10 Lessons in 15 Years of Marriage

I haven’t written about marriage very often on here. And there are a couple big reasons. First, I’m not very good at it. Ron would say I’m hard on us and myself, but I really think I feel more comfortable as a mom than a wife. I’ve never felt like I have any tips or advice to offer in this area. Secondly, I have always wanted to respect Ron and his privacy. This is our story – and it’s often not appropriate to throw out our marriage to the world.

However, we just returned from a trip of a lifetime to Italy for our 15th anniversary. It was SO needed. We had a chance to sit down and process what has made our marriage unique over the last 15 years. We talked about what has worked and hasn’t worked and came up with a list we both wanted to share with you. (Actually – I wanted to share and he politely obliged.)

I simply asked Ron, “What life lessons have we learned over 15 years of married life together – that we wished someone would’ve shared with us as newlyweds?”

And 1 hour later and four pages of notes, we had these thoughts. Ron has read this and we hope that some couples will gather around with their gloves off and defenses down. Put the kids to bed or go out to dinner. Sit out on the porch early or late with coffee or your favorite drink and just chat about where you are and where you want to be. Talk about your unique and imperfect marriage. Ours is still growing and we are hopeful and grateful.

1 FAITH – As we looked back, we agreed that it was super important that we believed the same thing. Our faith in Jesus Christ is definitely the centerpiece of so much that we do with our lives. It grounds us. It guides us. It helps us decide so many of our major (and minor) decisions as a couple. So, it’s not just that we both are Christians – but the fact that we prioritize our faith and actively grow that relationship. Our faith isn’t just a checked box – it forms how we do our life together and infiltrated our biggest and smallest life decisions. We go to church, read our Bibles, engage in community groups, pray regularly and spend time with wise mentors and more. In the ups and downs of marriage – our faith is our anchor. However, it must be said that it’s GOD’s grace and love that has changed our lives and we give him all the glory for anything good that has come from us.

2. INTENTIONAL – This is something that we joke about, but we believe has made us tick as a couple. We are super goal-oriented and intentional. Ron is constantly asking me to come into his office for a “calendar meeting.” We look way out over time and plan. We talk about where we want to be – in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years and we go after it. We certainly know that God is in control – but we also don’t just sit back and react to life. We have frequent meetings about saving, giving and our future that are not set in stone – but are fun to discuss. We’ve had fun dreaming about big things down to little weekend adventures. I love that we both get into planning and intentional living. (well except for our health – we could apply those skills in that area perhaps 🙂

3. OPEN & GENEROUS – God has definitely done this in us – and continues to teach us more. We have found that the more we give away of our lives – the more we want to give. We both enjoy giving our money, time and talents to others. And when we do that together,  our marriage is in a great place. We have learned this is where it’s at – for contentment and joy. The more we have opened our hearts and wallets to others – the more we are blessed. It’s been a thrill to let go of trying to achieve a certain level of status or income and dream about all God could do through us as a couple and uniquely as a family. What if… becomes a thrilling exercise. “What could we GIVE” vs “What could we GET”… brings an entire new perspective to working.

4. LEAVE & CLEAVE – So, true confession – I thought I had done the leave/cleave thing, but I hadn’t. Ron didn’t truly feel like I was “with” him until we moved to Florida. That was the first time it REALLY felt like it was just the four of us. That move did something special and powerful for the bonding of us four. And our marriage. It forced me to become more emotionally tied to my husband vs my parents. And that was hard because I ADORE my family. I think this was a forced and needed thing for me in our marriage. These moves have been hard, but probably what we needed for Ron to feel like I was in his corner.

5. TIME AWAY – Connection is the name of the game. And getting away is how we have found the ability to reconnect (not just physically). In a dream world – we would get away overnight at least once a month or quarterly. And definitely for an extended weekend or mini vacation every year. You can’t get into great deep connected talks and open up – just on a quick date night. It just doesn’t happen. And at home, there are distractions like laundry and kids. Sometimes we get away just the two of us – and sometimes we get away and travel with another couple that we love – because our dearest friends often bring out the best in us.  I’m not going into intimacy here on this post –  which is obviously key to a great marriage. But… quick hint to the guys. Emotional connection is key before physical connection. Do you know what’s going on really with her? Talk often. The last 30 days – thanks to our friends the Levinsons – we have sat and talked every single night and shared what’s really going on.

6. RELATIONSHIPS – Our friends have made us stronger. If you can find couples that you ALL enjoy – hold on to them. Not just a couple where the wives get along. Or husbands get along – but couples where all four get along – that is KEY. Make time for them. We have been friends with some of our couple friends for 15-20 years. And we travel and make time to meet up with them. One couple went with us for my 40th bday trip. Another couple just went with us for our anniversary trip. Another couple is new in Dallas to us – and we LOVE doing date nights with them. We can be honest with them on our marriage and lives. We can pray for each other. We can hold each other accountable. Find people that get beyond surface – and equally invest. It’s not all take – it’s give too. Pour into others and you’ll get it back too.

7. COMMUNICATION – I can be a real jerk to Ron. I can be so mean. And I have found it’s not what I say – it’s how I say it. So, when I get overwhelmed or upset – instead of yelling or tearing him apart, I try to remember to say it with kindness. He’s really on my team and not against me. “Ron, I need you so bad. You are a great dad – and here’s how I desperately need you with the girls….” He’s so willing and cares so much for me. I just haven’t told him specifically how I need him and what’s going on. We’ve also learned that fighting never helps. When we can calm down and say what’s really going on, we can normally see each other and come together. When the gloves are off,  we humbly see how we can help the other person. Again, it so often comes back to humility and this question … am I willing to love him well? Just like I’d want him to love me?

8. HELP & WISDOM – It really comes down to humility. Are we both willing to admit that we are flawed and sinful and in need of help? Will our pride get in the way? Can we both say I’m sorry? Can we both be willing to say we need to get some help or advice in an area? We have been in counseling together at some point. I have been in counseling several times and love it. We have done marriage courses and small groups and have mentors galore. We have read books and podcasts and more. We both believe this is key. Are you willing to keep learning and growing? Because as you two grow and change and face failures and successes – you’ll need wise, Godly help to process this life. Is there anyone you can call right now and tell them that you are in trouble? Don’t hide it too long. It is possible to get your marriage back on track!  There are SO MANY places and ministries out there ready to help. And God is a miracle worker. That’s what He does. I believe He can. And don’t believe the strain that hits during the little years of kids is where it will stay. Fight through it.

9. FUN – Ron and I have so much fun. That is another thing that I believe God uniquely made in us as a couple – just plain silliness. As I look back at our rough patches or seasons, I hate that we let it go on so long. We got in a funk or mood or fight and let it linger. We forgot that we are still the ones made for each other. We forgot that life isn’t that serious – and we forgot to laugh. Get in the car – put the windows down. Put your favorite song on. And get your man back. Go to his work or to your work – remind each other how dang talented you are! Get some cute clothes on and do on a date. And kiss! You still got it!

10. TENDERNESS – This is more of a nod to Ron and where he inspires me, but I am so very grateful for his dedication to treating me with care. I watch him hold his words and carefully stay quiet when he is hurt or upset. He is never harsh or never angry or hurtful with his words. That is a GIFT. And I will forever will be thankful for how he handles my heart with such tremendous care. He got this from his Dad and I love that this is the way he treats me and his daughters.


In closing, let’s talk about the hydrangeas.

While we were walking the streets of Italy coveting their landscapes, our dear friend Don said,

“You can’t buy an 8-foot hydrangea. It takes time.”

And this is perfect illustration for marriage. We want to snap and have the fruit and beauty of an amazing marriage. And it just takes time. It often takes pruning and thorns and work. It takes years of work and refinement. Ron and I stand back and smile because we know how awful we’ve been to each other. We know that so many little things have gone into making our longstanding marriage stand in beauty. And ultimately it’s God’s grace.

Only God could’ve taken all these ups and downs and created this marriage. It’s never perfect – but it’s ours. It’s our story. And we want to take care for what He’s built. We want to steward marriage well and carry it on for our girls. We want to show them it’s possible for imperfect love to last. We want them to see that we aren’t just putting up with each – that we are actually fighting for each other. And fighting for a marriage will last for many more years to come.

DeFeo Family

If you’re in a tough season, do not lose hope. Reach out to a friend that you can meet with in your town. Be honest with them. Reach out to your church family. If you are in a crisis point in your marriage and are not sure where to turn, feel free to email me and I can try to help point you to some resources.

And remember, there are PLENTY of things we didn’t do well! Way more of that we could share for sure… hope these are just a few things that encourage you to keep on moving forward with each other. Loving through the mess.

You are so very loved. xoxo

Courtney & Ron




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