This weekend my husband and I will be celebrating our wedding anniversary. Seven years ago we stood in front of our family and friends and committed to each other for the long haul. Seven is such a special number. In the Bible the number seven often symbolizes completion or perfection. My birthday happens to fall on 7-7, so it’s always been pretty significant to me. But I’ve also heard of this thing called the “seven-year itch” in marriage. I’ve actually been warned to be on guard as we approach this anniversary. The seven-year itch is a popular belief that after roughly seven years of relationship, all romantic feelings start to wane, and couples are more likely to become discontent with each other. It’s such a sad belief, but average rates of marriage length reveal some truth behind this idea. Technically, my husband and I have already reached the 10-year mark in our relationship as a whole, so generally I’m not feeling all too worried about this, but the warning was still given . . . beware of that seventh year in your marriage. Beware!
It might seem silly for someone to be scared of a particular year of togetherness more than any other particular year. But I can see how it’s easy to lose track of what attracted you to your person early on. Life happens. The person you married is not the same person you’re with today, because hopefully they’ve grown and matured, in life and in Christ. Hopefully you have too! But just think, there was a time when the butterflies were wild and you sought to show them the absolute best side of yourself at all times. You actively pursued each other through kind little gestures, and you had so much fun together!
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ is a great song, but a crappy anniversary milestone to hurdle. But the reality of the seven-year rumor (not to mention the fact that every five minutes it seems another celebrity, or another friend, or another someone I used to know, has decided to call it quits) has me pondering what I’ve got going on in my marriage that has this itchy disillusionment so far from my concern.
Don’t get me wrong here – my marriage is not a perfect one. I don’t believe there can ever really be a perfect marriage between two imperfect people that fall short of God’s glory on a daily basis. But for whatever reason the Lord has graced me with a spouse that does feel perfect for me. However, there are some habits that we have maintained throughout our relationship that I believe have made such a significant difference in the way we carry on from day to day. Some of these habits came naturally, things we already did while dating that we just never stopped doing. Others are principles that we have picked up over the years that have made a big impact on the way we treat each other. All of them I’m willing to take to the bank.
The nausea inducing romance of the dating stage doesn’t have to die with “I do.” I think it just takes a little reminiscing and intentionality . . .
1. Talk on the phone, often!
Years ago, maybe soon after we’d just gotten married, my husband and I casually mentioned to a relative that we talked on the phone all the time, all throughout the day. Shocked, this relative said “that won’t last long.” As we get further along in our marriages, it’s hard to remember those things that we did when we first started dating that become stereotypes in our favorite teen sitcoms, but talking on the phone constantly is definitely one of them, and it’s something that I highly recommend! Nothing assures me that my husband really does love me like the fact that he calls me from right down the road minutes after he’s left for work. When the kids wake up and we’re sitting down for breakfast, we give Daddy a video call so that he can see them before he walks into the office. I know when 6 p.m. rolls around because that’s when he gets off work and he never fails to call and tell me with excitement (and lets be real, relief) that he’s on his way home.
And throughout the day in between, at lunch, when I’m stressed, when he needs prayer . . . we call. Every day looks a little bit different. Some of his days at work are crazy busy and he just doesn’t have the time to chat. Sometimes I’ve got my hands tied up with the kids and our calls just keep missing each other. But the habit is engrained in us. It’s part of our daily flow. These calls are brief and sometimes we’re just talking household business (groceries, dinner, events), but the constant communication leaves zero room for us to ever doubt that we’re at the top of each other’s heart and mind.
2. Don’t speak negatively about your spouse to others.
We live in a very selfish culture, and we’re told that venting to others is acceptable and even necessary to maintaining peace within ourselves. What’s the harm in it, right? You and your husband had a fight, and of course you want a trusted friend or parent to hear all about it because they love you, and they’ll obviously take your side, and you can feel justified for speaking so ugly to him. Or perhaps because your wife was so disrespectful to you during that fight, you use some colorful language to mouth off to your coworkers about her.
Think back to when you first fell in love. Would you ever take kindly to someone else talking about the person you love in that way? Would you ever want your family and friends to see the worst side of the person you married? Not to mention your own worst side (kind of hard to hide, if we’re honest). Speaking negatively about your spouse to others forever changes their perception of them, and in the worst possible way. It also gives them permission to trash your spouse back to you. A constant outflow of negativity centered on the person that you committed your life to can’t possibly produce a healthy marriage. Martin Luther once said, “The Christian is supposed to love his neighbor, and since his wife is his nearest neighbor, she should be his deepest love.” It’s okay to reach out for guidance from a godly friend if needed. Christ gave us community for helping us through each and every trial we face. But we can’t expect to cultivate love and respect in our marriage when we’ve despised and disrespected our spouse to the people around us.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
3. Anticipate their needs.
I don’t know who said that chivalry is dead, and maybe in the broader world it is, but it certainly doesn’t have to be! And who said that chivalry is just for the guys? To me, the idea of being chivalrous is most definitely about anticipating needs. We all know the usual examples: opening doors, pulling out the chair, walking nearest to the traffic (sorry guys, these all still belong to you). But what about refilling his water cup when he’s left it on the kitchen counter and you notice it’s not full? Or getting everyone and everything loaded into the car because one of you had to use the bathroom right before walking out the door (Happens. Every. Time). Or trying to think ahead to the weekend and making sure his favorite shorts are clean and ready to wear. There are so many things. Little things seem insignificant in the moment, but after months and years of habit building, you understand another facet of being “one flesh.” Those gestures become fluid, automatic. So, see their need and do for each other. Don’t let those kind acts become distant memories of glory days past.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10
“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
4. Be self-aware . . . apologize quickly, and don’t forget the sap.
Remember what it was like getting ready for a date when you first met? Check the mirror, tweeze that stray eyebrow hair, check my hair in the back, make sure I’m putting my best foot forward. There’s a bit of paranoia and anxiety when it comes to being self-aware, generally. But in my marriage, I find self-awareness to be a total gift from God. When I’m frustrated or overwhelmed, I tend to be very short and frantic in conversation with my husband. I try to alleviate it in the moment with quick endings, but the moment I hang up I realize how I fell short. Thankfully, there’s grace flowing between us. The next time we talk, usually minutes later (we talk all day long, remember?) I’m quick to extend an apology for being so short with him. My husband is full of jokes, so he, of course, berates me with loving humor and then we say I love you. I’m aware of my shortcomings, and my husband extends grace and plenty of silly sappy jokes to cover me. It’s a two-way street and it makes a world of difference. And the sap is so important! Making up should always be sweet and sappy and seasoned with laughter. It takes the edge off quick.
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27
The world makes a seven-year itch sound like an actual rite of passage, just something ordinary that everyone will face. Reject it. Be intentional. Extend grace. Serve your spouse. Talk to them often, about everything. Lift them up to others instead of tearing them down. And don’t forget to remember! Remember how your wife showed her affection and appreciation early on in your relationship. Remember how you bragged about your husband to your folks and all of your friends after you first met. Don’t let the dating years and all the feelings they incurred die out. Bring back that lovin’ feelin’ and keep it flowing steady.
Written by: Chelsae Baxley. Chelsae is a new stay-at-home mom residing in Jacksonville, FL with her husband Josh, and her two boys, Max and Isaac. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Fathom Family Foundation and has a heart for encouraging others in marriage, mothering, and theology.