When I first got married, I really enjoyed asking seasoned couples this question:
If you could give only one piece of advice to a newly married couple, what would it be?
You might think it would be things like pray together, be kind to each other, spend time together…which are the great answers I expected. But, surprisingly, those were not the answers I received! I’ve decided to share the most interesting, and by far, the best ones.
1.) Just don’t pay any attention.
Don’t worry; you’re not supposed to understand this one initially. This advice came from my Grandmother. Imagine it spoken with the accent of someone who is from the mountains of Virginia. It originally sounded something like “Just don’t pay ‘no ‘tention!” When she first said it, I had to ask her to explain what she meant. She looked up at me from where she was scrubbing countertops in her kitchen, stood for a moment in thought, then said, “Well, sometimes (my grandfather) hollers and gets upset, but I just go on and don’t pay any attention.” I smiled.
My grandfather was badly shell shocked, having served in World War II and Vietnam. If he were startled or caught off guard, it could cause him to react by yelling and occasionally saying things he didn’t mean. When my grandmother so wisely gave her advice, her point was this:
Sometimes when our spouses react, they are reacting out of old wounds. My grandfather wasn’t really upset with my grandmother; his reaction came from negative past experiences. At some point or another, we all operate out of our wounds. Whether inflicted by a war, a loved one, a circumstance, a bad experience, grief, trauma, loss or betrayal, those wounds can trigger reactions that have the power to tear down a relationship. If we recognize when our spouses are reacting out of a hurtful or painful experience, the best way we can love them is to show them grace by not reacting negatively ourselves.
2.) Do everything together.
I just love this one! Not only because it’s an excuse to spend more time with the man I love, but also because some of our most enjoyable times have been when we were doing the mundane together. I read this piece of advice in a book and the example they gave was this:
If the oil needs changing in the car, do it together!”
Initially, this didn’t sound like much fun. However, I decided to give it a try. If grocery shopping needed to be done, we went together. If my husband needed to go pick up his dry cleaning, we went together. If dinner needed to be cooked, we did it together. If the toolbox needed organizing, we did it together! We have tried to do everything together that is feasible, and some of our most fun, relationship-building times have come from it. This one can be a stretch initially, because it does take a little more time and sacrifice. But I’m here to tell you–you won’t be sorry! Investing time will help strengthen your marriage.
3.) Live as though you are not guaranteed tomorrow.
This piece of advice goes deep down into my heart and I’ll tell you why. I have experienced the loss of a spouse. Among the many things I learned from that experience is this: your marriage is not a guarantee.
Don’t misunderstand me—I am not talking about being suspicious in your marriage, but rather, that nothing in this life is guaranteed to us. We are not guaranteed perfect, healthy children, we are not guaranteed money, and we are not even guaranteed tomorrow. James 4:14 says,
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (NIV)
If you knew your spouse was not going to be around tomorrow, either from death, incarceration, deployment, separation or whatever it may be, what would you do? What would you say? How would you let them know that you loved them? Some of my favorite lyrics say,
Time is all we have…” – Homer and the Rocketboys
Time is all we have with our spouses. Live every day as if it was going to be the last one you have with them.
It’s my firm belief that passing along wisdom and experience in the form of advice, is the best gift that can ever be given to a newly married couple.
If you were asked to give one piece of advice to a newly-married couple, what would it be?