Have you ever heard the statement, “The first year of marriage is the hardest?”
This is true for many couples, but for you, it does not have to be. My husband Gordan and I put in work before we were married. We watched many of our friends get married young and unprepared for the responsibilities that come with marriage, and we didn’t want to go through many of the struggles that are common in the first few years. So we set out on a journey to prepare ourselves for a solid marriage right from the start.
Today we are equipped with more resources and tools than ever before. We can learn from countless couples who have beautiful, thriving, healthy marriages that have created products for us amateurs (in the marriage department) to learn from. Why not head into marriage equipped the best you could possibly be? The knowledge we could gain can get us years ahead in our marriages. Sure, we’ll still learn some things the hard way because we will undoubtedly make mistakes along the way, but we can also learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us and who are pouring forth their knowledge and wisdom.
Here are 10 principles I’ve learned from those who have gone before me that will help you start your marriage 10 years ahead of the game.
1. We have different strengths and weaknesses.
You are not good at the same things and that is okay.
Marriage is about two individual people coming together to form a unit, kind of like how two halves make a whole. Gordon’s strengths and my strengths are different. The beautiful thing about those differences is how they balance us as a unit. He likes to stay in, I like to go out; he’s a saver, I’m a spender. He is a planner, I’m more spontaneous.
Both sides are important in their own way. Gordon has taught me how to save for the bigger dreams in life, and I’ve taught him how to have a little fun and not be such a tightwad. In the end, it all evens out. But we have to understand that it’s ok to have differences. In fact, we need each other’s strengths to become the best unit we can be.
2. We all need to pretend sometimes.
I’m all for honesty, but pretending has its place.
Caring about what your spouse cares about is a huge deal. Sometimes both of you care about the same things. But it’s important that we turn on our listening ears (even if we’re faking it) and hear when our partner is sharing all about the Seahawks and what he recently heard on the Pete Carroll Show. (Just kidding, I actually love listening to the show with my hubby). Or maybe it’s about cars, hunting or other things you’re not very interested in. Show him you care, get excited when he’s excited, and be upset along with him when his football team loses.
3. Honesty is the best policy.
I’m all for pretending, but honesty has its place.
When something is bothering you, share it. Don’t expect your spouse to read your mind. If you’re like me, you hold in your emotions until they come raging out and all sorts of upsets and disappointments are brought to the surface that he never even knew about.
Allow him to feel like he can share when he needs to; affirm him that you are a safe place. Instead of getting defensive, remind each other that you are on the same team. When you are honest with each other, it will lead you into deeper intimacy together.
Allowing honesty into your relationship can hurt at first but it will save you in the long run.
4. Create a Tribe.
I don’t care how many couples ya’ll have to date; keep trying until you find one where 2+2=4, or even better, 2+2+2=6.
Find couple friends to hang out with. Couples who like the things you like, people who will encourage your marriage and tell it to you straight when you’re being ridiculous. And once you find these friends you might need to fight for your time with them. Schedule time to be together. Have game nights or go on double dates. Friendship is so incredibly important and to have a couple you can hang out with together is vital. These friendships keep us healthy, grounded, and connected.
5. Lighten Up.
Everything cannot be a big deal, because when the big deals actually happen, we’re too worn-out to handle them.
It’s amazing how the little things will cause arguments in marriage. One moment we’re reliving memories, the next we’re arguing over who remembered it correctly. Your spouse will bring out the best and the worst side of you. And if we aren’t careful we might find our worst selves coming out in the little things, and over time those little things add up!
6. Be Nice.
Treating your husband like a good friend will preserve your marriage.
The people closest to us can sometimes be the easiest to hurt. And who is closer to us than our husband (hopefully no one)? Choosing to be nice is such a great practice and one of the best ways we can do this with our husbands is to say, “Thank You” and say it a lot. Say thank you when he does something that pleases you-takes out the trash, makes you coffee or breakfast. Even if it’s the most mundane thing or it’s something done on a regular basis, offer him a thank you. That’s one of the best ways we can start showing kindness to our spouse.
7. Always Stick Together.
Grow together, learn together, seek together, serve together.
Being united is a big deal. Showing that you are united is one of the best ways you can respect your husband, especially in front of other people.
Learn and grow together. Do things like: ask questions together, discuss what you’re learning, struggle together, take the same classes, do the same studies, refuse to leave the other behind.
One of the sexiest things is to watch my husband be continuously reading books and listening to podcasts because it gives me a confidence in him as the spiritual leader of our household, and it challenges me to do the same. I can trust that he knows what he is doing because he isn’t just wingin’ it but is intentionally learning from the best.
8. Celebrate Each Other’s Differences.
For the most part, you got what you married; and the sooner you accept the man who walked down the aisle, the better.
Often we try to change our husbands. What attracted us to them, in the beginning, becomes what we despise about them later on. To prevent this from happening, we need to remember to celebrate what makes us different. I love that Gordon plans our getaways because then we don’t waste time trying to figure out a plan at the moment. But we actually have “scheduled spontaneous” time during our getaways because he knows I like being more flexible.
9. Have Fun!
I say the couple that embarrasses their children together has a 100 percent chance of making it.
Be silly. Laughing together is the best! Fun helps us like each other. It builds the foundation of a great marriage-friendship. It’s ok not to be serious all the time. Take adventures together because God made this world to be enjoyable.
10. Sex. Always.
Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting through, and healthy sex in your marriage is one.
Sex is not all that marriage has to offer, but sex is a deeply important part of marriage. If you want to measure where the two of you really stand in your relationship, look at your sex life. Because sex isn’t just meeting a physical need, it’s meeting an emotional and spiritual need. For your husband, sex is how you show you love him; it’s an emotional act for him. And women make love because we feel loved. It’s an expression of a healthy marriage and it deserves to be fought for.
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Learning and growing is such a great practice to bring to your relationship even before marriage. You’re reminding yourself that you don’t have it all figured out and that you want to become better. It is telling your spouse that you are choosing to be the best you, the best wife (when you’re married), and the best mother (when you have kids) you can be. When you decide to gain wisdom and knowledge from those who have gone before you, it is one the most selfless things you can do. It’s selfless for your faith, your friends, your spouse, and your kids – because they are getting the best of you.
And of course, always remember to give yourself and your husband-to-be some grace. We are all imperfect people doing our best. Some days will be easier than others. Marriage is sometimes beautiful and sometimes not so much. Marriage is all about choosing – choosing your happiness, your health, your well-being. It’s about choosing to build up rather than tear down. Choose to believe the best in each other. And in all of this, it’s about choosing to be the wife and woman that God always meant for you to be.
And we do this over and over again.
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Which habit will you choose to work on today?