I am recently married – my husband Chase and I will celebrate our second anniversary this year – and I remember one of the most common things I heard from others when we announced our engagement was: “Just wait until the ‘honeymoon phase’ is over, you guys are going to be miserable!”
What a weird thing to say to someone about to get married, right? And it appears that I am not alone in receiving that advice either. Many young couples are entering into marriage surrounded by apparent naysayers claiming that they will surely hate each other before long. On top of continuously rising divorce rates and people’s marriage problems being blasted all over social media like never before, getting married doesn’t seem to be worth it anymore, or so the world would have you believe.
The truth is, your marriage is by no means doomed to fail. God created marriage and He created humans for companionship. It was His plan for us to fall in love and promise the rest of our earthly lives to our spouses. So how do you make sure you don’t wake up one day and find your love for them has died?
The Fear I Faced Before My Wedding
As the days leading up to my wedding dwindled into single digits, I found a seed of fear had taken root in my heart. I knew I wanted to marry my fiancé and I knew he was the one whom God had set aside for me, but I also felt a sense of immense responsibility settling on my shoulders. Now that we were beginning this new endeavor, it was up to us to make it succeed, right? As I contemplated that, I couldn’t see how my flawed self could be a good enough wife to make our marriage work. I felt too limited in myself and keeping us afloat seemed too big a task. Of course, my new husband would be there as well, but he wasn’t any more perfect than I was.
That’s when God got a hold of me. He reminded me that marriage is not just between two people – He will be there too! In truth, marriage is designed to be a picture of the trinity, a perfect blend of three people: us, our spouse, and God. He is the glue, the foundation, and the support structure which surrounds us and guides us through having a successful and blessed marriage. Matthew 19:26 says,
And looking at them, Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’
When we rely solely on our own ability, there is only so far we can go without failing, sometimes not very far at all. When two imperfect people get married, the marriage will be imperfect too. But, if you introduce the only Perfect Person, the marriage can last!
Imagine my relief in hearing that we wouldn’t be on our own! Suddenly the clouds cleared and I could once again joyfully look forward to our special day. I hope this knowledge gives you hope, but there is more you can do to give your marriage a boost in the day-to-day.
Your Spouse Will Change
My husband and I received pre-marital counseling by a truly gifted couple who pastor a church in California. One of the first things they brought up was to prepare ourselves to discover new things about each other, both good and bad. Chase and I had dated for two-and-a-half years before getting married and thought we knew each other pretty well. I will say, there were no big surprises as we had been very upfront with one another ahead of time, but when you live with someone, doing the day-to-day life with them, a whole new side of them opens up. You get a front row seat to all their little quirks, preferences, likes, and dislikes. This can be a stumbling block if you aren’t careful. Hebrews 12:14-15 says,
Pursue peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…
Blending your two ways of doing life together can cause some snags, so you have to choose your battles. Always, always, always put the other person first over your preferences. It will not be the end of the world if they put the toilet paper on backwards or don’t fold your socks how you think they should be folded. When you can’t agree, look for common ground. And if one of you feels very strongly about how something should be done, while the other doesn’t care one way or the other, be willing to let the one who feels more strongly have their way. Marriage is not a competition, but a collaboration. It won’t hurt you to make some sacrifices and it will make your spouse feel more valued.
Continuously Get to Know One Another
You may feel like you know all there is to know about your spouse, but as people we are not static. We change as we are exposed to new experiences, new ideas, and new interests. The longer you both are married, the more you will change from the people you were when you first met. It’s your job to keep up with the person whom your spouse is becoming, just as it is their job to do the same with you.
If you choose to have children, keeping up with your spouse can become much harder. You can get swept up in diapers and doctor’s appointments, after-school practice and endless loads of laundry. But what you don’t want is to look over at your spouse one day and see a stranger.
Prioritize your marriage. Dating doesn’t stop after the wedding! Try to get away, just you two, regularly. If you can’t get childcare, sit your kiddos down with some snacks and a movie in the other room. They will be just fine, and you need to maintain intimacy and connection with your spouse. Even something as simple as a conversation over some Oreos you hid from the kids can make a difference. No matter what season you’re in, you need to make sure your spouse knows you love them and they are a priority in your life.
Be Aware of Your Impact
It’s true that the people closest to us have the greatest potential to hurt us. When you marry someone, you vow to put them above every other person, except for God, of course. Entering into the role of spouse means lowering your protective walls and false fronts you put up for other people and being completely vulnerable with one another. There is so much trust involved here and it can be easy to speak or act carelessly and hurt them. Colossians 4:6 says,
Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
After you have been married for a little while, you start to settle into a routine. You start to get comfortable with sharing a space with one another. While being comfortable is good, and shows how much you trust one another, it can also give you a false sense of security. What I mean by that is this: knowing that this person has committed the rest of their life to you (and ending your relationship at this point is much more difficult than if you were only dating) can tempt you to rest on your laurels a bit. You may feel less motivation to go out of your way on their behalf. You may slip into speaking to them in a less-than-thoughtful manner. You may take their hard work to bring income in and do their share of the chores for granted.
Beware of Little Foxes
The biggest takeaway I took from Chase and I’s premarital counseling is the metaphor of the little foxes. Song of Solomon 2:15 says,
“Catch the foxes for us,
The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
While our vineyards are in blossom.”
Think of your marriage as the vineyard and small hurts and misunderstandings as the little foxes. They may seem inconsequential in the moment, but if you leave them alone, they will be your ruin. It’s vital that you share with your spouse when you are feeling hurt, unheard, unappreciated, or disrespected. No upset feeling is too small. It’s their responsibility to listen to your concerns without judgement and without getting defensive. If something is important to you, they should make sure it’s important to them too.
You must also do your part when the roles are reversed. Say your spouse says, “You know, it hurt my feelings when you wanted to play on your phone instead of listen to my story about my coworker.” You may want to respond with a snippy remark about how all their work stories sound the same, but instead, embrace humility and put them first. Resist the need to defend yourself. Their feelings, and your relationship, matter more. There is no shame in apologizing, admitting you were wrong, and trying to do better in the future. When you respond this way, it communicates to your spouse that you love and value them and it will motivate them to respond in kind when your turn comes (because it will!).
There Is More to Marriage
These are just a few things that I have learned in my marriage thus far. Making a marriage work takes much more wisdom and effort than what is just discussed here, and there is no cure-all for the complications that arise. The best things you can do are listen to the Holy Spirit and spend time in God’s Word. He created marriage and He wants yours to help you and be a blessing to you. Just remember, trust Him with your relationship and your spouse and let Him guide you into a fruitful and long-lasting marriage!