Today, my lovely wife Gail and I celebrate 15 years of marriage as we received the Sacrament of Matrimony on Saturday, July 8, 2000 at St. Paul Parish in Richmond on a beautiful and sunny day.
On our 15th wedding anniversary, here are 15 things I’ve learned about through marriage; they are all essential aspects of our union. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and some of the things might not ring true for other couples.
But these are things that I believe we hold true and dear to our hearts. Some of these things I’ve learned directly from Gail, other things more indirectly. She may have even learned a thing or two from me. And we’ve learned many of these things together as a couple.
One thing’s for certain: we will never stop learning and growing!
1. Complimenting each other
I’ve written before about the importance of affirmation. I believe that in general, we don’t do a good enough job of affirming people. That’s why I’ve been doing my #dailyaffirmation initiative on Facebook. Often, it’s easier to find faults in others and judge others than it is to say something nice about them.
There’s no such thing as too many compliments (as long as they are sincere). It’s amazing how a simple compliment like “You look great today” or “That dinner you cooked was delicious” can go such a long way in making someone feel good. While Gail would never say those two particular things to me (haha) she certainly affirms other skills and characteristic of mine.
2. Complementing each other
Gail and I are different in many ways. For example, she’s tidy. She’s fashionable. She’s organized. She’s humble. She has discretion. She’s handy around the house. She’s a good cook. Boy, that was a lot of examples!
For this point, it’s not so much about making up for each other’s deficiencies (more on that in the next point), rather it’s about working together to fill in the gaps. Whereas Gail will cook the meals, I do the cleaning up afterwards. While she’s doing the laundry, I’m vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms. She disciplines the kids while I play with them (haha). While we’re not perfect at everything, we certainly cover more ground together than we would on our own.
3. Knowing what you’re good at
This is similar to the point above, but more specific to maximizing your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses. I’m 41 years-old, and I would much rather utilize my strengths and gifts than worrying about what I’m not good at.
Now that doesn’t mean that we should stop learning new skills or trying new things. But it does mean making smart decisions to make the best use of our time and talent. I’m the stronger communicator, Gail is the better organizer. She is the better cook (by far) and I get all the hard math problems with the kids. Things seem to work out. Mostly.
4. Asking for forgiveness
Gail and I have had many disagreements over the years. Some have been major while others have been minor. We’re getting better (finally) about apologizing and asking for forgiveness.
I don’t mean the kind of sorry you say just so you can move on or because you think your spouse is being too proud and will never say it (we’ve had those ones too). Apologies should be timely, genuine, and relevant. As Pope Francis said last year, married couples should not go to bed angry…even if the plates fly.
Similar to asking for forgiveness, humility is required to move forward and grow as a couple. It could be a humble recognition that you’re not good at something or that your spouse can do something better than you. It could mean dying to your own desires. Humility teaches us empathy, compassion, and selflessness.
Trust is one of the most essential parts of our marriage, yet we are constantly working on it. This is more than trusting that your spouse will stay faithful or not do anything stupid (been there, done that).
It’s the trust you need to have in each other to get through daily life. Things like trusting that the other person is dropping off or picking up the kids on time. Or trusting that you’ll be home when you say you’re going to be home so we can eat dinner on time. Without trust, we are doomed.
Faith is trust super-sized. It encompasses everything I wrote about trust above, and then some. I have faith in Gail’s ability as a wife, mother, and teacher. She has faith in my ability as a husband, father, and protector.
Together, we have faith in each other and in the God who introduced us to each other back in 1989. For His reason and for His purpose. We must pass this faith onto our children.
Everything we do is rooted in love. We desire our home to be a place of love and mercy. We follow the example of our merciful Father in loving each other unconditionally.
As my parents would often say to me when I was younger, “I don’t really like you right now but I still love you.” I need to start using that one more.
9. Clear communication
Thankfully, this is likely one of our collective stronger traits. Gail is used to giving instructions to a class full of grade 2 students so her speech is often direct and efficient. And despite my penchant for loving the sound of my own voice, I believe I am an effective communicator.
We really try to say what we mean and mean what we say. No beating around the bush or speaking in metaphors.
10. Clarifying expectations
One of the biggest challenges in family life, ministry, work, and friendships is when expectations are unclear. Setting clear expectations up front saves a whole lot of trouble, confusion, and hurt later. Unclear expectations can be a big source of conflict as I’ve learned first-hand.
Further to my point about being a home of love, we want people to want to come over to our place. It might be to film a Canucks music video. Or do a hockey pool. Perhaps celebrate someone’s birthday. Or watch the finale of The Sing-Off.
Gail has the gift of hospitality, including feeding everyone who appears in my music videos. It’s my way of thanking them because I certainly can’t afford to pay them.
No one said marriage would be easy. While we’ve never been close to throwing in the towel, there have been dark moments for sure. But we remain committed to our marriage, to each other, and to our kids through good times and bad. Just as we vowed to do 15 years ago.
Commitment is something I really want to teach our kids. With commitment comes dedication, responsibility, and accountability – all important traits.
One thing I’m constantly working on is making sure that my time at home is quality time. That means getting off my cell phone and away from the computer. I need to be present to my family – not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
It shouldn’t matter what kind of day I’ve had at work or what blog I’m thinking about writing next. My primary vocation is as husband and father. That should be the only thing that matters when I walk in the door.
Sacrifice embodies many of the things listed above: humility, forgiveness, commitment, and presence. When we give up something or fast, we make room for something else.
If you’re happy, someone should tell your face. Enough said.