Earlier this year, my husband, Michael, and I celebrated eight years of marriage. Marriage has been everything we expected it to be, and a lot of things we didn’t expect it to be, and if I could go back to those first months, here are a few things I would tell us as newlyweds:
1. Repent and Forgive—Daily and Out Loud.
Marriage, in all of its glory, also brings up some ugly sins. When you know you have sinned against your spouse, humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. Out loud. And tell your spouse you forgive him or her—out loud.
Saying “I’m sorry” is different from asking “Will you forgive me?” Asking for forgiveness requires humility before God and your spouse that builds an incredible trust in marriage. Some days, you will need to repent to each other more times than you care to admit, and on those days it’s a good idea to go just to bed early and start over the next morning.
2. Lavish Your Time, Energy and Love on One Another.
There are seasons in life when you will be busier than you imagined. But if you have the time in these early months and years to spend together, take it! Enjoy one another, spend ridiculous amounts of time getting to know each other as husband and wife, laugh together, snuggle, share ideas, dream together out loud. Be one another’s biggest fans.
3. Enjoy Sex and Talk About it Together.
There’s a big learning curve in sex. It’s wonderful and difficult and fun and funny. Don’t forget that phrase your mentor told you: “there’s always an extra limb in sex that doesn’t fit anywhere!” But whatever you do, keep talking together about sex. Be gentle with the vulnerability offered from your spouse. Don’t blow anything off if your spouse brings it up; take it seriously. Satan wants to keep spouses silent in the broken places; by opening up about sex and talking through concerns and questions, you can avoid a lot of additional pain.
4. Find a Church Home and Plug In.
As important as it is to lavish on one another, ultimately, no marriage thrives well in a hermit hole. Find a community of believers and press in. Ask questions. Hang out with older married couples. Ask for help. Go to potlucks. Make friends and pursue those friendships.
Jesus loves the local church, and your marriage is a powerful part of what God is doing—in you and in the larger community you are a part of.
5. Set Aside a Date Night.
Once a week, minimum, for the rest of your lives. Build it into the budget. Intentionality equals trust and love.
6. Pick Your Battles.
Your spouse will do things that drive you crazy and vice-versa. Be patient. Don’t choose frustration. And if you do, see point No. 1.
7. Pray Together. Regularly.
Even if it feels awkward or you don’t feel like it. Pray anyway.
8. Ask for Help. Regularly.
Every marriage needs help consistently. This usually starts in your church community, but get more help when you need it. Your marriage is worth it.
9. Be goofballs and Have Fun!
Do things together just for fun. Don’t always worry about the budget or that issue you’re working through. Go on an adventure together, even if it’s just to the next town over. Celebrate one another and your marriage regularly.
10. Marriage is Worth it, Because Christ is Worth it.
You are in this for keeps, with Jesus and with each other. All of your time, your energy, your dreams, your hopes—they are all His, and now those things are getting worked out within the marriage relationship.
Don’t expect this to be easy or simple, but expect it to be worth it. This marriage thing is one of the most important things you will ever do. God is with you, and He is for your marriage. You can do this together—with Him.