If you’ve been following along on the blog and other forms of social media, it will be obvious to you that I’m obsessed with all things marriage and love lately! It’s not too out of the ordinary to be honest, but I’ve been feeling amazing and reflecting a lot since our 1 year anniversary. (Read: What if Your Anniversary Doesn’t Go as Planned) It only seems fitting that I write out a list of some of the things we have learned in our first year and throw them up on the blog, so let’s do this! Here are my 13 Things to Know BEFORE Getting Married!
1. It gets better
Over the past year, I have heard a lot of marriage horror stories. I’ve heard my fair share of people say, “Just wait, you’ll get tired of ____ soon….” I’ve heard all the negativity and pessimism, and I bet you have too. Let me be the one to lift the curtain for you…none of that is true unless you make it true. It gets better and better as time goes on!
Take it from us, the first part of our marriage was really really really rocky. We were more like roommates stumbling around wondering why we couldn’t get it together. It took a lot of Jesus, reflection, and time to settle into things before we really hit our stride. We still have our moments, but you can take comfort in knowing that it is what you make it. You will have hard times, but so much of marriage gets better with time!
2. Dig into marriage development material
Being married is kind-of like a skill. Yes, all you really have to do is get married and stay put. However, having a GREAT marriage takes a lot of work and a lot of learning. During the first part of our marriage, I was focused mainly on self-development, and I really didn’t understand why our marriage wasn’t budging in a good direction.
“I’m working so hard to be a better person, so why aren’t things getting better?”
There is a big difference between being an all-around “good person” and being a loving spouse. I was focusing all my energy on myself and very rarely asking what I could do for Alex. Almost immediately after picking up my first marriage development book, things started changing. I started viewing being a wife as a challenge I wanted to master. It was my newest project, and I was excited about it! Trust me, make learning about your marriage a priority, and God will turn it into a masterpiece.
3. Be a servant spouse
It took me a long time before I realized that I needed to stop worrying about what my husband could do for me. I was so hesitant to put the focus on becoming a blessing to my husband, and it created many unnecessary fights. This seems like such an easy thing to say and do, but it’s something that I have found I need to constantly keep in mind.
So what does it mean to be a servant spouse? Well, you’re definitely not an actual servant. 😉 Being a servant spouse means that you are striving to mirror to your husband the love and grace that God gives you each and every day. It means that you work towards putting your husband first even when you feel like he doesn’t deserve it. None of us deserve God’s forgiveness and mercy for our sins, but He so freely gives it. It can be hard, but showing that same grace to our husbands will transform our households!
4. Remember who the real enemy is
In your marriage, you’re going to argue. It happens to everyone, so I’m just gonna take the liberty of saying that it’s normal to fight. Take the stress of trying to be perfect off your shoulders, and just realize that it happens. Not a huge deal…
But there is one thing that you really don’t want to do.
Don’t forget that you’re a team. When you joined into marriage, you joined the same team as your husband and vowed to get through it for better or worse. However, Satan wants to steal, kill, and destroy your christian marriage. He’s going to do whatever it takes to make you forget your vows in every single fight that you have. In our first year of marriage, it became obvious pretty quickly that playing on different sides of the field wasn’t going to work. Even in the midst of a tough time in your marriage, it’s important to lean on God, remember why the two of you love each other so much, and fight Satan back as a team.
5. Sex is important…like really important
I seriously can’t touch on this point enough! (I’m actually thinking about writing an e-book on the topic of sex in marriage, so let me know in the comments what you think!) Thanks to guidance from God, improving our sex life has been the #1 marriage enhancer out of everything else we have changed. It ranks higher than learning how to communicate better, establishing roles in the home, and even figuring out our love languages. Why? Because turning up the intimacy in our marriage has improved all those other topics I listed as well!
And I’m not talking about being more adventurous or having longer sex. No, nothing like that. We just changed our attitudes toward sex, discovered what the other person truly needed through hard conversations, and kept it a priority. We WERE NOT in a good place intimately during the first part of our marriage, and everything else suffered because of it. However, since making this change in the last quarter of our first year, EVERYTHING else has changed as well!
6. Give love in the way your spouse desires it
How many times have you said something like, “Well, I’m doing _____. He doesn’t even notice that I’m trying to show him I care.”? Girl, me too. What I have found is that it’s not necessarily that he isn’t noticing it, but it’s that he might not receive love in that way. For example, my husband feels really loved when I make his lunch or make sure the house is tidied up. If I write him a bunch of sweet love notes and buy him a nice gift instead of doing more of the things that he loves, he truly may not realize what I’m trying to do. It goes both ways in the relationship. Everyone has a certain way that they prefer to receive love, so make sure that you’re doing those specific things more often!
7. every marriage moves at a different pace
Yes, yes, and more yes! Just go ahead and stop the marriage comparison game right now! What you see in the movies, what your friends show you when you hang out with them, and the cute couples you see on Pinterest just aren’t telling the whole story. Everyone struggles in their marriage, and each couple has their own unique path to take at their own unique pace. Don’t feel like you’re behind because you haven’t had children yet or you’re in a really hard season of arguments. There is NO rulebook for marriage, and it’s time that you stop being so hard on yourself.
In the first half of our first year, Alex had this habit of saying that we weren’t where he felt that we should be in our marriage. He doesn’t do it anymore because we both realized something pretty epic…we are right where God wants us to be, even if we don’t understand why. Same goes for you, lovely! If you’re having a bit of a struggle or maybe feeling envious of other marriages, take a deep breath and realize that God has it all under control. I don’t know His exact plan for the two of you, but I do know that amazing things can come from sorrow and suffering! In fact, those are the times that often bring us closer to the Lord. Just pray, wait, and see!
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. – Ecclesiastes 7:3
8. Expectations aren’t always a bad thing
I’m usually not one for expectations, so this one might come as a shock to you if you’ve been consistently checking up on our blog. Hear me out, though. I believe that expectations when not properly discussed and agreed upon can be super toxic in a marriage. They can lead to frustration and hurt feelings that could have been otherwise easily avoided. However, the opposite is also true. When properly discussed and agreed upon, expectations can also make things a whole heck of a lot easier on everyone! 😉
Discussing expectations and desires in a healthy way is something that we are still working on, but we are already beginning to see the fruits of that labor. Like I talked about a little bit above, Alex really enjoys when I take pride in the home and keeping it a haven for our family. I enjoy when Alex takes care of the heavy duty things, dirty things, and the outside work. Talking about those tasks, agreeing to pull our own weight in those departments, and being willing to pitch in in other ares when needed has been a huge stress reliever! It’s so much easier to know what to do to make your spouse happy when you’ve already had the talk about what each person is going to do. You can talk about and set expectations in almost any area of your marriage! Some of the areas that we have talked about are intimacy, chores, budgeting, morning and evening routines, feeding the pets, etc. In our opinion, the household runs a lot smoother when everyone knows their role!
9. anything can be a date
I’ll keep this one short and sweet, but I think it’s pretty important. As you progress in marriage, you may find it harder to find time for date night. And maybe you won’t struggle with this, and that’s great too! But for the couple with a busy schedule, this is for you.
Anything can be a date.
Anything. You can make a date out of dinner at home, walking the dogs, driving to the supermarket, going to church, cleaning the house, etc. It doesn’t have to be dinner and a movie to count as quality time together. You can make memories anywhere! All you have to do is intentionally show your spouse love and affection during the activity, maybe giggle a little more than usual, and call it a date!
10. things don’t have to be “special” to be special
Maybe this won’t apply to anyone but me, but this is something I really needed to hear before I got married, and I wish I had. For a lot of this past year, I was hung up on the fact that I wanted things to be “special”. A holiday would come up, and I would do everything in my power to make it as “special” as possible. Everything had to be perfectly memorable, and nothing was allowed to mess that up.
Well, life happens. Very few of my “special” moments turned out the way that I wanted them too. Thank God they didn’t, because I’ve been able to learn a very wonderful lesson along the way that I can now share with you.
Here it is…
Everything is already special. You’ve got the love of your life by your side, a God who loves every hair on your head, and the promise of eternity in Heaven with our Creator if you have accepted it. Everything is already special. The need for things to be “special” (whatever that even means) is just a sign that we aren’t truly content with what we have and where we are. The next time that you find yourself stressing out about things not going exactly the way you planned, try making a list of all the special things you already have. I promise that you don’t have enough paper for that list. 🙂
11. Human nature is not an excuse
It’s so easy to blame human nature for a lot of the messed up things we do.
“Of course I got angry. It’s human nature.”
“It’s only human nature to find the opposite sex attractive. It’s not a big deal.”
“It’s normal to get upset and complain a little. I’m not perfect.”
All of the statements above are ones that have come up in our marriage at some point. It’s true that, as human beings, we aren’t perfect. However, God created us in His perfect image…and I believe that it should be every christian’s goal to come as close to the nature of Christ as possible. I don’t want a human nature, I want a godly nature.
Alex and I have learned that it’s not beneficial to our marriage to pawn off our negative actions and thoughts on “human nature”. If I get angry during a fight, it’s time for me to lean on God for the strength to stay calm. If Alex sees a women at the grocery store that he finds attractive, it’s time for him to pray to God to only have eyes for me. If I start complaining, it’s time to turn to the Lord and ask for a content spirit. It’s impossible to overcome human nature on our own, but with God all things are possible. Instead of blaming human nature for our shortcomings, we are now leaning on God to help us overcome them!
12. You don’t have to understand everything about each other
My last point before I hand it over to Alex for a bonus tip is…You DO NOT need to understand everything about each other to be a good match. I don’t understand why Alex doesn’t like talking on the phone, enjoys playing computer games to relax, or likes cleaning. He doesn’t understand why I like making intricate lists, couch surfing, or spending hours in the grocery store. We don’t have to understand, but we do need to respect each other’s differences. Respect and love leave us much happier at the end of the day than trying to understand each and every little thing about each other.
Now, let’s hear from the hubby… 🙂
13. Take time to study your partner
Hey! Alex here! The biggest thing I have learned in our first year of marriage (apart from what is listed above already) is that it’s important to study your spouse. I’m talking about taking the time to learn her body language and her unspoken emotional cues. You know how sometimes you’re able to decipher if your spouse is mad just by the look on her face? That’s the ticket! I think that taking it a step forward and developing that sort-of unspoken language is what takes you from friends to lovers. It helps me when I’m able to pinpoint when my wife is upset…even if she swears that she’s not. 😉 And I think it’s comforting to her to know that I’m reading a little bit of what is inside her heart and brain without her having to speak a word. It’s definitely not perfect, and I’m not saying that you need to be a spouse mind reader in order to have a successful marriage. I just think it’s important to take that time to learn the subtle body language of your spouse because, for us, it has made things a lot easier! Things just feel so much more comfortable when you know that the person across from you understands even the unspoken things!
Let’s chat! What have you learned most from your marriage so far? Share with us in the comments!