21 Lessons from 21 Years of Marriage

Twenty-one years ago I stood at the altar at Highland Park Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and amidst a lot of laughter and in the presence of lots of friends and family, I promised to love and honor Scott Underwood as his wife.

Since then we’ve moved a few times, wrangled a few basset hounds, served a few churches, and even had a few health scares. We spent three years praying for a baby and we’ve spent just over seventeen years raising our beautiful girl.

We’ve had some disagreements and we’ve made some memories. We’ve buried three great-grandmothers, three grandparents, and Scott’s dad.  We’ve celebrated the birth of fifteen nieces and nephews.  We’ve spent a lot of time laughing and we’ve held each other through some really hard days.

He’s supported my writing journey with more sacrifices and encouragement than anyone will ever know.  I’ve done my best to encourage and support his ministry at every church we’ve served.

When I look back over the past twenty-ones years, I realize how many lessons we’ve learned and how much growing we’ve done—as individuals and as a couple.  So, today, in honor of our twenty-first anniversary, I am taking time to share a little encouragement for those who are a few years behind us.

After 21 years of marriage, there are bound to be a few lessons learned.  Teri Lynne Underwood shares 21 lessons from 21 years of marriage.

21 Lessons from 21 Years of Marriage

  1. Love God more. Seriously. If there is one thing that matters more than anything else, it’s this one — love God more than you love your spouse. If you don’t, you’ll end up giving your husband a place in your heart he should never have and it will be too much for him to bear.
  2. Laugh together. One of the greatest gifts Scott has given me is laughter. I lean toward serious and he has the ability to make me laugh, even when I don’t want to do it.  So laugh! Even when you want to be mad … maybe especially when you want to be mad.
  3. Cry together. Choose each other when life is hard, share those tears with each other instead of seeking out your friends.
  4. Give each other space. You don’t have to do everything together or like all the same things.
  5. Invest in each others’ dreams. I can’t tell you what it has meant to me that Scott has invested time, money, and himself into my dreams. And it’s my joy to encourage and invest in his as well.
  6. Be great parents. I know, keep your marriage first … but be sure you are great parents too. By this I don’t mean make your child the center of the world, I mean spend time learning how to parent and how to invest in your children. Learn their personalities and support their interests.
  7. Pray for each other.  You probably knew this would be on the list, right? Praying for each other and for your marriage is one of the greatest gifts you give to your spouse.  (Need help? Check out the #MarriagePrayers series Scott and I wrote last year.)
  8. Spend time with other couples. Find couples who really like each other and then spend time with them. Make sure your closest friends are people who like their spouses and enjoy spending time together. The bet way to create discontent in your marriage is to spend most of your time with people who are unhappy in their marriages.
  9. Love each others’ families. Your know how crazy your family is and he knows the quirks in his. We can’t change our families but we can choose to love them — in-laws, outlaws, and all.
  10. Make physical intimacy a priority. I’ve talked about this before. It matters. And it isn’t only sex … hold hands, make out, dance … make connecting physically in some way an everyday thing.
  11. Notice the small things. There are countless little ways we show each other our love. Make it a point to notice those small things and acknowledge them.
  12. Check in throughout the day. The beauty of all of us having our phones all the time is how easy it makes it to send a quick text that says, “Thinking about you” or “I love you” or “Praying for you today.”
  13. Give the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best, not the worst. Your spouse is really not trying to annoy you (usually) or make your life harder.
  14. Embrace change. Every season of life will bring changes to how your marriage functions.  Learn to see the good parts of every new season rather than bemoaning what has passed.
  15. Don’t keep score. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says love keeps no record of wrongs. So don’t do it … period.
  16. Do something together at least once a week. Maybe date night isn’t an option but make time to watch a movie or cook dinner or even sit on the porch just the two of you every week.
  17. Forgive. Seriously. Before the apology ever comes. Forgive generously and graciously and gladly.
  18. Make each others’ lives easier. Look for ways to serve each other.
  19. Speak well of each other — always. No matter what, speak well of your spouse. (Here are 10 ways to speak well of your husband.)
  20. Be polite.  I’ve thought a lot about this and basically I’m just about 100% sure that if we simply chose to be polite to one other many of the other issues we face would be eliminated or at least minimized.
  21. Love each other well. One of the prayers I pray most often is that I will love Scott well. I have used 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as a measure of how I’m doing … Am I  patient? kind? etc.

So there you go … 21 lessons from 21 years of marriage.

There are countless more but this is a pretty good start, I think.

On my 21st anniversary, here are 21 lessons I've learned about marriage. Click To Tweet

Tell me, what is a lesson you’ve learned about marriage?

A note to Scott

You are my favorite. You’ve made my life bigger, richer, and more beautiful than I could ever have dreamed when we stood at that altar all those years ago.  I’ve never doubted your love or questioned your commitment to our marriage. You’re steady and sure no matter what my emotional state. You cheer me up and talk me down — both of which I need more than you probably imagined in 1996. But most of all, you’ve shown me what it is to love the Lord and to serve others with humility and grace. I am better because of you and there is no one else I’d rather walk life’s roads with. I love you, always.  xoxo, Wife

Read the Psalms this summer with Scripture Dig!


  1. Fun/great list, Teri Lynne. I can’t remember if you and I have talked about the fact that Molly and I were also married in 1996 (August 3).

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