This year I am especially nostalgic and excited about our marriage as we will be celebrating…drum roll please…. our 10th wedding anniversary!! Yay!! Look at God! You know, I truly can not believe it’s been a whole decade. Where does the time go? As I think back on the beginnings and how we managed to make it this far, I realize that there were a few things that were our saving grace.
Now the early years. Tsk, tsk, tsk. If you’re married, you probably know the years I’m talking about! Those years when reality interrupts the fairy tale with a screeching halt. When there are days you wonder if you’ve been a victim of body snatchers – did someone switch your lovely spouse and leave you with this perfect stranger? Who is this person that’s getting on my nerves right now??! Or perhaps this didn’t happen to you and I am now the only member of the worst wives club. Ha, ha. That’s ok. 🙂
Those early years are usually marked by swift learning curves. You’re learning how to live with your spouse, learning more about this person that you’ve entered into a covenant with while gaining some insight about yourself as well. You’re navigating the delicate dynamics (or dare I say dysfunctions) of extended family relationships. You’re assuming new roles and responsibilities that you received no prior training for – such as new mom, new dad, financial manager, head of household, homemaker, professional diaper changer, work and home juggler and no-cape wearing superhero. In summary, those first few years throw a lot of unexpected things at you individually and as a couple and you’ve got to know how to successfully handle these things to the benefit of your marriage. I was too naive to know what we needed at the onset of our union, so I’m thankful for how God, in His infinite wisdom, positioned us to ensure we would endure. Ok, enough blabbering, here are those 3 things.
- Pre-Marital Counseling
- Small Groups
- Marriage Mentors (that keep it real)
Family dynamics: I think most churches won’t actually marry a couple without them having gone through some type of couples counseling. I totally understand why. These sessions help couples to talk about those difficult, not-so-fun to talk about while you’re in-love subjects such as money, in-laws, parenting and so on. Pre-marital counseling was our first couples therapy session before we even understood what “couples therapy” was! We learnt quite a bit. The pieces that were especially helpful were when we had to explore our extended family dynamics (mother, father, etc.) and how those primary relationships influence our thoughts, experiences and expectations in our own marriage relationship.
Communication: Our Pastor taught us how to use something called “imaging” (like a mirror) to improve our communication skills. Basically, this meant when one spouse says something, the other person repeats it back like “what I heard you say was……”. In repeating back what the spouse said you are clarifying the lines of communication. Why was this helpful to us? Because so many things can get lost in translation, one person says something and rather than the other person actively listening, they instead react and often misconstrue what the other spouse meant in the first place. That’s happened to us (well maybe, me) SO MANY TIMES. We still use that approach to refine our communication skills which is a continual work-in-progress.
2. Church Family
Don’t go it alone!: We are not designed to do life alone. We need each other! Many times in scripture God talks about doing life in community. Hebrews 10:24-25, Galatians 6:2, 1 Peter 3:8 ,etc. This doesnt become any less important when you marry. Yes, of course, learning to be in friendship and love with one another is the first priority. But you are stronger in community – not just any community though – a healthy, trustworthy one. We were able to connect with a couples bible study group at our church. At the time I was also a new believer, barely knowing how to live out my own Christian life, much less one in the context of marriage. The small group was a great introduction to God’s design of biblical marriage and not only the potential challenges that can arise but how we should respond to them.
Great role models: And last but by no means least, finding role models. Marriage mentors to help you and your spouse on the marital journey. People that are going to KEEP IT REAL! We were blessed to have such a couple. We met them in a small group at church and then soon after they began a couples ministry in their home. It was so refreshing to be able to gather with other couples and realize that you’re not the only one that’s struggling in certain areas. They have become dear friends of ours and have always been there for us whenever we needed it. That’s a blessing!
911 Couple: I heard this little tip once. Everyone should have a “911” couple friend. You know, that couple you call when something real crazy is going on! No shame in the game either because there are many issues going on in marriage, yes Christian marriages too, that need 911 attention. Christians are surely not exempt from trials, in fact, we are on the enemy’s radar as he “…prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour“. We had people to call on, but we didn’t have a designated 911 couple. In fun, however, for the first, maybe 3 years or so of our marriage, when my husband did something I didn’t like I would say “I’m gonna call Pastor Clark!!”. Lol. I know my hubby is going to be reading this post, but there were a handful of times when I did, almost, dial our Pastor’s number, for reals. 🙂
Marriage isn’t easy, not by a long shot and we have many more years ahead of us but having put God first in our lives has gotten us to this 10 year mark. Neither of us have been perfect in this union, in fact, what we have seen, is the refining Spirit of God in our lives, taking me and my husband, in our shortcomings (bad attitudes, selfish behavior, naivety) and transforming us into the image of Christ. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had an issue on one thing or another and as we put it to prayer and humble ourselves to each other, it has worked out, eventually, for our good. He is faithful when He says that we can be confident that when He begins a good work in us He will complete it until the coming of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6).
Those are the 3 things that were of the most help to us. Really, those 3 things are superseded only by 1 thing – no matter what you’re going through in your marriage you can call on Jesus for your help. It’s not a cliche thing, it actually works! Ask God for wisdom and guidance and prayerfully seek out others that you can trust to help share the burden.
I hope our experiences have been a help to you and have got you thinking about how to enrich your marriage no matter what stage you might be in. Maybe someone you know could use this encouragement? Please feel free to share. 🙂
If you have any questions about anything I’ve shared, you can contact me here.
How long have you been married? What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten on marriage? What area of marriage are you struggling in right now? Share your heart.