What marriage advice would you give a newly engaged couple? (doing research for a paper)Okay, so let's get into this. First off, I would like to make it known that I am by no means an expert on the subject... everything I say may not be right for you, but this is what works for us.
1. Be sure. Be 100% sure. When I met Mike in 2010, I told a friend I was with that first night, "that boy is going to change my world." Boy, did he. I knew there was something different about him. I knew this would be a relationship unlike any I had ever encountered. I could feel it in my bones. Even after he stood me up for our first date... even after we realized we would both be challenging. When he got down on one knee in front of me and my whole family and pulled out that ring.... everything inside of me screamed YES! I knew. I never doubted it, even when I was mad and said I doubted it, inside I knew differently. I never really doubted it.
Now let's flash back a few years, before I met Mike. This is something I don't like to talk about but I think is important to mention here. Something I wish I had known when I was younger. Just because a man proposes to you, doesn't mean you have to say yes. If he's not the one God wants for you to marry, you will know. You will have doubts. Major doubts. I was engaged once before, a long time ago. When that guy got down on one knee everything inside of me cringed and screamed, no No NO DON'T DO THIS. But then what do you do when this guy with a diamond is down on one knee, I heard the word 'yes' come out of my mouth... but I knew it just wasn't right. It would, thankfully, not last very long. I knew in my bones that he was not the one for me... it led to a bitter end of a relationship that should have ended years before.
You hear that cliche' "when you know, you know" ?? Well I believe that 100% Mike and I were only together 7 months when he proposed. We just knew. Without a doubt in my mind or my heart I married the one true love of my life.
2. Divorce is not an option. I'm not talking extreme circumstances... I'm just saying too many people divorce because "it's too hard" or "I'm unhappy" or "I fell out of love". Don't buy into the worldly view that if it doesn't work out, we will get a divorce, but for now we will be happy. Don't make divorce an option in your marriage. Don't even use the word. Even in the heat of the worst fights, do not use this word. Divorce is a virus that is running rampant and spreading evil throughout the world. Marriage is a covenant made before GOD. The two joined in this manner are quite literally becoming one in the eyes of their creator. [[See Mark chapter 10]]
And Jesus said to them, “Because of your ehardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But ffrom the beginning of creation, ‘God made them gmale and female.’ 7 h‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,1 8 and ithe two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 jWhat therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
3. Staying on this subject, let's talk about love. People talk about love as if it is an emotion... and it is. BUT it is so much more. Love is an action verb. Love is something you have to commit to every single day. You choose to love. Every day when you wake up, say to yourself... I love this person. When you act "love" you feel love. Those initial feelings of "this person can do no wrong and the world is all butterflies and rainbows" WILL go away. When that happens, many people choose to throw in the towel. It IS a choice. You can choose to stop loving. Don't. Do something nice for your spouse to show them love as often as you can... no matter how big or small. My husband brings me flowers nearly every week, that gesture always fills my heart to overflowing with the knowledge that he loves me without even hearing the words.
I show love by baking something special, cooking for him or cleaning up after him without complaining. It may sound old fashioned, but when my husband comes home from a long day and has to work on homework for hours and goes to bed late, then gets up the next morning and finds all his work clothes already clean and ready to wear... he knows he is loved. Love is an action. Do everything you can to show love... not just the words or physical love... although those are very important, your spouse needs to know without a doubt that no matter what happens in your life, you will always be there to love them.
Loving someone sometimes means going to bed angry (despite what nearly everyone will tell you). It's much better to go to bed angry and wake up calm the next day than to say something unloving that you will later regret and that your spouse will remember for a very long time.
Everyone loves in a different way, learn what works for you and your spouse and do it. (I've been meaning the read The 5 Love Languages, a book about what shows love for different types of people). What works for me does not work for my husband and vice versa. You think he'd get all giddy over a flower? Please... but his cup runs over with knowledge that I love him when I hug him or kiss him on the cheek when he least expects it... or I randomly tell him I am proud of him and respect him beyond measure. And if he's reading this... I really do my dear husband... You are truly the greatest man I know.
4. Think twice before complaining about your spouse. Chances are the things that you are fighting about are silly and you will get over it before you know it, but bringing other people into your so-called problems will make them linger. I'm not saying you won't have legitimate arguments about important things or that your spouse will never seriously hurt your feelings... I'm saying, when you talk bad about your spouse or complain about them to your friends, they will remember it. They will also, mostly innocently, bring those times up again when they hear you complaining yet again. This action puts you on the "other" side of the team... you should ALWAYS try to stay on your partner's side. You are a team.... you are THE team. You should always always make an effort to uplift your spouse instead of putting them down, even if you think they will never know about it.
Everyone makes this mistake at times, it's just human nature to "gossip". Just try not to. Trust me, your marriage will benefit from the constant "lifting up" of one another, and soon it will be second nature to you... you will see your spouse in a different light than you see the rest of the world. They will never be perfect, but it is important to remind yourself (and those around you) that they are perfect for you.
When you do talk to your friends or your friends talk to you about their marriages, be supportive and understanding and never talk down their spouse. Yes, there are moments you will inadvertenly blurt out "no he didn't!" but try to avoid the "what a jerk" comments and instead say things like "I'm sorry you're upset" or "you guys love each other, this is just a rough patch". I can't even count the number of times that my best friend and I have reassured each other over the years through our marriages. Sometimes you do need an outside ear to listen, but be cautious about who you choose. Choose someone who you know will be rational. Someone who supports Team "Mr. and Mrs." Someone who understands the importance of keeping the integrity and closeness in your marriage.
5. I had a patient at work recently that had been married for 64 years. My favorite question to ask such couples is, "what is your secret to staying married for so long?" Her response? "I've just enjoyed it!" I could see the love shining from her face as she said those words. Seems simple right?
Often times life gets in the way, and you forget to simply enjoy your marriage. There are things to worry about, work to be done, bills to pay, disasters at every turn, children to take care of... infertility... miscarriage... a countless number of things that can make you actually forget to enjoy your marriage!! Have fun together... make special time for each other every week, even if it's something small. Mike and I like to go sit at the bar at firebird's, have a steak and a glass of wine and watch whatever game is on. We do this almost every week, it's our special little simple "together" time, time to unwind, leave all our problems behind and just hang out together. The time doesn't always have to be anything big like a vacation or anything romantic like a fancy date... it can just be laying together on the couch watching a movie. The intimacy of being able to just be with someone and relax is amazing and important. Be each other's best friend. What is better than getting to spend EVERY day with your best friend?!
6. Stop thinking grass may be greener on the other side. This is a dangerous way of thinking. Everyone's grass needs tending. No one's marriage is perfect, and every marriage takes work. Just know that marriage doesn't have to entirely be work!! It's dangerous to think there are perfect marriages because you will always feel like yours is falling short. It's not... life is what you make it. My husband's saying of "it is what it is" used to irritate and infuriate me, it seemed like such a blow-off... but there are things in life you can't change or always fix! And that is okay! The important thing is that you are willing to make the effort to tend your marriage's "grass". The more you nurture your relationship, the better it will be... and the "work" feeling will diminish. Whatever you do... do it together, and your marriage will be strong and healthy and beautiful... your grass will be beautiful. :)
7. Do not make yourself or your spouse number one in your marriage.
Wait... What??? Yeah I know... don't do it.
Make GOD number one. Always. If God is the one leading your marriage, there is no way you can fail. Pray together, worship together, put your spouse above other people, but never EVER above God. I wish I had known this on the day we got married. I vaguely knew it but I didn't KNOW it, or at least I didn't know how to do it. This is something we have learned together over the years. We had to learn to follow God's plan for our lives (and our marriage) and it has grown better with every passing moment. It hasn't always been easy but... Relationships THRIVE when God is at the center of them. Growing closer to God individually and together will bring the deepest love and appreciation and happiness that you can ever imagine... sometimes even way more than you can imagine. Any marriage can succeed as long as God is leading the way of two willing hearts.
So, Lauren, I hope these are the answers you were looking for... probably way more than you wanted to hear, but these are my thoughts. At least part of them : )
The only thing I would say I would do differently had I known how our marriage would turn out, is to slow down. I would have concentrated less on what the wedding should be and more on what our marriage should be like. The best thing we ever did during our engagement was a church-based marriage counseling using the book "Love & Respect" by Emerson Eggerichs. We still look back at it from time to time when we are feeling frustrated and not understanding one another. Men and women will always react and/or think differently about almost every situation... so don't expect the other person to read your mind! Use your words, even when you feel like you shouldn't have to explain yourself... explain yourself anyways, you'll be amazed at how many arguments you avoid that way.
And to those readers out there who are thinking about getting married or engaged? Pray for direction and guidance from God. You don't need luck. You just love. Love each other every day and thank God for every day that you get to spend together. The rest, you can figure out... as long as you're willing to figure it out together.
With everything that has happened in our time together, a little bad and a lot of good. I am thankful for every second of it, because I get to spend the rest of my life with this man.
For those of you looking for an update to our story... there isn't too much news, but one is coming soon.