June 1, 2018 in a little church in Menifee, I said I do and made vows to my best friend that have become the foundation of these 5 things I have learned in 5 years of marriage. When I got married I was 21, still in college and had no idea what to expect for the future, but I knew that God was going to show me a lot of who He is through this beautiful covenant. Most people say that marriage is hard and to “just wait for the 7 year hump”, but I want to change that narrative. Marriage has been the most beautiful, sanctifying, healing experience of my life. I have seen God move through us and change us in ways I never anticipated. I have learned what it really looks like to communicate with love and patience and move with forgiveness first. Marriage has not been hard, but it’s required work. In honor of how good God has been through our marriage, here are the 5 things that I learned in these past 5 years.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like in my marriage I’m the one that constantly needs forgiveness. The transition from me to we was harder than I anticipated. My default behavior was motivated by my desires and my goals, but when you get married there is a beautiful new oneness that allows you to choose, at your own expense, to do what’s best for the family unit. It’s the practice of dying to self that we get to do with Christ too. I learned early on that nothing is too big to forgive and the quicker we forgive, the easier it is to get back to loving well. It’s been through Doug’s quick forgiveness that I have seen the power of forgiveness even more. Now, five years later, I also choose to forgive quickly in my relationships. It’s the key to moving through trial instead of being stuck in bitterness or resentment.
“4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7New International Version Bible
I grew up in a household with transactional love. It was always I do xyz things for you so that in the future you will do xyz things for me. It took quite some time to undo the effects of that, because it was quite easy to think well I’m not going to make you lunch today because you didn’t do the dishes last night when we first got married. The act of love, however, is not vindictive or spiteful. Love is a choice and a gift. It is freely given and has no expectation of return. In marriage, I have learned that love is a choice even when you don’t feel like loving and even when they don’t deserve it. We can love because Christ first loved us. Christ loved us when we hated Him, yet He sent His Son to die on the cross and forgave our sins. When I sit and think about that, I am reminded that I have seen true love in Christ and it makes loving others, especially my best friend and husband, quite easy.
Your words and tone as a spouse have immense power. We have the ability to build up or tear down with our words quicker than any other influence. Doug and I decided during premarital that speaking gently was a crucial part of our communication. We agreed that we would not operate with yelling, blaming or scolding. I think this decision has been one of the greatest foundational values we have. We have never fought. In fact it makes me so sad when people say that fighting is good and normal. We’ve come to accept that our needs and desires are more important than our spouses and therefore a fight is necessary to win an argument or make our point. I encourage you, the next time you are disappointed or frustrated with your spouse, to speak gently while communicating how you are hurt. Couple that with forgiving quickly and I know you’ll see a marked difference in the atmosphere of your marriage.
I should’ve put this first because this has been the reminder I repeat whenever I feel tempted to choose selfishly. Doug and I often say to each other we’re team Suitt after a tough conversation or difficult experience. From the moment you say I do, you’re a team in a new way. Your decisions are not your own, your finances are not your own, your body is not your own. It’s a beautiful laying down of pride, self-sufficiency and selfish motivation to operate as one with another. When life gets hard (because, yes even though marriage doesn’t have to be hard, life is hard), remember that you two are on the same side. Remind each other of that often and choose to honor what’s best for the team over what’s best for only you.
You and your spouse will change. Every year you’re a different person that is shaped by life experiences. Hopefully for the better. For us that has been discovering new hobbies, unpacking and healing from childhood trauma, growing in sanctification with Christ, and choosing to grow together toward a unified goal. One of the best things about marriage is getting to know who your spouse is already and is becoming. As christians, we get to pray over our spouse and watch the Lord make them new. We get to watch each other walk in giftings that may not have been known when we first met. When people say you’ve got to continue dating, it’s true! They’re a new person every year and so are you. Make space to explore life together and never get complacent thinking you’ve got them all figured out. Let them flourish and they’ll probably surprise you.
These five things I have learned only by the grace of God’s work in my husband and I. Keeping these things as foundational ways to operate has made our marriage fun, sweet, and new. I can only imagine what the next 5 years will bring, but what I do know is that these will still be daily practices in the Suitt household. We are team Suitt and I wouldn’t want it any other way.