Ten years. A whole decade. A third of my life. That’s how long Peter and I have been married. At first it seemed easy to dismiss. After all, I know a lot of people who have been married for much longer than I have. But then I look at society around me and realize that many marriages don’t make it to the 10 year mark, especially for people who marry so young (I was 19 and Peter was 20).
I have jokingly said that once I hit the ten year mark, I can confidently say that I will know half of one thing about marriage. There’s some truth to that statement. I look back at newlywed Tiffany and see so many things I didn’t know. And I will probably look back at this 10 year anniversary after being married for 20 years and see so many more things I didn’t know.
Today, 10 years has me feeling very reflective. As I look back on the past decade, yes, there are many things I didn’t know. But the biggest realization is how love looks so different than I thought it would. The difference in our love as newlyweds to now is night and day. On our wedding day, my heart was full to bursting. I felt I could never love my husband more than I did at that moment. I do believe that I loved him to the fullest capacity my 19 year old heart could muster, but there was so much more.
I wasn’t naive enough to believe that love was only warm fuzzy feelings. I knew the level of the commitment I was making. I meant every word of our vows. For better. For worse. For richer. For poorer. In sickness. In health. Til death do us part. But how I have seen love lived out in our marriage has changed so much. Again, I’ve only been married a fraction of the time of many people I know. But here are ten things I’ve learned about love (and what it looks like).
Love looks like unity
In purpose, in mind, in soul. We didn’t know a lot at 19 and 20, but we knew we loved Jesus and we loved each other. We knew the Lord was calling Peter into pastoral ministry. We knew we were a team. We knew we wanted to follow the Lord’s leading and we would be obedient. Even though we had a lot of differences in how we reacted to things, how we handled certain things (more on that on point number 9), we had unity in the things that truly mattered. Those things were putting the Lord first and our marriage second. We truly believed the Lord had put us together and would guide us into all He had for us. That looks a lot different than how we pictured it 10 years ago, but He has been faithful to do that.
Love looks like growing together, not apart
Maybe people wouldn’t admit it, but I could tell there were people who thought we were crazy for marrying so young. Okay, there were people who outright said it. I had a lot of people ask me if we were sure. I had people think we were crazy for not finishing college yet. Statistically, a lot of young marriages don’t last. Although, statistically, a lot of marriages period don’t last (sad truth). But, referring back to the first point, we had unity in what we were working towards. While we are completely different people than we were 10 years ago, we have grown and changed together. About a week after we got married, we moved a thousand miles away from our families in Massachusetts, because Peter was attending Bible college in Ohio. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that course of action for every young married couple, it was so beneficial for us. It caused us to truly rely on each other. We didn’t have our parents to bail us out or take sides in arguments. We solidified our relationship and dependence on one another, rather than having outside sources be an active part of our marriage. I’m not knocking family support or marriage advice, but we needed the distance (even though we didn’t know it) to help us grow up and grow together.
Love looks like communication
Hoo, boy. I could tell you stories from our first few years of marriage about learning to communicate (if we’ve been friends for very long, you’ve probably already heard them). Peter and I handled communication and conflict in completely different ways. Peter tends to think things over before discussion, but I’m a verbal processor. So when a conflict would arise (and they did), Peter would be quiet and I would get so angry that he wouldn’t talk things through with me. I’d get heated enough that he would have to respond and it was never pretty. Thankfully, I married a man who is incredibly patient (and was even 10 years ago). We learned how to express disagreements and problems in a way that was healthy and productive.
We also communicated our love differently. I’m not sure if you’ve ever read Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages. If you haven’t, you definitely should! It tells of five distinct ways that people express love. Everyone has a way that makes them feel the most loved. Peter’s main love language is quality time. Mine is words of affirmation. Guess which love language was at the bottom of Peter’s list? Yup, words of affirmation. I spent a few years going through spurts of feeling unloved, even though I knew my husband loved me very much. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling that way, until I read the book. It took some work to learn to communicate love in the love language that spoke most to each of us, but it made all the difference in the world!
Love looks like desiring the other’s highest benefit
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. – Philippians 2:3
This was something I knew before we got married, but wasn’t something I had seen lived out in our relationship. A perfect (recent) example of this is my plant based diet (you can read about that here). Peter doesn’t have the same health struggles that I do, but he is willing to give up meat and dairy for me, for my health, for my highest benefit. The person who could live almost exclusively on meat is willing to give up so much that he loves for me. That doesn’t mean he sticks to a plant based diet when we go out to eat or that he never gets himself a treat from the store. But it does mean that many of his favorite home cooked meals are no longer an option. And he’s completely fine with it. Any time I feel guilty about what he’s had to give up, he reassures me. He’s exemplified selflessness in a way I never expected. 10 years ago, I doubt this was what he had in mind, but he’s jumped in with both feet. Why? It’s what love does.
Love looks like recognizing each other’s gifts
God has given each person a propensity and a gifting (some people have many giftings). It’s difficult to see those abilities in ourselves. Doubt creeps in. Fear creeps in. Negative words spoken replay over and over again in our minds. But love sees the beautiful, God given talents in others and brings it to the surface. True love does not feel threatened or jealous by the gifts of others, but instead chooses to rejoice in those gifts. This brings me right into my next point …
Love looks like encouraging one another
Not only do we see the gifts and talents in one another, but we encourage each other to overcome the doubt, the fear, the naysayers and jump into all God has for us. An example of that in our marriage is this blog. I have been considering starting a blog for years, but I would continually talk myself out it. Peter has been (gently) pushing me to write for years and encouraging me to pursue areas that I never would have had confidence to otherwise.
Love looks like learning money isn’t everything
This is something Peter has taught me a million times over. I grew up in a family that didn’t have much money (pastor’s kids represent!). I learned to be very frugal, scrimping and saving every penny. I bought my first car with my own hard earned money ($6,000 cash in my hands) and always had a lot saved up. There’s validity to that mindset and it is still a necessity in our family (pastor’s wives represent!). BUT, I would never, ever, EVER spend money on anything that wasn’t necessary. Peter was the exact opposite. I’m certainly not condoning being a bad steward of your finances, but I needed to learn to loosen up. I needed to learn that money was just money. You don’t need a giant nest egg to have security (security only comes from God anyway). You don’t get to take a dime with you when you die, so you might as well get some enjoyment from it on earth. I learned that it’s not horribly irresponsible to go out to eat or to the movies or spend money on things that aren’t true essentials. I also learned that money doesn’t bring you any degree of happiness. The most joyous years of our marriage so far have been the years when we didn’t have any extra money at all. We learned that God is our provider and giver of all things. We learned to trust Him with our finances and experienced freedom and joy.
Love looks like being flexible
None of us really knows what tomorrow holds. Our lives are a vapor (James 4:14). We make our plans, but oftentimes life gets in the way. Things change. I am a planner (which has its benefits … especially when packing/moving a house. Just saying!), but my plans often fail. 10 years seems like a monumental anniversary deserving of a special date night, right? But when life gets crazy and you pack up and move to a town where you don’t know anyone (seriously, not one person), a date night isn’t going to happen. So, we went to the zoo and out to eat with Claire. I’ll cook a special dinner after she goes to bed and we will rent a movie. It’s been an amazing day. Not exactly what we might’ve planned, but love learns to roll with the punches. I’m not a spontaneous person AT ALL, but love has taught me that my plans don’t matter as much as I thought they did. Love has taught me to be patient and flexible (sort of … I’m not completely there yet, but God is molding me!).
Love looks like compromise
This may seem similar to the last point, but it’s differently for us, at least contextually. When two people unite in marriage, there are a LOT of compromises. We are so used to doing things a certain way that our way becomes the “right way.” Peter and I were night and day in the way we handled finances, cleaning, just about everything in regard to running a household. Love has taught me that there is more than one way of doing things. Love has taught me that I don’t have to get my own way. Heck, love has taught my that my own way isn’t even necessarily the right way!
Love looks like mourning
Here’s the biggest thing I didn’t know. When we were married at 19 and 20, I was no stranger to heartache. Those of you who know me well know my struggle with self harm, depression and suicide attempts through much of my teenage years (and some of my young adult years as well). However, love takes on a deeper meaning through heartache. Sometimes love looks like weeping together. Over the death of an aunt, a grandfather, a cousin. Over years of infertility and another negative pregnancy test. Over losing a precious baby after those years of infertility. Over the brokenness all around you. There are times when you have battled hard against your circumstances and you are so weary, you can barely stand. But when you can barely stand, love continues to stand. Together. Even when you are battered and don’t know how you keep standing, loves stands. Through the tragedies, through the hardships, through the weeping, love keeps standing.
These are some of the many things I’ve learned in 10 years. I know I still have so much to learn and I’m grateful for every lesson, every step in this beautiful journey. What are some things you’ve learned in your marriage?
And in case you were wondering, he still makes me laugh like this.