Last week, Steve and I reached our 28th anniversary of dating. We started dating officially on July 8, 1994. It was the summer before I went to college. (No, not the same school Steve was attending. I didn’t want to be the girl that followed a guy to college.)
We had spent the day in Palmer Park, a remarkably secluded-in-the-middle-of-the-city park, where we picnicked and hiked and Steve held my hand.
That was the beginning of something beautiful, yet not simple, with twists and turns, and a wedding four and a half years later.
We celebrated our 28th dating anniversary with a trip to the dump.
Yes, friends, we really know how to keep the magic alive. Follow me for more tips.
But actually, what if a trip to the dump is exactly what a good marriage needs?
Every anniversary, and maybe even more often, we need to take our marriage to the dump and work together to leave a few things behind.
Dump Your Expectations
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
My dad always took out the trash for my mom. As Mom ran around the kitchen, putting the family’s meal together, she would shout out, “James Darling! Will you take out the trash please?” in a singsong voice. “Yes, dear!” would be the reply, and out he would go, with a smile on his face, loving her with this act of service.
Boy, did that set me up for disappointment.
Steve and I were fresh back from our honeymoon, madly in love, and our trash was full. “Steve! Will you please take out the trash?” (I tried the singsong voice and everything.)
“Why can’t you take it out?” he replied.
And that’s when I knew: this wasn’t my parents’ marriage…and Steve wasn’t going to fit into a mold I shaped for him.
Steve doesn’t show his love by taking out the trash. Steve shows his love with dates and movie nights and sharing his thoughts and dreams.
The first thing I needed to take to the dump was the set of expectations I had for our marriage – the standards I held up to Steve that weren’t based on God’s word or our wedding vows, but were based on my long-held beliefs of what a good marriage would look like. On a regular basis I have to return to the dump and leave my expectations behind…again.
What expectations are you holding onto in your marriage that are clouding your ability to see the good things you have?
Dump Your Criticisms
“Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!”
Your spouse isn’t perfect. But you already knew that.
You aren’t either. (Trust me, I checked.)
Don’t worry, I’m not either.
My friends aren’t perfect, my kids aren’t perfect…but I never feel the drudgery of imperfection as keenly as I feel it in my marriage.
Why do you pronounce it that way? Why do you leave your socks there? Why do you chew like that? Why are you in such a bad mood?
I’m not saying that your spouse is easy to live with. I’m going to guess, though, that you aren’t either. So, what are we going to do? Keep score of the annoyances and see who wins in the end? Spoiler: we’re all going to lose that game.
This one requires a daily trip to the dump. You need to stop keeping a mental collection of the annoyances.
But I highly recommend you start keeping score of the good things. That’s how I reset my perspective: He’s playing Legos with Kai.✅ He brought dishes to the kitchen. ✅ Thank you, God, that he loves out kids, fills my gaps and is willing to help out.
Dump Your Grudges
“Do not let the sun go down on your anger”
Steve and I used to try to work out any differences and come to a positive conclusion before we went to sleep at night. We thought that the only way to protect ourselves from holding grudges against each other was to solve things immediately at all costs.
I gotta tell you, that was rough!
It meant that some nights we were up until the wee hours of the morning, going back and forth in our argument, cranky and oh-so-tired.
Our intentions were good, but the practice was very, very hard.
Our true inspiration came when we realized that sometimes we just needed some sleep! Sometimes we needed time and perspective, a reboot, so to speak. But when we hashed out our problems all night long, the gears got gunked up with irrelevant details.
Now we understand that to honor the intent of Ephesians 4:26, we can turn to each other and say, “I love you. That won’t change. We’ll work this out tomorrow,”and then we can go to sleep and try again later.
But it is extremely important that we don’t let the grudges pile up over time. If a topic needs to be “talked out” we need to show each other honor and priority in our marriage by taking the time to do that. And after we’ve heard each other out, forgiveness needs to be our priority to prevent growing bitterness in our marriage.
Grudges, or old hurts, may be the most difficult thing to take to the dump. Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a wise third party (a counselor or your pastor, for example) if necessary.
Dump Your Distractions
“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
Song of Solomon 2:10 KJV
Every so often Steve will reach out to me and I’ll miss it. I’ll miss his subtle hint that he would like to connect.
He’ll sit near me and I’ll shift away to give myself more room.
He’ll text me something playful and I’ll leave him on “read.”
He’ll invite me along on an errand and I’ll fail to see that that’s an invitation to be together.
Of course, we all have busy days and important duties to fulfill, but my own greatest enemy is distraction. In my distraction I give my phone the attention I could so easily direct towards Steve instead.
Every so often I need to rise up off my tush, dump the distractions, and “come away” with my love.
Dump Your Thoughts and Feelings
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
I admit, I’m messing with you now. No, I’m not really saying that we should leave our thoughts and feelings at the dump. This time what I mean is that we need to make sure we are dumping our thoughts and feelings on our spouse.
Steve’s never met a thought or feeling he didn’t want to talk about, and I can be quite the talker myself, so this comes rather naturally to us.
But sometimes when the days get busy, and I spend more hours in the car than at home, we miss out on those opportunities to talk. And when we do, we both can feel the distance grow between us. The exasperated expectations, the nitpicky criticisms, and the resentful grudges begin to build, slowly at first, but growing with momentum, and it’s time to go to the dump again.
Bring It Home
What are you going to take to the dump?
*As a small side note, I do want to to encourage you that you don’t need to “dump” every good and godly expectation of marriage or every negative reaction to their behavior. If your spouse has started a pattern of sinful behavior, you should be able to gently confront them. By God’s grace, you should find that will grow closer as a result. If you need help, contact your church leaders or a marriage counselor.