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Our 16th anniversary started with the most terrifying event I have ever experienced. It began with a 6 am trip to the Emergency Room with our youngest daughter who was having a seizure.  We spent the our anniversary and most of the next day in the hospital with her while they ran tests, did blood work and discovered a virus was the cause of all the trouble. After an iv of fluids she was on the mend quickly, but what a nightmare that was!

To say that this anniversary was one to remember is an understatement.  When Jeremy & I shared our vows June 17th, 2000; while we meant them, I’m sure we had no idea what the future would hold. I’ll share more about the craziness of the last 5 weeks soon, but I can honestly say ““I, Dana, take you Jeremy, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and to cherish; until death do us part” are words I hold more sincere now than ever.

Events such as these make you remember what really matters. In some ways, 16 years doesn’t seem like  a long time. But when I recall other couples who were married at the same time as us, and who are now no longer married, it makes me consider what we can do and are doing to keep our marriage thriving. The week before our anniversary, Jeremy brainstormed a few things we think have helped to make the difference for us. Whether you’re just starting out, have been married for awhile or just want to find ways to make your relationship stronger, we hope some of these tips will help make your journey in marriage a lifelong adventure.

  1. Remember your vows. Vow to work out your problems and never use the word divorce as a threat. For us, it’s not an option.Take the time to fix what’s broken and remember why you fell in love in the first place. After all, a vow is a solemn promise meant to be honored.
  2. Put each other first. If I am doing all I can to put the needs of my husband before my own & he is doing all he can to put my needs first, everyone’s needs will be met. Sounds simple but our pride makes it harder than it should be.
  3. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. If you’re both living out tip 2, even when you think the other person is being stupid, you appreciate the heart behind the stupidity and that makes it easier to forgive each other. Again, that pride thing can really mess things up.
  4. Don’t discuss heavy issues on an empty stomach. Balancing the budget, disciplining kids, any topic that could get heated should wait until after you’ve eaten dinner to be discussed. Studies have shown that couples are more likely to argue when they are hungry. In our house, we call it getting “Hangry”…So hungry that you’re angry. Everyone will be more rational when they’ve had a chance to eat first. It’s likely that if you wait until you’ve had a chance to eat, the matter may seem much less important.
  5. Speaking of budgets, if you’ve found your finances are out of whack, remember they didn’t get that way overnight and they won’t get fixed overnight. Remember tip 4, plan a budget, stick to it and over time you’ll be able to get out of the mess. And remember, pride can cause you to overspend or get into debt. Don’t compare yourself to others and set reasonable expectations for your budget.
  6. Parenting: Be a united front. Don’t allow your kids to play you against each other. Show them from an early age that when one of you says “no”, asking the other parent in hopes of getting a “yes” is not going to work.
  7. If it’s a difficult situation to manage with one of your kids, be sure to discuss it with your spouse first, even if you need to send the child to their room so you can both be on the same page for the game plan. Again… UNITED FRONT. *See tip 4.
  8. Date as often as you did before marriage. Dating doesn’t have to be expensive. A date can even be classified as staying up after the kids are tucked in and having a special dessert or movie together. Some of my favorite resources come from The Dating Divas. Those women know how to plan fun stuff for couples! If you try one of their dating ideas, I’d love to hear about it!
  9. Treat your spouse the way you did when you were first trying to win their heart. If you (Husbands) opened doors or wrote poetry for her, don’t stop! If you (wives) got all dressed up when you knew you were going to see him, for goodness sake, at least get out of your pajamas before he gets home from work! In all transparency, my kids have been known to ask me “Why are you putting makeup on now?” As I run upstairs to freshen up a little while before Jeremy gets home. They now know that it’s because I want to look nice for when their dad gets home. I promise it will help everyone’s mood after a long day when you both put an effort to make each other feel special and worth the extra effort.
  10. Be determined to not give up. There are seasons in marriage that are super difficult. Pregnancy, babies, busy work schedules, going back to school, hormones, financial struggles: all of these things can put stress on a marriage. But trust me, if you both are determined to support each other and not give up, you’ll be stronger on the other side. *See tips 8 & 9.
  11. Have fun together! Don’t forget to flirt! *See Tip 8. Have some fun code words or things you can incorporate into text messages or notes to let each other know you’re thinking of each other throughout the day.
  12. Gross out your kids. Kiss & hug in front of them! When each of my kids have been about 15 months old they tried to claim Daddy as their own and would push me away when I leaned in to kiss him. Of course I didn’t let that stop me! I remind them often that he was mine first!
  13. Remember that you’re on the same team. Don’t do things to try to “get back at” or “make ’em pay” when you get upset at your spouse. That’s just immature and serves no purpose to strengthen your relationship. Why would you want to tear down your own house? And again with the pride thing. When you’ve messed up, be quick to say “I’m sorry.” *See tip 2. (Noticing a pattern?)
  14. Pick your battles. Let me explain. There are times when you know you’re right and your spouse is wrong. Pointing out that fact isn’t always the best idea. There have been times in our 16 years of marriage when I thought I knew better than my husband. In those times I’ve found it helpful to ask myself “What will this matter in the long run?” If it really doesn’t matter & winning the argument means only my pride is at stake, I let it drop. Several times when I thought I was right, I was wrong. If I had pressed my point-of-view and tried to win for the sake of winning, my pride would have taken quite a heavy blow. Other times, I was right, but again, the issue wasn’t something that really mattered long term and I conceded. Can I tell you, victory in those situations is much sweeter when it’s not “I told you so” coming from my lips but is rather, “I’m sorry” coming from someone else’s? And keep tip 2 in mind.
  15. Put God first. This one really should be tip 1. Attend church together, read scripture and pray together.  When Jeremy & I got married my dad drew a triangle and labeled the vertices God, Jeremy & Dana.GodHe explained that the closer Jeremy & I drew to God, the closer we would be to each other. The further we were away from God, the further we would be from each other. He & my mom have been married for 40 years. My in-laws just celebrated  their 44th anniversary. Both of these couples have kept God at the center of their marriages and are amazing examples of what marriage should be. Their parents before them held the same values and also had lifelong marriages. I say mirror your life after others who are doing well. Don’t take marriage advice from someone who’s done it multiple times. Take it from couples who have done it once and have lasted a lifetime.
  16. Remember that Marriage is a Marathon, not a Sprint. We didn’t say our vows and intend to keep them for just a few years. We made those vows for LIFE. Neither of us are perfect. We both make lots of mistakes. But through it all, we’ve got each other to grow with, learn with and lean on no matter what. That makes all the struggles and frustrations worth it. Knowing that someone who knows me better than anyone else and has seen me on my good and bad days and still sticks around is a reminder of God’s love for me. I’m so thankful of that tangible reminder.

We certainly haven’t figured everything out in the last 16 years, but we are committed to continue working on our marriage and giving it our best shot. I pray that your marriages are strong and that you and your spouse grow more in love over the years. Marriage is worth fighting for. Give it all you’ve got.