Today marks 10 years as Mr. and Mrs. Judah Cofer.
It went as fast as they said it would.
How can it be ten years ago that two infatuated 19-year-olds vowed to spend a lifetime with one another?
Significant milestones often make me contemplative. I love pondering the past; lingering over precious memories and contemplating the learning curves. And this anniversary is no different—perhaps even more so.
Not only are we celebrating 10 years of marriage, but we are also both turning 30 later this year and welcomed our fifth child; It’s a big year. Combined, these elements create a perfect stage for reflecting on what’s behind us, and anticipating what’s ahead.
There are a myriad of things I’ve learned in the decade I’ve spent as a wife, but decided to share 3 lessons I’ve been musing on lately that have brought some of the greatest strength, love, and unity into our marriage. If you read my anniversary post from last year, some of this will sound familiar. But it’s worth saying again, because it’s just as true now as ever.
Conflict Can Be a Bridge to Greater Closeness
I can’t stand conflict—it goes against every natural fiber of my being. Believe it or not, this factor in-and-of itself created tension in our marriage early on. I would bottle everything up, trying to work through it on my own (even though I was terrible at hiding it) until it got too much, and the emotion would come spilling over in panicky streams of tears. I didn’t know how to handle conflict the right way, and was afraid it would drive a wedge into our relationship.
However, what I’ve learned over time is that conflict handled with humility and patience can become a conduit for greater unity, strength, and love. When two people approach a situation with the desire to grow closer to the other, it changes the way they handle the conversations that lead to reconciliation. Words are chosen more carefully, attitudes are kept in check, and love stays the foundation and motivation. These are several of our rules of thumb that have aided us in working through conflict in a way that has strengthened—rather than weakened—our relationship.
- No Raised Voices
Before we got married, we decided that we would seek to never raise our voice at one another, and that we’d hold each other to that. By God’s grace, this has been the case. We’ve found that this has been a way to keep emotional temperatures under control, keeping us from saying many things we might later regret. It’s helped us stay level-headed, less defensive, and made it easier to listen to the other.
Often conflict arises not from blatant wrong, but simply from misunderstandings. Men and women typically communicate differently from one another, and this in itself can cause hurt, confusion, or frustration because we just don’t get each other. There were several times in the first few years of marriage when we had struggles we couldn’t seem to reconcile as hard as we tried. So, we would stop trying to figure it out, and take it to the Lord (sometimes after making a mess of things, but better late than never). And do you know what? God has given wisdom every time to work through the conflict. We’ve had “lightbulb moments” when one or the other (or both) of us have understood something we weren’t grasping before. When we’ve humbled ourselves before the Creator, acknowledging we don’t have what it takes on our own to thrive in our marriage, He’s given us exactly what we need. And by His grace, we’re entering into our second decade of marriage with no unresolved conflict and far greater closeness and understanding of each other than we had in the beginning.
- Affirm Our Love and Commitment for One Another
One morning a couple of years into our marriage, something happened that caused tension between us right as Judah was heading to work. I’m someone who feels the need to resolve an issue the moment it arises—it feels like a form of torture to wait to work through it. Judah, knowing this about me, paused in the doorway and looked me in the eyes. “We’ll make time to talk about this as soon as I get home. Don’t worry. I love you.”
Those words of affirmation were such a gift to me at that moment. And we’ve continued to do this in the midst of every misunderstanding and conflict since: intentionally re-stating our love and commitment to one another. We do this when the other confesses sin, too. We forgive, and we say, “I love you. I’m in this with you.” This reminds us that our battle is not against each other, but against the flesh, the world, and the devil, all of which will do anything to drive us apart if we let them. It reminds us that God is more powerful than all of these, and He is the One who holds this marriage together.
Growth Takes time
in the beginning of marriage I didn’t anticipate just how long it would take to learn each other, establish new habits as a couple, and grow in nearly every way as we do life together. I recently read a statistic that in the US on average a first marriage lasts only 7 years. This saddens me so much, because it was after our first seven years we started to realize the hard work of learning, listening, and establishing was beginning to pay off. It took 7 years for rhythms to stick and for intentional effort to really bear fruit. But most people in America call it quits before then. Those first seven years can quite literally make or break a marriage.
Just like the most intricate, stunning works of art take time, so does a beautiful marriage. Investing in marriage as we would in creating a masterpiece is becoming a lost art in our microwave culture. When it gets hard or unexciting, we often call it quits and look for something new. But it’s those things that we tenderly cultivate and intentionally invest in year after year after year that will be the most rewarding. This is why, when we see couples celebrate 50 or 60 years of marriage, we marvel at the beauty and significance they represent. These don’t happen because it was always easy. They happen because they chose to stick it out in the good times and hard times. They chose what was harder in the moment for something better down the road.
When two people wait on the Lord in a marriage, they will experience the joy of seeing Him at work over the years, growing and shaping it into something it could never otherwise be. He redeems, He convicts, and He sanctifies with each passing year, turning the marriage of two imperfect people into a masterpiece of His grace.
[I just want to add a note here for those who have experienced fractured marriages: God has not forgotten you. He can take tragic circumstances that the enemy intended for evil and turn them for our good and His glory. He has a plan and purpose for you life, and will redeem what has been broken. It may not look like we want it to—you may have been in a marriage that was unsafe, or a spouse who refuses to reconcile. But your life can and will be used as a testimony of His love and grace as you commit yourself and your story to Him.]
A Team in Everything
It’s far too easy in the midst of normal life to drift apart from our spouse before we even realize it. We seek to do well in work, in caring for the kids, in maintaining friendships and more, and somewhere along the lines, stop placing priority on the marriage. We live in the same house, but have mostly separate lives.
Judah and I have found that it’s critical to learn to think like a team in everything. Yes, we have our individual spheres of responsibility. I couldn’t fill in at his job, and he can’t nurse a baby. However, we’ve discovered that the more we learn about what the other one is doing, stay connected with how we’re doing in those spheres, and seek the other’s input as much as possible, every part of life becomes interconnected.
I try as much as possible to learn about the details of Judah’s work so that I can ask him questions beyond, “How was work?”. This gives space for him to share about triumphs and difficulties that require me to understand some of what the inner workings of his job involve. Does a lot of it still go over my head? Yep. But he knows I sincerely desire to enter into his world and be his biggest cheerleader.
Judah also seeks to be aware and a part of the kid’s and my daily life. He’s helped me figure out rhythms and schedules of home, schooling, and outside tasks so we can dialogue, troubleshoot, and work as a team for our family to thrive. He always knows, too, what writing projects I have, and is my biggest supporter.
The more areas we’ve intentionally involved each other in, the more we have in common; the more there is to bond over. Our desire is to continually grow closer and closer as a reflection of the reality that we are one in the eyes of God.
There are many more words I could say about marriage; but I’ll leave it there.
As we step into a new decade, my heart rejoices as I look back at all God has done and anticipate what He will do. He is faithful and true.
And, Judah: I’d choose you again and again. Thank you for asking me to share a lifetime with you. Happy 10 years, my love.