I didn’t know if it would ever happen – me meeting someone who was everything I ever wanted. And then I did, completely out of the blue, while I was serving at a summer camp in North Carolina. Her name was Rachel. We dated for two years, tied the knot, and now five full years have gone by and I’m married with two kiddos.

Geez.

That happened fast.

Over these five years, I have learned a ton about Rachel (and women in general, I think), relationships, and what marriage really is all about. You may have followed our journey and extracted some wisdom from my write-ups on lessons learned during my first six months, year, two years, three years, and four years of marriage (if not, please check them out as they may help you in whatever relationship stage you find yourself!). Now, let’s reflect on this fifth year, and the two major lessons it has taught me.

1. It really doesn’t matter for you to be on top of your work and household responsibilities if you are not on top of your partner’s emotional needs.

This has been the hardest one to swallow for me. Life has absolutely gotten busier and busier with every surpassing year, almost painfully so. In this stage of life with a one year old and a two-and-a-half year old, I feel like I have zero spare time and am doing far less of the things that bring me personal joy. That’s okay. No complaints, so many have it much more difficult than me. But here’s my point: I’m so spent each day as I try to stay on top of work, finances, taxes, chores, projects, daily cleaning, some cooking, and helping out with the kids. And unfortunately (to my embarrassment), I am not naturally remembering to give her long, lingering hugs, or compliment her beauty, or organize a babysitter for a date night so we can dress up and go out and just look in each other’s eyes and talk and smile and laugh and reminisce and dream without interruption.

AAAHHHHH.

It’s just been much harder than I thought it would be. Part of me is like, man, I have earned some allowances during this season…she’ll understand…she does understand…we’re both running so ragged. But the other part of me is like, nah man, come on, rise up, you can do this. She’s your dreamboat, your miracle, you made a commitment to her, you sang a song called “One and Only” to her on your wedding day. She’s your one and only. You have to figure this out, you have to.

I know these things aren’t mutually exclusive, but I’m pretty sure she’d rather our house be more messy and for us to be way behind on our work and projects and chores and even fitness if instead her emotional needs were really, fully being met. I mean, she wants to thrive, and she can’t if they are not being met.

It makes sense.

It’s just hard for me to fall behind in some areas. But what is worse, falling behind in my work and projects and chores and fitness, or falling behind in loving her well? If I fall behind in loving Rachel well, there will soon come a time when I will fall behind in loving Rachel at all. That’s what tends to happen. Entropy + busyness + complacency + underappreciation = a very bad place.

What is worse, falling behind in my work and projects and chores and fitness, or falling behind in loving her well? If I fall behind in loving Rachel well, there will soon come a time when I will fall behind in loving Rachel at all.

So, I’m learning to set my mind to demonstrate love to her in the ways I used to. I’m learning to let go of my need to stay on top of everything (it’s so hard!!!) and taking solace in the knowledge that I’m loving Rachel better, in the ways she needs to be loved, and that is way more important long-term. She definitely loves me in the ways I need to be loved, and so this is the least I can do. Not only that, but I want to. I really do. I love her so much. More so each day.

2. Go to bed with some energy left, rather than none.

This, I’ve found, is a really big deal. Obviously, if you both go to bed at a reasonable time at night, and have some energy and are not completely dead, your sex life can be awesome. Both of you can put in the effort, if you know what I mean! But wait, there’s more. What I have found – and the rest of you out there please let me know if you agree! – is that Rachel often wants to talk about heavy stuff at night after we get into bed. In my head I’m like, “dear heavens I don’t have the energy to even think about this right now, I’m completely wiped out!” But invariably, I’m about to fall asleep and Rachel is like “….so….I’ve been thinking about ________?” and “how do you feel about __________?”

And I have to say, “I’m sorry love, I am so dead, can we please talk about this tomorrow?”

But then we sometimes never get to it. When we’re in bed together, it’s time for intimacy – physical and emotional. Rachel wants our hearts to be connected and, to be honest, I want that too. Every couple should, as it’s the mark of a healthy relationship. And so I’ve discovered that if we just go to bed early, we have energy for making love and we have energy for conversations about heavy things. And it’s so good for our hearts – it knits them together. It’s not worth staying up later to watch a TV show or my favorite team play. It’s so much better for our relationship – and the intimacy we want to have – if we go to bed at a reasonable time – when there is still something left in the tank to give to our partner.

It’s so much better for our relationship – and the intimacy we want to have – if we go to bed at a reasonable time – when there is still something left in the tank to give to our partner.

That’s it! That’s all I have for you after five years :) Again, check out my previous blogs (linked in the first paragraph) for what I’ve learned on previous anniversaries! I do hope these two new lessons help someone else, regardless of where their relationship is at. But remember that it’s easy to read these strategies and listen to marriage podcasts and go to relationship seminars and add another tool to your proverbial toolbox on how to do this well. The hard part is actually doing it. It takes effort, but from my experience, it’s so worth it. There is nothing better this side of heaven than true intimacy properly built, maintained, and grown within the romantic relationship God has so kindly and undeservingly gifted to you.

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