12 Thoughts on 12 Years of Marriage


My wife and I have been married for 12 years.  We dated for a year and a half before getting engaged, which lasted one full year — so technically, my wife and I have been an item for 14 years.  Nonetheless, we celebrated 12 happy years of marriage this re-ast weekend and in turn I thought I would trot out 12 nuggets of thusfar-wisdom about married life, specifically from a Christian perspective. Here goes:

  1. Marriage really is like a Navy SEALs training program for character development. One week into marriage and I realized just how selfish I was.  12 years in, I am fully aware of my own depravity and tendency towards selfishness (BTW: Having kids is like the Navy SEALs version of the Navy SEALs version of character development). I used to have a routine that was intricately built upon my precise needs.  Then I got married and had to develop a routine that was built upon my precise needs, precisely when my wife’s needs did not interfere with my needs.  In other words, I had to start thinking about someone other than myself.  And it has been an incredibly helpful thing. In the process of marriage I have learned to consider others before myself.
  2. When someone truly loves you for who you are, it is one of the most amazing things in the world.  Think about it. You brush your teeth — a fairly revealing act about the true nature of your mouth area — in front of someone with whom you are trying to woo.  This doesn’t appear to be a pleasing gesture at first thought.  In fact, there is no way to redeem the process of brushing slimy gunk from your teeth and mouth roof.  Also, hurling all of that bile into a sink is equally gross to display in front of another.  However, when that person looks at you and smiles and says, “I love you” even with mouth bile still residing in the sink…you come to realize that you don’t have to fake it any longer.  That, my friends, is powerfully freeing.  In marriage, you get to be the real you.  You don’t have to fake it till you make it.  You get to be you, mouth nastiness and all.  And someone loves you — unconditionally.  And at this moment, you get to see a small glimpse of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  3. Marriage is not the antidote for singleness.  Community is the antidote for isolation.  I was in community before I got married.  Marriage is just a particular form of community.  But I know lots of people who practice isolation before getting married and then they get married and are still isolated. Marriage cannot cure isolation.  But community can.  Singleness does not mean lack of community.  But often single adults are in isolation.  Marriage will not solve this.  Community will.
  4. Adventures are important for marriage.  Whether it is visiting new cities or taking staycations in your neck of the woods, healthy marriages are fueled by common experiences together.  My recommendation for any married couple is to plan for and save for adventures together.  Seriously, it is worth it.  Natalie and I were tallying it up and we have visited East Coast, West Coast, Southeast, Midwest, Canada, Mexico, Africa, and Europe together.  While these travels have broadened our horizons, they have even more so fueled our marriage.  It is not that I have visited San Francisco – it is that I have visited San Francisco with Natalie.  We have tons of shared experiences and endless inside jokes together.
  5. The ministry of home is an irresistible force for good.  As I have documented before, Natalie and I regularly have people over to our home for meals, Bible studies, and parties.  Our homes have become a location where we have seen God do amazing works of transformation. We tell couples in our pre-marital ministry to consider buying a home with ministry in mind.  One of the best things you can do is invite people over to eat dinner with you and watch how a Christian family works – it is a powerful way to model the gospel.
  6. My wife is really amazing. Seriously.
  7. That being said, I was not 100% knowledgable about who my wife was when we were preparing for marriage. And this is okay.  I knew that Natalie had strong character.  I knew she was a Christian.  I knew we had a basic chemistry.  I knew she went to bed early and was an early riser.  I knew she was frugal with money.  I knew she was adamant about gathering with a church family on Sundays to worship.  I knew she wanted to be a pastor’s wife.  These were all qualities I wanted in a spouse.  What I didn’t know, that I was pleasantly surprised to discover, is that Natalie is passionate about order in the home and in life.  This has resulted in our home being consistently perceived as hospitable and friendly to guests.  What I didn’t know is that Natalie is a rule follower.  This means that Natalie is able to hold me accountable, not to her standards, but to my own standards.  She is my biggest cheerleader, and my life coach.  All this to say — if you are engaged and reasonably sure that the person you are marrying is right for you, just understand that there is a whole lot more coming down the pipeline.  Again — this is not only okay, it is part of the adventure of marriage.
  8. Even with the best prep work, prayer, and persistence, marriage can have some difficult seasons.  Although I can look back and remember some past seasons of marriage as challenging, these seasons don’t affect us in the present.  Lets just say that up front.  However, in the midst of the particular struggle, it was a struggle.  For better or worse includes the worse and it can be the worst.  But God has been faithful to get us through them all.
  9. Mentors have been crucial for us.  Older couples.  Older singles. Wise people.  People with stories.  All of them have helped us. And this hasn’t happened by accident.  First, God has brought people into contact with us.  Second, we have actively sought out, cultivated, and kept up with many of these people.  Being mentored is both a passive and an active task and it is has been vital for the health of our marriage.
  10. Date nights are not optional.  And by date nights, I mean regular moments where the two of us connect.  Generally, this involves some type of foodstuff — coffee, tea, dessert, meal, whatever.  But Natalie and I have aimed to have a regular time just to connect with each other and assess how we are doing as individuals and as a family.  It has also given us an opportunity to go on adventures to check out the local food scene in the places we have lived.
  11. The honeymoon doesn’t have to end.  The best thing about the honeymoon is that it seems like you are living in a consequence free environment with almost no concern for the cares of the world.  And while the magical non-consequential attitude of the honeymoon leaves the minute you get back to the real world, the sense of awe, wonder, and fascination with your new mate doesn’t have to stay in the honeymoon suite.  This is why adventure is so important.  This is why date nights are important.  This is why anniversary trips are important.  Natalie and I don’t actually celebrate anniversaries, as much as we celebrate the anniversary of our honeymoon.  This has been an intentional value that helps fuel our marriage.
  12. Marriage does get better with age.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is misleading you.  I think each passing year our marriage gets easier to sustain and better in quality.  Ours is a shining example of why the “marriages have an expiration date” logic is flawed in its very foundations.  Marriages are supposed to go the distance.  They should last 40, 50, 60, 70 years.  They are a highly stable institution.  And the reason for the stability is because marriage is so fulfilling and enjoyable.  Probably because God invented it.

About Doug Hankins

Although not a Christian in his youth, Doug came to believe in Jesus during his teenage years. When not playing sports or pastoring Doug is probably spending time with his wife, reading a good book, or drinking some hot tea. Doug's first book Dawson Trotman: In His Own Words is available wherever books are sold. You can follow Doug on twitter.
This entry was posted in Ministry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to 12 Thoughts on 12 Years of Marriage

  1. Sharon Levy says:

    Marriage agrees with you both. Life with a spouse can be fulfilling, especially when there is adventure, leaves room for lifetime memories. When you have God in your daily life, there is always Peace in your heart.

Comments are closed.