3 Things 12 Years of Marriage Taught Me

3 things marriage taught

By Mark Merrill

Even though I’ve been married to Susan for 24 years, I’m still learning how to be a better husband and how to have a better marriage. During a recent visit with Jon Acuff, I asked him to write a guest post on marriage. And while he normally speaks and writes to help people find and go after their purpose, in this post Jon humbly shares 3 lessons he has learned through his 12 years of marriage.

I wish you could take your honeymoon after you’ve been married for three years.

I honestly think that would be a lot better than how we currently do things.

The day after your wedding, you really don’t know how to vacation together. You barely even know how to talk to each other. You’ve got so much to learn about your wife, so many things that only time can teach.

That’s the nature of a good marriage—it should get better each year. If you’re deliberate and intentional, you learn more. You talk more. You listen more. You start to figure each other out. And a few years in, you look up and realize you know each other really well. That’s when you need to go to Jamaica and sit on the beach.

That first year? You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re rookies. You’re amateurs. You’re flying blind. At least Jenny and I were.

Now though, we’ve been married for 12 years. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve learned a few things:

1. Your wife doesn’t want you to fix everything instantly.

The second year we were married, Jenny had a difficult job. Her boss was an intense guy and prone to some irrational decisions that made Jenny’s job frustrating. At night Jenny would cry and tell me about her day, at which point I would instantly come up with some very obvious solutions. It all seemed so clear to me: “Just do this, this and this,” I’d say. Turns out that was the exact opposite of what Jenny was looking for each night. She didn’t want me to give her a solution; she just wanted me to listen. I honestly made this mistake for a good year or two. It wasn’t until we went to counseling and I learned to listen that things started to change in the way we communicated. Avoid the temptation to fix everything. Sometimes, the solution is to just listen.

2. Don’t ever say you are babysitting your own kids.

It turns out that most wives don’t love when their husbands say, “I’ve got to babysit my kids tonight—my wife is going out with her friends.” I tried that a few times, and my wife was quick to correct my mistake. She told me, “Hey, it’s not babysitting when they are your own kids. That’s called ‘being a dad.’ There’s a big difference.” Good to know, good to know. Fortunately, this mistake is incredibly easy to remedy. Now I say that I am “watching my kids.” It’s a small change, but it’s eliminated a silly argument. (Bonus tip: Don’t say you have to do “chores” around the house. Apparently washing your own dishes is just called “being an adult.” Who knew?)

3. Offer up conversational disclaimers.

I’ve done some dumb things in my marriage. I’ve quit jobs too soon. I’ve started companies that failed. I’ve launched impulsive business ideas that were doomed from the start. Given my somewhat spotty history, Jenny understandably gets a little nervous when I bring up some new idea I am passionate about. A friend of mine, John Woodall, told me a great solution to this problem. He taught me to offer “conversational disclaimers.” Now when I talk to Jenny about a new idea, I tell her right out of the gate, “I’m not about to quit my job. I’m not selling our car or plasma. I just have an idea I’m interested in, and I want to tell you about it.” Something as simple as that creates a safe, fun space for us to interact. It addresses a problem that a lot of marriages face: One spouse has a wild idea and doesn’t feel supported in it, so they stop sharing that part of their lives. The wife with a dream doesn’t stop dreaming; she just stops dreaming with her husband. Conversational disclaimers are a great way to let dreamers dream without putting a more practical-minded spouse on high alert.

Marriage isn’t easy. There’s a reason close to half end in divorce. Great marriages don’t just happen accidentally. You have to work on them and fight for them.

It took me years to learn these very simple things. I hope you can skip those years and just learn them today.

I would have written a longer article, but I needed to watch my kids while my wife was out of town. You know how that goes.

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