I met my husband in seventh-grade youth group and we became fast friends. One day a few years later, he brought a visitor to church. She had long blonde hair and word was, she’d just won a Hawaiian Tropic Bikini Contest. That’s when I decided—enough of this friend stuff! I put out the word that if Danny Appelo asked me out, I’d say yes.
It worked, and it wasn’t long before we went on what I thought would be the last first date of the rest of my life. We married in college and started careers and a family. Life wasn’t struggle-free, but it was good. And then, on an ordinary June night after an ordinary dinner of pizza with our kids, I went to bed happily married and woke up a widow. I wish I could say I became a marriage expert while I was married. But we’re often only able to realize the full value of something after it’s over. Here are 5 marriage lessons I learned once marriage was gone.
1. Some stuff just doesn’t matter.
Loss immediately brings into focus what matters and what doesn’t. Love is spelled with time and self-sacrifice and relationship matters way more than things ever will. Little things that make us cranky like clothes left on the floor and whiskers making a dirty sink mean you have the gift of a husband living with you. While our rights feel important in the moment, they’re motivated by temporary desires. But people are eternal.
2. Two really do become one.
Have you ever watched a weaver make cloth? The process joins together two separate strands of yarn by stretching one over the loom and then weaving the second over, under, over, under, over, under until they form something new altogether. Marriage is two separate people, being clipped and stretched and joined over and over until they form something new—something stronger and better together. Her weakness is held by his strength; his courage is buoyed by her cheerleading. Both become vulnerably intimate, fiercely loyal, and understanding without the exchange of words.
3. Relationships are forged in the everyday.
Big houses and fancy vacations don’t build a marriage. Love is fashioned in thousands of ordinary ways.
The daily to-do’s and dinners, dreams and disappointments, struggles and disagreements, reconciliations and compromises are where he and she are shaped into we.
4. Hardships can become high points.
When I look back on our marriage, I see how difficulties brought us together. One particularly painful summer, we had back to back to back financial hits. One Saturday morning, without saying a word to me, Dan packed up his shotguns and fishing rods, parked on a nearby corner, and sold them one by one. It was a living love note. It not only helped pull us through that hard season but deepened our love and loyalty to each other.
5. Love outlasts life.
Every single marriage will end in loss at some point. One spouse will die first and the other will be left a widow or widower. Loss is learning to live with the love and without the loved one. That means every single thing done today to cherish, honor, encourage, affirm, and serve your spouse deepens and strengthens the love that will outlast you.
What marriage lessons do you have to share?