I sat beside my husband and watched a young couple exchange vows. The bride and groom are a beautiful couple who have been together for many years. They were happy to have finally reached their wedding day. They looked joyful in the present and anticipatory for the future. I thought of their innocence, their lack of knowledge of the road ahead. And I thought of the journey between my wedding day and where my husband and I are today.
I wasn’t nervous on our wedding day. I was excited and full of expectations. If I’d known to expect the bumps and potholes of the road ahead, I think I’d have been a bit more frightened. Of course, I didn’t think the journey would be smooth. I knew we’d have issues and struggles, but they weren’t specifically identified, so we dealt with them as they came along, and we have a stronger marriage because of it.
Perhaps not knowing everything that’s coming in the near and far future is a blessing.
There’s no way to pass along every nugget of advice to a young couple. Oh, we certainly try. We say, “Just wait until…..!” Or, “You think you have problems now? Well, let me tell you…” Marriage is a daunting enough commitment without hearing discouragement as the foundation is being laid. There’s sound advice we can give young couples. There are some commonalities about commitment, communication, and authenticity we can give to every young couple, but the specific experiences will be their own.
As I watch the bride and groom pour sand from each of their vases into a larger vase, symbolizing the intricate coming together their marriage involves, I thought of the grains of sand. Each grain remains distinct, but it is mixed with other grains in such a way that makes it nearly impossible to completely separate. Separate, but one. Individuals, but a couple.
Someone told me and Tim before we were married that we must take care of three distinct people in our marriage: Tim, me, and us. We would retain some of our individualities in our personalities, interests, and experiences, but we would do life together in a way that should never be separated. I didn’t fully understand the advice until we had to live it out.
The same is true with every bride and groom. They can’t know it all before they’ve experienced it.
I definitely don’t know it all as I’m somewhere in the process of the experience.
I’ve learned a few things along the way. Perhaps something on this list will be helpful to you. Perhaps you have something else to share. Ignorance might be bliss as we begin a journey, but we should certainly learn along the way. As we learn, reflect and grow, let’s remember the lessons we’ve learned and apply them into our marriages, as well as other relationships and experiences.
- Our backgrounds, experiences, and personalities lead us to react to each other and situations in different ways. And that’s okay. Our differences make our marriage better.
- Men are different from women in not only the obvious by also many subtle ways. When I assume my husband needs and wants what I need and want, we both get frustrated.
- Honesty, no matter how difficult at the time, is the only option when facing a situation that might divide our relationship.
- When one of us is weak in an area, the other one “taking over” isn’t the best option. Complementing each other means coming together where we are and walking together toward a common goal.
- Dream together. Not “if only we could” dreams that breed discontent but a vision of where we want to go and grow together in our lives.
- Competition can be fun but it has no place in our roles in marriage: who does what and contributes what. Replace competition with encouragement.
- Say “I was wrong. You’re right.” as often as possible.
- Express your love and respect for your spouse as often and in as many ways as possible. Say it. Do it.
- Build each other up outside of your marriage…in front of your children, spouse’s family, coworkers, etc.
- Don’t pack your bags. Avoid baggage by not packing any! Choose to face your spouse and resolve an issue or leave it behind. Packing it for later use only gives you a sore back and cranky spirit.
- Develop a multi-faceted realtionship. Be friends, lovers, co-parents.
- Foster healthy relationships outside marriage. Women need to hang out and do “girl” stuff.” Men need to hang out and do “guy stuff.”
- Don’t assume. We can’t read each other’s minds and no matter how sure we are of our spouse’s motivation, it’s always better to ask instead of assume.
- Expect changes. You’ve (hopefully) grown in the last several years. You’ll continue to grow and change. So will your spouse.
- Take time for each other. Every day.
- Clean up each other’s messes. Big stuff and little stuff.
- Take responsibility. Don’t blame your parents, kids, work, etc. Grow up and own up.
- Remember it’s not about us. We made a commitment to both ourselves and God. To break one shatters the other.
- Have hope. When times are tough, hope for better. When times are good, hope for better.
Marriage should be honored by everyone, and husband and wife should keep their marriage pure. Hebrews 13:4
Learn the truth and never reject it. Get wisdom, self-control, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23