Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Billy Graham, said, “Love is not only ‘the union of two good forgivers,’ but also ‘the union of two good appreciators.'” Can’t say it better than that!
It’s important to remember that marriage is blending the lives of two sinners together. YOU are a sinner. YOU are deeply flawed and selfish. And you are marrying a sinner who is also deeply flawed and selfish. Getting married doesn’t automatically turn you into amazingly perfect, selfless people.
Sometimes, romance doesn’t look like flowers and fancy dates. Maybe it looks like one of you doing the dishes because you know the other one hates doing them. Maybe it’s finding a heart drawn in the fog on the mirror when you get out of the shower. Maybe it’s just putting your phones away for an hour, sitting on the couch, and talking about your week. Your methods of showing affection will deepen in value, and gestures of love take on brand new meaning as seasons of life change.
Never, ever, EVER compare yourself or your marriage to others, especially via social media. You will end up feeling prideful or resentful, and neither is healthy.
Know that for every expectation you have for your spouse, they will have one for you too. You’ll find out really fast how “stuck in your ways” both of you are. But also know that while both of your expectations may be valid, you both need to bend a little. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect your spouse to do all the changing and adjusting in your relationship while you refuse to adapt a little for them.
Your marriage relationship is a picture to the rest of the world about the way God loves His people. Are you displaying an accurate picture?
You will never completely fulfill each other. I know it may be hard to imagine (partially because movies have given us unrealistic expectations for the things our spouse is ‘supposed’ to do and say), but there will always be gaps that no one but the Lord can fill. Ruth Bell Graham also wisely said, “I pity the married couple who expect too much from one another. It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain. The same goes for the man who expects too much from his wife.”
Guard your heart persistently. There are so many things competing for your attention – romance novels, sex-saturated movies, pornography, flirtatious coworkers – and Satan will use as many as he can to steal your affection for your spouse, in obvious ways and scarily subtle ways. Don’t let him. Protect your marriage.
Don’t forget that you are on the same team! When you face conflict, try to view the situation as “the couple vs. the problem” rather than “the husband vs. the wife.” You are teammates on the same side, not enemies in opposite corners of a boxing ring.
Respect and kindness are gifts. At some point (even if it’s just for one 10-minute argument), your spouse will not deserve them. Give them anyway. They are much easier to give when they are earned, but it is much more powerful to give them when they aren’t.
Learn to pick your battles, because some things just aren’t worth arguing about. Don’t look for reasons to be upset. Instead, think long-term and ask yourself, “Ten years from now, will I be glad I fought for this? How important will it be in a few decades that we didn’t agree about this, or that he did what I wanted?”
Pride will ruin your relationship. You will become mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unhealthy very quickly if you are too stubborn to ask for forgiveness, to accept a genuine apology, or to ask for help when you need it.
Physical attraction and sexual compatibility are a really shaky foundation to build your life on. They are like lighter fluid on a relationship: it will burn hot and bright for a short while, but when there is no other substance underneath to fuel it, the flame will inevitably fade and fail.
Make having fun a priority in married life, not just in your dating life. Don’t let new responsibilities and schedules and busyness dampen your spirit and spontaneity. Marriage can be SO FUN, more fun than anything else you do, so decide that fun is important and make time for it!
Learn your spouse’s love language as early as possible, and look for ways to show your affection in the way that means the most to him or her – acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch, or words of affirmation.
So often, when someone has a problem with his or her spouse, they talk to everyone else BUT their spouse about it. Don’t do this. If your husband is frustrating you, talk to HIM about it and deal with it together.
The best time to invest in your marriage is before you’re struggling. Read marriage books together, go to a conference, or plan a weekend getaway somewhere specifically to spend time reconnecting. The time and money you sacrifice will be worth it in the long run.
Pray so hard for your marriage. Never stop praying for each other and with each other. Pray as if your lives depend on it, because they do.
This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?