Four Takeaways from Our Fourth Year of Marriage | Victoria Rayburn Photography
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March 6, 2019

Happy Four-year Anniversary, Zach! Four Takeaways from Our Fourth Year of Marriage

You guys, I’m so excited to share that Zachary Taylor and I are celebrating four years of marriage today!

Part of me can’t believe how quickly four years have flown by. I mean, I feel like our wedding was just last weekend. Another part of me, however, can’t believe we’ve only been married for four years. Because, well, I can’t remember what it was like to do life without him, and so much has happened since we became husband and wife (moving, career changes, getting Hattie, and so much more).

Anyway, if you know me well, you know that I’m not big on birthdays or Valentine’s Day. These days are fun, but if I’m honest, I don’t consider birthdays or many holidays a big deal, because it’s not like you’ve done anything to deserve them. They just happen. (Zach says this outlook is the achiever in me. Anyone else a 3 on the enneagram? I’m not trying to be negative! Sorry!)

That said, I’m all about celebrating anniversaries! Every wedding anniversary we get to share marks another year of fighting for our marriage. And, if you ask me, this deserves to be recognized!

We’re celebrating four years of marriage with a four-day vacay, but I thought it’d also be fun to celebrate our anniversary by sharing my four biggest takeaways from year four as husband and wife on the blog!  

 

1. Scheduling intentional time for one another is key.

When we were engaged, Zach and I couldn’t wait to get married, because we thought living together would mean more time together. Technically, we were right, but what we didn’t realize is that being in each other’s presence and spending time together are two entirely different things.

As a result, we spent our first few years of marriage in the same room but not connecting. (I can’t tell you how many hours we’ve sat on the couch while I edit photos, and Zach watches Mad Men for the umpteenth time and plays guitar.)

We saw each other every day, but we still missed each other. Wanting to change that this year, we realized that we needed to start intentionally scheduling quality time. Now, we do this in two ways:  

 

Weekly Date Nights

We’ve started setting aside one weeknight a week for date night, and it’s been amazing!  

Now, this might sound fancy, but trust me; it usually isn’t! I mean, sometimes we have dinner and cocktails in downtown Lafayette. Other times, we get mini scoops of ice cream from Silver Dipper. (Mini scoops are the key, so you can try more flavors!) But, at least half the time, date night includes dinner at home (sometimes leftovers) and Jenga at our dining room table. Like I said, not fancy!

You see, it doesn’t matter what you do. It’s just important to intentionally set quality time aside for one another. Otherwise, weeks—or even months or years—can go by where you just don’t feel connected.

 

Weekend Trips

Because I’m a wedding photographer and Zach’s in a band that travels most weekends, the weekends we spend together are far and few.

With this in mind, we’ve started looking at our schedules well in advance to see which weekends we’ll both be off. While there are absolutely instances where we just want to stay home, we also use our off weekends to take mini vacations!

We simply pick a city within a drivable distance to check out for the weekend and keep things simple. We usually take Hattie (our goldendoodle) with us and spend a couple days eating too much, looking at art, walking Hattie through parks, and doing whatever locals and the Internet recommend.

In the last year, we’ve spent weekends in Nashville, Chicago, Louisville (Twice. We really love Louisville!), and Cincinnati. All of these cities are within two and a half hours of Lafayette, Indiana, making a one- or two-night trip super doable and affordable.   

We love these little trips, and if you can, I highly recommend doing something similar. Heck, you could even do a staycation! Sleep at home, but commit to turning off the TV and enjoying your community together!

 

2. It isn’t fair to have expectations without communicating them.

In addition to scheduling intentional time for one another this year, another takeaway I have from year four of marriage is that a lot of arguments stem from expecting your spouse to meet expectations you’ve never said out loud.

I mean, just a few weeks ago, I was disappointed that Zach hadn’t offered to hang some new picture frames. I told him that I needed his help as soon as photos were in, but the photos came in, and not wanting to nag Zach, I didn’t remind him about the frames.

Instead, I chose to be silently frustrated about the fact that he hadn’t asked if he could help me. When I finally said something, Zach said that the only reason he hadn’t offered to hang the frames was because he thought I was still waiting on photos.

Basically, I was annoyed with Zach because I didn’t communicate! This is a pretty ridiculous example, but Zach and I fail to explain our expectations to one another all the time. We assume that the other person should just know what we want from them, because it’s common sense.

While we do get better at reading one another’s minds every year we’re together, we’ve come to understand that usually when we’re disappointed by the other person’s actions, it’s because we haven’t clearly communicated our expectations or what we need.

So, don’t assume your spouse knows what’s on your mind or that your needs and desires aren’t important to him/her. Speak up, state your expectations, and don’t get mad when your spouse fails to meet your unspoken standards!

 

3. There’s nothing wrong with marriage counseling.

I’ve shared this before, but this time last year, Zach and I were in marriage counseling.

When we enrolled in counseling at Faith, I was mortified, and we didn’t tell anyone. I kept thinking, “Who can’t keep their crap together for three years?”

But, after going through counseling and feeling called to share our story with others, we’ve come to a few conclusions:

 

Marriage is really freakin’ hard.

We had great premarital counseling and were told time and time again that marriage wouldn’t be easy, but marriage has proven to be WAY harder than we thought. (For the record, it’s also proven to be better than we thought!)

 

A lot of married couples hide their pain.

In the midst of  a dark, sad time in our marriage, we both kept thinking, “Something must be wrong with us, because other couples don’t go through this kind of stuff.”

WRONG!

When we finally worked up the courage to tell others we were in counseling, an astounding number of couples either:

  1. Told us they’d been through counseling themselves
  2. Asked us where we were going to counseling, because they thought counseling might benefit their marriages

I know that when your bestie tells you all about her and her husband’s most recent vacation or when you’re bombarded by sappy Instagram posts by other couples every time you scroll, it can be easy to think that your marriage is the only one with rocky moments.

In reality, every couple has their battles. They’re often just too proud to share them. So, remember, you aren’t alone! Other people have faced similar struggles! (1 Corinthians 10:13)   

 

There’s nothing wrong with getting help.

Now that we’re on the other side of counseling, I’m ashamed that I was ashamed of going to counseling. Because, why should you be embarrassed about trying to make your marriage better?!

For whatever reason, there seems to be a bigger stigma around marriage counseling than divorce. As a result, it’s no wonder that only 50% of marriages make it.

Counseling did wonders for our marriage. If we hadn’t gone, I’m not sure what our relationship would look like today. All I know is that we are a stronger, more loving, and more empathetic couple thanks to marriage counseling.

Basically, counseling is an incredible thing! If you are or are ever in a place where your marriage is (or you’re personally) struggling, don’t be afraid to get help. Don’t be afraid to use a resource that helps you fight for your marriage and keep your vows.  

Side note: We did biblical counseling. While I think standard counseling and therapy can absolutely be helpful, I highly recommend biblical counseling options, because this approach focuses on heart change instead of habitual change.  

 

4. Nothing will break your marriage faster than idols.

Last but not least, our fourth year of marriage has taught me that idols can be detrimental to marriage.

Biblically, idols are defined as anything that you love more or put before God. There are lots of examples in the Bible where people worship material items (like a golden calf) and other instances where people prove to love money or status more than God.

If you’re a believer, whether you realize it or not, you probably struggle with some form of idolatry.

For me, perfection, praise, and success are idols I’ve battled since I was a kid. In school, I was the student who couldn’t settle for anything less than an A. (Except in math and chemistry. I didn’t stand a chance!) After graduating from college, I was always an employee who put in more time than necessary and settled for nothing less than perfect work and my employer’s recognition. And, as a small business owner, it’s very tempting for me to work crazy hours and miss time with friends and family, because—if I’m honest—I love getting praise from both my clients and other photographers. (Words of affirmation are my love language.)

There have certainly been times in my life where I’ve let my desire for praise and success play a bigger role in my life than God. And, during these instances, I’ve also made Zach take the backseat to these idols.

Several things led us to marriage counseling, but my idols that give me workaholic tendencies were likely the biggest culprit. Zach was tired of coming second to my work (We started counseling while I was still working in marketing full time and running my photography business at night and on the weekends.), and my idols were killing our relationship.

Today, I like to think of idols as anything I love or put before God OR my husband. (Side note: Your spouse can absolutely become an idol. Christians are called to love Christ more than their spouses. I think Zach’s pretty great, so this is hard for me to keep in check at times.)

With this in mind, I’ve tried very hard to achieve a healthier work-life balance over the last year by setting boundaries and have prayed every day for a full year that God will give me a heart that loves Him most and Zach second.

If your marriage is struggling, I’d encourage you to take some time to think about idols in your life. Chances are, these idols are creeping into your marriage and a source of a lot of strife.

 

Marriage is a gift!

With every year of marriage, I learn something new. But, every day of our marriage, I know two things for sure:

  1. Marriage is a gift
  2. Marrying Zach is the best decision I’ve ever made

Whether you’re already married, engaged, or hope to be married someday, always remember that marriage is worth the fight. Zach and I say this all the time, but marriage is hands down the hardest AND most rewarding thing we’ve ever done. If I could, I’d marry him all over again. I pray that you feel the same way about your spouse.

 

 

In honor of our four-year anniversary, my friend Nate of New Adventure Productions did an in-home session for us. I’m so excited to share some of my favorite photos!  

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