For years, I have been the curious friend to ask my newlywed friends what they are learning from marriage. The first months and year of married life bring so many new things to experience and navigate, especially if you are moving in together for the first time and I loved getting their feedback on some of the things that were most surprising to them!
As Josh and I just celebrated our 1 year anniversary this past weekend, I have been contemplating this for my own marriage and wanted to share some of the things I have learned over the last year of being a wife. Life is funny though. Some of these things I have heard, but only really understood the depths of over the last year. Hopefully this will give you some insight into your own future marriage, but I also hope you can give yourself some grace when you find yourself re-learning it when the time comes :)
1. Make His Coffee
I fight it a lot. I see the coffee pot and know it would be sweet to brew him a cup (I drink a cold coffee from a bottle in the fridge!), but I just don’t wanna. I want to start my morning off and go spend time reading my Bible and becoming more like Jesus…
You see what I did there?
We have the opportunity everyday to be the hands of Jesus to our spouse. There are literally sooooooo many chances when you are living with someone day in and day out. By making his coffee, I learned that one person’s selfless acts have the power to start a ripple effect of love, softness, generosity, & putting others first!
If it feels that we have gotten into a funk or have gotten a little selfish, I have found that just by one of us choosing to do something as simple as make coffee for the other person, we start the cycle of showing love and care for one another in actions. This is especially true if you have married a Godly man. A man of good character, who can feel the Holy Spirit’s leading will see your selfless act and want to do the same for you, thus starting the cycle!
The beauty in this lesson is that it only takes one to start it and the simplest things can mean so much!
“If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated.”
2. Sex and Prayer Should Happen Regularly
Sex and prayer are 2 really important parts of a marriage. Both lead to different types of connections that help to create a healthy marriage. There may be times when you and your spouse desire those connections on different levels, so it’s important to communicate that and to make it happen constantly, not just when you feel like it!
It doesn’t seem sexy to have post it notes to remind you to kiss your husband and it doesn’t feel super spiritual to set reminder on your phone to pray with him, but the truth is that life gets busy, we get into routines, and things fall through the cracks! So in an attempt to not let those really important things get skipped, we have to be intentional and pursue them in any way possible.
“So don’t refuse sex to each other, unless you agree not to have sex for a little while, in order to spend time in prayer. Then Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
1 Corinthians 7:5
3. Don’t allow others to effect your marriage
Influence of friends, job stresses, and family issues all have the potential to bring a toxicity into your relationship. I never realized how big of an impact people outside of your marriage can have on the health of your private relationship. Over the past year, the times that were the toughest between Josh and I did not actually have anything to do with us. They all included other peoples influences, and ultimately our lack of boundaries.
When I fight with my sister I can’t come home and make Josh my punching bag. When Josh is stressed out at work, he can’t get off the phone and snap at me out of frustration. We may deal with difficult things outside of the home, but it is important to remember that I’m still responsible for my own response. We can’t blame anyone else for how we ultimately treat our spouse.
Venting with your spouse is really different than taking those frustrations out on them. I think the biggest difference is that when you are sharing the issue with your spouse, you acknowledge what is REALLY bothering us. This helps the other person to know the root of the problem, so that when they see a bad mood, they don’t get offended or defensive, assuming we are mad at them and end up compounding the problem.
It’s necessary to learn to handle those stresses, so that we can give our spouse our best, not just the leftovers from a frustrating day, because a marriage is made up the everyday. You are the only two ultimately responsible for the condition of your marriage. No one else will protect your marriage for you.. it is up to you to do that!
“ … ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
4. Give Grace Freely & Without Measure
On the flip side of that coin, if you are the one to receive the shortness or impatience, because of those outside influences, try to recognize what is at the core.
It’s a great habit for life, to learn to look past peoples actions to what is actually going on.
- Look to their intentions. We can offend people with out even meaning to. Were they trying to do something else, but it came out wrong?
- Look to their environment. We are way more influenced by our environment than we realize. What are they dealing with? What kind of stresses are they experiencing that may have made them lose their patience?
- Look to their heart. We are all imperfect. What is their normal pattern? Is this an isolated incident?
Have you ever had an experience where someone was hard on you, and because of that it made you more critical or hard on them? There is something natural in us that wants to dish out what we receive, so learn to dish out graciousness and you will surely see more graciousness from your spouse when you need it. Like the kindness cycle that we spoke about above, making allowances for our spouses shortcomings can also start a beautiful cycle of grace giving.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
5. Take advantage of your kidless years
After you have been married a while… 3 months it seems… people start asking when you plan to have kids. My response has been that we are enjoying our time as a married couple and we have a few more things we’d like to do in this season before we transition to the next.
When Josh had a work conference to go to in Vegas, I said no at first because of the usual reasons, work, money, time, etc. But when I thought about one of my goals for the year – to have fun and celebrate our marriage – I decided that now was the time to do it! When kids come, it may be hard to find a sitter for these spontaneous trips, or I just may not want to leave them. I hated to think that I may look back later and think “Why didn’t you go when it was easier to go!?”, so I decided to go and we had the best time together!
Having children will be wonderful when it happens – it will bring it’s own love, fun, lessons, & challenges. But once you enter into parenthood there is no going back! Those newlywed, childless years will be gone and you will wonder why you spent one phase of life just racing to the next phase. So learn to enjoy whatever season of life you are in, squeeze out all the goodness you can from it, so when you leave it you can look back with the sweetest of memories and no regrets.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
6. It’s OK to go to bed without resolution
This was a big one for me! Those early months of marriage it seems that I could NOT go to bed without wanting to talk out our little argument and get it resolved. But what I have learned is that not every argument needs to be solved in life, but especially not always before bed. Time helps to put so much into perspective . We have found that the morning brings a lightness and a reality of the important things in life, so what seemed like a big deal before bed, actually feels really petty. Time also allows you to be less emotional and think with a clear head, so your conversation is more thought out and less of a knee jerk reaction.
We have also learned that softness with each other goes a long way for both of us. If we had a little fight, it doesn’t matter what it was about, if Josh puts his hand on me and says “I love you. Come cuddle with me”, it’s pretty much over even though it’s not technically “resolved” and we can go to bed at peace. I can’t tell you how many nights I wish I would have just chosen to cuddle up to him and go to bed without needing to completely dissect every little thing.
So just know that the wee hours of the night are not always the best time to work through your relationship issues & you might wake up to realize they aren’t even issues at all! So kiss each other goodnight, say “I love you” and talk about it in the morning.
“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”
7. Play to Your Strengths
When it comes to roles in a marriage, I think that the Bible speaks about some things and then society and culture (like most things) takes it a few steps further. One thing that has become evident over the past year is that we both have different areas of strength and weakness when it comes to household chores, but they don’t necessarily coincide with what society says!
Josh is our main cook and I love this fact a little more every day. He cooks delicious meals, can create anything with what we have in the house, and grocery shops with me like a pro! It comes naturally to him and he enjoys it way more than I do. When I cook I tend to stress out and have to cook by a recipe, which means no talking, because I have to really concentrate on the measurements and the steps, etc.
I on the other hand absolutely love putting things together. I find it relaxing to put together furniture pieces (even Ikea) together, set up lights and hang frames. Figuring out how to do things and seeing the end result is so satisfying to me! Josh on the other hand wants it done now. He doesn’t want it to take long and after about 10 minutes of working on it he can get frustrated with it.
We laughed that before our Christmas party last year, Josh was inside cooking up all our food and I was outside hanging the lights. We were both working in our strengths and enjoyed doing it! Had we switched places, we would have both probably greeted our guests frustrated and worn out, instead of energized and ready to party.
So don’t worry so much about what you think you should be doing and play to your strengths. You don’t have to be “susie homemaker” to be a good wife. You will be the best (and less stressed) wife when you can start to recognize and operate where you are gifted.
“Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well.”
1 Peter 4:10
8. Laughter is so good for a marriage
There was a short period of time over the last year where we really didn’t laugh a ton. I didn’t notice it at the time, but when we started to laugh again I realized that it had been too long. I had missed it so much. I missed the little wrinkles that Josh gets around his eyes when he laughs with his whole face and the sound he makes when he laughs his deep belly laugh. It did something good for my soul to see that again.
If you aren’t laughing regularly, make every effort to pursue that joy and laughter together. Even something silly like wrestling or singing songs to each brings us to tears of laughter and it refreshes us both – to laugh and to see that joy in the other person.
For a goal-oriented person like me, I tend to focus on the deeps conversations, intentional questions, and pursuit of goals as a couple. We need that, but we also need to just have fun together sometimes! (Funnily enough this is one of my goals for the year…) So if I would have any advice for you planners out there, PLAN to have fun and be spontaneous! ;)
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
9. Shut screens down 30 before bed
You have probably heard about this a thousand times, the sad scenario of husbands and wives, staring at their phones before bed, scrolling for an hour and then giving their spouse a quick kiss goodnight! We have unfortunately joined the statistics. It snuck up on us and happened easier than I thought!
I’ll be honest I learned this lesson accidentally. My intention for putting the phones away before bed was a selfish one at first. I am a super light sleeper and was used to having a bed to myself for so long, so sleeping with someone was a big adjustment for me! Any movement Josh made would wake me up. After many nights of little sleep, I decided I wanted to try to get him to sleep deeper (so I could sleep deeper), so when I read about all the effects that looking at our phones before bed has on us, I asked him if we could try to turn off the phones about 30 minutes before bed to talk or read together.
We did it and found that not only did we sleep better, but we got to have some intentional time before bed. Whether it was reading, praying, laughing, or kissing we had sweet quality time together! We haven’t yet made this a habit, but it’s something we strive for and can see the effects of it when we do.
“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
10. Voice Your Expectations but hold them Loosely
We all have expectations for certain things – holidays, special occasions, daily activities, and weekends. The problem we get into is when we get upset with our spouse when those expectations are not met, sometimes even without them knowing what your expectations are.
Last weekend, Josh and I made plans to go to a nice restaurant for dinner and eat our wedding cake after to celebrate our one year anniversary. Dinner was great, we had intentional conversation (more on that in a post next week), and they even surprised us with complimentary cotton candy, champagne, and a chocolate dessert! It was so good, but way more sweets than I have been used to eating, so I was not feeling having our cake when we got home. I asked Josh if we could do it the next night, but he got really bummed out. This tiny situation blew up into something so dumb. When we talked about it the next morning (see #6), he told me that he was disappointed about not eating the cake, because it was really important to him. He had been looking forward to it for weeks, maybe months… that cake was delicious, and was excited to just chat about the wedding and the last year over the cake that was actually there a year ago.
Had I known that it was something important to him, I would have powered through my sugar coma and had a few bites. To him it wasn’t about the cake, but the milestone it represented.
After we talked we went to church and our pastor spoke about enjoying the journey, even the detours, and we both realized that we needed to be more flexible, so that when plans change we can still enjoy ourselves!
So for our one year anniversary we learned to speak up about what we expect for certain events, trips, etc, but to also hold loosely to those expectations, knowing that joy can be found in whatever detour we find ourselves in.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
Hopefully my year of trial and error helps you to start your marriage with just a little more wisdom, like my friends advice helped me! To all my married women, what lessons have you learned from this refining institution of marriage???