Ten Things I’ve Learned In Thirty Years Of Marriage

Ten Things I’ve Learned In Thirty Years Of Marriage

In honor of our thirtieth year of marriage, I reflect on what is the same and what is different from year ten at year thirty.
Theresa Kiihn
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My husband and I recently celebrated thirty years of marriage. This feat is too rare today, and we are as much surprised as we are thankful to celebrate this milestone. I read Nicole Russell’s ten-year anniversary essay with interest.

She’s a wise woman! It got me thinking about how that list would look for us at 30 years of marriage.

1. Marriage Is Still Hard, But So Are All Relationships

It is no surprise to us or anyone else that marriage takes hard work. Of course, any worthwhile relationship takes hard work, time, and tolerance. I’m used to marriage taking hard work, but we have more time to devote to it since our kids are grown. Lately, I worry more about putting time into friendships and other relationships. My husband and I have gotten the hard work of marriage into a good routine.

2. Sex Remains Vital

Sex is, as Nicole beautifully puts it, as water, oxygen, prayer, and freedom is to humanity. Sex past age 50 remains vital. It’s more fun and relaxed. Sure, we’re far less limber, but we also don’t need to worry if someone “hears” us. My husband likes to tease now, “Where were you 15 years ago?” Well, I was busy wearing a dozen different hats and not doing any job particularly well, from mom to cook to educator. I let my wife role drop to the bottom of the list. I let me drop to the bottom of the list. I am so sorry, my husband. I truly messed that one up. Yet, God is good, sex is now amazing (sorry, kids) and has morphed to a spiritual experience. Sex is no longer life-giving, but it is most assuredly life-sustaining.

3. I’m Far More Awesome than I Used to Be

I have never oozed self-confidence; my husband equally has no idea what lack of it might be like. I have struggled with self-acceptance my whole life, but there’s a quiet confidence that comes with turning 50 and having a happy, long-term marriage. I am much more free of paralyzing self-analysis, and our marriage has benefitted from that.

4. It’s Still Okay to Go to Bed Mad, But It Happens Far Less Often

My husband and I are polar opposites. We’ve fought about nearly everything under the sun. We’ve cancelled out each other’s votes for years, listened to different music styles and liked different movies. I know where he stands; he knows where I stand. We long ago agreed to disagree, and we rarely go to bed mad anymore. In recent years, though, our votes have become more aligned, our radio station is the same, and we now watch movies together. We also hold each other as we fall asleep, which is something we never did at years ten and 20.

5. The Kids Have Wreaked Their Havoc, and We Survived

Our kids have already wreaked their havoc and have gone on their merry ways. In some ways, we are still smarting from the experience. Too many of our friends’ marriages didn’t survive the havoc. My husband and I are enjoying life after children. We sleep better, go for long walks in the woods, and have time to go out with friends. That may change if grandchildren come into our lives, but I think we’re ready for that.

6. Grown Kids Are Also Awesome, When They Let You See Them

We survived our kids, and we even survived the shock and despair of the suddenly empty nest. It is such an honor to watch our kids live as adults. We get to watch them lead the lives for which we prepared them: getting themselves educated, struggling with crappy cars and student loans, and sometimes dating losers. Then, in the middle of one night, we get a text saying, “I think I’m in love,” and we stay up all night lamenting the lack of a wedding fund.

7. Our Love Is Not Enough

Our love is not enough to sustain our marriage. Our shared faith in God sustains us. We met walking to church in college. Our first date was Holy Communion. On most Sundays, we still worship together, partake of Holy Communion and receive absolution for our sins. Our shared faith in God sustains our marriage.

8. My Husband Became My Soulmate

I’m still not exactly sure when my husband became my soulmate, but I do know that I never believed in such a concept until recently. I also believe my husband is a modern-day Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series (not 24-year-old handsome laird Jamie, but 55-year-old King of Men Jamie). But that’s a story for another day. A few months ago, a friend and I were talking after one of those drink-wine-and-learn-to-paint classes (I CANNOT paint.) Although she has been married for only a couple of years (to someone she has loved for many years), we both have had the same disconcerting realization that our husbands have become our soulmates.

We discussed the somewhat frightening moment of realizing that you’ve become spiritually entwined with your husband and you can no longer picture your life without him. It’s sobering to realize that you cannot imagine breathing without him, yet knowing that you would somehow learn to breathe anyway. My husband and I have become one in ways I never expected or even thought I desired. I depend on his being and he depends on mine. He is my heart and I am his… and all that mushy stuff.

9. Love Can Make You Very Happy

Mercy, the ’60s singing group, was right: “Love Can Make You Very Happy.” After 30 years of marriage, my husband and I have experienced a wide range of emotions. We have learned that marriage, and life, is not a series of happy moments. There are many unhappy moments. So, it’s much easier now to recognize and enjoy the happy moments.

10. Happiness Cannot Be the Goal

Happiness, as Nicole aptly noted, cannot be the goal of marriage or life. If it is, you will live much of your life thinking you’ve failed. God promises us faith and love. God promises he will not abandon us. He does not promise continual happiness. Understanding that is key to being able to tolerate sadness, hope for joyful moments, and recognize true happiness.

Theresa Kiihn lives in Minnetonka, Minnesota. She is wife to a Viking god and mother to his bairn, writer, barista, teacher, reader, crafter, herbalist and lifelong Minnesotan.

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