Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

20 lessons on marriage in 20 years

What the past 20 years as a missus have taught me about love and marriage

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. I can scarce believe it’s been two decades of marriage! We married young. I was 20 and only halfway through undergrad. He was 22 and had just gotten a full-time job while going to school part-time.

A lot has changed since we first said “I do,” and yet a lot has remained the same as well. We have grown and changed together. We have learned so much about what love and marriage really mean.

1. Being married doesn’t mean losing yourself.

Since we got married young, we were both still figuring out our place in the world. We knew some of who we were, but we hadn’t had a huge amount of life lived to really refine and define us. We just knew we loved each other and God — and that was enough.

Through the years, we also learned that being married as one didn’t make each of us any less of who we were individually. In fact, being together brought out the best of our individual selves. I am a better person today because of my husband. And sometimes it’s OK to do things apart from one another. Even as husband and wife, you still need your own space.

2. Marriage is a team sport.

I probably say this more than anything else when I talk about marriage and relationships. We are a team. Though neither one of us are sports fans, we learned early on to be a team and have a team mentality in our relationship.

Our goal above all is to support one another and be on the same side. My husband and I do best when we approach life as a team working together instead of as opponents each looking out for ourselves. Nobody else has my back more than my husband and the same is true in reverse. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders and are the safe place for each other to land when life is hard.

3. Laughter and fun are vital to a happy marriage.

We laugh a lot. Life is serious. Sometimes it is hard. Sometimes it brings us to our knees, but any chance we find for humor, we take it. We laugh together as much as we can because taking ourselves too seriously never ends well. Laughter also gives us perspective on whether something is really all that important. We try to adhere to the thought that if we’re going to laugh about it later, why not go ahead and laugh about it now?!

And my husband 100 percent gets my quirky, punny sense of humor and exploits it often. I’m not sure I should be as old as I am and still giggle, but he still makes me giggle. For that, I am thankful!

We also have fun together playing games. Gaming was his hobby when we first got married. Through the years I have evolved from a gamer’s wife into a gaming wife, and I’m so glad I did. We have such a good time together when we get a chance to play together!

4. Marriage is made for giving grace.

My husband has taught me so much about grace just by giving it to me. Sometimes I get snippy with my husband because I’m having a bad day or a bad moment, and he will respond with love instead of irritation. I’ve done the same for him. Grace isn’t an excuse to treat each other badly. It just means that when one of us is having a bad moment, the other one recognizes it and doesn’t respond with anger or irritation and escalate the situation.

We also don’t partake in the blame game when someone messes up. We learned that the second day we were married when we ran out of gas on our way to our honeymoon. We were both so excited to be married and going somewhere together that neither of us remembered to get gas on the way. Instead of blaming one or the other of us, we both realized it was a mistake and figured out how to fix it while also having a great story to tell for years to come.

5. You’ve got to make each other a priority.

My husband and I both work from home. While I’ve worked from home since 2003, he has only worked from home the last few years. For the last year or so, we’ve shared a home office. So, we are together a lot. In fact, we’re together more than we’re not.

Yet, we still have to make connecting with each other a priority. Because life gets in the way. While we work side-by-side, we have different jobs. Add in house stuff and the kids, and actually connecting can be challenging. We’ve found that making time to have a meal just the two of us or chatting once the kids are in bed is important for our relationship.

6. Being married means being your true self with someone else.

I think one of the best ways to know if you really, truly love someone is how comfortable you feel being yourself with them — being your true self that comes out when you’re at home and nobody is watching. My husband and I have that comfort with each other. He has seen me at both my best and worst and loves me still. I have seen him at his best and worst and still love him. I am thankful we can be comfortable with each other.

7. Spouses aren’t mind readers.

While my husband knows me better than anyone else, he still can’t read my mind. Early on in our marriage, I learned that communicating well is important. If there is something I want or need my husband to do, I ask politely.

My husband is highly annoyed by passive aggressive behavior. (Really, who isn’t?!) We have learned to cut it out of our interactions. It’s nice because we know what we say is what we mean. The only games being played around our house are of the video, board or role playing variety — not in our relationship.

8. Poking fun at each other isn’t a good idea.

We don’t make fun of each other. It’s another lesson learned early on that poking fun or joking at the other person’s expense can lead to hurt feelings and undermine our relationship. We do joke with each other and can poke fun at ourselves. But we definitely know the limits.

9. Keeping God in your marriage is important.

From the beginning of our relationship, my husband and I strived to honor God with our choices. When we got engaged, that only became more important and more serious. Our engagement in the middle of college caused some friction, and we found ourselves in prayer and Bible study to determine whether we had heard God correctly or not.

Our marriage spiritual walk has changed and grown as we have. We did a pre-marital Bible study together. We’ve done couples’ devotion books together. We now do a family devotion together with our kids each evening. I’ve learned that my husband has some awesome spiritual insight and thoughts that haven’t occurred to me. He is one of the only people I feel comfortable with getting into the really meaty struggles of faith and my relationship with God because I know I can trust him fully.

We have kept each other accountable. We have encouraged each other in our faith walks. We have grown spiritually together. We have joint stories of God’s work, goodness, grace and mercy that we can share. I’ve also learned that when my relationship with God is on track and growing then my relationship with my husband is even better.

10. Talking negatively about your spouse to others isn’t helpful.

When we were first married, we had some friends who were also newlyweds and would gripe about their spouses. We made a deal that if we had a problem with each other, we would address it with the other and not complain about it to our friends.

That policy has served us well. First of all, we don’t want to focus on the things that can drive us crazy about our spouse, which is what happens with griping. Second, it keeps us communicating and fixing issues, which is healthy. And third, our friends will remember negative gripes we’ve had about our spouse long after we have forgiven them and moved on.

11. Bragging on your spouse is always permitted.

Everybody loves compliments. The more you can brag on your spouse about what they are good at or do well, the better you feel about him and the better he feels about him and you as a result.

Nothing feels better than being recognized for what you do or what you do well. So many life experiences go against positivity. Any time you can be positive about your spouse, do so!

12. Being best friends with your spouse is awesome.

While I do have other friends, my husband is by far my best friend. He’s the person I go to first with good news or bad news. He’s the person I laugh with the most and genuinely want to hang out with the most.

As an introvert who needs alone and downtime, I can enjoy the company of friends but still feel a bit drained as a result. That isn’t true with my husband. He sees the real me and is still my best friend. I am so thankful for that!

13. Sometimes you just have to trust your spouse’s knowledge.

One of the things that drew me to my husband way back when we were in high school was how intelligent he is. He is a smart guy. He thinks outside the box. He comes up with efficient ways to accomplish tasks. He can visualize things that I cannot.

Long ago, I learned to trust his knowledge when it is superior to mine. When we were looking for a new house a decade ago, we had a discussion as to whether the dining room set we had would fit in one of the houses we were looking at. I wasn’t sure. My husband said yes. I conceded he knew best because I really can’t visualize well and know he can. Our realtor was shocked. But it just makes sense. He has strengths. I have strengths. It makes sense to use those strengths instead of fight against them.

14. Romance changes as you go.

One time when my husband and I were dating, he gave me a small teddy bear holding a pair of earrings. Another time, I left him a note on his car while he was inside his work. Those were sweet and romantic gestures, but they were nothing compared to the romantic gestures of love that come with being married for so long.

For example, he’s driven me out of state for doctor appointments many times to allow me to see a specialist for my chronic health issues. While that may not scream romance as we see it in movies and on television, it does to me. He has given up his own time and comfort because he loves me and wants me to feel better. He has worked late to be able to take off and go with me. He hasn’t complained when I wasn’t up to even help with driving. That is romance and love beyond anything a flower or card could say.

15. Traditional romantic gestures are still nice and appreciated!

While number 14 is 100 percent true, we do also still appreciate traditional romantic gestures. Nice meals out just the two of us are priceless. A card left with words of love is sweet. Surprise flowers or flowers for an occasion are precious.

On our anniversary last week, for example, I spent the afternoon with both kids swimming on their last day of summer break. I came home worn out and found a beautiful bouquet of flowers, a nice card and my favorite candy waiting for me from my husband. It was unexpected, and I looked a frightful mess. I also loved every moment of it!

16. Good life experiences are even better when shared with someone you love.

I love being a mama. But I love more sharing the parenthood journey with my husband. I love sharing all my journeys with him. We can share a quick look and know what the other is thinking. No one else finds our children so adorable, smart, charming, precious and hilarious as we do.

No one else understands the small victories (or big ones) we have quite as much as each other. We’ve celebrated together over things that don’t make much sense to anyone else, which is exactly how it should be!

17. Marriage is made for inside jokes.

I’ve struggled many times throughout my life with feeling left out, whether legitimately or perceived. If there were inside jokes, I often wasn’t included.

However, that’s not true with my husband. And in 25 years of being together, we have plenty to go around. There are things that happened a decade or more ago that still can come up randomly and make us laugh together. Inside jokes are a pretty precious gift, even (and maybe especially) when no one else would find them remotely funny.

18. Take and print photos.

When my husband and I first got married, it was before digital cameras were common and way before phone cameras were around. In fact, a video from the day of our wedding includes a friend of ours talking about his new digital camera and how it holds six pictures!

In our early days we used film cameras. I started a photo album tradition for each year we were married of putting together photos for that year with captions. That meant having the photos printed, the typing, printing and cutting out the captions before putting them together into albums.

While my process has changed, thanks to online photo sites, I still make an album for each year with photos and caption info. I’ve found these to be priceless even after only 20 years. Having recently gone through photos of my parents for their 50th wedding anniversary, I can only say they’ll get more precious with time. I hope one day our kids will be glad to have them, too.

Taking photos of each other and together even when you aren’t social media ready is important. And I’d daresay it’s also important to have some cherished photos just for you and not just to post on social media.

19. Marriage means having a built-in sounding board.

I enjoy being able to bounce ideas off my husband, and he enjoys the same in reverse. Sometimes making both large and small decisions is just easier when you have someone to talk it through with.

We have talked together through major life decisions like having babies and moving. And we regularly talk through very minor decisions like what home project to work on next or what after-school activities our kids can participate in.

20. Marriage gives you a permanent sidekick.

This is one of my favorite parts of marriage. I’ve got a person by my side for always. Sometimes that looks like my husband going with me to a friend’s wedding or me going with him to a family reunion. Other times it looks like him taking over with the kids so I can go to dinner with a friend or I take over so he can play games with friends.

We’ve each gone to events for one another that we didn’t really want to, but it’s always been better being together than apart. We learned early on in our marriage to discern and communicate what activities are important to have each other there and what ones are OK to give a pass. Being honest with each other about what is most important to us has helped us know how to best be there for each other and be able to rely on each other to come along when we ask them to.

When your spouse gives you unsolicited advice

Accepting advice from the person we’re married to can be challenging!

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This post first appeared on my former blog in 2014. Its message still applies. While I continue to get better at accepting unsolicited advice from my husband, I am still a work in progress!

It happened this morning. I was in the kitchen making some homemade bread, which in and of itself sounds impressive, right? Add in that I was doing so while the toddler randomly swirled around my feet whining and while keeping track of eggs boiling on the stove for tonight’s chef salad dinner sounds even more impressive, I’m sure.

My daughter was at the table playing. My husband was on the couch in the dining room checking work e-mails and helping to keep the roaming toddler from eating things out of the trashcan. I got the bread going in my beloved stand mixer and set the timer for eight minutes to let the dough get worked around in the mixer. And that’s when it happened.

“Is the mixer supposed to jump around like that?” my husband asked.

I almost rolled my eyes. THIS was my domain. I was the one who was the expert. After all, I’d had the mixer just over a year and had read at least six bread recipes on Pinterest. I’d heard about stand mixers jumping around while kneading dough.

“Yes,” I said. “It did this last time, too.”

A minute later he piped up with, “Does it lock?  Do you have it locked?”

Another silent sigh from me. “Yes, it locks, but it’s not locked.”

“What I’m reading online says you’re supposed to lock the top down.”

Hhmmm. OK. I flipped the switch. “Now it’s locked,” I said.

And I noticed the mixer did settle down a bit. My husband went on to tell me that he had read some tips. He was right on this, even though I had not sought his advice.  

A moment later my phone dinged with new e-mail. I checked it to see if it was a source I’ve been waiting to hear from for an article. Nope. It was an e-mail from my husband with links to a couple of sites with helpful tips about my Kitchenaid mixer that I love so dearly.

“You sent me an e-mail about the mixer?” I asked, incredulously.  

I was trying to remind myself to be grateful for the accurate albeit unsolicited advice. In my head, I was thinking more along the lines of, “Back off, buddy. THIS is MY domain. Do I come into your office and tell you how to test the security of that company’s network?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I found some good information. From what I read, you could actually break your stand mixer and I know you wouldn’t be happy about that.”

I gritted my teeth. He was right. Dang it! “Thanks,” I said. “I appreciate it.”

I’ll pretend like I was gracious in that response. But the fact that he then looked at me and informed me he saw right through me to know I was bristling will tell you that my tone did not match my words.

We get all sorts of unsolicited advice from a variety of sources. If you’re a parent, it comes in from the beginning. Everybody and their brother tells you ways to get your baby to sleep better, eat better, poo better and on and on the list goes. From outside sources, it’s easy enough to be polite and then move on. But inside sources, like our spouses, offering unsolicited advice can be much tougher to handle.

This isn’t the first time my husband has given me unsolicited advice and I’m sure it won’t be the last. And while my response today wasn’t super stellar, it was at least tempered by the fact that I know his advice to be sound and I know it to be coming from a good place. Men like to fix things. He likes to help me fix things.

And he knows me quite well. I have done many tasks throughout our marriage and my life that I’ve made more difficult than I need to. He’s swooped in and saved me multiple times in the past.

I’m learning to listen. I’m learning to try and be more grateful on the outside in hopes that it will follow on the inside. I’ve also learned that I do eventually feel grateful on the inside. At the moment of the advice, I don’t. I feel criticized and annoyed. But later on, I realize that my life has been improved as a result of this advice. Because, shockingly enough, I don’t actually know everything!

I’ve learned this with parenting alongside my husband as well. He’s found tricks to help with the kids that I haven’t (and vice versa). Between our daughter’s and son’s births, I learned to listen better and not be irritated with him. After all, he was the first to figure out what was going on with our daughter’s feeding issues.  

He has good information. My husband is a smart man who thinks outside the box and is tenacious to come up with solutions and easier ways to do things. This is part of what I love about him. This is part of what makes him such a great husband and life partner.  

In fact, I’ve learned to seek his advice in areas of my life that I hadn’t thought to early on because I know he’s so good at coming up with awesome solutions. But when advice comes at me when I’m not looking for it and I think I know the best way to do something, then I get defensive. (And did I mention that I am also a bit stubborn?)

I’m working to accept unsolicited advice as graciously as if I had asked for the help. Later today, I will tell my husband that I am sincerely grateful for his tip about the mixer. It makes sense. His suggestions worked better and if it saves my beloved mixer from harm, that’s even better. I do appreciate it.  

And step by step, maybe I’ll get better at being more grateful sooner than later. Talk to me in another 20 years and we’ll see. I hope I make more progress. If not, perhaps I’ll ask my husband for his advice on how to do so!

With advice from my husband, my stand mixer is still working well five years later. I love it so much! Read more about my love for my stand mixer here:

Be sure to check out some of my favorite recipes I use my stand mixer for!

Beyond the vows: To love and to cherish

“Beyond the vows” is a new series about what marriage relationships actually look like once the wedding is over and life happens. Learn more about the series and how you can share your own story here!

Taylor Lee, from Accomplished Family, is sharing her story of learning what it means to love and to cherish her husband for the “Beyond the vows” series. You’re going to be blessed by her story!

I had found the man I was supposed to marry at an early age, even though it took me a few years to realize that. He was kind, sweet and had the best sense of humor. I was broken, full-of self-doubt and lost.

Every time I broke up with him, he was always right there when I decided to run back into his arms. He was crazy about me, and I was forever scared to put all my eggs into one basket.

He wasn’t perfect. Each time I would find a flaw I would distance myself from him and tell myself he was not the guy. I let him go again and again.

I would find temporary boyfriends. Once I realized that they weren’t the match for me, I would find myself reaching back out to my favorite guy.

Despite all the times that I would break up with him, he was always there for me when I needed a friend. I finally got smart and asked him to take one more chance with me. I knew as well as he did that it was a gamble.

I might’ve been finicky, but I absolutely loved him. Always had!

Love wasn’t the problem.

In time I figured out how to show that love. Things were good.


It took me years to figure out the importance of cherishing him. Love simply isn’t enough when getting into a marriage.

Love isn’t going to keep the fire going.

Understanding that you care about the person you married isn’t enough either.

Love isn’t going to get you through the hard times.

Cherishing your significant other is the key to making your marriage last.

We found this out the hard way.

Although we cared for each other, we didn’t work at it. We simply said the words, but there was a heavy lack of action behind the love. There was no push on either end for us to communicate with each other; our marriage suffered because of it.

They say that the first year is hard. They are right!

In a few short months we were ready to call it quits. We seemed to be two totally different people, and a divorce sounded like a better solution.

Ultimately, it took him moving out for both of us to realize that we needed each other. It wasn’t enough that we loved each other.

You can love but if you don’t put in the time to take care of someone, they start to understand that they aren’t worth your time.

Although it took some time for both of us to realize, we are now stronger than ever before.

We take time to talk to each other, and we work to strengthen our relationship.

We flirt with each other — even between the work, school and two children. We always make time for each other, even though our dinner and movie have now switched gears to our living room rather than a night out.

Sometimes you don’t realize how much you need to grow until things happen, and you must make a change to make it work.

If you love him, you must work on that love all the time.

Knowing that you love him is only half of it. You must work on showing him through your actions that you love him, and you must love yourself enough to expect him to do the same for you.

Things aren’t always going to be blue skies and rainbows, but if you work at it, it will continue to flourish. Love each other through and through.

Think of everything that he does for you, what you do for him and how you can spend time together to make it a great life.

Take time as often as you can to spend time together. Don’t just sit on your phones in the same room. Actually put the phones down, look into each other’s eyes and communicate.

Share your dreams and aspirations with each other. This will help you to grow together instead of just trying to make it through the day, day after day, year after year, and then, when the kids are grown wondering, “Who are you?”

If you take the time, you will feel the love. It’s been five years for us, and I sincerely look forward to everyday with him. Be thankful for the man you married. Love him. Cherish him. He’s worth putting the phone down for.

Learn more about the “Beyond the vows” series and how you can share your own story here!

Find other articles from the series:

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