5 years of marriage lessons

5 things I learned in 5 years of marriage

9 min read

5 years ago today I walked down the aisle of a church in the village I grew up in to get married to Edd. I definitely didn’t know what I got into. Ha! Obviously, having been married for a mere 5 years does not make me an expert in marriage. However, it does feel like a milestone and there a few things I have learned along the way.

I haven’t done much writing on marriage before because it can feel like a very sensitive issue. Social media or the internet are not always the best places to discuss such a complex topic. However, I still wanted to share a bit of my own experience today, because I believe that stories are powerful. You might read some of it and feel less alone and a bit more hopeful. That would be wonderful. However, your experience and situation might look completely different to any of what my life has been like. That’s ok. I hope you still find something in there that is useful to you.

So, here are 5 things I learned in 5 years of marriage:

1.    Marriage is hard.

Before our wedding, Edd and I had many many conversations about marriage. About our values, what is important to us, how we want to live. A couple who we are close friends with walked with us through a marriage preparation course where we discussed communication, finances, whether we wanted children and a whole lot of other topics. I felt prepared, which makes me laugh now.

Don’t get me wrong – all those chats were good and helpful and important. But real life is just different than a hypothetical discussion about life.

Edd and I are extremely different from one another. We grew up in different countries, in different language backgrounds, different cultures, different families with very different values. Our personalities and temperaments are vastly unalike.

Differences are both fascinating and annoying

This can be great. Many of our differences were the reason we fell in love with one another. Edd’s confidence, his honesty, his ability to make people (and especially me) laugh and the way he got over the top excited about things like Star Wars, Jesus, church and me were fascinating to me. I admired his strong opinions, his dependability, the fact that he always knew what he wanted. I was intrigued with his different experience of and approach to life.

However, even though I was smitten with all these things – living with the reality of them day to day was difficult. When we were dating I really liked that Edd was always on time. However, when we lived together and had to leave the house together our opinions about the appropriate time to get places differed. His strong opinions weren’t so fascinating anymore when they were the opposite of my own. His obsession with Star Wars wasn’t so cute anymore when a new film came out and for a week he wouldn’t talk about anything else and I had to live with the constant background noise of the movie soundtrack.

We basically disagreed on everything

These examples sound cute and funny, but it wasn’t. We disagreed on how to spend our free time, what table manners are appropriate, how often the house should be vacuumed, to what level of detail the kitchen should be cleaned, how much screen time we should have, how much to heat the house, how often to have people over…

All those disagreements could have been solved if we had the skills to have healthy discussions. But my default was to become passive aggressive and retreat whereas Edd’s was to launch into long rants.

The situation was made worse by the fact that we ended up being tangled up in a conflict in our church. Edd and my opinion on how to deal with this conflict did not align. In the end it all escalated and we actually ended up leaving the church. Our relationship was extremely strained and we felt alienated from our closest friends. It was not good.

2.    Things get easier.

But we didn’t give up. We knew something had to change. So, we decided to move and have a fresh start. We found ourselves with a lot more time and space to discuss things, spend time together, get to know one another more. I am incredibly grateful to our friends Rob and Jo who met us regularly, prayed for us and helped us navigate our conversations around some painful issues.

We learned to have constructive conversations. That it is not necessary to communicate every emotion or turn every stray sock on the bedroom floor into a symbol for the other person’s lack of respect or care.

I think (or hope) that most couples won’t experience such a volatile start as us but I do believe that learning how to communicate our needs and wants to each other calmly and reasonably takes time. Disagreements and fights will most likely always be part of our marriage. But they are easier. We might not always find a resolution straight away but that does not mean that we are angry with one another. It is essential to respect that sometimes we will have different opinions. And many issues are not that important. We can let them go.

Learning to compromise

I will always be happier in a clean, uncluttered space but I can choose to let go of the goal of living as a minimalist. Edd likes his stuff. So we find a compromise. Sharing your life with someone means that you have to loosen your grip on some issues. Or as Edd would say: “Some things just aren’t hills to die on.”

Sharing your life, your space and your heart gets easier. And more fun. It is okay and normal for things to take some time. This is true for conflict resolution but also for spending downtime together, going on holiday, getting chores done and having sex. Marriage is wonderful in many ways and a great gift from God. However it is no magic bullet. Having the same last name does not mean you automatically only experience bliss. You have to work to experience bliss. But it is worth it. Don’t give up.

3.    Marriage brings out the best and worst in you.

In marriage, the rose-tinted glasses come off fairly quickly and you realise your spouse has more faults than you had anticipated. However, even more so, marriage highligts to me how selfish and arrogant I truly am.

Normally I am fairly conflict-avoidant and are not too bothered by a lot of things. Somehow though, when it comes to Edd it sometimes seems like I have this compulsive need to prove that I am right and he is wrong. It’s not pretty. Especially when Edd happens to be right. I am not very good at admitting that I am in the wrong.

Coming face to face with our own flaws and failures isn’t an overly pleasant experience but it is so necessary. We need other people to mirror back to us how we come across and to press our buttons in order to see ourselves in a more realistic light. Once we know and admit our faults we can deal with them.

On the flipside, being married to Edd has also brought out a lot of good in me. Edd’s continued interest in my opinions and thoughts has made me grow much more confident than I ever was before. He encourages and inspires me to take risks, to speak up and take up space.

4.    I am not an island and neither are we.

In our society relationships have become pretty private. We live with our partners and families but keep our distance to most other people. We present a polished version of ourselves to the rest of the world. At least that is what I did when Edd and I were newly married. I kept very quiet about how difficult I found marriage. I didn’t share about our struggles and refused to ask for help or advice.

Thank God for friends who push their way in. Who ask deep and uncomfortable questions. Who call me out. Encourage me.

I am convinced that all of us are in deep need of community. We need people around us who help us look beyond the limits of our family unit. We need friends and pastors and people wiser and more experienced than us. Not just for times when things get tough but to live and grow as a human being in general.

God did not create us to live in isolation. And his vision for our lives is much bigger than our little family unit. Couples and families need to exist within a larger community in order to thrive.

5.    Live all of it.

This lesson is not overly specific to marriage but one that has become even clearer to me through being married. In our world that is so full of entertainment, distraction and instant gratification it is easy to miss our lives.

We numb our pain with chocolate, alcohol and Netflix. We spend more time on Instagram and Facebook, engaged in the experiences of others, rather than experiencing life ourselves.

God has given us this one life. He has allocated a certain amount of time to each of us in which our goal is to become more like Jesus. To grow in love. To get ready to rule the new heavens and the new Earth together with Jesus.

Growth cannot happen when we spend all our time escaping our own painful or mundane reality. There have been moments in the last five years where I wanted to escape, to run away, to quit. But I stayed. And in the most painful moments, the decision to stay forced me to cling to God with all that I had. It enlarged my capacity for God. To receive his presence, to be comforted by him and to be content in his love.

There have also been moments which were absolutely wonderful. I could have easily missed them by trying to take the perfect Instagram picture rather than being in the moment or being more concerned with my to-do-list than to enjoy connection. (Obviously, neither of those things ever happen…).

Don’t run away. Don’t try to escape. God is found in the present moment, in the midst of joy, laughter and pain. So, live all of it.

A final note

As mentioned before, 5 years is not that long. In 2026 I might re-read this post and laugh about my naivety. By then we will be parents for nearly five years. I wonder what that chapter will bring… Who knows! But what I do know is that sharing our lives is so important. So, if you are going through some difficult relationship or marriage or other life stuff – reach out to someone. Don’t go through it alone.

And remember that there is hope. God has a good plan. It might not always look like what we expect. But the Bible promises “There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.” I have definitely experienced that to be true. If you need someone to pray for you, feel free to get in touch.


marriage lessons we learned in the last five years
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12 Comments

  • Reply staceypardoe 19 April 2021 at 3:21 pm

    Oh, how this sister relates with your words! Thank you so much for sharing your story, friend! I know many women will relate and be encouraged! God is using your struggles for his glory and for the good of others!

    • Reply Britta 19 April 2021 at 3:28 pm

      Thank you Stacey!

  • Reply Kara 19 April 2021 at 3:24 pm

    Love this beautiful, personal, and real story. So wonderful to look back on your lives and see your growth… And look forward to the head. Blessings to you!

    • Reply Britta 19 April 2021 at 3:28 pm

      Yes! And to look back and see God’s faithfulness. Blessings to you too Kara!

  • Reply Patti 19 April 2021 at 3:31 pm

    What a beautiful job you did sharing something so personal with discretion so that the rest of us can benefit! Thank you.

    • Reply Britta 19 April 2021 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks for your kind words Patti 🖤

  • Reply Christina 19 April 2021 at 4:30 pm

    Britta, enjoyed reading your blog and your transparency about marriage in what you’ve experienced so far. Looking back on 22 years, I see how God has healed and definitely refined me through all the big and little things in marriage. The most life changing thing I ever did was to learn to tell him daily what I loved and appreciated about him, to spotlight his great qualities that I was thankful for and to lose focus on the things that can be quite irritating. Keep up the encouragement and prayers for your marriage to grow in strength and passion.

    • Reply Britta 19 April 2021 at 10:15 pm

      Wow 22 years! That is such a helpful way of training our minds to focus on the good rather than the negative. Thank you for sharing, so helpful!

  • Reply Stacy Zant 19 April 2021 at 4:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing your heart and this journey of life & marriage with us. I especially love this beautiful and ever so true like you shared “Don’t run away. Don’t try to escape. God is found in the present moment, in the midst of joy, laughter and pain. So, live all of it.” Keep sharing your story sis. It is such a blessing!

    • Reply Britta 19 April 2021 at 10:14 pm

      Thank you! That is so encouraging! 🖤🖤

  • Reply Ufuoma 19 April 2021 at 5:40 pm

    Thank you for your openness and for sharing so freely your heart with us about lessons from your marriage. I love the lessons.

    • Reply Britta 19 April 2021 at 10:14 pm

      Oh I am glad you got something out of it Ufuoma! Thank you for your kind comment!

    I love hearing from you