The moment you have a ring on your finger (and sometimes long before!), the entire world becomes sage with advice for you and your sweetie. Some of it is best let in one ear and out the other. Some of it you should laugh over. Some of it is borderline TMI! (Hey, it happens. Smile and move on. Or take notes. Because sometimes “TMI” is exactly what we need to know but didn’t know who to ask.)
But if you are a bride-to-be–or even if you aren’t–listen up. Because tucked into all the advice about everything from money to birth control, there are going to be some pearls. There are going to be a few gems that you should tuck into your heart, and maybe into your journal, too, because they are the Really Important Things that could make a big difference in navigating the uncharted waters that every new couple in every new marriage faces. Those are the ones you just don’t want to ever forget.
Between all of us on the team, we’ve been given a whole passel full of advice about marriage and love. With summer being the season of love and weddings, we’re joining forces to pass on some of the gems of advice we’ve been given on love and happy marriages.
And we’d love it if you chimed in and told us all the best bits of advice you’ve received, too!
Love & Marriage
Chantel: don’t sweat the small stuff
We’d been married not quite three weeks. Sitting in a neighboring church that weekend, we must’ve caught his eye. As soon as the first service was over, the guest speaker–an older man with pure white hair and sparkling eyes–made a beeline to our chairs and asked Scott: “Is this your girlfriend?” When Scott said “wife”, after the usual exclamations of, “Are you sure you are old enough to be done with high school, let alone be married?!” he got serious for a moment and said: “I’ve been married since I was nineteen years old. That was more than sixty years ago. It’s been a wonderful adventure. So, let me tell you something about marriage!”
If anyone knew something about a good marriage, it’d be the ones who were married for sixty happy years. I wanted that. And I was all ears. Here’s what he said:
“There’s going to be a hundred and one little things involved in almost every single day of your married life. A lot of them might feel like they’re important enough to get ruffled over. But in reality? There’s very few things that you’re going to find are actually worth it. So just learn to pay attention to the important ones, and let everything else go. Don’t sweat that small stuff. Just let it go, and enjoy each moment you have together instead of picking each other apart over all the little things that don’t even matter.
“Give yourself and each other some room,” he continued. “You’ve both never been married to each other before. You can be married as long as I am, and still be learning. That’s okay. That’s how it’s suppose to be. Learn, live, and forgive easily, laugh a lot and love more than anything else.”
We’ve got a long ways to go before we hit that sixty year mark in our marriage. But even in five years? I can’t tell you how much happier our home has been when we “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Because, none of those little things have actually ever mattered in the long run.
Natasha: be brutally honest
It was my honorary-mother, Delite, who first said it to me. “Be brutally honest, Tasha. Tell your husband everything you struggle with. The best way to keep from straying in a relationship is to bring every temptation into the light.”
It takes complete humbleness, but admitting a temptation is infinitely better than falling into sin. But it means no secrets.
It means, when my husband goes to work at someone else’s farm, and they have a pin-up or pornographic picture hanging on the wall, he tells me about it. Every time he remembers it.
It means, when I have a conversation with an old flame, I tell him about it. It means, when I’m chatting with another man, even if it’s perfectly innocent, I tell him about it.
It means that there are no secrets. At all. And if I am ever tempted to look at someone besides my husband, I’ll already be in the habit of telling him.
A friend told me about a time when she found herself attracted to a man at work. It scared her so badly she left early and went right to her husband. She cried telling him, thinking he would never trust her again. He just held her and smiled. “If you always come to me,” he told her, “then I’ll never have a reason to mistrust you.” And she said the moment the confession left her mouth, the attraction left. It felt silly when she sat across from her husband, the man she loved with all her heart.
It works because sin loses its enticement when it’s brought to the light. It loses its power.
Freedom is found in the light and I want my marriage to be a place of freedom. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it’s uncomfortable. But it’s light.
Callie: it can get better over time
I generally look to the well-seasoned veterans–those whose marriages have endured time and trials–for advice. But some of the most useful marriage advice came during my first year of marriage, from a friend who had been married only five years!
“The first year feels so intense,” she said. “Sometimes when things aren’t going the way you expected, you can go into panic mode and think, ‘This is it for the REST of my life!’ But over time, as you both learn how to be married, it will get better.”
Enduring more than quite a few shocks that came with moving overseas and working out extended family issues during our first year, I felt myself relax and breath with her caring support. Married five years myself now, I can honestly say that her words have proven true, but it doesn’t just happen. It takes some intentionality to grow in communication and learn how to truly each other, but it does get better… and better… and better.
Gretchen: dwell on the positive
I spent my late teens and early twenties reading relationship and marriage books by the dozen. But it seemed like the majority of them were filled with all the negative examples, the stories of relationships gone wrong, the details of disagreeable husbands married to nitpicking wives. As I sifted through the pages, one of the lessons I learned was this: there will always be negatives in life and relationships, but that doesn’t mean we have to dwell on them.
“Snoring is the most beautiful music in the world,” the saying goes: “just ask any widow.” It’s all in perspective. It’s all in our focus. I can dwell on the fact that my husband does this or that, or I can be thankful that he’s alive and that he loves me. I can complain to my mom and my friends about my husband, thus perpetuating my own dissatisfaction. Or I can praise my husband to anyone who will listen, reminding myself of how much I love him.
It’s why we love to tell the story of how we met. It’s why we love watching young couples together. It’s why we have pictures hanging on our walls of the days when we were the ones who were young and madly in love. Remembering how desperate we were to be together, recalling all those little things we fell in love with in the other, recounting the ways we love each other–it all helps recapture that romance.
There will always be stress and bills, late nights and fussy children, but it’s easier to keep holding hands through it all when you’re looking at each other through the rose-colored glasses of love.
Shannon: go back to the stories of strong women in history
God is going to ask some hard things of you as a woman. Your ministry as wife will put you in position to serve, to humble yourself, to tear down old walls, and to rebuild desolate places in hearts. If you don’t know what God really thinks about women, these things are going to just feel like a big list of chores, as if you are always in a giving mode. You could even feel like marriage is all about your husband and you are just the servant that makes his life happen.
If any of these feelings start to creep in–and they could when you are tired, overworked and underpaid–everything will seem hard and painful. Just go back to the stories, the stories God gave us, about fierce and strong women whom God used to do significant work for His Kingdom. Look for the stories of the wives from thousands of years ago and see what God asked of them. And see if it isn’t the same for us now. Then look at what impact they had and still have on us women now.
It is no less for you. You are on a timeline of God’s magnificent work and you are not a blip or just a space-holder. Your work as a wife has eternal impact. God honors you, trusts you, and will enable you to do the hard things. Your days of celebration and joy will be many, but we wisely acknowledge there will be hard days ahead. The foundation that needs to be strong is to know exactly what God thinks about you, as a woman.
You are not less than, second best, or in only a supportive role. Your time as a wife is a sacred mission and the work you do has been trusted to a brave and giving heart. God knew exactly what He was doing when He joined your hearts in marriage. There will be days when it feels like this is not about you. But the truth is, it’s not about your husband either. It is all about God. Everything is about Him and His glory. He’s going to give you some pretty fun and wonderful days. Thank God for them and Instagram those days. On the hard days, go to your prayer closet, find your value and your significant worth in the eyes of your Father and do not doubt His love. Your purpose is great. You cannot even imagine.
Jessiqua: choose where your loyalty lies
Choose where your loyalty lies.
By nature, I am a very loyal person. Growing up, friends came and went, but my parents were always there. They were broken and irritating at times, but they loved me, and they were my only constant. So I developed a very strong rapport of loyalty with them. It was almost as if they could do no wrong. If anyone disagreed with or criticized them, then that person was wrong by default.
Then I married an opinionated man. He loved my family dearly, but he had his own way of seeing things. The entire first year after we got married was fraught with disagreements between him and my parents. I felt stuck in the middle between two feuding billy goats, and I used to cry from despair over it all daily. Then the Lord started speaking to my heart. He showed me that I had misplaced loyalty, and He showed me that I was blowing things out of proportion because of it. I could both disagree with someone and love them at the same time. I didn’t have to agree with everything my parents said. Just like I didn’t have to agree with everything my husband said.
However, I did have to choose where my loyalty was. And I had to leave and cleave (Genesis 2:24). No more could I linger between both parties with a divided heart. I had to support my husband, even if I didn’t entirely agree with him. Sure, I could speak honestly to him about why I thought he was wrong, but ultimately I wasn’t supposed to choose my parents over him just because they were my parents. I also didn’t have to continually defend him to my parents: he could defend himself. I didn’t have to throw a huge fit every time someone said a negative word about someone else. I needed to relax. Life got so much easier after that. My parents and my husband still disagree on occasion, but I don’t have to get upset about it anymore. I can disagree with them all, yet love them all, at the same time.
Emily: practice healthy communication
James would have a hefty college fund if I had a dollar for every person who said something about the importance of communication in the months leading up to my wedding day. I acknowledged the truth of what they said, but began to tune it out by the tenth time the C word was mentioned. I didn’t think communication would be an issue for us — a couple who could talk for hours and didn’t shy away from tough topics. But after two years of marriage, I have become poignantly aware that communication takes effort. Even for talkers or writers or English majors who pride themselves on being able to articulate their thoughts, communication is an oft-overlooked necessity in maintaining a healthy marriage.
We are still learning how to communicate. I’m not sure we will ever arrive. Good communication takes practice. It takes grace for when you don’t do it right. Good communication takes intentionality. It doesn’t come naturally to most couples. Good communication takes three people. It is the most effective when infused with the God who binds your marriage together.
Now it’s your turn…
What’s the best marriage advice you’ve learned or been given?
Photo Credit: JenniMarie Photography