I’ve heard people say marriage is hard, but mostly all I noticed during the many years I was single was that marriage looked pretty fun. There were the double dates, constant companionship, and vacations together. People mentioned it was hard but I never really knew what that meant...until now.
I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary with my dashing husband Ryan and it’s been the best year! I’ve learned a lot; things I could have only learned in marriage. Things you learn when you share one space with another who can push your buttons like no other. Or when you’re house hunting and finding the middle ground can be a challenge. Or when you’re balancing your checkbook together.
Here are eight valuable lessons I’ve learned in my first year of marriage:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
My husband and I are in the middle of buying our first home. At first, it was exciting as we dreamed about a place to make our own, settle into for a while, and start our family. But now, four months later and no end in sight, it has become the largest source of conflict in our marriage thus far.
What we’ve learned in this particular journey is that communication is key. It’s not safe to assume your spouse can read your mind or has picked up on your subtle remarks. I cannot stress enough how important it is to be clear in your expectations, hopes, and doubts. I think for women especially, we fail to be a hundred percent clear because we believe our husband is picking up on everything we say. Or, we say one thing and mean the other because we want them to draw in. However, this isn’t fair to our spouse nor is it healthy. Always be transparent and communicate even when you think you don’t need to--it will save you a lot of trouble down the road.
2. Learn how to deal with conflict
Avoiding conflict is easily one of the worst things you can do in your relationship with anybody. It breeds bitterness, contempt, and frustration that will only hurt your marriage. I used to avoid conflict like the plague because I was scared of how the person would react. But then I realized conflict is beneficial if done properly.
Approach any conflict with a willing ear, focus on the core issue, and follow the SET formula developed by Jerold Kreisman, M.D. It stands for Support, Empathy, and Truth, and provides a guideline in handling conflict. Essentially, first let your spouse know you are there for them, then relate to their feeling, and finally, you can share your truth. Learn how to do this well and your marriage will be much healthier!
3. Go the extra mile
When we were first married I wanted to go above and beyond in being the good wife. I’d make Ryan breakfast every morning, have dinner cooking and the candles lit when he got home, and found every possible way to serve him. But then the honeymoon phase started to fade and I began serving him less.
You may work 8-5 every day and feel too exhausted to go the extra mile for your spouse, but never stop serving them. It’s the little things in life that make your significant other feel special and loved. Plan a special date, make them dinner, leave a note--always be thinking about how you can make your spouse feel cared for.
4. Both eyes on the finances
One of the common conflicts in marriage is finances; in many cases, there is one spouse that ends of carrying most of the burden. That person balances the checkbook, makes sure all the bills are paid on time, and watches the expenses. In fact, they often have to keep the other spouse “in line” when it comes to their spending.
Ryan and I were both single for a long time and we each learned to be financially responsible, however, when we got married I let this task default to Ryan. I learned pretty quickly it was important to Ryan and our marriage that we share in managing our finances. Don’t neglect to go through your family budget together on a regular basis so that both are on the same page; it’s a large and unnecessary burden for one spouse to feel like they always have to carry alone.
5. Support each other’s dreams in every season
I have some big dreams and Ryan has always been my greatest cheerleader. It means the world to me that he always looks for ways to encourage and sharpen me in my pursuit of the calling on my life. When he does this, it’s always when I feel the most loved.
When two people decide to become one, dreams are adopted. Embrace the dreams (and the accompanying sacrifices) of your spouse! There will be days in the valley and days on top of a mountain so live by Romans 12:15 to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” In both, you will draw closer together.
6. Value all forms of intimacy
There are four forms of intimacy and all are equally important, although for each spouse there will be one or a few that they place the most value on. It’s necessary to connect spiritually, mentally, sexually, and emotionally to experience those most powerful moments of intimacy.
You may value emotional intimacy most, but your spouse may value mental more than the others. Place a high importance on ensuring they connect with you on the level they value most. Never neglect one of these connections, but do learn what’s most important to your spouse and meet them there.
7. Don’t fix your spouse
I’m a fixer by nature and sometimes that can be a bad thing. For instance, it’s not your job to make sure your spouse is praying, or responsible, or is where you think they should be. Here’s a very important piece of advice for you: love your spouse and pray for them. Beyond that, let God do the work. You might feel the need to send them sermons and account for their time with the Lord. Or maybe you think it's your job to make sure they stay on task at home. Don’t set out to “fix” your spouse, but pray Scripture over them and allow God to speak to their hearts. It’s your job to be their teammate, not their coach.
8. Ask God to help you every single day
Marriage is hard and I know I need God every day to be the spouse I believe my husband deserves. There are days you will be frustrated and it will be hard to like your spouse. Sometimes you’ll want to put yourself before them. You might feel too tired at the end of the day to serve. It’s for these very reasons and many more you and I need God’s help to truly be there for the person we love.
Each day make a point to invite God into your marriage, ask for His help, and pray that you can be selfless. Putting another before yourself is perhaps one of the hardest things a person can do, but remember what Philippians 4:3-4 says about this. Because it’s hard you’ll need God’s help, so ask for it and rely on Him to be the best spouse you can be.
Keeping with tradition, here are some snapshots from our engagement, wedding, and first year of marriage!
This blog was originally written for and published by Crosswalk here.)