I may have a degree in Psychology but this post comes exclusively from experience. Yesterday, we were at the store and this poor sweet girl had to listen to Jeremy and I tease and bicker with one another. I asked her if she was married and she replied with “Yes, for one month.” One month? Holy cow, that sucks. I didn’t say that but definitely, that sucks. There are many things I’d like to go back in time and try again. Our first five years of marriage, however, is not one of them. I feel for the young couple who believes life is a fairy tale, where a man or woman will complete them and keep them from loneliness as long as they live. I know this sounds cynical to those of you who are not married or to the hitched individuals who are just better than me.
Anyway, this interaction got me thinking about the list of tips I’d give a newly married girl or guy.
Never Say the D-Word
If you don’t already know, the D-word is divorce. Once you introduce the concept openly it’s like a weed. It grows in your mind and becomes this magnificent bailout. You both have to believe that this is for life, no matter what happens. And when I say no matter what I really mean everything except abuse. Please protect yourself and your children. If the thought does come into your head just know that everyone has problems. Marrying someone else just means you are trading problems you already have for new unknown fights.
Know that Life is Gonna Suck…Sometimes
Marriage is hard. Very, very, very hard. There are likely people who have had an easier time than me and mine, but it’s still difficult. The reason our last 5 to 7 years have been so much better is probably that I no longer have this ridiculous fairy tale belief that my husband is here to make me whole. No one can make you whole but Jesus. Treating your marriage like a learning/growing experience and not 365-day wonder date gives you the permission to dig in every time something comes up. You’re putting in the sweat today so you can hopefully rest in the glow of all this hard work in your 80s.
Be the One to Give In
Stop playing chicken. If you think “I’d do ________________, if he’d do ____________________.” Stop and do ___________. Seriously, it’s taken me 13 years to even start this practice. We spent so much time in this standoff. I don’t know how many conversations we’ve had about my emotional bucket and all the ways I could be better if it were full. I’m going to call it for what it is – horseshit. I’m sorry but you have to be woman enough or man enough to think of someone over yourself. If you are feeling it, so are they. And what makes you more important than your spouse? Nothing. You take care of them. (period). Pray that Jesus brings you what you need. He put us here to serve others and that includes our husband/wife and children. I’m not saying do everything for them or do what they say they need. Part of serving them is doing what’s best for their greater good.
Set and Maintain Boundaries
This is my final point because I’m tired and need a nap. People who don’t keep boundaries are doormats that snap at you on your way in and out. Everyone has boundaries. You may not say them out loud but they still exist. If you start feeling bitter about something (x), think about a nice boundary that would keep x for happening. State it and come to an agreement. If your spouse says “wait, you do x.” You say “So what? Unless it bothers you.” You both should come to the understanding that you will do the same things to your spouse that drive you crazy. Boundaries are so important. If you need to, read Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries book. It’s worth more than the 12 bucks it cost on Amazon.
I realize this perspective seems down and depressing. I know this post will likely overwhelm and scare any newly married couple reading this. Please know or remember (if you are married) there will be a moment so ridiculous, sad, or funny that totally dissipates the anger or frustration you were clinging to. Those moments are the ones you need to focus on. Life, marriage, and kids are hard and are more comfortable navigated alone but we are meant to coexist. We aren’t called to be comfortable, we are called to be better. And better calls for growth and growth is painful and frustrating. I hope this post is of some help to you, wherever you are in your journey.
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