Twenty Thoughts on Twenty Years

Greetings Friends,

Twenty years ago today,  I married Will Jackson.  I was crazy for him, and I think he was rather fond of me too.  But that didn’t ensure a fairytale marriage.  No, Sirree!  We’ve had some hideous moments.  I could tell you some stories.  Terrible things have been said.  Awful things have been done.  If you think you’ve married the perfect person, I’ve got a bit of bad news for you: they ain’t.  And you aren’t either.  If I may be so bold, I’d love to share with you twenty thoughts on twenty years of marriage.

  1. First and foremost, be forgiving.  If you can’t bury the transgressions of your spouse as far as the east is from the west just as the Psalmist describes, you’re doomed.  When old hurts try and rear their ugly heads, throw them back into the sea.  Ask God to help you with this, because it’s vital but not easy.
  2. Encourage one another’s gifts.  My man often gives me credit for being his “buttress,” for building him up.  I think this is a terribly important job of every spouse — make sure they know you believe in them.
  3. Pray together.  Some years we’ve done this a lot, in the early years it was exceedingly rare and even felt awkward.  But consistently praying together forms a very special bond, and there’s really no excuse for not carving out time to do it.
  4. Pray for your spouse.  Pray they’ll flee temptation.  Pray they’ll listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.  Pray for their career and for their God-given ministry.
  5. Make sure you have shared experiences on which to build your friendship.  Family vacations are an awesome way to do this, but it also needs to happen in day-to-day life.  Will and I often go to the gym together or go for walks.  In Falls Church we had a standing Saturday morning walk that we topped off with a visit to the Farmer’s Market.
  6. Always make a point of sharing meals together.  Will has a demanding job, and our boys are involved in numerous sports.  Evening meals are hard, but we try to make sitting down at the table together happen as often as possible.
  7. Give your spouse freedom from expectations.  An example:  If I want perfume for Christmas, I either tell Will, or do as I did this year (given how busy we’ve both been) and I buy it.  “Oh look what you got me for Christmas,” may not sound romantic to you, but it totally works for me because I’ve learned that expectations are a lot like minefields and therefore need to be avoided.  Another example: Will is the kind of person that does not misplace things.  I find freedom in Will not expecting me to be like him.  I’m sure he’d like it if I stopped losing my phone and keys multiple times a day, but I think as the years go by he realizes more and more that it is not helpful to expect me to be like him.
  8. Celebrate how you complement each other.  I’m sure you are not married to someone just like you, and that your differences are to your mutual advantage.  Will and I are very different.  He is disciplined.  He is driven.  He needs a regular dose of easy breezy.  I need and thrive on his contagious goal-setting.  I’m a better woman because of him, and he’s a better man because of me.  Marriage can and should be sanctifying.  You should be changing for the better because of your spouse, and if Christ is the center of the marriage you should becoming more and more like your Savior every day.
  9. Share music.  Music is a gift from the Lord.  If you doubt this, please refer to how often the Bible not only suggests it but requires it.  “Sing a new song,” commands the Psalmist in 33:3.  We are to praise our Creator through music, but who isn’t moved in general by a great song?  On Monday November 30th, Will and I closed on our new house in Tennessee.  Our boys were staying with a saintly friend back in Northern Virginia.  We had driven separate cars the day before and a deluge of rain plus Thanksgiving weekend traffic, meant it took a solid twelve hours.  This on the heels of moving made for a pretty exhausting trip.  Sweet Will started his new job early that Monday morning and worked until late in the evening, only dashing out to attend the closing on our house.  We went to dinner that night because as previously mentioned our boys were in another state, and we felt like we should.  But we sat there loving the yummy food and discussing his big day and our new house and news from the boys, but feeling a little dazed and confused too.  Change like that feels BIG, even when it feels right.  But we happened to hear a song in the restaurant neither of us had ever heard called Myth by Beach House.  It has become an anthem of sorts for this era — it even has the words, “Help me to make it.  Help me to make it.” Music bonds, so enjoy new and old songs together.
  10. Share work at home, but don’t even try to make it “fair.”  Conversations about what each person brings to the table have never proven fruitful in my experience.  If one person starts to list all the things they’ve done, do not give into the temptation to start listing your contributions.  Just make contributions and lots of them and don’t keep track.
  11. Have sex.  This seems absurdly, patently obvious to me, but I’ve met women who withhold from their husbands and not stemming from abuse, but as a tool to control.  I think that’s about THE dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life, and I’ve heard a lot of dumb things.  Truly though if sex is more of a duty than a gift, do something about it.  Go to counseling.  Pray about it.  Don’t miss out on the blessing it was designed to be.
  12. Make each other laugh.  This comes easily for us. Will and I find each other hilarious, which is a tremendous gift, but if you don’t crack your spouse up already, try to.  Laughter is a soothing relational balm.
  13. Learn to just be together.  Reading quietly side by side should be easy.  Do not put pressure on each other to be actively engaged at all times.
  14. For heaven’s sake, turn off the television.  Actually this is just not my struggle, so I’m in no position to judge.  If I lived alone I wouldn’t own one, and yet I genuinely enjoy watching sports and documentaries.  But my gosh people, be reasonable.  Statistics on “screen time” are tragic.  How do marriages survive with that much time logged at the screen?
  15. And put down the device while you are at it.  The iPhone is an incredible convenience — I can hardly fathom living without, but we need to be mindful of not letting it take over.  Learn to ignore it, turn it off, let it die.  Whatever it takes!
  16. Be gentle with each other.  You will need to speak the truth in love to each other, but learn how to do it with gentleness and respect.
  17. Praise and encourage one another, especially as parents.
  18. Build traditions.  We have birthday traditions, Christmas traditions, and vacation traditions.  These all build our identity as a couple and as a family.
  19. Retell and relive your best memories.  It’s such a simple pleasure to story tell, make sure you make time to do it.
  20. Always remember that your spouse can never ultimately make you happy.  Your purpose and calling should be in Christ Jesus.  Your spouse will have a tremendous burden lifted off their shoulders, if your happiness is not their job.  And with that freedom I bet they’ll love you better than ever.
Today I thank God for twenty years with my funny, sexy, smart, hard-working man, and I pray for many more.
With Love,

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