10 lessons from 10 years of marriage

10 lessons from 10 years of marriage May 20, 2015

This is a guest post from my friend Matt Brown. He is an evangelist, author of the newly released book Awakening and founder of Think Eternity. Matt is a brilliant guy and I LOVE his insights about faith, love and marriage. I really appreciate him taking the time to share them with us. You can learn more about Matt and his ministry at www.thinke.org.

Evangelist Matt Brown

Fourteen years ago everything changed for me when I accompanied a friend to a local church small group, and met Michelle for the first time. I would say it was love at first sight, not because I wished for that kind of thing, but because it truly felt like what I experienced.

Michelle and I enjoyed a year of close friendship, not wanting to rush things, and then several years of dating each other through Bible College…. and this month we celebrated 10 years of marriage! We are also just recently celebrating our first child over the past year as well.

I know people are all over the board in their experience of marriage. Marriage is under scrutiny in our culture, because so many people have felt it is not plausible or possible to stay-in-love.

Michelle and my experience has been different – marriage is incredible. Michelle is still the love of my life. 10 years later, and we would do it all over again a thousand times if we could.

Here are 10 of the best things we’ve learned from 10 years of marriage together:

1. Know them through all seasons before marrying

Even though I felt it was love at first sight, Michelle and I wanted to build our relationship off friendship first, not dating. Too many times people rush into their relationships, and even rush into marriage without really knowing the other person enough first. Passion is not enough to sustain a lasting relationship – friendship, compatibility and commitment are super important. As my wife’s grandma says, “know someone through all seasons first.” The Bible tells us to guard our heart above all things, for it affects our whole life.

2. Look for a spiritual match before marrying

The Bible tells us to not be unequally connected. Just because someone talks spiritual, doesn’t mean they are. We had friends who rushed into dating and marriage – they were passionate and talked really spiritual, but when it came down to it, there were not deep roots in the guy’s spiritual life, and their marriage eventually fell apart.

Anyone can talk spiritual, but do they walk with integrity, and have consistency? You want someone who is growing deep roots of faith and wisdom, who is a student of God’s Word, and who wants to give their whole life to God (and to you), not just a brief, passionate season of their life.

3. Happy wife, happy life

Men, be the man. More often women wants to invest in the marriage, and to see it flourish, but the men fail at investing in and changing to make the marriage better. I truly believe if men would take responsibility, the vast majority of all marriages would flourish.

Men:

Be a student of God’s Word

Strive for purity

Regularly pray for your family

Faithfully lead your family on the right path

Set the example, and encourage your family to be faithful participants of a local church

Be the first to apologize, forgive and admit you were wrong

Make your highest goal to be patient, kind, gentle and loving (fruit of the Spirit)

Treat your wife and kids like absolute treasures

4. Always help around the house

Both of you should look for ways you can help around the house. Michelle and I naturally acclimated towards certain household chores. I enjoy some chores, and she enjoys others. I’m not sure if every couple splits chores naturally, but I it is important to divide them up. It shouldn’t be one spouse’s responsibility, even if they are not the primary breadwinner – both of you should help.

The Bible tells husbands to love their wives like Christ loved the Church. How did Jesus love the Church? By serving and giving everything for her.

One of my greatest examples was watching my father-in-law who was a respected businessman and church leader clean up the dishes after meals. My mother-in-law cooked, and so he wanted to do his part to clean. This spoke volumes to me, and I’ve since discovered joy is found in serving, rather than always being served.

5. Whisper sweet nothings to each other every day

Too many times people are cordial and friendly with people they hardly know, and harsh with those closest to them. Marriage (or a college roommate) brings this out of us more than almost anything. Marriage and kids are a training ground to learn to be less selfish.

Look for ways to compliment, thank and praise each other everyday. This could be one of the greatest habits you could ever develop. Life is too short. When we regularly tell our spouse how much we love them, we will live a life of no regrets.

6. Always take time to talk

Marriage is a beautiful partnership of two broken people. Because we are broken, imperfect people, there will be challenges, fights, and tough times.

It’s so important to care enough to invest the time to talk through issues as they arrive. Women naturally do this better than men. Guys need to realize how important it is to spend time talking with their wife. Don’t act like it’s a burden to spend time communicating. This emotional connection is vital for a healthy and happy marriage.

Fight fair. When frustrations do arise, be careful with your words, and work to bring healthy resolution and peace to your home everyday.

7. Pursue your purpose together

Stand with each other and help each other towards careers, callings, dreams and goals. This makes for a beautiful, sweet partnership. Sacrifice for each other, guide each other in wisdom, and believe in each other’s dreams.

8. The grass is greener where you water it

“The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greener where you water it.” Pray for your marriage. Invest in your marriage. Wake up everyday excited to love that person next to you in ways they need. Never put another person or project before the most important person God has given you. Include your spouse on important financial decisions, life decisions, and in processing all of each other’s daily thoughts, concerns and experiences.

9. Honor each other’s families

The Bible tells us to honor our parents, so our lives won’t be cut short. This goes for parents-in-law too. It’s so important to respect and honor and enjoy each other’s families. Make spending time with them a priority. Speak well of them when they are not around. Pray for them. Love them. You do not just marry your spouse, you get a whole crew of family that comes with them – treat these people well.

10. When you love Jesus with all your heart, you can love your spouse with all your heart

God has given us everything in His Son Jesus dying on the cross for us. When we believe in, and surrender our lives to Jesus, it changes everything. Trusting our lives and our marriage to Jesus is the most important decision anyone can ever make.

When we build our lives and marriage on the gospel, there is a joy and peace that permeates our relationship. Love and serve Jesus together. Trust Jesus together, to do what you cannot do, and there will be an impenetrable strength in your marriage.

Matt Brown is an evangelist, author of the newly released book Awakening and founder of Think Eternity.

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  • Jason

    I’ve also been happily married for 10 years this year. I found many things in this post good, but just as many things potentially problematic. I’m not criticizing Matt’s relationship and what works for his family, but a common thing among the evangelical view is the notion that there is one perspective and one way to do things, even though many evangelical traditions differ. I’m also not saying that it is Matt’s intention to say his way is the best way, but I see a need to open a discussion from other perspectives. So I offer my reactions to these 10 points (for what ever may be worth).

    Also, at no time am I presuming to know Matt’s beliefs and opinions on these subjects. I’m just taking what I read and responding to the message that I perceive. If I inadvertently misrepresent what Matt means or believes, I apologize.

    1) While this is a good point, it almost sounds like the don’t date, court thing. That might work for some people, but universal opinions on if and how to date should be avoided (not saying that is what this is, but I think it’s an important point to bring up)

    2) We need to make room for our partners to ask questions and have doubts. If your partner is struggling with faith, it shouldn’t be the end of the marriage. If (in the evangelical ideal) God is the center of your marriage and one of you has a spiritual crisis that doesn’t work itself out as expected, does that mean that you can no longer stay married? NO! God shouldn’t be expected to hold your marriage together. That’s not how relationships with anyone works. If that were true, I might not still be married. The Bible doesn’t tell us what to do in these situations. You don’t become “unequally yoked” all of a sudden because your marriage is based on more than a common religious tradition.

    3) This all sounds great except for the patriarchal male dominance thing which is (I believe, and so do many other Christians who’ve studied this) a grave misinterpretation of scripture and at times a misunderstanding of historical context. A marriage is a partnership. IF it works out for the couple and their personalities that each person assumes certain roles, then great. The problem is that this is seen as a Biblical Mandate and it’s not a good Christian marriage if the Man is not “the head”. Complimentairanism can be a very abusive system. I’m sure whatever works for the couple (and is healthy) works for God.

    4) This is actually a really great point. When my wife cooks, I clean up (dishes and toddler). If I cook, my wife helps clean.

    5) It is important to verbally express and reinforce your feelings for each other. Don’t take each other for granted.

    6) I am wary of the “broken people” aspect of evangelical thought. It does great harm to people to have this view of themselves as unworthy yet beloved of God. A more true and healthy way to put this is that we are imperfect. Otherwise, another good point. Communication is the MOST IMPORTANT thing in a marriage.

    7) Support is very important.

    8) Another good point. Communication is key. A marriage is a partnership. There should be no one ruler in the house. Mutual understanding is critical, regardless of who assumes certain responsibilities. I would never dream of making any important family or financial decisions without consulting my wife, and I never use the “head of the house” card if we don’t agree and I think I’m right.

    9) My In-Law situation is very complicated and has a very hard, hurtful history attached to it. While this point is generally good advice, more nuance needs to be used. Speak well of them when they are not around: OK, don’t just insult your spouse’s family or gossip, especially if your spouse genuinely likes them (not all do…). But honesty is important, and if you see a problem, discuss it. If there are abuses (of any sort) they shouldn’t be ignored. Especially if your spouse is having trouble seeing it because it’s their family and they love them. Honor your mother and father: this is a difficult one and a part of scripture I struggle with. Respect is earned, not bestowed upon someone by virtue of them being your elder. If your in-laws are not worthy of your respect because of how they mistreat you or someone else in your family, do not just allow negative or abusive behavior to continue. To make this clear, my concern here is enabling abusers. AND I’m not advocating for blatant disrespectful behavior (i.e. being a jerk without warrant). My own father-in-law has accused me of being disrespectful when I pointed out to him certain ways he treats his children that are hurtful with the goal of helping to mend some relationships.

    10) This can be misunderstood as needing Jesus to hold your relationship together. Trust in a being you don’t understand (because no one can fully understand God) and cannot see is hard. It is a struggle you and your spouse will face together for sure, but loving Jesus is not easy and shouldn’t be a prerequisite for loving your spouse, or getting married, or staying married. Faith is a journey, and one which you share with your spouse. Phrases like “build[ing] our lives and marriage on the gospel” sound nice but it’s really just a Christian buzz phrase and is unhelpful when applied practically. How does one build their marriage on the Gospel? What part? Jesus in general or something specific? This is something that takes nuance to understand and patience to implement. And it’s not universal. Not every couple will come to the same conclusions about what this means. And that is OK.