I recently celebrated my 5-year anniversary with my wife. These 5 years have been great! But they have also been challenging in ways I didn’t anticipate.
In reflecting back on many of the lessons I’ve learned (so far) over these past five years of marriage, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned. Perhaps they will help you too. That is my hope. But let me back up a bit to give you a little background first.
I met Alia in the summer of 2013. But we did not “click” until the following summer after reconnecting at an event we both were attending. She was painting and I was leading a portion of the time at this event. She later invited me to a game night. I responded and then asked her out for coffee afterwards. We got married on the 11-month anniversary of when we formally started dating.
In looking back, in all honesty, we were just kids who had a lot to learn. Plus, we had a lot of maturing ahead of us. (And we still do. In all honesty, who doesn’t?)
5 years in Reflection
After some of the best years and some of my hardest years of my life, I would like to offer 5 reflections on life and marriage:
• Marriage is not about me.
I know that is a simple statement to make. But it isn’t easy to live out, and keep applying. I had no idea going into marriage just how much I was into what I was doing, what I was dreaming about, and what I wanted life to look like. I had not really considered that my wife would have her own dreams, thoughts, and ambitions! If I could offer a little advice to a younger me, I would say go, and read Malachi 2:13-16. Also read Ephesians 5:25, and 1 Peter 3:7. Then consider just how much God loves my wife personally.
I heard Gary Thomas, the author of Sacred Marriage, once say that when we marry, God becomes our “father-in-law.” And we had better respect His daughter! I love that thought. But it also strikes the fear of the Lord in my heart knowing I do not automatically think of my wife as my first instinct. I’m seriously, and prayerfully working on that. It is a lifetime work that I am committed to make a priority.
Additionally, I’ve learned over these 5 years that:
• Marriage matures us.
I was just a kid in so many ways when I asked Alia to marry me. I never had sisters and was the youngest in my family. This meant I had a lot to learn about what it meant to be gentle, loving, and romantic. I’m glad that Alia was so patient as I learned to not push her into the bushes as a way to show my love. (I’m shaking my head at myself as I write this.)
Beyond the silly things there have also been the harder things of life I/we have learned through together. This involves a hard miscarriage, to balancing shifting careers, to having kids, and more. I’m also learning how to love my wife well while we’ve gone through a ton of transitions for both of us. I’m seeing that life, and God, has had a way of turning an independent boy into a more loving husband. And now I’m also a father.
This leads to another transition (with more lessons to learn):
• Becoming a parent changed my marriage.
While the first few years of marriage to Alia may have softened me up a bit, I was still very focused on work and ministry. I love to be a part of things and to make a difference. This means sometimes I have said “yes” to things I should have said “no” to. I’ve had a lot of backtracking in saying “no” to things that were important…. but not vital for me to do. Just because I want to do something, it doesn’t mean I should.
I think having our sons, Asher and then Judah, has made me evaluate what it means to put my wife and family first. Additionally I am evaluating what the nature of masculinity, fatherhood, and being a husband means. I am seeing that I can’t do it all. I need to rearrange my priorities as a husband and father.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love solving problems, and making a positive difference in this world. But I know that my primary place of influence is my nuclear family. I am so much more aware of how I treat my wife, knowing my kids are watching. I know that one day they will treat her the same way I do. And this will influence how they treat their future wives.
• Vision changes after 5 years.
In the beginning our marriage, Alia and I would talk about dreams of ministry, traveling, and speaking. We still talk about it. But our conversational priorities have changed within these 5 years. We talk about our kids, and how “life is ministry.” Plus we try to just stay in touch with people in all the busyness of life. That isn’t easy sometimes, to say the least.
We still like going on long drives—that has not changed. But we are striving more for being faithful in the little things than being known for big world changing endeavors. Perhaps those things will happen in the future. But if they do they will be built on the bedrock of small, faithful actions. We know this starts with how we live life within our own home.
Lastly, as I reflect back over these 5 years, I realize:
• Every strong marriage is supported by others.
I’ll be honest and say Alia and I have had some tough, hard moments in our marriage. Some of them we have handled well. But others have not been handled so well. I’m not sure how anyone defines a “healthy marriage.” But, I think we have at least a “healthier marriage” because of the people who have supported us through prayer, counsel, and friendship. Throughout these 5 years we have met very regularly with “marriage mentors.” This couple is a good 30+ years older than us. They have shared invaluable insight that only comes through years of diving deep into their own marriage.
I am grateful for a wife who has given me the space, encouragement, and support to grow up into a healthier, holier, and overall better man. Additionally, I am grateful for a mom who prayed for a “godly” and “good” wife since I was a little boy. I believe God heard those prayers in giving me Alia. All of this inspires me to be a better husband and father to our kids today and in the future.
In a generation that questions the value of marriage, I think there is plenty of space for Christians to share their stories vulnerably. Through these testimonies we can learn to value our hard seasons, as well as our high seasons. Both make us who we are, and make a stronger marriage in the end, if we let it.
Conclusions Beyond My 5 Years of Marriage
If you are married, divorced, or single I would encourage you to not give up on the idea of marriage just because it does not always work out. I still believe in the high value of marital commitment. It doesn’t matter that this is a day where there are a million options. I think there is something so special about someone – one person – who sees you day in and day out and sees the best and the worst and chooses to love you anyway. That is an amazing gift, and it is an amazing blessing!
Matt Merrill is a professionally certified life and leadership coach. He works with individuals and teams to gain focus and effectiveness from a holistic perspective. His love for working with leaders was birthed from Jesus as the greatest servant Leader who cares about both the stuff to be done and the people we get to serve.
Matt lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife and two kids. He loves to hike, run, and spend time with his family.
If you want to reach out to Matt for coaching, consulting, or speaking services, you can reach him through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can reach him through his website Mattmerrillcoaching.com.
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