Lessons I Learned in 11 Years of Marriage

By Jane Highley

July is our anniversary month, and this year is our 11th. It may not be what popular culture considers a “landmark” year. You won’t find a Hallmark card or bling inside a small blue Tiffany box for 11 years of matrimonial bliss. Still, T.J. and I still celebrate as we have done every year prior. So besides the three bouncy and loquacious children to show for this marriage, I offer a few “lessons” that God has specifically assigned me to learn thus far in our marriage (in no particular order).

Love my in-laws: We each said something about “your people becoming my people” on our wedding day, but I had no idea what that really meant in living color. I am learning that loving my in-law family from the heart is an act of loving my husband. Their choices are their decisions, but they are all part of T.J.’s life and have shaped the man I married.

My husband is not my best friend: I may be an outlier here, but being a husband is a plenty burdensome role, I think. I don’t want him to assume the role someone else should play. My closest friends are all women, and that is the most obvious reason that T.J. is not my best friend. I hope he’s relieved because of that.

Parenting is the longest test of teamwork: Now that our children are beyond the stage where the burden of childrearing fell disproportionately on me, parenting feels more like real teamwork where we equally shoulder the labor. And now that our children are old enough to catch on to our non-verbal cues and secret looks, I am learning that we have to be completely united in our parenting decisions and strategies.

Our kids need to see us kissing: I want to my children to see a marriage with random kisses in the mini-van, one that shows physical affection, attention, and devotion. In a world with widely divergent views of relationships, I want them to witness a marriage borne out of a covenant, where they will see physical acts of affection as part of a very happy, healthy marriage.

Some alone-time is necessary. T.J. loves board games and Star Wars and I love stationery and calligraphy. He gathers with his game group once a week while I dive into my own hobbies, obsessions, and projects. I relish the alone-time. But when he returns, we share our respective play-by-play of the night. The sharing encourages us to be excited for the other.

PB & J is an acceptable dinner: T.J. means it when he says, “I’d rather have PB & J or cereal every night for dinner if it means I can have more of you.” He would rather come home to a wife who is at ease because dinner will take all of 5 minutes to prepare and therefore, will still be happy to see him.

I married a sinner. This has been the most important lesson. I need to re-learn this truth and its implications every day. Forgetting it explains all the frustration, bitterness, and disappointment that I’ve felt whenever T.J. fell short of my impossible expectations. The poetic irony is that as I see his sin I often see more of my own with jarring clarity. Paul says in Romans 5:20, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Sin can lead to pointing fingers and keeping records by both of us. But God’s grace, when I slow down long enough to receive it, has a gobsmacking effect on me. Jesus welcomes us both as we are, and moves us both toward repentance and obedience. His grace has the power to transform the trajectory of our marriage from utter disappointment to unspeakable delight.