Marriage was always a scary thing for me. All the women in my family have been divorced at least twice, so as far as I understood, “Marriage just wasn’t for us,” and I was perfectly fine living my best single life in New York, reliving Sex and the City episodes.
Imagine my surprise when I found the person I wanted to marry at 21. I literally told my friend, “I am either going to marry him or I am going to become a nun because I can’t imagine committing my life to anyone else.” The reason I was so dramatic about it was because I knew that marriage was not going to be easy at all. It would challenge every part of me and as far as I knew, it was near impossible to remain married (based on my family history).
So here we are, seven years in, and I was totally right. Marriage is really hard and challenging. But it’s also really rewarding and fun. We have grown, matured, messed up, and pivoted together.
Here are a few of the lessons I have taken away from my time as a wife so far:
1. Argue like you want the other person to win.
We got this advice from Francis Chan’s book “You and Me Forever” when we first got married. This quote always stood out to me because it’s so counter-intuitive. How can you argue but let the other person win? But how will they know that you’re right? How is your pride ever going to feel affirmed?
Early on we learned to put our pride aside and realized that being right doesn’t mean being happy. Winning by yourself makes your ego feel good for a moment. Winning as a couple makes your marriage good for a lifetime.
2. Put marriage on a schedule.
Whether it’s sex, date night, or just quality time together, I never judge people for scheduling their marriage. I get when people crave romance and spontaneity, but I think the most romantic thing someone can do for me is be intentional.
It’s so romantic to me when my husband and I honor our marriage the same way we honor work, an appointment, or lunch with friends. It’s so romantic to me when my husband and I respect each other’s goals and hobbies while not neglecting our beautiful marriage. For us, having a schedule creates freedom, not restrictions.
3. Remember that your partner is a good person.
This might seem like a weird statement, but I know sometimes I act as if I don’t know that my husband is actually a good person with good intentions. We can all admit we have so many childhood traumas, disappointments, and trust issues; marriage can feel like a perpetual war zone. Do you find yourself thinking, “It’s not if he will let me down, it’s when.” Or are you the person that thinks, “I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Everyone else has left me and abandoned me, why wouldn’t they leave me too?” Or maybe you’re just protecting yourself with, “If I don’t look out for myself, who will?”
But what if every offense wasn’t looked at as a malicious act meant to trigger every past wound, but instead as a simple mistake or human error from someone who is also less than perfect? It has taken a lot of time and effort, but I try to remember that though my husband is not perfect, I know he wouldn’t intentionally go out of his way to hurt me, humiliate me, or manipulate me.
4. Look at your money together.
We are those people that share all of our bank account and budget for everything with both of our incomes. This might not work for you, but for us, it was a no-brainer, as we have financial goals that we would like to accomplish together. Sharing our finances became a daily practice of trusting each other and being honest about our fears and anxieties. There wasn’t much we could sweep under the rug, so talking about finances became an opportunity for growth in intimacy and conflict resolution.
Instead of avoiding arguments, we learned how to have healthy, respectful, and honoring conflict. This helped us feel more unified instead of divided. The budget, much like the schedule that I talked about earlier, provides freedom and margin that we need.
5. Pray for each other.
I try to pray for my husband daily. Though we don’t pray for each other out loud all the time, he knows I think about him. That fact alone helps us to remember that even when we are not together, we are unified and grateful for each other. Over the years, I have noticed how important my prayers for him are actually making a bigger difference in me; how I see him and how I think of him.
Even when we get caught up in the busyness of our lives, when I thank God for my husband and for the specific things that he does, I notice that my heart turns toward him in gratitude. In the midst of a difficult season, I notice that I have more compassion because of my prayers. Even when we don’t seem to connect well, when I pray for my husband’s character and goals, I start to see how God is working in this life and his heart.
If you’re not a fan of prayer, I challenge you to focus on gratitude and positive thoughts about your spouse. I bet that will change the way you feel about them pretty quickly.
6. Be a safe space.
I know I need safe spaces in my life to feel like I can be authentic, honest, and loved. We all want our home to be this way for our kids; a respite from the difficulties of the world. We all want our friendships to be this way too; our best friend feeling totally comfortable to tell us even the scariest secret. I think we have to work even more intentionally to make sure our spouses have a safe place with us, too.
But as much as we might want it, it’s not easy to build a safe space. It takes time, trust, and a lot of intentionality. If this is lacking in your marriage, all you can do is start with yourself. When your partner shares a dream or a goal with you, do you react in a way that welcomes their ideas or shuts them down? Do you listen and show genuine interest in what they are saying when they share their thoughts? When a fear or doubt comes up, do you dismiss it or panic? Are you rolling your eyes, shutting down, or thinking about something else while they share? If your partner notices your efforts, pretty soon a culture of vulnerability and authenticity will be created.
7. Have fun together!
I know people talk about this all the time but I really think it’s so important. Life is so intense sometimes; conversations seem to always get so serious, and every decision you make as a family feels monumental. You have to add some fun and silliness to your lives.
We love watching funny movies together, indulging in mindless entertainment, playing silly board games, or just recalling funny memories together. Maybe you can even take the time to participate or learn your partner’s hobbies or teach them about yours. We need moments to remind ourselves not to take ourselves so seriously. We need moments to remember that not all of life is heavy and grim; there is joy too! And it’s so important to share this joy together.
Marriage is work, but it’s also supposed to be fun. We can all get a little bit more creative. In the end, when we focus on clear communication, encouragement, and our family values, we will build marriages that will last. I love the marriage my husband and I had in the “honeymoon” stage. But now, being seven years in, I love this stage even more. It’s deeper, more mature, more compassionate, and filled with a lot of grace. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I would love to hear from you in the comments! Let me know how long you’ve been married and what was the best advice you’ve ever received.