Jordan and I are celebrating three years of marriage today.
In the time since we got married, a lot has happened. I moved from my Capitol Hill apartment in D.C. to a brownstone apartment in Harlem. We started a church. We bought and renovated an apartment. We had a baby. In some ways, it feels like time has really flown, and in other ways, we’ve done so much together, it feels like we’ve been married much longer.
Being married to Jordan has taught me many things. About church planting and photography. About barbecue and maximizing my iPhone. About the ESPN show line-up and the NY subway system. About listening and laughing at myself. About the gospel and grace.
In reflecting on three years of marriage, I put together my list of the top three things I’ve learned (and am reminded of regularly). These are the things I most often share when we meet with couples who are about to marry and ask us for advice.
1. Marriage refines my character.
None of us thinks of ourselves as perfect. And yet, it can be really hard to have our imperfections pointed out by others around us. When I first got married, defensiveness was always my default. In marriage, you give your spouse a front row seat to all of your flaws, but what I find most beautiful is that within the structure of a lifelong commitment, we can be fully known with our flaws and all and also fully loved. When we trust our spouse’s intentions for us and commitment to us, it opens up space to be vulnerable about our weaknesses and supported in refining our character. (shout out to my favorite book on marriage, The Meaning of Marriage, for reinforcing this point for me. Highly recommend this book for anyone married or wanting to marry.)
2. Honest conversations can be difficult, but they also breed intimacy.
When I first married Jordan, I was hesitant to share feelings or feedback that I thought might hurt his feelings. And I’m not talking about big secrets or bombs — everything that fell in this category was what most people would deem as small or even inconsequential. My thought with my marriage (and even with some of my other friendships) was that it didn’t make sense to “rock the boat” if I didn’t have to. But Jordan taught me that when I intentionally chose not to share with him, I was showing doubt in the strength of our marriage to withstand the conversation. And while those conversations might be difficult, they ultimately reinforce trust, communication, and a desire to work things out together — which always brings us closer.
3. Every choice I make moves me toward “oneness” with my spouse or away from it.
Perhaps one of the hardest adjustments to make after getting married is that the decisions you make now affect another person. There are obvious big decisions, like the career you choose, the way you spend and save money, how you parent if you have kids, or the way you spend your time. But then, there are small decisions too — like when your spouse disappoints you (and it’s a guarantee he/she will), do you choose to talk about the hurt and extend forgiveness, or do you punish with the silent treatment and harbor resentment? When I’m hurt or upset, my default is never to act in a way that brings me closer to Jordan. But before I continue the “pep talk” in my head about why I deserve to be mad or how he deserves to suffer, I try to ask myself, “What can you do right now to move toward oneness?” The answer usually requires vulnerability, humility, open ears, and an open heart, but it always leads me to a better place with Jordan.
Happy anniversary to my number one. Looking forward to running around the city together today.