Today, February 1st, marks five years of marriage for me and Josh.

When I think about the couples I know who’ve been married fifteen, twenty, and forty years, five seems like a drop in the bucket. But when I look at our life together – and everything that has happened in that half-decade – it feels like so much longer. We’ve done this marriage thing for FIVE years?! It seems unbelievable.

I tell my single friends God led me to marry in my early/mid-twenties because if I hadn’t, no one would have wanted to marry me by thirty. And I’m not kidding. Marriage sanctified parts of me I didn’t even know were there: A harsh, critical spirit; fear of closeness and intimacy; bitterness and judgment when things aren’t done my way. I rebranded these traits as “high standards”, “emotional strength”, and “justice”, but marriage proved them to be exactly what they are: Sin.

And then there’s the reality of Josh and my personalities. We didn’t know about personality tests when we got married but we DID know that choosing one another meant choosing work. We almost broke up right before we got engaged. Now we know: I’m an ENTJ; he’s an ISFP. I’m an Enneagram 3; he’s a 9. We didn’t share the same love languages for a long time (and his top one was physical touch, for which I got a fat zero). We are evidence that when two people love Jesus and humble themselves to the leading of God’s Spirit, when they commit to obey the covenant they made… marriage can be something beautiful.

All of our years together weren’t difficult. The first was easy compared to the middle two, and in the last year and a half we’ve reached a really amazing place (one reason I’m finally opening up about what happened). Five years flew by and while the second and third were harder than anything I ever expected, we’re on the other side, closer, stronger, wiser, and better than before. Thank you Jesus. And thank you Josh for your compassion, patience, and quiet strength that helped this not-so-gentle-and-quiet, “intimidating” woman become who God wanted her to be.

I learned a lot in five years, but here are a few of the highlights.

If you didn’t communicate it, you have no right to resent it.

Uncommunicated expectations are not fair. If you want something, tell your spouse. If you wish something would change, tell your spouse. If you haven’t communicated what you want, how can you resent the result? How are they supposed to know exactly what is going through your mind?

We both learned this the hard way, right away. Josh was extremely idealistic when we married, and I had ideals of my own as well. We started using the phrase, “share the blueprint”. Want me to build a good relationship with you? Share the blueprint of your expectations.

If he doesn’t love me the way I wish, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me at all.

Love languages helped us a lot. If you’re unfamiliar, these come from the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  Basically everyone gives and receives love in different ways. When someone expresses love to you via gifts but you recognize love via affection, you’re in danger of ignoring their efforts because it doesn’t look the way you expect. (Those expectations though.)

Embracing how Josh expressed love was a big hurdle for me. I still struggle at times (don’t ask him about Christmas Day 2018).

If you need help, ask for it.

This is so simple. We don’t ask for help because something in our minds – something I think romance novels are responsible for, to be honest – tells us he should know. He should KNOW what we need without us asking. Personality tests really helped us in this area because I learned that Josh simply did not see dirty dishes as a problem. I hate dirty dishes and would never leave them sitting there for hours, much less overnight. So I translate him leaving the dishes as a lack of love, when it’s simply not on his radar.

Instead of waiting for him to think of what I needed, I just asked. Josh pointed out this was far more helpful than pouting, brooding, and punishing him with the silent treatment (which is just immature). Now I ask him to help when we have extra stuff to do but he also pitches in of his own accord because when you ask for help with the same things all the time, your spouse starts to see a pattern.

Weekly date nights are a must.

This is personal to our relationship; not everyone needs or wants these. But for us, in-house date nights were a reality for years and they really didn’t help us at all. We just ended up watching a show like a normal night. It wasn’t special. We found we need that special, going-out event to connect as a couple. For years Josh’s job made it almost impossible to go out once a month, much less weekly. He was constantly on call (still is every few weeks) and would frequently be late or called out, which made dates difficult to impossible.

This doesn’t have to break the bank: We asked a college-aged friend to sit at the house and do homework while our girls sleep. She doesn’t have to do anything but watch them and we pay her in ice cream. We get $5 appetizers at our favorite local haunt and play cards until 10 PM. It’s a blast!

One last point on date nights: We have found the advice “never talk about work on date night” not applicable to us. We LOVE to discuss work. It’s one of the things we connect over the most. Don’t believe all the marriage advice out there – try it and see what works for you!

Do not think about your spouse when stressed or angry.

This is a simple habit I started during our stressful season. I realized that anytime I was angry or frustrated, my mind INSTANTLY turned to Josh: How he wasn’t helping enough, how I had too much on my plate, how he left his socks on the floor, etc. It’s totally the enemy seizing the opportunity to drive an emotional wedge between us.

Now I recognize when my mind is going to this place and immediately stop, verbally reject the thought, and don’t think about my spouse until I am in a calmer mental state.

Vulnerability takes daily practice.

There is so much I could say here, but I am currently working on an ebook that will dive deep into my struggle with vulnerability, emotional intimacy, and affection, so stay tuned for that. Vulnerability is not something I expected to pursue in marriage. I came to marriage NOT seeking a “best friend”. I am not big on sharing feelings and not super in tune to my own emotions. So when I discovered how important vulnerability is to a successful marriage, it was both discouraging and difficult.

But over time, with the power of the Word and God’s Spirit, I have grown in this area – and because of this our marriage has improved. Josh had a lot to do with this. He opened doors for me to grow and was a safe place to land as I processed things I had pushed down for many years. The daily practice of vulnerability with him required much of me at first (and still does, some days) but my time with the Lord constantly reminds me of the necessity, and motivates me to continue this discipline.

You need friends who pray over your marriage.

Community is vital to your marriage. I can’t express this enough. During our hardest season I was surrounded by godly wives in our church who helped me see what a good marriage can look like. I had older women I could talk to, women that I opened up to for wisdom.

These women prayed over, with, and for me. They checked in on me. This is across at least three different churches, denominations, and states. I wasn’t “lucky” to find these women – I prayed for them and then I hunted them down! I wanted community, and I showed up to find it, putting myself in a position to meet women and couples who could be spiritual leaders in our lives. This kind of thing will not happen by accident. It takes effort, and it’s the most essential piece to marriage in community.

You need friends you can talk to about your marriage.

The same people praying for you would be ideal to talk to about your marriage.

If you’re struggling in your marriage and keeping up a facade, can I share something with you? You’re not going to get out of this hole if you keep hiding. You have to open up, be vulnerable, and ask for wisdom. I don’t mean dumping your story on every woman in your church or complaining about your husband at every opportunity (don’t complain about your husband publicly. Talk to a select few people about your issues. Marriage 101). I mean asking for godly advice from godly people, and being honest about where you need wisdom.

Josh and I don’t go to our parents about marriage. They are too close to the situation and sharing our struggles could just add a more difficult element to that relationship, changing their perspective on the spouse who is NOT their child. Instead we seek individual mentors who can speak to our struggles and pray over us as we grow. We also seek out godly couples our age who walk side by side with us in this journey. We find them in our church and through fellow Christian friends, opening our home, and showing up in community.

No one goes into marriage planning to cheat.

Affairs are just one rampant thought life away.

When you’re in a hard place in marriage, the enemy is just waiting to plant those thoughts in your mind. He certainly planted them in mine. When I was feeling particularly unappreciated and unknown, it was the enemy who made the guy flirting with me on a business trip seem so “harmless”. Praise God for His Word and wisdom! In those moments, I was conscious of the battle within me. Choose covenant faithfulness, or choose selfish “fulfillment”. Even when I didn’t feel like my marriage was fulfilling me, I had to trust that God would fill that void as I stayed faithful to Him.

Everybody acts like affairs come out of nowhere, but we all know they don’t. They start with a little dissatisfaction, a little distance, a little looking elsewhere and wistfully imagining better. Pretty soon a person makes that possible and then there you are, faced with a real-life choice. It’s scary. It can happen to anyone if you don’t keep your mind clear and sober.

You are responsible for your own spiritual growth, and that growth is the best thing you can bring to marriage.

How I wish this was preached more clearly to the wives of the modern day church! Regardless of where you fall on the complementarian/egalitarian marriage spectrum, one thing is CLEAR in Scripture: Your husband is not your priest.

He is not your spiritual go-between. It’s not God -> Husband -> Wife. YOU are responsible for drawing near to God, for understanding His Word, for owning your faith, and letting GOD lead you closer to Him. Your husband is not. “Spiritual leadership” has been so blown out of proportion and twisted by the church we have ended up with thousands of wives who do not bother to seek God on their own because it’s “insubordinate”. Hear me: One day we will stand before God to answer for how we lived our spiritual lives. Your husband will not answer for that. You will.

My mission here on this blog is to take you deeper into the Word, teaching you to ask the hard questions, to face the hard things, and to let Christ overcome them the way He has promised. When you learn to live this way, you will bring an incredible GIFT to your marriage – not a threat. You will help your husband become an even better leader by the leader you are yourself.

As I look back on these five years everything that has improved in our marriage comes from our own spiritual growth as individuals. The more we know about who God is, how He loves us, and how we are to walk daily with Him, the more our marriage improves. There are difficult days and hard seasons but we stand before God covenanted, and this vow is not to be taken lightly. God is doing a great work in us, a work He will bring to completion. How amazing we get to be part of that transformation for one another.

I write a post for every wedding anniversary, and I thought I’d conclude with the links to our first five years. Enjoy <3

2018 What I Lost When I Got Married

2017 To the Woman My Husband Should Have Married

2016 Marry the Man Who Stays

2015 5 Things I Learned About Respect in my First Year of Marriage

2014 The Day I Wore White: Our Wedding