13 Things I Learned After Being Married for 13 Years

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I remember getting off that bus 14 years ago at Anderson Barracks, Dexheim, Germany at the tail end of a 7-month deployment in Kosovo. My plans were to sign out on leave, meet up with different “girlfriends” I didn’t really have, and be a young, stupid, man.

They say in the Army that “no plan ever survives first contact,” and that was definitely the case when I met Olivia just ten minutes after getting off that bus. It’s now 14 years later, and we just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. I wish I could say that I took her somewhere romantic, but the truth is that I had booked us for a dinner with Mark & Michelle Ellis from FamilyLife to talk about the 2015 Weekend to Remember event in Corpus Christi. Doh!

Olivia is so amazing though, because she saw the importance of that meeting and allowed me to take her out on another night, Mockinjay Part 1. We love movies. What can I say?

So, I wrote out a list in 2012 called “11 Lessons Learned from my First 11 Years of Marriage,” and my friend Lori Ferguson from Encourage Your Spouse challenged me to revisit this list every year. Here’s my 13 lessons from 13 years of marriage. I look forward to seeing what this list looks like 13 years from now.

Lesson #1 – Real men are committed from Day One for the long haul. There are no other options once a man says, “I do,” because he vowed to “forsake all others” and a man’s word is his bond. My word is my bond. Update: I’d say today that a man needs to be “all-in” before he ever proposes. It’s not a let’s-try-this-and-see-where-it-goes sort of deal. It’s a commitment to live life together as one team.

Lesson #2 – Even if I am freaked out by them, too, I still need to kill cockroaches if my wife asks me to. Courage is doing the right thing despite my fears. Update: Olivia chalked up her first kills in 2014 out of necessity because I was at work. I still had to pick them up when I got home.

Lesson #3 – My wife wants a husband who is strong. In fact, she wants someone who is strong enough to listen rather than lash out during an argument, to say sorry when he has truly done something wrong, and to show emotions and feelings other than anger and rage. Ultimately, the more I set aside my own pride to meet her needs the stronger she sees me. Download a FREE copy of Strength Revisited to learn more. (INSERT LINK)

Lesson #4 – Headship is NOT a dictatorship when practiced in the context of striving to live a life like Jesus Christ, servant leadership. So many men get this wrong thinking headship means “Being the king of the castle, and what I says goes!” What woman wants to have a man like that in her life for the rest of her life? If I have to use guilt, or pull the “Submission” card, I’m not leading the way Christ led at all. Update, 2014: I think of headship like a Presidency, and my VP chooses whether or not to re-elect me every day. How am I leading now?

Lesson #5 – I do not need to be perfect, just perfectly willing to be the best man I can be for my wife and family. I don’t attend marriage conferences because my wife asked, or begged, me to attend. I attend them with a pen in hand, an open heart, and the Holy Spirit by my side so I come out with an improvement plan for myself. My wife deserves my best effort. Because I’m giving my best effort, she responds to that and gives her best effort, too.

Lesson #6 – Praising my wife in front of my kids is important to model for them how to praise their spouses when they grow up.

Lesson #7 – Praising my wife in front of my kids also impresses the heck out of my wife. It reminds me every day of what a wonderful woman she is. My wife has given me her love, her heart, her devotion, her trust & faithfulness, and her youth. The LEAST I can do is to give her praise as publicly, and privately, as possible.

Lesson #8 – When I was in business for myself, I had a bad habit of treating my clients and customers better than I treated my own wife. Today, my priorities of relationships are in this order, (1) God, (2) my wife, (3) my kids, (4) everyone else.

Lesson #9 – YOLO (You Only Live Once). Many people use YOLO as a reason, or justification, to have affairs or get divorced. I have thought about death, and I would rather live one very good life with Olivia than try to cram multiple shallow ones into this precious life. There’s a legacy to be had when you are a husband to only one woman. If you’re remarried, apply this to your current marriage.

Lesson #10 – Stay connected. I don’t want quality time with my wife. I want to spend QUANTITY TIME with her. We are always looking for opportunities to spend time together, just the two of us. It’s like having our own special, secret life together no one else gets to be a part of. Some of the things we do include doing the dishes together, mowing the yard together, spending a few minutes together after I get home from work, and squeezing in lots of dates when the kids aren’t around.

Lesson #11 (from 2012) – A lot of folks have congratulated us for staying married for 11 years saying, “Eleven years is a long time.” I smile to myself as I realize that these past eleven years have only been the beginning of what God has in store for our marriage. I may as well make the best of every moment of it. After all, YOLO!

Lesson #12 – Dream together. I finally shared my Life Plan, all of it, with Olivia in 2013. The method behind my madness was explained, AND I found even more encouragement and life-changing advice from her. My dreams became her dreams, and her dreams were infused with mine. It was as if we were a new couple again! I don’t know why I didn’t share it sooner, because this led to all kinds of awesome for our marriage!

Lesson #13 – Live those dreams out together. I started the Family Time Q&A Podcast January 2014. Olivia’s not one to jump on public speaking, but her understanding of my dreams and support have made this podcast a reality. The show has truly become a family affair as we all work together to think of ways to improve the process, quality, and message. Thank you, Olivia…and Jacob & Emma.


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