This is part 2 of the collaborative posts with Lisa Graf of Mom Blog. The series is called Wedded Bliss Wednesdays. You’ll find Lisa’s answers in purple and mine are in red. This is a great way to help our readers who are engaged or newlyweds, but if you’ve married for awhile, don’t check out now – we think you’ll be challenged as well. And we want to hear from you in the comments.
“Oh that’ll never be us.” Classic dating/engaged/newlywed line usually followed up within 5 years by a “Oh that is us.” If I could rewind my relationship with my husband I wouldn’t change anything, because I’m sure we wouldn’t be where we are now. However, if I would have mastered/adhered to/believed in a few concepts earlier on, I would have saved myself a lot of heartache. Lisa’s Top 3 Pieces of Advice are in Purple & Debi’s Top 3 are in Red.
First, I would like to share what our marriage preparation was like back in 1979. We were given the book “Act of Marriage,” by Tim and Beverly LaHaye. It was and still is an excellent book. However, I was too embarrassed to read everything in the book. Sad, I know. I was most likely more naive than many women are who get married today, but just in case, I highly recommend face-to-face premarital counseling with another wiser, more seasoned couple. Someone who is familiar with the awkwardness and insecurities of a nineteen year old. If I had had such an opportunity, I might have overcome much of my anxiety about getting married. I was blessed with a husband who not only understood and loved me, but who was willing to walk me through it all.
1) The D-Word
Nope, not ‘darn’ or any vulgar 4 letter variable. D-i-v-o-r-c-e is a word that should never exit your mouth or better yet never, enter your thoughts. Our society has carried the fast food/instant gratification attitude into parts of life that should never have anything instant. I am not advocating you stay in an unhealthy relationship where you are emotionally, mentally or physically being abused for the sake of staying married. I am saying divorce is a big decision. There are legal ramifications and if a child is involved it’s even more difficult. I think previous to tying the knot the decision should be made to not even view this as an option. Are there going to be major disagreements? Yes. Is your spouse going to hurt you? Yes, but I am 100% sure if s/he truly does love you, the pain is not intentional. Are you going to hurt your spouse? Yes, & I’d definitely hope you never intend to do so. If your relationship is taking a digger, which they all go through difficult points eventually; don’t let your pride get in the way of seeking help. A Christian counselor, a neutral 3rd party mediator, a Pastor, any neutral person who is qualified to provide insight into fixing marital issues.
1) Communication would have to be my first choice. If you can effectively communicate together, then you have mastered THE most important key to a successful marriage. Talking about sex, finances, roles – you name it – is not the easiest thing to do when you are newly married. I remember the first time I went grocery shopping after our wedding – Tom didn’t have any spices in the house, so I had to stock up. I think the grand total of the bill was $65! But that was triple what Tom normally spent on groceries. He got angry with me, and what did I do? I told him I would never go grocery shopping without him again. Yeah, I could talk all right, but I certainly wasn’t communicating effectively!
I am not talking about which side of the bed you sleep on or where his ‘side’ ends and your ‘side’ begins in the closet. I am talking about where you will spend your holidays, how much you each divulge to your parents & friends, how involved others are in your life compared to your spouses involvement. As I’ve found it seems the principle of opposites attracting definitely holds true when it comes to marriages. Spouses come from very different upbringings & although those differences proved to be initial reasons of attractions, they come back to bite you in the butt, so to write/speak. Be open in communicating when you need to spend time with your spouse and when you feel others encroaching on that. Always keep priorities in check: God, spouse, children, self.
2) Honesty – this one goes along with communication, but we learned the hard way that there can be dishonest communication. Not helpful at all for a healthy marriage. And it takes both partners owning up to being honest in everything: your past, present and future. If you struggle with sin, which we all do if we’re being honest, then your spouse should know all about it. What are your temptations? When are you most vulnerable to give in to this sin? And how can I help you resist this sin? This should be regular types of communication that goes both ways. For years I was more aware of Tom’s proclivity to sin, than my own. Can you guess what the major sin I was dealing with was? Ding – Ding! PRIDE. I heard someone say recently in regards to a conversation between sisters – one was the so-called “bad girl,” always getting in trouble with their parents. The other sister was the so-called “good girl,” always compliant and never disrespectful to her parents. The “good sister” knew that her sister thought she was perfect. In response she said, “Oh, I’m the biggest sinner for sure! Why? Because you’ll never see my sin. I hide it because the sin I deal with is PRIDE. Your sin seems bigger because we all see it, but in reality you’re in a better place than I’ll ever be, left to myself.”
Wow! How I wish I had heard such advice at the beginning of our marriage. Pride has been a lifelong battle for me, but Tom wasn’t brought into the war until our 18th year of marriage. How different our early years could have been for Tom and for my children had I been more honest about my heart and my struggle.
Women are good at these kinds of things. We are inundated with princesses, castles & prince charmings from birth on. So it’s only natural we’d think our husbands should be Prince Charming swooping in to rescue us and everything will be coming up buttercups right? Not so much. It’s funny how Prince Charming quickly turns into the dirty laundry dropping, white spot mirror splattering, messy cooker/eater, who snores, chews & drinks too loud. Living with someone 24/7, managing finances, managing a house makes many opportunities for disagreements. If you expect your spouse to get clothes in a laundry basket, express that desire in a kind way. “You never get your socks in the basket” is probably not going to get you far in that kind of discussion. The more communicating you do about the expectations you have for your spouse the fewer heated discussions might arise. Remember, a marriage is intended to model Christ’s relationship to the church, a very self sacrificing one. Putting your spouses needs above your own is difficult when it gets down to the nitty gritty of life. You both really want to go to an event, but the budget only allows for 1 person to do 1 thing. Who will go? Tough call! But the buck doesn’t stop there! Not only are we called to lay down our selfish desires and put our spouse’s needs above our own, but we are to do it joyfully. In case you need a reminder joyfully typically doesn’t include huffs, puffs, eye rolls, or hands on the hips, toe slapping the ground.
3) Grace. There is a new book out titled, “Give Them Grace,” by Elyse Fitzpatrick, that encourages parents to train their children from a foundation of Grace. How I wish my marriage had been built on such a foundation. Instead, in my pride, I was judgmental, critical and often quite justified in my mind about my conclusions. I married a humble man. Tom has displayed grace and mercy to me when I didn’t deserve it. How different our early years would have been if my responses to conflict were seasoned with grace, and humility. Yet, God has been faithful to help me in my weakness. He is faithful even when we are not, because He can be no other way.
In conclusion – this post is packed full of 6 powerful challenges for any couple whether you’re about to be married or have been for decades. Honestly go over this list with your husband and see what his thoughts are about these areas of your marriage. You may find a fresh appreciation for the completely opposite person you married. Tom is strong in areas I am weak. His strength has helped me grow beyond my own ability. This is part of us becoming one flesh. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – we are much better together than we could have ever been alone!
What advice do you wish you had been given before you said, “I do?”
This is post #12 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in October
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Tom and Debi
Face it, marriage is hard work. But when cultivated daily the fruit produced will satisfy for a lifetime. We're here to help with ideas and encouragement along the way. Having been married 40 years and counting, we share what we've learned with practical tips, Biblical Truths, Date night ideas to help you plow your own vineyard for God's glory.
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