Here are ten things we’ve learned in 10 years of marriage. We hope you will be encouraged by this post!
By Erin and Will Odom
Today, in a tiny village in The-Middle-of-Nowhere, Costa Rica, we celebrate our 10th anniversary.
These 10 years have not come without a fight. We’ve had to fight hard for our marriage. In fact, during this very week six years ago, our marriage was all but over.
In the past 10 years, we’ve been through marriage counseling (with more than one counselor), gone to marriage conferences and retreats, participated in many marriage Bible studies, read a ton of marriage books, had mentors speak truth into our lives, and we continue to meet with our pastor to discuss ways we can improve our marriage.
We will be the first to admit our failures in marriage. We don’t write about marriage often because it’s an area where we most definitely feel humbled.
We know some of your reading this are in difficult positions. You may be in the middle of a divorce. You and your spouse may be at each other’s throats. We do not write to ignore your plight or minimize your pain.
If you are struggling right now, know you are not alone. The good news is that marriage can be a picture of mercy, forgiveness, and grace, and, ultimately, Christ and the Church–if we let it.
10+ Things We’ve Learned in 10 Years of Marriage
1. You will disagree and will sometimes have to agree to disagree.
This actually happened in the middle of writing this post–no joke! We had a disagreement over disciplining our daughter for something, and, in the end, we had to agree to disagree. We will more than likely come back around to the discussion and determine how to handle it.
We are both firstborns and can be strong-willed. That means that our natural tendency is to want the last word. Sometimes it’s best to let those last words be: Let’s just agree to disagree and move on.
And some arguments are just not worth having. It’s not uncommon for us to be in the middle of a disagreement and one or the both of us say: “This isn’t even worth arguing over.”
2. Differences, though difficult, balance your marriage and play into each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Although we have very similar interests, we are very different in personality. To give you an idea, Will is an ESTJ on the Myers-Briggs personality scale, and Erin is an ENFP.
In fact, this particular personality test puts us as one of the worst matches!
However, we’ve learned that differences can allow us to play into each others’ strengths and weaknesses and become stronger together.
It is pretty awesome to watch how Will picks up the slack in the areas where Erin is weak and vice versa.
Also, what may look like a flaw in your spouse in the beginning might actually turn into something you can learn from them.
For example, Will is the spender and Erin is the saver in our relationship. When we first got married, we disagreed about this a lot (and we still do sometimes), but Will has taught Erin to give more, and Erin has taught him that taking the time to look for sales, etc. is totally worth it.
3. Communication, listening and not just speaking, is the key to making marriage work.
This is definitely something we are still working on. Communication is probably the biggest struggle we have in our marriage right now. But it’s something worth working through. We are learning that it’s better to over-communicate than to under-communicate.
4. Text message is not a place to have any serious discussion.
We cannot tell you the number of times intense fellowship erupted because we refused to wait to talk about something in person.
We are slowly learning that conversations of any depth–especially when bringing up some kind of confrontation–are best had in person.
This can go for any relationship. Erin has had some friendships nearly severed because of misunderstandings over text messages.
5. You can’t expect to go to bed at different times and get up at different times and still have a sex life.
We are both night owls, but there have been many seasons where Will has gone to bed early since he has to be at work in the mornings, and Erin has stayed up late working since she runs a business from home.
We have learned that going to bed and getting up at different times is horrible for your sex life.
If you want to have this intimacy together, you have to be in the bed (and awake!) at the same time.
6. Learning each other’s love languages can make a world of difference.
Early in our marriage, we took a class based on the book The Five Love Languages. We laughed when we discovered that our love languages are completely opposite of each other!
Will’s love languages are gifts and acts of service; Erin’s are words and physical touch.
We’ve had to work hard to show each other love in each other’s love languages.
7. Parenting can make you fall in deeper love.
Will is a wonderful daddy. The funny thing is that neither of us had seen each other interact with kids a whole lot before we got married, so I really had no idea what kind of dad he would be. It turns out I couldn’t have asked for a better dad for my girls.
He is super hands on, and while we sometimes disagree on how to discipline our girls, the vast majority of the time we are 100% on board with the choices we make concerning our kids.
Watching your spouse parent can be super attractive and make you love them in an even deeper way than before.
8. Your spouse is not your enemy (although sometimes it might feel like it!).
You and your spouse have a common Enemy; His name is Satan. Spiritual warfare in marriage is for real. Satan wants to steal your joy and destroy your marriage.
Even in the midst of challenges or full-out fights, it’s important to remember that your spouse is not your enemy. You need to remind him (and yourself) that you are on the same side and want unity for your marriage.
9. Your spouse is God’s perfect provision for you, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
If Will and I believe what we say we believe–and that is that God is Sovereign–then we can know that we are God’s perfect provision for each other.
It’s important to see how God uses your spouse–flaws and all–to work in your life and bring your closer to Him.
10. You will have to forgive. (Maybe over and over and over again.)
You are going to offend each other. You are going to hurt each other–sometimes really, really bad.
Your spouse has the power to hurt you more than anyone else in the world, and after 10 years of marriage, both of us can say we’ve been there.
But we’ve also been on the other side.
We’ve experienced the beauty of forgiveness and have had the opportunity to love like Christ loves, for what a great forgiveness He had to bestow on us to bring us into relationship with Himself!
Forgiveness can be a process; for some things, you might need to forgive over and over again. But it’s worth it.
Bonus: Marriage is really, really, really hard work.
In case you don’t already know this (and if you don’t, then you might not be married yet!), or haven’t been able to tell from the previous list of 10 things we’ve learned in 10 years of marriage, marriage is very hard work. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing worth fighting for is.
Marriage has been the most sanctifying tool God has used in our lives.
It would have been very easy to have given up a few years ago (or even now sometimes!), but allowing God to work in our lives through our marriage has been 100 percent worth it.
Marriage Books and Resources We Recommend
Love and Respect (Will’s pick.)
The Power of a Praying Wife (Erin’s pick.)
Two Becoming One: This is the best marriage study we have ever been through; in fact, we have gone through the material at least three or four times!
Christian Family Life : Will does some volunteer work with this ministry and our good friend directs it. Will went on a marriage-building mission trip to Cuba a few years back with CFL. They are the producers of the Two Becoming One materials.
I love this, Erin! Happy anniversary to you and Will. 🙂 I have to say, I disagree on one thing that I would have agreed with in the past– you don’t have to ALWAYS go to bed and get up at the same time to have a good sex life. 🙂 My husband has worked a night shift since January, and that means we don’t sleep together five nights/days out of the week. That doesn’t mean we don’t have intimacy those days (although because we’re both SO tired, sometimes neither of us feels up to it). I will say, I treasure weekends a LOT more now than I used to!!
One of the biggest things I’ve learned in our four years of marriage is to not always assume the worst about my husband–and in fact, to default to assuming the best. He is a good person at heart, and when he’s doing something I don’t like I know that’s not the norm for him. Yes, we’re all sinners in need of forgiveness, but as a child of God with the Holy Spirit in his heart, I know his usual desire is to do good and not bad. I assume the same of myself, why not of him? When I assume his motives are for good (or at least aren’t intentionally for bad, like when he’s forgotten to pick me up from work because a friend called and needed to talk, or something) I get a lot less defensive which means I don’t start an argument, which would most likely be really stupid. haha. 🙂 There’s a lot of other things I’ve learned, but you covered most of the biggies!
I’m 22 and my husband is 25 we’ve been married just about 10 months so not a very long time. One thing I have learnt as I am currently 25 weeks pregnant with a little girl. If you had any boundaries going into marriage.. You quickly lose them when you become pregnant! And I don’t recommend getting pregnant for the first summer you’re married. Thankfully I have a very understanding husband!!!
I think the biggest lesson I have learned about marriage is that no matter how well he knows me he does NOT know what I am thinking. I often assume that he knows how I am feeling and then I get upset that he does not react the way I think he should.
Congrats on 10 years! It is a big accomplishment!
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
Sarah @ little bus on the prairie
I completely agree about going to bed at the same time! We’re going on 8 years and I think that has been one of the most helpful practices that we have in our marriage, no exaggeration. Aside from sex, it gives a prime time to talk and it builds trust because you never have to wonder what the other spouse is doing while you’re asleep. It puts the priority on your partner instead of whatever it is one person might stay up and do alone (play games, watch a movie, etc).
I do disagree with the idea of never arguing over text message. Although there are times when tones can get misconstrued, I think there is a real benefit to being able to type out your words and think about what you are going to say instead of having to react right away to what someone else says. My husband and I often hash things out via text throughout the day and it also helps to not sit and stew about something all day while he’s at work. Of course we do continue the conversations in person, but I think texting has it’s uses for sure!
Congratulations on 10 years! I absolutely love your list! My husband and I will have been married a year on August 2nd. I’m starting to get butterflies just thinking about celebrating our 1st wedding anniversary! We’ve learned a lot this year!
Thanks for the great advice!
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
Happy anniversary Erin!
This is a great list. As a general rule, I would agree with number 5 (it’s a habit we try to practice) but I think that when circumstances don’t allow for it, the more important point is just to keep making sex a priority. I think frequent intimacy is one of the best safeguards for a marriage. Not simply because of curbing temptation (though that’s certainly part of it), but also because being intimate together really does keep you connected on a deep level. Often, when we feel at odds with each other, even though it can seem counter-intuitive to seek intimacy at that time, it’s what we need to resolve the problem and come back together.
Also, making it a habit to give each other the benefit of the doubt is so helpful. Assume the best unless you have clear indications otherwise. It will prevent unnecessary arguments and save you from a lot of inner turmoil. 😉
Sooo true! July 31st makes 5 years my wonderful husband and I have been married. We have been through so much in these past 5 years and through the good and the bad we learned that we just have to stick together and trust God first! I love this post! Thanks for being so transparent and truthful! It’s what this world really needs today!
We have been blessed to be married 32 years! Things that I have learned during that time is:
*Just because it is important today, doesn’t mean it will be a year from now. Don’t let things come between you.
*I don’t always have to be right (even if I am, I don’t always have to point it out!)
Always put your husband first. It is important to him that he feels that. We both love our kids. But as the kids get older, we need to be united in dealing with them!.
Sarah @The Teacher's Wife
Happy Anniversary! My hubs and I are about to celebrate 12 years this Sunday and I agree with so many of these. We chuckle sometimes because we are so different, but thought we were so much alike while we were dating. 🙂
My husband and I celebrated 20 years of marriage in May. I got to disagree with number 5. My husband and I are both introverts. He loves the silent night hours and I love the silent morning hours. If I stay up late I can see he is frustrated wanting to be alone but not wanting to hurt my feelings . When he wakes up early he too gets a cold shoulder from me, even though I try to be polite, as I need that refueling time. Our “play” time begins with one waking the other up and truly that is half the fun sometimes. Other times when the kids were little on weekends it was “nap time” not just for kids but for us too.
Happy anniversary! 🙂 My hubby and I celebrated 10 years in May and our kids are similar ages to yours – ours were born in 2007, 2008, 2011 – and we are both first-borns, as well! Being married for 10 years does start to make you think about what’s working and what things you can improve. I love your list and couldn’t agree more! My hubby and I are starting to go to bed at the same time several nights a week and we’re loving the difference it makes spending time with each other. I would just add to #8 that my parents (married for 44 yrs) have always said that their motto has been ‘it is us against the world.’ Having that ‘we are a team’ attitude goes a long way in fighting Satan’s desire to destroy marriages and families.
We just celebrated 50 years of marriage last Friday. I like your 10 things you have learned and shared. Print that list and see what you add at 20 years, etc. The only things I will add include: Don’t only forgive, but forget (that is the hard part of forgive). Say “I’m Sorry” even when you might not mean it at the moment. Given a little time to think about it, you can say it and mean it. Men are not mind readers. If you don’t let him know how you feel about something, he probably won’t figure it out at all, and you only have yourself to blame for being upset. My final thought is something I read : When you get upset about something, ask yourself, if you were to die tomorrow, was it worth your being upset about today?
We have been married 23 years. God has strengthened our marriage through difficult times–one awful year, we lost our home, many possessions, church, jobs, reputation, and my health. Also due to my extreme Toxic Injury, we have been homeless (with our three children) several times because we could not find a place to live that didn’t make me horribly sick. It is NOTHING like anything we thought we’d ever go through as college-educated, first-born (both of us), type A, American Christians. But, who are we to think we “shouldn’t” go through stuff that people in other countries go through everyday? (poverty, etc.) And, our God is faithful. I can’t even begin to list all we have learned, but some are: it’s okay to “discuss” (argue nicely) in front of the kids. We had no choice when living in a Winnebago, but we learned that the kids will learn the truth (people disagree and that’s okay 🙂 ) and learn how to argue respectfully. We also learned that we never realized some things about each other, that we commonly interpreted some actions and words incorrectly because of previous experiences. Hashing this out has helped us become extremely close. We learned that God can be trusted even when you feel like you are falling off a cliff. And we learned that a structure does not make a home; love does.
Thank you for sharing these! Gosh such a blessing in this season of life. I’ve tried to click on the “two becoming one” resource study and a 404 page pops up…is this still available by any chance?
Oh no! Here is a new link:http://www.christianfamilylife.com/store/
This is a great list. Very true about the texting statement. Our counselor told us that he stays in business due to people texting.
The point about your spouse not being your enemy is really great. My wife and I have only recently been married and we really try not to argue as much when we were first married. Speaking to a professional would really help my wife and I out.
My husband and I have been married for 23 years. I would venture to say that staying married is the hardest thing we’ve ever done. We could really benefit from counseling or attending some marriage seminars, but don’t know where to start. If anyone has a particular retreat, conference, counselor etc. that helped them, I would really appreciate it if you would share with me. I feel like I’ve read every marriage book on the horizon- including several that Erin shared here. We need third party help.