Twenty years ago, I walked down the aisle and said, “I do”. I thought I loved my husband at that moment with all my heart. Boy was I wrong. Don’t be confused, I did love him on that day but over the course of the next 20 years I have fallen more deeply in love with him as the days have passed. We thoroughly enjoyed the season of our marriage when we didn’t have our son, but we looked forward to completing our family. We traveled often. Cruising each year and going on weekend getaways. He would tag along with me on business trips and I would do the same. The first three years were sweet. We had no care in the world and just enjoyed being together.
Around the fourth year of marriage and into the fifth we suffered through infertility and our marriage grew stronger. Don’t get me wrong. Those were extremely tough and dark days. However, we clung to each other and our faith. We continued traveling and spending time with friends as we went through a variety of fertility treatments, surgeries and saw various specialists. I knew in my heart that our family would eventually be complete. I kept the faith.
At our fifth year of marriage we sold our first home and custom built our 2nd home together. Quickly after settling into our new home we started the adoption process for our son. Those were the longest 14 months of our life. We once again clung to each other and our faith. God carried us through some of the darkest days of our life but in the end, it was worth it. The day that our son was placed into our arms forever was one of best days of our life. All of the heartache was erased and we were so joyous. Our family was complete.
Seemingly overnight I began to fall deeper in love with my husband. I watched him before my eyes become a different man. He gave up golfing, his personal time and devoted himself to our son and I in a way that touched my heart. He is a great Dad. For that I will be eternally grateful. He changed diapers, he gave baths, he was “puked” up on, he took the night shift, he played with our son while I had a break. Those days passed quickly. Before we knew it we became a soccer family. My son started playing soccer at age three. My husband coached him until he was 8. He is now 13 and plays for a select soccer team. My husband never misses a game (or a practice). He is a super soccer Dad. Throughout the 13 years that I have watched my husband as a father I have fallen deeper in love with him every single day.
There are have been rough times though. My husband’s job was eliminated five years ago and then a few months later we found out that I had to have my 2nd open heart surgery. We could have fallen apart, but we didn’t. We once again clung together and relied on our faith. During these days my husband literally devoted himself taking care of me and our son. He slept on the waiting room floor for two nights while I was in ICU and I think this is the first time he had to consider, “what if”. He literally nursed me back to good health. I can recall never feeling closer to him during my recovery. After almost a year he got a new job and life got back on track for us. That was a LONG hard year. It would have been easy to fall apart but we didn’t.
And then we decided to move. Two years ago, we decided to move to Berea where we met. This is also my home town and a very special place for both of us. We met on my first day at Berea College in June 1991 and little did I know, that day he told my cousin that he was going to marry me one day. Well seven years later he did. I didn’t learn this story until at our rehearsal dinner! We did not date during college. We were inseparable and the best of friends but never dated. He graduated in 1994 and I graduated in 1995.
I can recall telling one of my friends in the fall 1996 that I wish I could find someone just like Tim. She looked at my blankly and said, “have you ever thought of dating Tim”. I laughed. No, of course not. We were best friends. She then said, “what better foundation” for a marriage. WOW. That opened the door to considering dating Tim. We were already in love, I just didn’t know it yet. In December of 1996 we went on our first “official” date and by the spring of 1997 we started dating and then got engaged in the fall of 1997. The rest is history.
My husband and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary today! It is hard to believe it has been 20 years because it seems like just yesterday that we said “I do”. In reflecting on our 20 years of marriage I thought it might be a great time to share some tips for how we have stayed happily married for twenty years! Don’t get me wrong. There have been bad days. There have been times where one would have considered throwing in the towel. But that isn’t an option. You see Tim just didn’t ask me to “marry him”. He asked me to spend “an eternity with him”. He said on the night he proposed that divorce will never be an option. With that being said, it would have been easy to walk away several times in our marriage when times were tough. That was not something that we allow ourselves to consider.
The one thing that I will share is even on the really bad days that we never go to bed angry. Even if that means we don’t go to bed (and that has happened on several occasions) that has been our motto from day one. He still kisses me goodnight every single night, he still looks at me like no one else does in this world and when we make mistakes we give each other grace upon grace.
How we have stayed happily married for twenty years
- God First – Keep God in the center of your marriage. The closer you are to God the closer that you will remain to your husband. When both you and your husband keep God centered in your life you will have an anchor that will keep you centered together. My husband and I pray together, for each other and we study the word of God together. This has kept us anchored as we have weathered many storms throughout our marriage.
- Keep your husband 2nd – I know this sounds strange but it is true. It is a lesson that I almost learned the hard way. Keep your husbands needs above the needs of your children. Repeatedly I hear women say that “their children are their world”. While my son is extremely important to me it wasn’t until I changed my focus from my son being my #1 priority that my marriage soared. When your children are babies obviously they need all your attention but as they mature you can focus more on your husband. This has been something that has kept us connected through the past 20 years. So God 1st and Hubby 2nd.
- Go on dates and take trips together without the kids. While it is important to have family time it is also important to have couple time. My husband I started going on regular date nights when Peyton was 2 years old. We have continued that tradition since then. Every year we also go on a trip with only the two of us. This is a time that we treasure. Regardless of your budget take the time to go on a trip with your spouse every year you are married. Sometimes that may be a single night away, other times it is a weekend and occasionally it is a week. Every year we always go on a trip with just the two of us. This gives us time together to focus on only our relationship.
- Give each other grace – When we make mistakes (and we do) we say we are sorry. We ask for forgiveness and then we don’t harbor grudges. It is simple. We love each other like Christ loves us.
- Don’t make major purchases without each other. We went through counseling before we married. Our pastor told us that the number one cause for marital problems is fighting over money. He suggested that we make a rule that we don’t make major purchases without each other’s “approval”. Of course, that is something that I struggled with at first as I am an independent woman however I truly appreciate that advise and it has been something that we have always held true too. Our definition of major purchase includes anything that is over $1000.
- Best Friends – We started our relationship as friends. In my opinion it has been so important to our marriage because we have not only remained friends through our 20 years of marriage we have also remained each others best friend. We tell each other everything. He knows the good, bad and the ugly and loves me through it. There is no other friend that holds a higher priority than each other.
These are just a few of the things have continued to strengthen our relationship. I love my husband with all my heart and soul. He is truly my greatest blessing that God gifted me with. I can’t imagine my life without him. That is not saying that there are not hard days. There have been times that we don’t get along, we have said unkind words to each other, we have times that we drifted apart BUT we have always found our way back to each other. I am thankful for grace upon grace because without it I am not sure we would have survived twenty years.
We have always described marriage as roller coaster. Sometimes there will be highs and often there will be lows. Remember to scream from the peaks, hold hands through the loop-de-loops and enjoy every single twist and turn. For the ride is better when you experience it together. I am not a marriage expert by any means but simply sharing what has worked for us.
In closing, I hope that this helps someone who is entering a marriage or finds themselves needing hope. I would suggest that before you marry that you seek the guidance of marriage counseling. That is something that we attribute our success too. I would also suggest that you commit before God to an eternity of marriage and commit to working hard on your marriage daily. Stay connected at heart. To my husband. I love you more with each day that passes, and I look forward to spending at eternity with you. You have all my love for now and always.