I’ve been married just shy of two years and I’m about to offer you some marriage advice. I can almost guess what you might be thinking…Well, that’s sweet but what does a newlywed who is supposed to be perpetually lost on a puffy white cloud of wedded bliss truly know about being married anyway? While I surely have much more to learn, a few things have clarified in my short time as a wife. Whether you have been married for two weeks or 40 years, these lessons relate to every relationship. So, please indulge this silly newlywed for a moment while I share five important lessons I have learned so far from marriage.
Lesson One: Be willing to get counsel.
Marriage counseling can be so important to the health of a marriage. Whether you had pre-marriage counseling or not it’s essential for both spouses to willingly acknowledge problems as they arise and to learn to work through them in a healthy way. Sometimes that means taking time to meet with a godly and trusted counselor to help you work it through. It does not mean “complain about your marriage to all your girlfriends and get their two cents.” Godly counsel will help you grow to be more like Jesus and will help you apply and live out biblical wisdom in your marriage.
Lesson Two: Learn to communicate well.
Men are often given a hard time about being poor communicators. But the same can be true of women. We may talk more but it’s not always in a constructive manner! I am blessed that my husband is open to communicating and working through issues in a mature way. When we have a disagreement we don’t scream at each other and throw things. Rather, we talk about it and work through it together as a team. I’m open to him speaking into my life, and the same is true of him. Even if you or your spouse aren’t the best communicators, you can learn to communicate well. The first steps to learning are humbling yourself and admitting that there is room to grow in this area.
Lesson Three: Choose respect.
Because of God’s grace in helping me to become more emotionally healthy before I got married, I am able to show genuine respect to my husband. He also shows respect to me by listening to and valuing my opinions. When we are mad at each other or feeling emotionally hurt, we give the other some space and then talk it through. Many years ago my normal anger default would be to yell and say something mean-spirited. But even when I am tempted to do that now, I hold my tongue. Why? Because my husband never yells or says mean things to me so I want to show him at least the same amount of respect that he shows me. If you want to show respect for your spouse, you have to grow up. Take name-calling and spiteful behavior out of the equation. Remember, respect is a choice.
Lesson Four: Serve your spouse.
When both people in a marriage regularly look for ways to serve the other, then each person’s needs are regularly met. You and your spouse both have genuine needs. Some of those needs only God can meet. Other needs are meant to be met by your spouse. If one person is consistently giving while all the other does is constantly take, making it a one-sided experience, trouble will arise. But if both of you are regularly giving and receiving, each will have what they need from the other to be content in the marriage.
Lesson Five: Always put your spouse’s best foot forward in public (and in private!)
It’s universally awkward to hear someone say something mean or embarrassing about their spouse in public, even if they are “joking.” Often their spouse is not present but sometimes they are standing right next to them. This can only bring harm to a marriage. Make it a point to be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader…to everyone! This extends to family life as well. Compliment your spouse in front of your kids, to your extended family, to your friends. When you are alone together, regularly tell your spouse how special they are. This goes a long way in showing love and respect and in bolstering your relationship to withstand difficult times.
One size does not fit all.
Everyone has their own marriage experience…mine may be quite different from yours. Before I was married a friend told me,
Marriage is hard. It’s mostly working through difficult issues and every now and then you get a moment of enjoyment, but most of the time it’s hard.”
Contrast that with another friend who told me,
If you feel like you have to work at marriage then you’ve married the wrong person.”
Hmm…talk about conflicting advice! While each marriage is different, I believe putting into practice the five lessons I shared with you can make every marriage happier and healthier. If you are married and haven’t already been practicing these suggestions, make a decision to begin. Even if your spouse isn’t on board yet you can start by being intentional about doing your part in making your marriage a better environment.