15 Lessons from 15 Years of Marriage

My secret tip to a happy marriage

In the space of time that encompasses a little more than 3 presidential terms; I have been married for 15 years.

It is time that it takes a child to be born and be eligible for their Learner’s Permit for driving. It is a decade and a half. 5475 days…including 3 leap years.

Gasoline cost $1.54 gallon in 2003, and last month it cost $2.35 in Tennessee.

People look at me differently. Now I’m asked for advice instead of being the one asking for help. I give it freely (well, maybe too freely at times). When I got married, life felt full of potential and unknown. Now, I am grateful when life isn’t so crazy but feels more settled.

There’s nothing like buying a home, a 30-year mortgage, four children to feed, and car payments to make you feel settled. But none of those things will help you have a happy marriage. What will?

The 15 lessons I learned in 15 years

(1) He was worth waiting for.

My marriage is not a short little sprint. It is not like a trip to Burger King or McDonald’s…in and out in just a few minutes. By waiting almost 5 years after we met to get married, we learned patience and maturity.

Young love is fun to sing about and watch develop in a movie, but rarely does it translate into a long happy marriage.

I do believe in the old saying, ‘What does not kill you makes you stronger.’ Our experiences, good and bad, make us who we are. By overcoming difficulties, we gain strength and maturity. Angelina Jolie

(2) My Spouse is not my child

Yes, I said it. My husband is not a child. He’s a man. He does not need me to boss him around, fuss over him, or nag him to do his chores.

He may forget to do things; the to-do list may be a mile long. But treating him like a child will hurt our relationship in very painful ways. Even if his behavior may seem childish at times, making fun of him in a public way will hurt you and him.

If you want your husband to be a man, then treat him like one!

Your love and respect, not your insults, are the keys to transforming that immature guy into the strong husband and father you need him to be. Frederick Goodall

(3) Learn how to talk to each other better and better

Are you talkative? Is your spouse quiet? Who likes to have the last word? Both of you?? Good luck!

Communication requires active listening and understanding. More listening than talking. Sharing instead of telling.

Those classes that you took in premarital counseling were right, the more you learn to talk to each other versus at each other the more you will have a happier marriage. This is only learned with practice and time. A few failures often occur along the way as you communicate, but expect those. As you say “I’m sorry, I love you” and ask forgiveness in your marriage for those bad communication times, you will do better in the future.

Don’t go to bed angry

If you were to Google this tip, you would get “About 10,300,000 results (0.59 seconds).” Some will agree with this, and others will argue against it. Let me save you 10 million answers with this one. Don’t go to bed Angry. There is a reason that you need to get the issues solved before you go to sleep.

If you let your disagreement go unsolved, it will ruin another day. So as much as you can, solve the problem today.

(4) Say I love you more than anything.

Yep. Those three little words mean so much. They are like glue to a relationship; they will bind you together during the most challenging times.

(5) Listen to their music

I love Broadway; sweeping, majestic music. Violins, piano, and trumpets. Stories of lost love, bold entrances, and happily ever afters.

He likes country music and soundtracks to Captain America, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Dark Knight. Note: There are NO words to Captain America’s soundtrack. Nothing. Just music going on for hours on end.

We are opposites on the music scale, but through the years we have found several songs and playlists that we both enjoy. Being able to listen (and sing-along to) each other’s music allows us to form emotional bonds. It may not be my style, but when he starts belting out his favorite song…I begin to realize he’s singing it TO ME. Suddenly, it’s not so bad after all.

(6) Speak their love language

If this term “Love Language” is confusing to you, take some time and read 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Or, at the very least, do the free test online to Discover Your Love Language.

Yes, it is possible to be married to someone for years, and not really know what they like. Once you recover from the shock, of that announcement, it is possible to be YOU and not know what you like.

The best thing would be for both of you to take the assessment. Without realizing what you are doing, it is easy to speak YOUR language to your spouse. This is similar to me speaking Greek to my husband, it doesn’t work. But when both of you know what the other person likes, it is easier for you to communicate.

Related: An Intimate Cord of Love – a short ebook on love and what keeps you together

(7) Be honest, say no if you don’t like something

Tiptoeing around in marriage, hoping that what you say will be ok and no one gets their feelings hurt…is an awful road to travel. This doesn’t happen overnight or over a few months. All it takes is a few arguments to not be completely resolved, and you start to get “on edge.”

To avoid the painful tiptoeing, be honest with your responses. If your spouse doesn’t look good in red, tell them. If you don’t want chicken for dinner, speak up! Just make sure you do so in a way that is kind and honoring. No one wants to be around a negative personality, but make sure you focus on honesty.

(8) Time away from the kids is vital to your relationship

When the kiddos are just babies, life begins to revolve around them. You start to get engulfed with the diapers, feeding schedules, and nights that are short on sleep. As they get older, school, sports, and music schedules start to take up every single day and night.

Hiring a good babysitter or letting grandma and grandpa watch the kids will help keep your marriage strong. You both need time away from the kids to remember why you are together. One day, they will grow up and leave home. Many marriages do not survive this transition, because their lives became so wrapped up in the children. To prevent this, take time every week or month to spend time alone.

(9) A comfortably clean home is better than a perfectly clean house

Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels

I understand. No wants to live in a messy home, but the extreme time and effort it takes to have a perfectly clean home is difficult too. You will feel so much better when you find your happy medium. So, set your cleaning schedule around times that don’t hurt your special times together.

Remember: A day off is not an automatic cleaning day. Your spouse may not love cleaning as much as you do. If they aren’t neat-freaks or OCD, maybe time off would be better spent doing fun things together versus cleaning.

(10) Let your spouse spoil you and pamper you.

On lesson number 6, one of the love languages is receiving gifts. It can be so easy in a marriage to be self-sufficient. You can do it yourself, and you don’t need anybody’s help to do anything. While that may be true, it becomes impossible for another person to show you any love.

When you let someone else care for you with tangible gifts or expressions of love, you allow yourself to be open to them.

Related: Have a fun date night and get some great ideas HERE

(11) The words “Thank you” are never said enough, say it more often.

Yes. Say it at least 10 times a day. And if you already do, say it 20. Saying thank you shows kindness and respect. It is the perfect food for a marriage to continue to grow in happiness 

via GIPHY 

(12) Intimacy is IMPORTANT.

If I could wish one lesson that every couple learns, it would be this one. Intimacy is so important for a relationship. Intimacy encompasses hugs and kisses, titles of affection (like honey or sweetie), showing up for each other, laughing at each other’s jokes, being respectful and thoughtful, and (yes) physical intimacy as well with each other.

(13) The grass is not greener anywhere else. It’s green at my home.

To write this simply, when you choose to find contentment in your marriage that is when you will find happiness. Someone may look nicer, more handsome, prettier, have more money, a nicer home, a better car…it doesn’t matter.

I am content with what I have right now. I’m content with my spouse. I love him for his hard work, the paycheck he brings home, the love he gives me, and the home I live in.

Would I make it better as I am able to? Definitely, but that is not my goal each day. My goal today is to take what I have to use to the best of my ability.

(14) Be in the picture

As a wife and a mother, I love to take pictures. Selfies are fun. If I hold my phone with my left hand, I get my good side every time. My face looks amazing, and it catches my eyes just right. But, when another person gets a camera out, suddenly I start backing away. “No thank you!” comes from my mouth. I don’t want to be in the picture.

Looking back, I wish I hadn’t been that way. There are so many wonderful pictures of my children and my family, but I’m not always in them. There is a pregnancy that has no pictures of me being pregnant in. I wish I hadn’t been so self-conscious about this. Yes, I was huge. But now I can never go back and remember that sweet time of feeling the little life inside of me. The hiccups and rib-kicks are just a memory, but I wish there were a picture to go with it.

(15) The secret tip? Let go of the power of “I AM RIGHT.”

Those three words are the exact opposite of “I love you.” They are in another realm compared to the words “thank you.” While the previous statements show love and appreciation, “I am right” conveys pride (and not the good kind)

When pride becomes a problem in your relationship, it’s always smarter to take the high road because eventually, the proud partner may most likely recognise the folly of their ways and apologise. ABIMBOLA ADEGOKE

Pride will hurt your relationship. It will keep you up at all hours of the night arguing pointless fights. Ten years from now, you won’t remember why you fought. But you will remember the fights when you insisted you were right.


As I look back over the last 15 years, I am so grateful that my husband and I did this journey of love and marriage. It sounds cliché but its true. It hasn’t been easy. We’ve had arguments that could have ended us, we’ve been broke, and we’ve been rich…rich in love for each other.

I love him more today than I did so many years ago, and I’m so thankful for the sweet man that married!

He is my joy, the sparkle to my eyes, and the love of my life!

Previously published on P.S. I Love You on May 7, 2018

14 thoughts on “15 Lessons from 15 Years of Marriage”

  1. We all want true love but we all are not patient that is why most of the people fall for what they find easy and later regret. It is always good to take time before making the final decision. The more time you take the more you learn about each other and it helps you understand each other.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful tips.

  2. Hi Johanna,

    Wonderful post. I would like to think, had my husband lived that we would have had a good marriage. The short amount of time we did have together seems to go along pretty much with your points in your post.

    My first marriage was a train wreck happening every day. But in our defense, we were too young to know how to work to let it survive. But then again had it survived, I’d never have met my second husband who showed me a 180 degree complete opposite of what marriage could be like.

    Would I do it again if I knew we only had a short time together, “Yes, I would.”

    Thank you for your sharing your wise words and experience.

  3. Beautiful post, Johanna. Congratulations to you and your husband. Marriages don’t last as long they used to anymore. I’m not married but my parents and my brother had marriages that lasted over 50 plus years, by the grace of God . I love your 15 points . I hope that the good Lord allows you and your husband to stay together for a long time . God bless you both.

  4. Love this list Johanna! #3, over and over and over again. This morning my wife and I disagreed on something and got lost heading to a neat spot in NZ. But since we do not hold grudges and largely own our stuff and talk things through, literally 20 minutes post frustration, we were smiling and joking. If you will share your thoughts, own your feelings and apologize, marriage is wonderful. Challenging sometimes but the individual really needs to own their feelings, to open up and to keep communication channels open for things to flow smoothly.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

    1. Yes!!! I love it when you said, “if you will share your own thoughts, own your feelings and apologize, marriage is wonderful.” Owning our responses (the good and the bad) is so important in every relationship. Blaming is too easy to do and it hurts marriages. Thank you so much for reading!!! ~ Johanna

  5. Johanna,
    Wonderful list. My favorite is #12 – Intimacy is important. But I like the unique way you talk about it. It’s not all about passionate sexual intimacy and romance and thinking you have won the best prize in the world – the most beautiful/handsome, most talented, most wealthy, most intelligent, best provider, etc., etc. It is about loving the person who is right in front of you, your partner in life – exactly as they are – and appreciating what they do offer rather than what qualities or behaviors they are lacking.l

    I also like your comment about sharing each other’s music. My husband likes very different, loud, rock style bands with music where I can hardly understand the worlds. I like more romantic, old fashioned jazz and Johnny Mathis and sweet love songs. However, when we listened to Frank Sinatra songs that somehow seemed to bridge the gap because he was a master at the art of the song. My husband loves the artistry of his favorite musicians like Eric Clapton. I like the artistry of Ella Fitzgerald.

    So when we appreciate the other person’s qualities and tastes, we have so much more to gain in terms of intimate connection and pleasure in the relationship.

    I would love to connect further with you and maybe collaborate on a webinar together.

    Warmly,

    Dr. Erica

    1. Dr Erica,
      Thank you so much for such a great comment; appreciating and loving our spouse for who they are is such a wonderful gift…so wonderful I’m really happy when my husband does the exact same thing(and he does!!) And yes! I’d love to connect with you sometime. Facetime chat seems to work the easiest for me, so message me sometime and we can set up a time to talk! ~ Johanna

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