21 Things We Learned in 21 Years of MarriageBy Tim Popadic
This summer my wife and I celebrated twenty-one years of marriage. We’ve had twenty-one years of balancing the great experiences of life with some real trials. All of this has caused us to stretch our faith and draw closer together as a couple.
We’ve also been in full-time ministry for twenty-one years. That means twenty-one years on the front lines of what God has been doing. The problem, of course, is that when you’re on the front lines, you don’t get much shelter or coverage for your personal life.
Some of my readers might be tempted to ask, “What personal life? You’re married to your ministry!” But my wife and I don’t see it that way. We believe it’s possible to strike a healthy balance between the two. During the last fifteen of our years together we’ve had the great privilege of walking alongside dozens of couples who were either going into ministry or who were currently in ministry and planning to get married. We’ve gleaned some wisdom in the process, and now we’d like to share it with you. Here is our list of twenty-one things we’ve learned and now pass onto couples entering ministry together.
21 Things We Learned in 21 Years of Marriage:
- Get out of God’s way. You may have a very strong feeling or even an educated opinion about something. That’s not wrong. However, let God’s plan be your plan and don’t ever get in the way of that. You wouldn’t want to miss out on an opportunity.
- Never wallpaper together. This is one of my favorites. We learned it early on. There are certain things that married people should never do together, and this is one of them.
- When God is in the middle of something in your life – or your ministry – don’t ask a lot of questions. You are likely to talk yourself out of the very thing that God is doing.
- Seek godly wise counsel all the time. Find an older couple to whom you can give permission to speak into your life. Then don’t forget to listen to their advice.
- Go out on regular dates – just the two of you. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be intentional.
- Be slow to speak, quick to listen, and quick to forgive.
- Its okay to “Agree to Disagree.” Sometimes it’s the only way out of an argument. If you agree to disagree, then technically you are in agreement.
- Children are a “gift from the Lord.” The ultimate gift is that you can see yourself in them. They reflect you. God must have an amazing sense of humor to let us see that every day.
- Learn to be “assertive” early on and you will enjoy your marriage. If not you will feel walked all over.
- Stay connected to each other with technology. Technology is not bad for your relationship, but it should never take the place of face-to-face. Rather, use it to manage the gaps in between.
- Travel is good for your soul and increases your spirit of adventure. We take at least one trip a year without our kids. Alone time helps us to reconnect and refocus our busy lives.
- Pray together when you can, but pray for each other daily. Its one of the most intimate things we can do as a couple.
- Laugh Together! Don’t take each other too seriously.
- Take Road Trips! This has been one of the more magical ingredients in our relationship. About once a year when the family has been pulled in every direction and feels disconnected, we will do an annual road trip for two or three weeks. Nothing resets the calibration of a family and re-establishes boundaries like cramming six people into Suburban.
- Let your children see you fight and make up. Conflict resolution is big in our home. Helping our kids see this firsthand has been very important to us as a family.
- Hold Hands and show affection. We aren’t ashamed of holding hands or even kissing in front of our kids. This is the only way to model real affection. It also helps to increase a child’s sense of security.
- In-laws are great. So is living at least thirty minutes away from them. Enough said on that topic.
- Keep your finances together and transparent. We learned the importance of this early on. Scripture says, “Where your treasure is your heart will be also.” We are striving for one heart, so we keep one treasure.
- Never be alone with the opposite sex. Whether you are grabbing a lunch or carpooling to a meeting. It might cost you more in your travel budget, but it’s much less costly than breaking trust.
- Praise each other in public. Never ever speak down about your spouse, even if you are in disagreement about something. Save those conversations for private times.
- Keep God at the center of your lives in your words, actions, and in the generosity you share with others.
Copyright © 2014 by Tim Popadic. Used by permission.
Tim Popadic is the National Director of the Relationship Enrichment Collaborative. He travels the country as a community engagement specialist helping churches and organizations create mobile strategies to impact the relationships within their communities. Recently he worked with Focus on the Family to create & launch their most successful simulcasted event to date “The Date Night Challenge”. Tim has been in full-time pastoral ministry for the past 20 years, and most recently served as the Pastor of Marriage and Family at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. He’s worked with thousands of couples and families across the country helping enrich couples in their relationships and well as training up hundreds of mentor couples. He is a trained Marriage and Family therapist and speaks nationally at conferences and workshops on being intentional in relationships. Tim and his wife Beth have been married for 20 years and have 4 boys.