Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

10 Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage

Ten years ago (today), I stood nervously at the front of an 150-year-old church waiting for my life to change. I kept my knees bent so I wouldn’t pass out. The doors at the end of the aisle opened and a beautiful woman in white floated towards me. We said, “I do.” And a decade later, I still do.
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Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned in our 10 years of marriage:

(1) Life is not about me

Imagine my surprise when I discovered my wife’s motives for marriage were not all about me—serving me, pleasing me, comforting me. As an independent single  traveling the world, it was easy for me to believe I was the main character in the story of life. My experiences, feelings, thoughts, and desires were infallible and irrevocable.

But in marriage, there are two experiences, two sets of feelings, two ways of thinking, two (often contrary) desires. There are only two options: fight to win every argument or accept that life is not all about you.

(2) Life is difficult, but worth it

My wife has back problems. During one summer, she was confined to her bed for a week. Later that summer we spent two months leading a team of American students in Bosnia and she was not able to pick up either of our two small children. As I ran around trying to do my job, keep my kids alive, and serve my wife, the thought crossed my mind, “Life is not supposed to be like this.”

Well, now I know, this is life.

Life is painful.
Life puts you on your back for a week.
Life is a struggle.
Life is waking up at 3 AM with a sick child.
Life is difficult.

But Life is worth it.

(3) All relationships require work

I thought if you find the right person, everything will be easy. But two broken people trying to make a home together is a volatile formula. On our honeymoon we couldn’t agree whether you should wipe the bottom of your feet before getting out of the shower. For my newlywed wife, it was obvious. For me, why have a floor mat if you have to dry the bottom of your feet first? I mean, wiping the bottom of your foot with the towel is kind of gross.

There are endless things to disagree about. You work through them because you want something more—each other.

(4) I find myself by giving myself away

Fight for your rights. Defend your interests. Mark your territory. These are strategies for marriage disaster. They turn your bride into your enemy. When my life is centered on me and what I want, it’s out of balance.

I was made to orbit, not to be orbited. Not that my life rotates around my wife. But in serving her I find a satisfaction not possible through self-service.

(5) Most things are just not that important

Sometimes, I can be like the guy who sends you an email for his Christmas party potluck marked “urgent” with three exclamation points. I think everything involving me is important.

But 10 years of marriage has helped me erase items from my urgent list. You know what’s really urgent, those small moments you can never get back—
the proud look on your son’s face when he shows off his newest creation;
the candlelight reflecting in your wife’s eyes as you talk over dinner;
the first cry of your newborn child echoing in the delivery room;
the story times, the date nights, the comforting hugs, and the celebrations.

(6) The deepest marriage connection is not in the bedroom

I came into marriage expecting a non-stop, clothes-optional party. I discovered something deeper. While physical connection is a wonderful part of marriage, what happens in the kitchen and the living-room is much more important.

There is a soul connection far deeper than sex—someone who understands me, someone who is for me, someone who is with me. This is the heart of marriage. The bedroom is the bonus.

(7) It’s impossible to judge someone and love them at the same time

I never realized how many opinions I had until marriage. Sometimes I want to slap myself.

It is impossible to come alongside someone to love and comfort them while simultaneously thinking, “I wish they would get their act together.” Love doesn’t take the “high ground.” It descends. It doesn’t defend itself. It looks through the other’s eyes. It sets down the gavel and stretches out it’s arms in embrace.

(8) “I’m sorry” is the best medicine

No matter how frozen we are in disagreement, “I’m sorry” starts the thaw. Two little words, seven letters and an apostrophe, have the power to heal hearts and mend wounds. They taste like medicine coming out, but they bring immediate relief.

(9) Love is a muscle

On our wedding day 10 years ago, I couldn’t imagine loving my wife more. In fact, I feared our love would dissipate with the years. Now I know better.

Love is a muscle. The more you exercise it, the greater it’s capacity. Love does not fade away from over-use or familiarity. It is lost when it lays dormant, static, and forgotten. A decade ago, I couldn’t imagine loving my bride more. Now, I can’t wait to see how much I will love her in the future.

(10) I am more selfish than I ever thought, but more loved than I can imagine

Over the past 10 years, I have seen my selfishness more clearly than ever. Living with someone else has revealed my self-interest. I can’t hide any longer. The truth comes to the surface: I am more broken than I ever dare admit.

Yet, I am loved. This is the really shocking part. In spite of my shortcomings and failures, my selfish thoughts and actions, I am loved. Every night she chooses to go to bed with me. Every morning she chooses to live life with me. I am grateful.

Now I see why God invented this institution. Marriage is a mirror. It reflects a God who loves selfish people with an indestructible love. It teaches us of a love that will not let us go—for 10 years and forever.

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  • deairby

    awesome article, great read for any person not matter how long they have been married

    • Josh

      You guys are approaching 40 right?

  • Loved this post, Josh. Beautiful truth wrapped in words easy to digest.

    • Joshua Irby

      Thanks Anne!

  • renee

    I like #6. After 20 years and 4 kids (ages 6-12) it is so much different than those early crazy years. Our lives are a beautiful dance and the music never stops.

    Be Blessed.

    • Josh

      Yep, the music just gets louder and louder.

  • Congratulations on 10 years of marriage! While I relate to all 10 (after almost 30 years of marriage), I especially was drawn to #2. My husband was diagnosed with cancer only 8 years into our marriage. But this year, he (we) celebrated 20 years cancer free. I certainly learned the meaning behind the words in those marriage vows, “In sickness and in health.” Blessings!

    • Josh

      Wow, Joan, that’s amazing. I hope you guys have 30 more years together.

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