Dear New, Young Wife,

When you said, “I do,” not too long ago, there were probably a lot of other eager and excited thoughts that followed.

I can’t wait to share a life with you.

I can’t wait to be able to spend all our time together.

I can’t wait to have someone who warms my cold toes at night and brings me coffee in the morning. 

Okay, maybe you didn’t think about the coffee part – but you might have thought of all the other ways this wonderful person would make you happy, and hopefully how you would make him happy too.

Sixteen years have passed since I said my own “I do” to my husband, Cliff, and with each passing year, we’ve laid a new layer of love and life down, and you might say added another ring to the trunk of our marriage tree.

That tree, if it actually existed, would look very different today than when we first started out. It would be taller and wider thanks to God’s grace and growth in our lives, and the trunk more weathered. There would be dings and scratches left by the storms we’ve survived and the tree bark itself would be far less green than it was, thanks to the wisdom we’ve slowly (and sometimes painfully) gained. The repeated passing of seasons would have added a little more protective hardiness to the tree’s exterior. Experience and time can be a blessing – both for trees, and for marriages.

Unfortunately, today we’re not always encouraged as couples to look for that blessing of experience and time – and we’re not taught to see that the hard and difficult stuff marriages go through can be just as important and valuable as the fun and happy moments we enjoy.

So can I share with you a few things I’ve learned over the years that have helped our relationship? Not as a marriage expert, but simply as a wife who’s walking the same journey as you, just maybe a few miles farther down the road.

Think Two, Not One

It’s funny how we’re often attracted to our spouses for qualities they have that are different from our own, and yet, over time, we still try to change them to be just like us! But God brought the two of you together, and each of you will have strengths to offer and weaknesses to overcome. When you can think “we” instead of “me,” that’s when you realize certain things don’t matter as much – and that includes always getting your way (even if you think your way is better). The longer you’re married, the greater the temptation to think about yourself first, but if you ask this question daily – “How can I serve my spouse today?” you’ll find it’s a lot harder to be selfish when you’re intentionally looking for ways to be a blessing to your husband. 

Go to Bed Together

This one may seem odd, especially if one of you is a night owl and the other is an early bird, like Cliff and I are. But there is something special and meaningful about ending the day together by talking and spending time with each other before going to sleep. We decided early on in our marriage we’d do this, and with the exception of times where there were deadlines for one of us that required late night work sessions, we’ve made it a point to go to bed together.

Yes, sometimes that’s meant this early bird staying up a little later than I’d like to, and sometimes my husband the night owl turning off the tv before he’s quite ready to, but putting each other first in this way has been a great reminder and discipline for us to keep thinking “we” instead of “me.” We’ve done this even when we have been upset with each other or struggling with something and might have preferred going to bed at different times. Why? Because it’s a lot harder to stay mad at the person you’re nose to nose with than if you’re in different rooms.