tells you, your husband doesn’t need you to be physically perfect. He wants you to care about your appearance, but not pressure yourself to live up to some unrealistic standard. What he needs most is to feel sexually desired by you.

8. He wants you to take an interest in his work life. Ask questions to the point that when you go to his company Christmas party, you can talk with some knowledge about what projects he has been involved in. Be sure to brag about him in that environment.

9. He needs a wife who tattles to God first. When your husband does something that rubs you the wrong way, don't immediately bring it up. Share the offense with God and let Him be the filter for what you do with it. (And how and when to bring it up.)

10. You need to let him share his dreams. Even if he never pursues them, he needs a safe place to talk about them. If you shut him down, he will either stop dreaming or start sharing them with another woman.

From Barrett: 10 Unforgettable Lessons About Your Wife

11. Little things matter. You can get as much relational and emotional mileage from a thoughtful text as you can from a dozen roses. While grand gestures are occasionally nice, “go big or go home” is a poor motto in marriage.

12. You married a moving target. While your wants and needs are likely to stay the same from age 22-92, your wife’s are likely to change and fluctuate dozens of times. It’s not just your wife but every wife on the planet. Deal with it.

13. Her need for romance is not going away. Do you remember all those things you did to get her to fall in love with you? She’s expecting those to continue. If you stop, she’ll be forever frustrated that you pulled a bait-and-switch move on her.

14. The toilet seat goes down. This wasn’t important when I was in college, but apparently it’s important in marriage.

15. She has a unique sixth-sense. God has given your wife relational instincts that you don’t have. You would be wise to listen to her when she shares what she feels like God is telling her about a situation you are in.

16. She is an emotional being. You can’t logically argue your way through a conflict when emotions are involved. (Note: when you are in conflict with your wife, emotions are always involved.) Stop trying to convince her not to be upset. Listen. Empathize. Validate.

17. She approaches sex differently than you. Most men have sex in order to feel connected, while most women have sex when they are connected. That means you have to love her and nurture the relationship long before you climb into bed. You can’t afford to be lazy.

18. She is more insecure than you. Thus, you need to affirm the relationship after every fight. Remind her that you are going to get through this together and that you aren’t going anywhere.

19. She needs to know you think she is beautiful. Tell her often. If she has to ask you how she looks, you already blew it. Tell her as frequently as you can that she is lovely.

20. She is desperate for spiritual leadership. She wants to know that you are walking with God and then leading your family accordingly. The better you love and serve her, the easier it will be for her to follow you.

From Both of Us: Five Unforgettable Lessons for Both of You

21. Be a student of your spouse. Building a lasting marriage requires you to study your partner closely to learn what he or she loves, needs, and wants. Never stop learning.

22. Remember that you are a sinner married to a sinner. Don’t be surprised (or frustrated) when they let you down. You will ultimately be disappointed if you look to your spouse to do the things that only God can do. Your identity and purpose are found in Christ, not in your spouse.

23. Don’t major on the minors. Marriages split up all the time over petty, silly things. Stop making a big, fat, hairy deal out of small things. It’s just not worth it.

24. Stop trying to change your spouse. She will never see things exactly the way you do. He will never do things like you would do them. Celebrate the differences.

25. Be committed to leaving a legacy with your marriage. When couples focus on their own comfort and happiness in this life, it’s like eating candy three meals a day. It might taste good, but it’s ultimately unsatisfying. Instead, ask God to give you a shared mission that you can pursue together. It may be difficult at times, but the strength and joy that God will put in your lives and marriage will be so worth it.

Building a satisfying marriage takes work. Nobody stumbles into a great relationship. Anybody you know who has a strong marriage (including us) is constantly fueling it by doing the right things to make every day awesome. On the days that we neglect the relationship, the marriage suffers.

This isn't rocket science. Good intentions aren't enough. We have to daily ask God to help us to dig deep into Him in order to build the marriages we all want. Praise God that He has helped us do that over the past 25 years. We pray that you do likewise!