After being married for 11 years, here are 11 life-changing lessons I learned in marriage.
- Jesus must be center of marriage.
When Thammie and I say Jesus is center of our marriage – it is not some bumper sticker or motto we have in our marriage – it is our lifeline. Through the past decade of our married life – we have experienced so many mistakes and fights but by God’s grace – we have decided early on in our marriage that Jesus must be front and center of this marriage.
Our marriage will not be Dennis-centered or Thammie-centered or children-centered or minsitry-centered. It will be Christ-centered. Where there days it was not Christ-centered? Of course there were days it wasn’t but we still have 10 more lessons we have learned through the years that kept us on track on lesson number one.
2. Sorry is such a loving word.
We daily say I love you to each other but nothing is more sweeter when one of us would say sorry for things we did to each other that hurt our feelings and our relationship.
Sorry must be something couple should get used to saying. Married couples would have fights – it is learning how to fight clean and right can issues be resolved.
3. Appreciation must be higher than your expectations.
Something happens to a lot of couple when they say I do on wedding day. Most of their desires become expectations. Dreams you were talking about during our dating days are now requirements to feel happy and fulfilled in marriage.
One of the things that is often forgotten in marriage is appreciation. We must daily appreciate each other. If we learn to see with eyes of gratefulness – there are hundreds of things to appreciate with our spouse.
4. Date Nights are Sacred Nights
I have to learn this the hard way. I notice a lot of times in our marriage – when we compromise our date nights we both get jumpy and irritated after a while. I then realized that it was because there are so many things running in our minds that we haven’t discussed as a couple. Issues that would range from trivial stuff like schedules for the month and big stuff like how is marriage?
Date nights give us the face time we need from each other. Treat date nights with sacredness and try not missing it. It is a marriage saver.
5. Leave and Cleave
This is definitely in the top five lessons I learned early in our marriage. As the husband, I needed to leave my parents and cleave to my spouse. Leaving and cleaving signifies a change in loyalty. It means my loyalty is now to my spouse and not my parents. It doesn’t mean I love my parents less – but I just need to know that I will be accountable to God for my marriage while my dad will be accountable to his marriage to my mom.
PS: Same applies to the women.
6. The importance of friendship in marriage.
The goal of every married couple is not just to stay married forever but rather to be married friends till death do us part. We have seen couples who have grown old together but act like strangers or enemies. Because friendship was not developed in their years of marriage – now that they are empty nesters – they don’t know how to relate to each other.
Be married friends. Look and treat your spouse as your best friend.
7. It takes more than chemistry – connection is more important.
When I was courting Thammie – I felt the chemistry. But when couples get married – life starts to happen.
Kids happen. Bills happen. Work happens.
Chemistry won’t hold the marriage together. Finding the time to connect whether it is through shared activities, coffee time with your spouse or going on a vacation as a couple is so important to keep our marriages healthy.
When Thammie and I decided to celebrate our 7th anniversary in Korea – leaving the kids to our in laws, we had the time of our life. Personally, our trip to Korea is a highlight for me up until now. It was in our time together that we get to enjoy ourselves and act as young couples again.
Connect with your spouse. Connecting does not require expensive vacations. It just requires commitment to connect.
8. Friends to shape and help our marriage.
You need community to make marriage work. It can’t just be the two of you against the world. It can’t be just the two of you solving your marriage issues. Why? Because most of the time – the two of you are the problem why there are issues in your marriage.
You need godly friends to push you to work out your marriage. You need godly couples to emulate and inspire you to work on your marriage. You need friends to just hang out and chill after longs days parenting your kids and paying the bills.
Note to Thammie:
Thammie, thanks for loving me this past 11 years. Thank you for being the best wife a man could ever ask for. You are my one and only. Love you bestie and pangga!
If there is one thing a lot of men need to understand about life is the concept of MARGINS.
I was taught early on in church about the concept of margin when my kids church teacher told me the story of Joseph’s plan of saving up during the season of plenty so that he could have more than enough and even sell at a large profit in times of lack. When everybody was eating during the season of plenty, Joseph made a plan to save and create storehouses to save up and store up harvest for the famine ahead.
When famine came – everybody had none while Joseph lived in abundance. That is the principle of margin.
Because of MARGINS, businesses can create a lot of profit. Remember the law of supply and demand. If demand is high and supply is low, prices go high. Joseph had all the supply when everybody was demanding for food. Because of his business plan, Joseph was made second in command in the land of Egypt.
MARGINS can be applied in marriage. If I create margins with the opposite sex, I protect myself from adultery and lust. If I create margins from my work – it gives me time to create memories with my kids. If I create margins in my food intake, it gives me margin to live longer and healthier.
What are the margins you have set your life?
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When I entered marriage, a lot of people advised us that for marriage to work, you’ve got to learn to sacrifice and work towards having a 50-50 relationship. It is give and take. They said Thammie and I need to mutually fulfil each other.
It sounded like a great idea. We both need to fulfil each other’s need right? Yes, until when someone feels like he/she is not fulfilling the end of the bargain.
So what happens? The marriage gets affected. The other feels he/she is being cheated out of this marriage. Why am I the only one giving? We both need to give 50-50 so we can experience 100% fulfillment.
Over time, the marriage dries up, both would not give in and work this out and thus we see a rise in broken marriages. You see 50-50 won’t work.
When Thammie and I started reading the Bible in light of how God loves us – we realized marriage should not be 50-50 but rather I give 100 and she gives 100. And the ultimate twist here is just like how Christ loved the church – when we cannot give 100% of ourselves to God- He still gives 100% of His love to us.
The same goes with the sex lives of married couples. I am not there to just get fulfilled. I give of my love and my body to fulfill hers and she also give everything she has to fulfill mine. And in the case one can’t, I still give what I can give because it is never just about fulfilling my need – but rather being faithful to the covenant and promise I made to my spouse to love her in sickness and in health, for better or for worst till death do us part.
True love is not just mutually fulfilling each other’s need but also mutually sacrificing for each other. Jesus’ love towards is sacrificial. In the midst of our sin and rebellion – He still loves us fully.
I love how Pastor Matt Chandler describes God’s covenant love towards us:
What’s mind-blowing about God’s covenantal love toward the church is that God fulfills the obligations of both parties! God has put on my life the command that I am to love my wife, as Christ loved the church. That is God’s command on my life- regardless of whether or not she reciprocates the love. I don’t love her as Christ loved the church in order to get something from her; I love her that way because that is what God has commanded me to do, and that’s the way he has loved me.
Read Ephesians 5 to appreciate more what I just blogged about: EPHESIANS 5
Thammie and I also discussed this more in our book ” How to Settle for Good Sex When You Can Have Great Sex?”
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