This summer I have several young friends getting married. Mostly millennials, these young women have been asking me for advice. I must seem terribly old to them, but it almost feels like yesterday when I too was walking down the aisle. I had no idea what was ahead and how much I would learn. As we approach our 48th anniversary I guess I have learned a few things—things I wish somebody had told me before I got married.
Here are 10 of them:
- Marriage is like a 2000 piece crossword puzzle. Don’t be in a hurry to get it all figured out in the first year. God is the artist of your marriage. He has the final picture in mind and He is not in a hurry for you to get it all put together. He is FOR your marriage. So relax and enjoy the putting together of this complicated gift. You won’t really ever get it all figured out. But you will enjoy the journey!
- Your husband will never be able to meet all of your needs. It’s not his job to make sure you are always happy. Of course he wants you to be happy but you must not rely on Him to keep you happy. Too often we look to our husband to meet needs that would be better met by going to God first and then to female friends. No man can love you as much as you want to be loved. Only God can. If you run to Him first, your marriage will be enriched.
- Your husband is selfish. So are you. You may be shocked when marriage reveals to you in a new way how selfish you are. When we are single we can focus more on ourselves. But now there’s someone else we are called to serve first. We will blow it over and over again. Be quick to ask forgiveness. You won’t feel like it and you will want to justify yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go to John (and my kids) and say, “I shouldn’t have said or done what I did and I need to ask you to forgive me.” I can’t remember a single time I felt like doing this. We go out of obedience and conviction, not out of feeling. It takes time for feelings to be healed and trust restored. But it begins with asking for and granting forgiveness.
- You still need girlfriends. Pray for God to give you 1 or 2 “soul sisters” with whom you can share your heart. And seek out an older woman who can mentor you. One of the main prayers I pray for my 5 daughters is that God will give each of them an older mentor who loves Christ and will love them. Each of us needs someone who has “been there.” Make sure that your closest girlfriends are women who will push you to the Lord and towards your husband. Avoid hanging out with women who “bash” husbands. Once when I was angry with John and venting to a “soul sister,” she listened, empathized, and then asked me, “Susan what are you doing to move closer to John?” That’s a good friend.
- Let him go play with the boys! And let him have his man cave. Don’t take it personally. It isn’t about you. He needs time alone! And he needs time with guy friends. They fill him in ways that you can’t. It is good for him to cultivate hobbies apart from you. A man with good guy friends and lots of interests is a happier man and a better spouse because of it.
- You are more different than you thought! As you learn your differences, make them work for you rather than pulling you apart. You both have weaknesses and strengths, and different gifts. These differences can irritate. But as you get to know one another make the decision to figure out how to work your differences together to make you both stronger. Take care to compliment one another instead of competing with one another. Believe in your spouse’s ability to change and grow. Encourage him.
- A man views sex differently than a woman. Generally speaking his appetite for sex will be much greater than yours. We are made so differently. Men are usually turned on by sight whereas women are turned on by touch. Women can take longer to “get in the mood.” We are similar to a crock pot- slow to warm up . Men are more like a microwave. Quickly turned on! We like atmosphere-candles, music, etc. And we can be easily distracted. For men it’s more- anytime any place-“I’m not distracted!” Remember that sex can be a comfort to a man. If he’s had a bad day, been rejected or is discouraged, initiate sex with him. It builds him up. If we have an argument with a friend or get a bad job review we’d rather him curl up with us, put his arms around us and tell us it will be okay. And just listen. We are so different! But God made us this way. It helps to view sex as a 20-year warm up! It gets better and better with age.
- Keep your first priority time alone with God. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things (marriage, etc.) will be added unto it.” The best way to build a strong marriage is to make sure you have time alone with God each day to study His word and to pray. Pray for your husband: for God to put other strong believers in his life, for him to hunger for God’s word, for his colleagues, for his decisions, for protection from temptation, etc. God’s word is clear that believers are to marry believers. (2 Corinthians 6:14). If you are not both believers with a hunger to grow it is either the wrong man or the wrong time.
- You have married His family. They are now yours too. She’s not just his mother; she’s yours too. Reach out to her. Communicate with her. Do whatever you can to build a friendship with her. Be patient. It will take time. The first couple of years may be awkward but persist. Taking turns with holidays can be really hard. But you now have 2 families. It will be hard on your own family too! You and your husband should be united in nurturing your relationships with both families. We are called to honor our parents but we are called first to our spouse. You two need to be on the same team.
- Delete the “d” word. Divorce. Don’t allow the thought: Well, if this doesn’t work out then… or maybe we made a mistake, into your thoughts or talks. You are married period. In our first year of marriage I burst into tears and said to John, “Well maybe we never should have gotten married in the first place.” My even-tempered husband got mad. “Susan, don’t you ever, ever say that again. We are married period. And we will work out this argument and future ones. Our marriage is not to be questioned.” With those words he gave me security. And I’ve never said them again!
For the past 20 years John and I have had the privilege of speaking at the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember. We highly recommend this marriage weekend to you. You can read my perspective on this marriage retreat here.