I invited my friend Kristen to share some of her insights into marriage as she and her husband recently celebrated their first wedding anniversary. (Learn more about Kristen’s talented writing and her award-winning novels at the end of this article.*)
In this two-part series, Kristen explains twelve choices that create extraordinary marriages. Whether you are a newlywed or a seasoned spouse, practicing these guidelines will be a blessing in your home!
Just over a year ago, my husband and I said “I do.” Like most new couples, we received lots of advice, and we welcomed what wisdom others had to share.
However, one recurring comment troubled me: “The first year of marriage is hard.” Although I understood that we would both have adjustments to make, I didn’t like this “survivalist” mentality. After all, Jesus came so that we could have life “more abundantly” (John 10:10), and surely that concept applied to marriage, part of His design. But what did I know?
Well, I have good news. The first year of marriage doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can truly be extraordinary, but both husband and wife are responsible to each other to make it that way.
#1. Agree that you married the right person.
Once you say, “I do,” this one is signed, sealed, and delivered. In God’s eyes, that person is now the “right person” because you made a covenant before Him with this individual. You can’t make the excuse, “I married the wrong person.” The truth is that anyone you marry will disappoint or upset you at one point or another, and that reality doesn’t make him or her the “wrong person.”
In short, remove this excuse from your vocabulary. Resist the temptation to compare your spouse to any other person. It’s not a fair comparison, because you don’t know anyone’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your spouse’s. This person, complete with brokenness and beauty, is God’s plan for your life. Relish that reality and that privilege.
#2. Be kind and thoughtful to each other.
This one should be a no-brainer, but if the Apostle Paul felt the need to remind his readers, then more than likely we can use the reminder too. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV)
Marriage brings adjustments. You each bring different life experiences and personal habits into the relationship. Instead of expecting the other person to be just like you, embrace the differences. Also, make room for changes.
When we got married, James moved into my house. Realizing what a big change this would be for him, I rearranged and gave away furniture to make room for his. I also practiced saying “our home” instead of “my home” and tried to look for ways to incorporate his things.
Everyone’s situations are different, but during those first early weeks and months, be sensitive and aware of simple ways to make the transition smoother. When in doubt, ask what you can do.
#3. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
My husband and I marvel at how much other couples seem to fight. We’re redeemed sinners like every other Christian couple, but we don’t argue or yell at each other. If we disagree, we talk about it. If we’re having a bad day, we’re honest about it. If we mess up, we have to apologize.
I remember having a particularly rough day at work. Coming out of my office, I found James working on his laptop and told him straight: “It’s been a tough day, babe, and I’m pretty upset about it. Just know that it has nothing to do with you.”
Don’t make your spouse guess if you’re upset with him or not. Be transparent. Once James knew how I was feeling, he was able to lovingly support me through my emotions instead of wondering if he were somehow responsible for them.
#4. Be realistic. Your spouse is not a mind-reader.
Gals, this point is especially for us. We sometimes romanticize our spouses and expect them to know exactly what we want. That expectation is just not realistic.
A few months into our marriage, I kept seeing these posts from my girlfriends about their guys giving them flowers “just because.” I wished that James would do the same, but then I remembered something my brother once told me. “We guys aren’t mind-readers.”
The next time James asked if there was something he could do for me, I simply said, “I’d really appreciate if you gave me flowers sometime. It might seem silly, but I’d love to get flowers from you.”
He smiled and thanked me for telling him. “I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I got you flowers.” Guess what? He brought home flowers soon after that.
#5. Have adventures together.
I realize the wedding and honeymoon are expensive, but find ways to experience life together. James and I love to travel, so we’ll hunt for cheap-o flights, plan visits to see friends, or even just drive to the beach to watch the sunset. Adventures don’t have to be pricey. You just have to be intentional about planning them.
The time you spend together sharing new or favorite experiences contributes to both of your “love tanks” and builds memories.
#6. Grow together with Christian community and with Jesus.
This one is so, so important. After we got married, we tried several Sunday school classes for couples until we found our Honeymooners class. There is something so precious about doing life with other couples who are walking in your shoes. Also, being intentional about learning together deepens your relationship and fosters healthy conversations. With our class, we’ve gone through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Academy and are currently in the Love and Respect series by Emerson Eggerichs.
In addition to Christian community, husbands and wives should spend time together in God’s Word and alone with God. This year, James and I have been reading through the book of John and are looking forward to starting a new book soon. We also have our separate quiet times in our own ways. However, don’t fall into the trap of comparing your walk with God to your spouse’s. What matters is that you both invest in God’s Word and are committed to growing in your walk with the Lord, even if your approaches are different.
Also important is that you consistently pray for your spouse. Two resources I’ve found helpful are Jennifer Smith’s 31 Prayers for Your Husband and The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian.
Next time, we’ll look at six more choices couples can make to get their marriage off to a great start. For now, which of these ideas is most helpful to where you are right now?
*Kristen Hogrefe is an award-winning author and life-long learner who enjoys starting her day with Jesus and coffee.
Kristen and her husband live in Florida, the perfect setting for their many outdoor adventures. Connect with Kristen at www.KristenHogrefe.com, where she challenges young adults and the young at heart to think truthfully and live daringly.