The Three Biggest Things I’ve Learned from Being Married for 33 Years

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary. We’ve come so far considering we could have been a “statistic” based on the factors we had: only teenagers when we married, we only had a high school education, we had our first child within the first year of our marriage, my parents were divorced, we only knew each other for a few months before getting married, we had a long distance relationship (me in California, and he in Florida), and we had terrible conflict and communication skills.

We had our “ups” and “downs” over the years, and I was even on the verge of getting a divorce earlier in our marriage. Yes, we saw a counselor and took marriage enrichment classes/seminars, but the turning point of our marriage was when we turned everything over to God. I’ve learned so much these past 33 years, and these are the three biggest things that I learned:

  1. I learned that I had to stop trying to be “right,” and to realize that no one is perfect so I had to be more forgiving.

It seemed that I was in a competition with my husband all the time. I wanted to always prove that I was right to a point where I would get angry about it. I spent more time arguing my case that I never really listened. When my husband did something wrong, I would use it against him and bring it up when we had arguments.

No one is perfect (especially me). If I don’t want people to expect perfection from me, then I shouldn’t expect it from other people, most especially my husband. Since I make mistakes all the time, I know that my husband will make mistakes too so I have to forgive him, just as I would want him to forgive me. I’m not always right; I had to listen more and talk less, and I had to realize that just because he did things differently that it doesn’t mean that my way is “right.”

  1. I learned to “pick my battles,” to let the “little things” go, and to choose my words carefully when there is a real issue.

I remember arguing about how the toilet paper should be placed on the holder, and how that argument would expand into other issues from the past. Does it really matter how the toilet paper is put into the holder? No! I realized that there are more serious issues. When these issues arise then that’s when I have to say something, but I had to choose my words (and tone of voice) carefully so that my words can be received.

  1. I learned to truly love my husband, to appreciate him, and to build him up as often as I can.

It used to make me so jealous that my husband had a photographic memory. He breezed through the doctoral program and graduated with a large dissertation after four years, while I struggled and nearly dropped out. The two years that followed his graduation were extremely difficult for me, but he encouraged me when I felt like giving up, he proof read my work several times, and he picked up the slack at home. I graduated after six years of being in the program, and I could not have done it without him.

I’ve come to appreciate how much smarter he is compared to me; and even though he is smarter, he never rubs it in my face. He brings out the best in me, so I try to bring out the best in him. I encourage him by pointing out the positive things about him, or about the positive things he has done or is doing. I am there if he is having a bad day and he needs someone to listen to him. When he gets a migraine, I massage his head until it goes away. I also tell him that I love him every day (they say action speaks louder than words, but words are still important).

Thirty-three years seems like such a long time, but I still have a lot to learn. I don’t think we ever get to that point in our marriage where we can stop trying to love, to support, and to serve our spouse.

Most of all, I continually thank God for His intervention in my marriage, and thank Him for the wonderful man He has given to me to be my husband.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights… Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger… No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need… serve one another through love… And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (James 1:17, 19, Eph 4:28, Gal 5:16, Eph 4:32, CSB).

Copyright © 2017 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Words…

I came across a handout from Roberts University entitled, “Behind the Strengths Are Potential Weaknesses.”  

Each strength had a “potential weakness;” for instance, the strength, “Trusting,” had “Gullible” as the potential weakness. For “Persevering,” the weakness was “Stubborn.” “Smothering” was the potential weakness for “Caring.” The list had numerous words and pairings.

The list made me think about how some people can take our well-meaning words and turn them into something terrible. This happened to me a couple of years ago. Someone had taken my email out of context and accused me of demeaning her.

The incident made me realize that I had to read my words from the receiver’s perspective, but I also had to not take things out of context when I see people’s email or hear things that they might have said about me. I have to trust that what was written or said was not done out of spite.

This is how arguments are started—one person thinks the other said something hurtful, but instead of getting clarification, the person retaliates.

We are supposed to think of others as being “better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3) so this means that we need to think the best about them—we can’t assume that they would intentionally hurt us, especially if they are a loved one or a close friend.

Before we started to communicate better, my husband and I would get in an argument because we took words and actions in the wrong way. For example, my husband would have a bad day and say something “snappy” and instead of me reacting in a positive way, I would snap back because I would take his words personally. This only escalated things.

Now when he has a bad day and says something “snappy,” I would ask him in a soft tone of voice, “What’s wrong? Is everything ok?” The Amplified Bible explains it this way, “Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone” (Colossians 4:6).

The point is, we need to believe that our loved one is “for us” instead of “against us”—we need to think of our loved ones in a positive way instead of a negative way. We have to believe that even when they “snap” at us, that they are not intending to hurt us, but that they are saying these things because they are hurt.

Romans 12:10, 17-18 says, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other… Never pay back evil with more evil… Do all that you can to live in peace” (NLT).

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Divorce

I remember watching a movie where a man continued to see his stepson even though he and his wife were divorced. The man’s daughter asked why, and he said, “You divorce wives not children.” What a great statement.

I lived with my mother and stepfather so I didn’t get to see my father much. Looking back, I wondered what my father could have done to make me feel like I was still a part of this life:

  • He could have called me every day. I didn’t hear from my father much. Since he was in the Navy, he was transferred to various ports— San Francisco, Florida, then Italy. Not only did he transfer to different places, he also remarried.  It would have been great for him to call me for a few minutes—ask how my day was, tell me that he loves me, say “good night” to me, etc. If we still lived under the same roof then he would talk to me.
  • He should visit me more often or allow me to visit him. When my father was stationed in San Francisco, we saw him at least once a month but when he moved farther away I never saw him. We could have visited him during the summers, but we didn’t. I realize that after he remarried, he couldn’t leave his wife to see us but he could have paid for plane tickets for us to see him.
  • Even if he couldn’t call me a few minutes every day then he could have set aside time to talk to me every week. Even if we had nothing in particular to talk about, it would have been good to hear his voice and to hear him say that he loved me.
  • He could have sent me letters or cards with meaningful words. I don’t remember receiving any mail from my father. He would send gifts every now and then but it would have been more special if he had included a handwritten note with it. 

I am thankful that my children were raised in a home with both their parents, but having a home with both parents under the same roof is becoming rare; even so, children still need to feel loved by both parents. Divorce or remarriage should not prevent parents from expressing love for their children. Parents should never divorce their children. 

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

When I was a child…

I remember when I was about 3 years old, the neighbor’s little boy liked me (I think he was about 4 years old). One time he came over and knocked on the door to see if I wanted to play outside with him. I opened the door and said to him, “I only like boys who have black hair like my daddy,” then I shut the door.

When I think about that episode, I feel so badly for that little boy. Did he run home to his mother in tears? Was he emotionally crushed? There is a saying, “Out of the mouth of babes…,” meaning kids will say anything without considering the feelings of others— they can say things that might seem harsh or even “cruel” even though that is not their intention.

Some adults never grow out of this phase. They say things about people or to people without thinking about how their words will be received. The sad part is that some who do this are claiming to be Christians. The Bible is clear about how we should use our words: “Let your conversation be always full of grace…” (Colossians 4:6). In Hebrews 3:13 it says, “…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today”…”

Before any words come out of our mouths, we should ask ourselves this question: “Will my words build up or tear down?” If it is to “tear down” someone then bite your tongue and keep silent. If it is meant to build the person up, then be sure you say it with love (“…speak the truth in love…,” Ephesians 4:15).

There’s no reason why anyone should say hurtful things about people or to say hurtful things about them “behind their backs.” Ephesians 4:29 and 31 reminds us, “…Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them… Get rid of all … harsh words…” (NLT).

It’s not always easy to keep quiet or to say helpful things. I find that when I am overly tired or when I haven’t been reading God’s Word like I should, then I am more likely to say things that I will regret, but that is not an excuse.

No matter how tired or spiritually dry I am, I still need to have self-control—I can’t just say anything that comes into my mind, especially with words that will hurt someone else: “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). All of us have to grow up.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

Setting a good example

I remember the first time I smoked a cigarette—I was 9 years old. My cousin and I grabbed a pack of my grandmother’s cigarettes and ran to the woods to try them. I took a puff of it and started to cough—I coughed so much that I thought bits of my lung would come up.

When my oldest granddaughter was two years old we noticed that she would try to push our cats with her foot. We had no idea why she was doing this until one day we were trying to get the cats away from the front door and realized that we used our foot to move them out of the way.

It’s interesting how we try to imitate others. Sometimes we imitate others without even thinking about it.

I remember when my husband and I had a terrible argument when we were younger— we were both yelling at each other, and I threw dishes on the floor. It reminded me of the scene from the movie, The Godfather, when the daughter and her husband were arguing—cups and plates crashing on the floor.

I understand now that I only did that because that’s what I had seen whenever my mother would have an argument with my father, and later on, my stepfather—she would yell and throw stuff.

A lot of what we see in movies and in real life should not be imitated.

I think of the Scripture verses from Ephesians 5:1-2, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ…” (NLT).

Now that I am older, I want to set a good example for my children and grandchildren. I know that they will imitate me, whether they realize it or not, so I want them to imitate a godlier version of me. The only way to do that is for me to try to imitate Jesus.

The only way I can truly know how Jesus behaved is to read the Bible.

Even though my desire is to be more Christ-like in my conduct, I still struggle with my “old me.” I know that this struggle will remain for the rest of my life—all I can do is try and try again—keep reading His Word and pray.

My hope is that I will be a fountain of godly advice for my grandchildren; not only that, but that my words will match my actions. It’s funny, but my ultimate desire is to look like Moses after he talked with God:

“When Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant,he wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord… Aaron and the people of Israel saw the radiance of Moses’ face…

… he would give the people whatever instructions the Lord had given him, and the people of Israel would see the radiant glow of his face” (Exodus 35:29-30, 34-35, NLT).

I’m not sure if people can tell that I have a relationship with God. I’m not even sure if I imitate Jesus very well, but that is my desire—to have a close relationship with God and to imitate Jesus so that it shows in my face.

I know that anything is possible with God, and I know that having a close relationship with Him and imitating Jesus is possible through Him. I just need to read His instructional manual more often than I do.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti