Fifteen years. That’s 780 weeks, or almost 5,500 days.
This is how long we have gone to bed together and woken up next to each other.
We’ve set up home in one state or another, hugged each other while watching the sunset, kissed one another romantically or after a fight.
Made love in most rooms of our house, laughed at our jokes and at one another, cried during happy times and sad times, gone through the ringer and much more.
We met 2 years before we got married, and like many couples we were in dating bliss.
Everything was wonderful, rosy, and we were a perfect match. Marriage would have been a breeze if it was like our dating years.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been. If our marriage was easy, we would have something very abnormal.
We share the toughest times in our marriage in one of earliest podcasts to let you know that it hasn’t all been wedded bliss. But, even though it has been rough and bumpy at times, there is lots that we’ve learned from our successes and our failures along the way.
Since we recently celebrated 15 years of marriage we though it would be a good time for us to sit down and go over all the lessons we have learned that have impacted our marriage. One evening, after the kids were in bed, we sat at our kitchen table reminiscing about the years that have since passed. What a fun time we had!
We laughed, cringed, and went deep into our memory banks to remember some of the early years.
Following that special conversation, we knew we had to share some of the key lessons we’ve learned since saying “I do” back in 1996:
1. It’s OK to go to bed angry
There are times when nothing good is going to be said after arguing for what seems likes hours. In these instances, we have gone to bed angry and upset at each other with the understanding that in the morning, once we have cooled off, we’ll talk.
This has saved us from hours of frustration and allowed us to calm down and look at the argument from a different perspective after a night of sleep.
2. Participating in an activity together will bring you closer together
For the first 2 years of our marriage, we didn’t have any activities/hobbies we did together. There was not a connection between us in this area, but we decided to find an activity and discovered a love of hiking and backpacking
This gave us some common goals to pursue together. We hiked to the tops of the 3 highest peaks in Southern California, Yosemite, Sequoia and many other areas.
Now with 2 kids and many more obligations on our plate, we don’t get out as much for our hikes. What we do instead is workout together in our garage 3 to 4 times a week. This is 30 minutes of time we get to cheer each other on and encourage one another – all while building our bodies and reducing our stress to make the rest of our lives more enjoyable.
3. Set up boundaries with family, friends and kids (if you have them)
It took us some years to realize that we needed to have boundaries around our marriage. Each of us wanted to know that we were being protected and cherished in the marriage. If there are outside influences in your marriage, this is a must-do.
4. Turn off the TV, phone(s), iPad, computers and all other electronics
We just want to be heard. When there are too many distractions, we feel like we are not connecting. When it’s time to talk we’ve learned that everything needs to be turned off and we need to focus our full attention on each other.
5. Romance is not dead
Both of us love being told that we are the only one. These can be with love notes, text messages, phone calls, flowers, small homemade crafts, long hugs, passionate kisses, and many other ways.
It is something that has to be done daily as each of us wants to know that we are special. In just 15 minutes a day, you can really have a powerful impact on your marriage.
6. Continue to pursue
Think back to when you were dating. We did everything we could to get each others attention and keep it.
Over the years, we’ve learned that we have to continuously pursue each other like we did many years ago. Making this happen in the bedroom has been a huge benefit to our sexual intimacy.
7. There’s no shame in saying “I’m Sorry”
The sooner the better. All of us make mistakes and the sooner we realize that we’ve done a wrong and ask for forgiveness the quicker we can move forward. Many of us just want our spouse to acknowledge that we have been hurt.
8. Get out of your comfort zone
Change up what you are doing from time to time. In our 15 years of marriage there have been times when we went to the same restaurant each week for date night, walked the same route when exercising, had the same clothes for way too long, and made love in the same position for what seemed like eons.
We’ve picked up books like this & this one to help us break free of these routines. Both have helped us to encourage each other to become a better version of ourselves and in turn we have grown in our marriage.
9. Turn the lights on
Everywhere we go the lights are on, except in the bedroom while making love. Thirteen years after getting married we started to leave the lights on – they were on a dimmer switch.
Wow! What an amazing experience to be able to look at each other as we connected sexually. We even keep our eyes open. Oh yeah!
10. There’s a lot of room in a king size bed
It’s easy to be in the same house or even the same bed and never connect. We yearn for physical affection.
We make cuddling, spooning, hugging and physical touch an important part of our time together. These are loving touches that lead to nothing other than our physical bodies being close.
11. Friends of the opposite sex is a no go
This doesn’t mean we can’t have friends of the opposite sex. It’s that we cannot and do not confide in the opposite sex when it comes to our marriage. It’s a non-negotiable in our marriage.
12. Nothing good happens after two drinks
This was told to us by a friend many years back. Early in our marriage, we didn’t adhere to this rule and many times we would do stupid things that would jeopardize our marriage. An alcoholic drink isn’t worth our marriage.
13. Work will always be there
It’s tough to remember this at times, but tomorrow the sun will rise and the work will be there. We can’t always say that for the love of our life.
14. Kids will change your marriage
We have had our highs and lows as parents. We’re sure to have many more as the years go by, but one thing we have done is to not allow the kids to divide us. If either of us makes a decision on what the kids can or cannot do, then that is the decision. There are times when we have had to have discussions and we do this in private, then come back to the kids with the verdict.
It shows them that we are a united front and that our marriage comes first.
15. Say “I Love You” often and in different ways
Say it often and say it like you mean it. Those 3 words affirm our commitment to each other. There is a need deep inside each of us to know that we are loved by our spouse.
Change up how you say these words by writing it on the bathroom mirror, with rose pedals on the living room floor, hire a singing telegram, in a poem, or any other creative way you can think of to brighten your spouse’s day.
16. Date nights are a must
Dating has rejuvenated our marriage from the brink of despair. Not just going out has been the key, but taking the lead and planning the date has made our dates fun and exciting.
We’ve had help to break out of our comfort zone with this book on creative dates.
17. Pick up after yourself, your spouse isn’t your maid
When the expectation was on the other spouse to pick up the mess, life in our house wasn’t pretty. Bickering, nagging, and arguing ruled. Neither of us wanted to feel like we were the other ones parent.
We had to grow up in our marriage and take personal accountability for our actions.
18. Just do it
There have been many times during our married years that there were big issues hovering over us. The problem was that we didn’t talk to each other about them.
Our hope was that we could read each others mind and then everything would be just dandy. Unfortunately, neither of us are mind readers, which is a big bummer. Big issues = conversations with one another.
We had to get over our fear of ruining our marriage when we had big discussions and realize that we were only growing and helping our marriage when we did come together and talk. Your palms may get sweaty, your heart may beat faster, but talking about the issues in your marriage is worth it.
19. A hand written note speaks volumes
There is something about finding a note that sings to us. Each of us wants to know that our spouse is thinking about us. The time and effort it takes us is little, and the benefits last a long time.
Here is a great resource on a how to write a romantic love letter to your spouse.
20. It’s OK to be goofy in the bedroom
Loosening up and enjoying one another in our bedroom took time. Not having to be proper and try new positions, even if we began laughing, has been exciting. We don’t take ourselves so seriously and because of this we can experiment from time to time.
21. Sex is so much better without porn
Porn almost destroyed our marriage.
It put images in Tony’s mind that Alisa could never live up to. It made our sex life difficult as Alisa struggled with her own self image and the thought of Tony being with “another woman”. Nothing about it helped us. It was tearing away at our souls and the sex sucked.
Seven years into our marriage, a miracle from God happened – Tony went to Alisa for help. Listen to the entire story: Pornography: A Secret That Can Destroy Your Marriage. It’s taken time to heal from this secret in our marriage, but it has been eight years since Tony has looked at any porn and our sex life is the best that it has ever been. Praise God!
22. A cash flow plan does wonders
Finances is the #1 reason for divorce. We did stupid with too many zeros in the early years of our marriage. Marriage is tough at times and when you add lots of debt on top of that, wow does it feel like a pressure cooker.
Fortunately for us, we got on the same page after a handful of years of marriage and worked our cash flow plan that Dave Ramsey teaches. This one act of obedience started the change in our marriage. We now know what it meant when we said “For better or for worse”. Our attitude changed toward our marriage as we pulled together and united as ONE.
23. Sex Challenges are worth it
The definition of a turning point is, the point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment.
Ours was August 2008, 11 years into our marriage. That is when we decided to attempt our first sex challenge, 60 Days of Sex. It was our turning point.
We learned so much about our communication, pleasures, fears, how far we were willing to sacrifice for each other, positions, time management, and the deep love we had for each other. The impact each challenge has on our marriage is different, but each time we do one (we’ve done 4 to date), we grow closer together and become more intertwined.
Our marriage started 15 years ago to “I do’s”, kisses, hugs, laughter, and an amazing evening together. Each day since then has brought us to this point in our lives and marriage. We are more in love now than ever before. It’s taken sacrifice, determination, and love each step of the way.
We hope that you can skyrocket your marriage into the stratosphere by taking these 23 marriage lessons to heart and putting them to good use in your marriage.
Pick up our book Stripped Down: 13 Keys to Unlocking Intimacy in Your Marriage to learn even more ways that you can take your intimacy to a new level.
Love you guys!