20 Years of Valentines

Photo Credit: desireux via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: desireux via Compfight cc

Last summer, Brandie and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary by taking a trip to Charleston. On the drive down we reflected on our twenty years together, thanking God for His grace and guidance in our lives. We decided to take stock of the things that we have learned about marriage and would want to pass on to others. For Valentine’s Day, our twentieth in marriage, here is our list of 20 for 20:

  1. Pray together about everything. We do our very best to pray together every night before bed. Prayer is essential to everything else in our marriage.
  2. Communication is critical. It took at least 5 years of marriage for me (Brian) to learn how to express my feelings to Brandie. She had to learn how to listen for even my nonverbal cues. Even after 20 years, we must work at communication!
  3. Never stop learning about each other. The cool thing about being together so long is knowing each other so well. But we also understand that there is more we don’t know about each other. As we age and change, the learning must be constant.
  4. Protect time with each other. We know all of the excuses and challenges. Daily moments. Weekly dates. Quarterly get aways. You may need to get creative in how you do this depending on your life stage, but guard the time. Period.
  5. Unconditional love is a choice. Neither one of us is always lovable. We have to decide to love in spite of arguments, actions, and disappointments.
  6. Be your spouse’s biggest fan. Tell him or her. Tell your kids. Tell everybody. Always brag on your spouse in public and private.
  7. Failure is not an option. The “D Word” (divorce) is not in our vocabulary. No matter how great the disappointment we are committed to one another.
  8. Know your role. We believe that God created us to complement one another and that He ordained specific roles and responsibilities for husband and wife. We have come to understand that when we submit to God’s Lordship over our lives and stay in our lanes, our marriage thrives.
  9. It really is a cycle. Ephesians 5 ends like this, “Let each one of you (husbands) love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (v. 33). If I love her, she will respect me. If she respects me, I will love her. (see the book Love and Respect for great insight on this).
  10. All the “one another’s” apply. The Bible is filled with admonitions to love one another, be kind to one another, have patience with one another, etc. These were written to everyone, but they especially apply in marriage.
  11. Maturity matters. A friend gave us a placard that says, “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” We must choose to grow through hard times both personally and as a couple.
  12. Stay united in parenting. We were fortunate to grow up with similar parenting styles in our homes so this is not as difficult for us as for some. However, there are still plenty of times when we may approach discipline or permission with our kids differently. This goes back to communication and constant discussion about how we approach our children.
  13. Keep your priorities. Remind yourself — God comes before your spouse and your spouse comes before your children.
  14. Stay sexually intimate. You are the only one ordained by God who can meet your spouse’s sexual needs. No other aspect of marriage has been assaulted by Satan like this one. There are no shades of grey in the Bible. 
  15. Your marriage is bigger than you. You are leaving a legacy for your family. Look beyond your time. What do we want our children to tell their grandchildren about our marriage?
  16. Fight for your spouse not with your spouse. Conflict is inevitable, even in the best marriages. But even in the arguments always make sure your spouse knows you are “for” them even if you disagree.
  17. All sin required the same payment. It is easy to judge another’s sin, especially when it has hurt you. Reminding yourself that Jesus’ sacrificial death was payment for your sin as much as your spouse’s brings humility, identification, and forgiveness.
  18. Words matter. Nothing wounds or heals like words. Words last longer than the thought that generates them. Build up your spouse, do not tear down.
  19. Marriage is about holiness not happiness. Gary Thomas was right. In his book Sacred MarriageThomas suggests that marriage was created to make you holy more than happy. As a couple matures together, it is important to acknowledge that this life-long journey is a journey of sanctification as disciples of Jesus.
  20. Marriage is the best picture of the Gospel. Read Ephesians 5:25-33 and you will see that marriage was designed by God to show the love of Jesus (the Groom) for His Church (the Bride). We model this glorious good news in how we live out marriage.

So, that’s our list. What would you add?

  • Doug

    Thanks Brian. There are many excellent reminders with specific actions for both spouses. The sacredness of marriage should never be lost.

    • Brian Upshaw

      Thank you, Doug!

  • man, there are so many good things here. I think one of the sneakiest for me is #4. I probably just need to print this list and go over it each morning!