One of my nephews got married this weekend. Congratulations to Jordan and Emily! Big Poppa and I were unable to attend however, the event did spark some reminiscing about our early married years. Let’s just say that we’ve come a long way. There’s nothing like new love, it’s full of hopes and dreams of happily ever after. Although we are very happily married now, obviously every moment hasn’t been what one could consider “marital bliss”. Truth be told, that’s the case in most marriages. Last night, after a very pleasant date night, we considered what advice we would give to this couple (or any other newlywed couple, for that matter) to help them along this journey. The following is what we came up with. There was some other stuff, but it wasn’t very helpful, just funny.
1. STAY ROOTED IN YOUR FAITH. Without understanding what our God-given roles are for marriage we surely would have been lost. We believe this is the single most important ingredient to a successful marriage.
2. TALK, TALK AND THEN TALK SOME MORE. I was once told by a very wise man that, “Marriage is an uphill battle at best! But, if you can communicate with each other, you have 50% of the battle won.” That wise man was my father. I don’t necessarily agree with his description of marriage being an uphill battle, but I do agree that the ability to speak freely, although respectfully, to exchange ideas and feel valued is a basic requirement for a successful marriage. There really should be no secrets or anything that you’re afraid to talk about.
3. BE FINANCIALLY INTIMATE. This is hard, but so very necessary. Full financial disclosure is necessary BEFORE you say “I do” because the last thing that you want are surprises that will ultimately need to be dealt with by the both of you. Discuss your financial styles – Big Poppa’s a saver, while I’m a spender. There were compromises to be made. I made sure that he understood that I have to have a shoe budget while, he made sure I understood that there are limits. The truth is that if you can reach a budget that is fair to both of you, works well for your family and provides you with financial stability, you will have conquered one of the biggest obstacles for a lot of marriages.
4. KEEP LOVE ALIVE. Trust us, there will be a day when, for whatever reason, you don’t find each other so attractive. Maybe you’ve gained a little weight, or you’ve gotten older or you have on your uniform yoga pants and one of your array of Target t-shirts with the least spit up stains on it from your most recent baby and you have yet taken a shower and it’s six o’clock at night. Yea, I know…not so sexy. Or, it may have nothing to do with looks at all, but life has stepped in and you are too busy, too tired and too distracted to really focus on each other. This is when you have to work harder! He has to let her know that he is not taking her for granted and that she is still attractive to him. While, she has to work harder at letting him know that she appreciates him and she still wants his attention. It’s all about balance. Big Poppa thinks I’m hot, even in yoga pants and a stained t-shirt.
5. KIDS = GAME CHANGER. In all likelihood, even before you walked down the aisle someone was already talking to you about having children (grandmothers!). Our advice is to take your time! Enjoy each other’s company and the freedom that you have without children. Take the time to strengthen your relationship because having children brings on a whole new set of issues. If you don’t have a strong marriage, you will not be effective parents. So, WAIT!
6. TRUST. Please don’t go looking for trouble. It’s never okay to snoop through each other’s things (including cell phones), follow them around or be overly suspicious. More often than not, there is nothing going on, but your behavior will push them away and is really disrespectful.
7. KEEP YOUR FAMILY OUT OF YOUR BUSINESS (ESPECIALLY YOUR MOMMA!). My sister-in-law is not going to like this, but it’s true. Family members have a hard time being objective (I include myself in this one). Yes, have a support system of people to talk to and offer advice but, not your family.
8. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE SUPPORT. Be honest, we all have that one friend that never has anything nice or encouraging to say. She or he is the one that if you went to them after a fight with your spouse and started opening up, they would say “I knew it wouldn’t work and here’s why…”. My advice is to dump that friend but, if you just can’t bring yourself to do that then, do not talk to them about your marriage. Talk to them about other important stuff like Dancing With the Stars or Downton Abbey or Scandal, but not your marriage. When it comes to your marriage, you need people who are going to encourage you to stick it out no matter what.
9. RESPECT EACH OTHER’S PERSONAL SPACE. This is a good one especially for young people. It’s great to have your thing as a couple, but it’s also good to have your own thing as individuals. You don’t have to give up your own personal interests just because you are now married. Keep pursuing your individual interests (that is, unless it’s dating other people because that would be a problem) because it makes you a well-rounded person.
10. BECOME REAL FRIENDS (HE’S/SHE’S GOT MY BACK). Be the loyal friend to your spouse that you need them to be to you.
The one thing that is common to all ten of the items on this list is the need to be intentional. A successful marriage doesn’t just happen, but it is the result of intentional actions. There really is no such thing as “happily ever after” on its own. No, no, no, no, no! It takes work. I think that I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: marriage is not for the weak or the faint of heart, but it takes hard work and persistence. However, when it’s good, it’s awesome! Best of luck to you both!