Lessons Learned in 10 Years of Marriage

A whole, entire decade has passed since we said “I do.”

Did you hear that? A decade!

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are far more couples who have celebrated greater anniversary milestones than us, but 10 years is most certainly something to celebrate! It seems so crazy that we’ve been married for ten whole years already, but I’m convinced that marriage years pass like parenting years – so slow and so fast, all at once. That being said, in honor of our anniversary, I’d share some of our story and the lessons I’ve learned in our adventure together.

OUR STORY

December 2006: I didn’t want to go. I had promised two friends I would attend a reunion at the Baptist Student Union at Middle Georgia College. Of course, the day rolled around and my enthusiasm for attending dropped and all I wanted to do was find a good excuse to let me weasel my way out of my overly ambitious commitment from the month before. Unfortunately, my mind was drawing a blank. Long story short, I went. I ended up having a great time, saw a bunch of friends I hadn’t seen in a good 3-4 years, and a guy I didn’t know caught my eye. Blue jeans, white Polo, and a John Deere hat. “It was fun! There was a cute guy there…I think his name is Jared,” I gave my roommate a condensed summary of the evening when I got home later that night. My friend, April, (who’d known me since our early days at MGC) gave her signature laugh and said, “Oh, lord!” I laughed, too, but it had been over 3 years since I was remotely interested in a guy and I think something inside of me knew this one was different.

The Campout: I did some detective work – like any good Southern girl would! – and realized this Jared fella and I had several mutual friends. We talked on the phone a couple times, messaged on Facebook a bit, and every time, I got all googley-eyed! Cut to the chase: a group of us got together around New Year’s and were going to camp on some of his land. A huge bundle of nerves and excitement, I drove to his house and a few of us  hopped in his truck to go get chairs and wood for a fire and to get the area set up. As a few others arrived, Jared asked if I’d ride to him to their shop to get ice. Obviously, YES! Duh! We drove through the country and as we made our way back to the campsite, he asked if I “maybe would want to go see a movie or something?” Um, again – YES! (Just kidding…it was more like, “Um, yeah, that’d be great.” (#SoNervousYall ) Our first campout was a fun night…one of the best memories from that night was when our buddy, Ryan, took the seat next me, put his arm around me, and we couldn’t stop laughing as the look on Jared’s face went from cool and relaxed to one that said “yeah buddy, you’re gonna need to move.” Nothing like good friends to push your buttons and get you to sit by that girl you like, right?

College Years & I Love You: Let’s don’t be ridiculous. I quit college – this section title is for my dedicated husband who finished his Bachelor’s degree while starting to farm. I lived in Bonaire, Georgia at the time and was working full-time at Geico in Macon, Georgia. Jared was at school in Valdosta, Georgia, then in Americus. We spent our weekdays busy with work and school and tried to spend every waking minute together from Friday-Sunday. I don’t remember when it was, but I said it first. “I love you” just slipped out while we were watching tv one evening and I’m pretty sure my heart stopped beating when I realized what I said….until he said it back. He later admitted he was mad I got to say it first, but hey, man…you snooze, you lose! Fridays were date nights and sometimes supper with one of our families. Saturdays were a toss up – if he was working, I’d go ride the tractor with him. Sundays, we went to church, then usually spent the day at his house with his family, until church that evening. Sunday nights were the hardest. Saying goodbye for the week in the parking lot at church tore my heart in two. I think that’s when I realized how much I loved Jared. Just the thought of being away from him for five days was heartbreaking for me. The longer our relationship progressed, the more difficult Sunday goodbyes were. I was thankful when he transferred to a closer college where he could commute for campus classes and farm during the week.

The Proposal: Wednesday. July 24, 2008. Get off work and go to church where I was helping with the youth group. I get out of church and head to Jared’s to go hang out for a bit, which was the norm. As I pull up in the driveway, he comes out and says he needs to go check some things and asked if I wanted to go, too. We hop in his truck and head to different spots to check irrigation and water levels…or so I thought. He keeps asking me to get out of the truck and walk with him. I refuse…It’s summer, y’all. In Georgia. It’s hot and I have on flip flops. Homeboy wants me to get out in tall grass to look at water levels. Yeah….no thanks. I’ll stay in the truck with the air conditioner and no snakes, thank you very much. The last place we go to is the spot where we camped that first December. There was some trash on the ground and he says we should get it picked up. SO, I get out and wonder why we’re picking up trash from six months ago. He grabs me, hugs and holds me, then holds my hands and tells me he loves me. He drops to his knee and I don’t remember anything he said after that. Something about our story starting here how he doesn’t want to have any part of his story without me in it, I think? That sounds good. We’ll go with that! Let’s be honest…when that moment happens, when you’ve waited for it, when you’re not expecting it today, when the man you love drops to a knee and you know what’s coming…it’s this mixed moment of  the excitement of “Oh. My. GAWD!” a’la Janice from FRIENDS and the calm perfection of the scene where Sara and Johnathan end up together in Serendipity. Now is when most people say, “Of course, I said YES!” Not me. I gave my new fiancé the exciting task of attempting to decode, “Are you kidding me?! Are you KIDDING ME?!” before I finally, emphatically said, “Oh my gosh! YES!”

The Wedding: It was the best Valentine’s Day that ever was. We got married in our church with 300 of our closest family and friends watching and celebrating with us. I pulled off a Valentine’s Day wedding without a touch of pink or red, which completely baffled my mama. She tried, but I just couldn’t do it. Some of my favorite flowers made up my bouquet and decor: white ranunculus, hydrangeas, and green stems. We had our wedding cakes, but also had a cookie bar for our guests to enjoy and take home. It was an incredible family- and Christ-centered celebration to start our married life together. Feels like yesterday, y’all.

 

 

      

 

A DECADE OF LEARNING

I wanted to think of something catchy to say here, but sometimes there’s just no sugar-coating it. Marriage is hard work. There is most definitely a honeymoon phase where you’re basking in the newlywed glow, living with your best friend, and wondering how in the world people think you’re adult enough for this. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like to believe I’m not the only one!

You ease out of that honeymoon phase where everything is just blissful and amazing and somehow wind up in the middle of real life. Bills and pets and chores and jobs and kids and schedules…the necessities of adulthood creep up and in and can overshadow the feelings of love and adoration. And let’s don’t mention when those quirky things you laughed at while you were dating suddenly become the most annoying things that make you want to hide your head under a pillow and scream. Anyone married to an ice-cream smacker? God be with you, my friend.

While 10 years of marriage hardly qualifies me for marriage-advice-giver status, I personally love to hear what other women have learned and know so that I can use their tips and stories to better my own relationships – especially with my husband. So, all that being said, here are a few things I’ve learned over the past decade.

 

1 | You’ve Got to Pray

“You’re my place of quiet retreat. I wait for your word to renew me.” Psalm 119:114

“Running to God should be our first response, not our last resort.” – Lisa Bevere

I always think of the words of MC Hammer: “We got to pray just to make it today.” Preach it, MC, preach it!
In all seriousness, prayer truly changes things and if I’m being honest, it changes me first. During the most difficult times in our marriage, the ones when I turned to prayer first are the ones that I felt more hope and peace about the soonest – even if that season continued. I’ve learned that praying for the Lord to change something Jared just because I don’t like it doesn’t offer the results I truly want. HOWEVER, when I pray that God would work on OUR hearts, draw us to Him & to each other, and help our attitudes and actions reflect His heart, THAT’S when change happens. I’m convinced that prayer is crucial in building a lasting relationship with your spouse.

 

2 | Honesty is Everything

So many disagreements in our relationship happened because one or both of us weren’t being honest with the other. Whether it’s an expectation we had that wasn’t met, a fear we’re facing, or a sin we’re struggling with, honesty would’ve allowed us to ask for help, reassurance, or accountability. We’re also big believers in the benefits of marriage counseling. In fact, if you’ve been married for 1 year or 50, I truly believe that finding a good, Christian counselor can be a game-changer in your marriage. If nothing else, it opens the door to opportunities for you to know your spouse on a deeper level and provides you with resources and ideas to keep that honeymoon phase an active season in your lifelong covenant with each other.

 

3 | Think of Your Spouse First (Jared’s top tip!)

“Be devoted to and honor one another above the other.” Romans 12:10 

Put your husband’s or wife’s needs above your own and expect nothing in return. When you look for opportunities to serve your spouse, you’re communicating love without words – love in action. If you serve with selfish motives, you’ll be disappointed or angry when the favor isn’t returned, but if you serve out of love and respect, you’re showing Christ’s love towards your spouse – unselfish and without conditions.

 

4 | Know Their Love Language (Jared’s second tip!)

If you haven’t read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, do it now! Order the book, read it, and do the quiz online. Knowing your spouse’s love language and looking for ways to love them through THEIR language is a game-changer. Usually, the way that they feel love is not the same way that you feel loved, and so it can be a challenge…literally, like speaking another language. My top two are gifts and quality time. Jared’s are acts of service and words of affirmation. When we make the effort to speak love in a way that makes the other feel the most loved, it deepens our love for one another in the process.

 

5 | Make Sure Your Spouse is Your #2

“A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength.” Matthew 22:37


       There’s not a single thing you can do to make a bigger impact on your life, your spouse’s life, or the life of your children than to prioritize and consistently spend time with the Lord. One of my friends was debating one day whether to get up early and go to the gym or get up early and spend time in the Word. She knew she only had an hour to herself and both options provided her results that she wanted. She asked her husband what he thought and his response is pure gold, y’all. He preferred she stay home and spend time in the Word. Why? Because the results of investing her limited time in her relationship with Christ would make her more beautiful in a lasting way, by molding and shaping her heart to look more like His. The invested time at the gym would change her outwardly, but her time in the Word would change her heart.

Listen. Your spouse is your number one ministry, but Christ is your number one relationship. If you get the two mixed up, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to meet the expectations of your spouse instead of growing in to who God created you to be – His.

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.” Song of Solomon 3:8

Of course, I could go on and on. I could tell you about planning date nights or making time for weekend getaways. I could tell you that true love is a husband who supports your Disney love, even though he’d rather be at Universal…but only if he’s not at home because #hermit. I could assure you that having a spouse that prays with and for you, helps encourage you, and supports your dreams and endeavors is priceless. There’s so much I could share, but it’s too much for one post!

I’ve definitely learned that marriage is an ongoing process of pruning and nurturing and growing and harvesting. Like most things in life, you’ll always get what you put in to it. If you choose to sow seeds of deception or secrecy or unfaithfulness, you’ll reap the fruit of that. If you choose to plant seeds of love and faithfulness and hope and joy, you’ll reap the fruit of your labor there. It’s up to you to decide how you invest not only in your spouse and your marriage, but ultimately what you invest into Christ and the legacy you’ll leave in His name.

10 years of marriage, y’all. 4 pregnancies, 3 kids, countless vacays, adventures, experiences, fights, makeups, and loads of laughter. 10 years of growing, learning, and loving my best friend. Still feeling like we’re not really adults and wondering if or when that ever feels real. All I know is that I wouldn’t trade this life with Jared Cross by my side for anything in the world.

I love that God created the idea of marriage. A covenant love that represents His love for us – what a gift! My last bit of advice? Don’t wait for anniversaries to celebrate – celebrate the little moments and milestones all along the journey. Marriage is an adventure, friend. It’s a ton of work and it’s absolutely worth every. single. second.

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