It’s one thing to pray for your young marriage to last, but exactly how does that look like?
A few weeks ago, we looked at The 8 Signs of a Maturing Love, and today I want to dive into the four habits that every newlywed couple must nurture for their marriage to thrive.
Most of us accept there’s work involved in making a young marriage last but unfortunately a good chunk believe the majority of that work lies in changing our spouse to be what we want them to be!
The next four attitudes are about you, not your spouse. Granted a young marriage can only last when the two people in it decide to make it last.
But no matter how poorly your spouse is doing, you can’t make them change. You can pray, encourage, engage counsel, create boundaries but you can’t turn them around. Change is God’s department.
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:26-27 NLT
So let’s explore the four habits you must cultivate for your newlywed bliss to last (or turn it around, from blues to bliss).
1. Embrace the cost of relating
Relating is defined as “the way in which two.. people are connected.”
I liked the idea of connecting with a husband when I was single. I looked forward to the day I would get married and share my life with another.
Unfortunately, I was clueless as to what ‘relating‘ actually entailed.
I was merely interested in the perks of having a husband but not in the grind of creating unity and oneness. It turns out I did not like the most critical aspects of relating.
The ordinary human being is self-centered, not others-centered. Most of us love connection but mostly when it’s on our terms.
But being in life-long matrimony demands that we fall in love with the idea of leaving our cushy planet..and heading off to our beloveds.
This journey of interconnection involves a lot of faith and hope as you navigate the new landscape called one flesh.
Relating means understanding that you cannot conduct relationship business on your terms. You have to move from “me” to “us.”
Tommy and I got a wake-up call early in marriage.
After our wedding, one of the things that struck us most about marriage was the permanence of it. “Until death do us part” is a very long time indeed. Which is why, at a light bulb moment, we stood amazed at the number of couples waddling down the aisle to get married “because they fell in love.” Considering that marriage is the biggest cure for the “in-love” syndrome (the day you get married is the day you get cured, how about that), it’s a frightening thought that we’d get married for feelings of love alone.” An excerpt from my book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years.
Your marriage will call you out; it will reveal your grand aspirations of a me-centered relationship. The good thing is that it won’t leave you hanging, staring at your scattered dreams with no hope for a way out.
Because when God is at work, He not only reveals where you need to grow, He also shows you how to grow. Philippians 2:13 tells us “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
When your young marriage calls you out, embrace the wake-up call. Get honest. Look in the mirror and accept you are not all that. You are not nearly as cute, as sweet, as patient, as understanding, as loving as thought you were.
But praise God because now you have a marriage vow to train you how to relate well! Now you can learn to fall in love not just with the idea of marriage but with your marriage.
2. Pursue personal growth
Don’t expect your spouse to be to you what you are not willing to be for them.
Are you frustrated because your husband doesn’t call or text you during the day? Well, how about you call and text him? (Read why you need to pursue your husband.)
Mortified by his personal hygiene? Instead of slicing and dicing the guy, maybe you can ask God not just to grow your husband, but to grow you in that process too (See Galatians 2:22, 23)
A lot of married couples are addicted to pointing out the speck in their spouse’s eye while studiously ignoring the plank in their own eye (ask me how I know)
And because no one likes to be treated like a “fixer up,” a marriage becomes filled with rebellion and anger and disappointment on both sides.
But when a married couple takes personal responsibility for their own growth, when they decide to be Christlike with each other, no matter how the other is behaving, it gives God something to work with!
Today you can create this mantra for your marriage “I’ll be Christlike in my marriage because it creates one less person (with issues) to deal with!”
Healthy people create healthy relationships. And because the only person you can change is yourself, you can make it your life’s ambition to mind your own business first, even as you trust God to change your husband 1 Thessalonians 4:11
And listen – personal growth is not all that complicated. It’s a matter of listening to what God is saying now and putting it work.
In my experience, God doesn’t throw a bunch of improvements in my direction, hoping I’ll somehow muddle my way through them. More often than not, God works with me at my level. i.e., the capacity I have in Him.
So what is God saying in your intimate walk? (Bible reading, prayer, personal walk) Choose one thing. Do it. And then move on to the next thing He shows you.
In not too long you’ll look back and be amazed by the distance you have traveled. Those little steps add up. Ask me how I know.
3. Have staying power
In courtship, Tommy and I had tons of opportunities to walk away from the relationship.
But somehow in spite of all the silly arguments, serious misunderstandings, disappointments and wrong mindsets, we made it to the altar and got married.
We had expected for the difficulties of courtship and dating to die after “I do.” We figured we had conquered the worst and the hardest part of our relating. We were wrong.
It turns out the tiffs in our courtship were mere specks compared to the stuff we’d deal with in marriage.
It was in marriage where we realized there was a lot more where the flecks came from. It wasn’t just about dealing with the surface stuff, we had to deal with the root.
The process involved figuring out why we did what we did and attempting to find new normal that was agreeable to both of us.
For example, Tommy had to figure out why logic was such an important need for him and how he could adjust his desire to accommodate my emotional delicateness.
I, on the other hand, had to figure out why his lack of understanding felt like a red-hot knife of rejection to my heart and how I could try to make sense, without being emotional about everything.
Dealing with all these meant growing a spine; learning to stick together while every atom in our bodies screamed “run!”
In a young marriage, one of the things that shatter our love (the feelings anyway) are these feelings of disappointment.
I mean how can you love someone so much but feel all these negative, angry, cold feelings towards them? How can you stay married while you want to run away from this person you presumably like?
Enter staying power. When you begin to understand what David may have meant when He wrote Psalm 23.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NIV
The difficulties of marriage are not permanent. Not when we allow Jesus in. You are walking through, not permanently camping.
For your young marriage to last, you must find something in your relationship that’s worth “staying for.” (And for Tommy and me and hopefully yourself, it is Jesus.)*
4. Learn how to resolve conflict without throwing your marriage under the bus
I use to think that resolving conflicts meant one person had to win. My husband. being the dude-of-dudes sort of a guy was not willing to be the loser.
Being a determined choleric, I was not ready to bite the dust either. The result was a marriage constantly beholding the underside of the bus.
In his book, The 8th Habit, Steven Covey talks about win/win thinking.
The power of win-win thinking means coming to a place where I am willing to suspend my own interest long enough to understand what the person wants most – which opens the door for me to collaborate on a new creative solution’ Steven Covey – The 8th Habit.
‘Suspending your own interest’ for whatever length of time can be difficult. Especially because the only solution, a.k.a ‘way’ we want in that particular moment is our own.
But win-win situations are possible and can be a game changer for your marriage.
The plan entails putting the health of the relationship first before other agendas; understanding that when the ‘person’ (the relationship) wins, then both my husband and I are winners.
Broken further, it means I must do whatever it takes to restore the relationship to health each time it tips towards un-health.
That means growing in my ability to suspend (and often kill) my singular agenda in order to hear my spouse first before I hijack the ship.
Even writing this feels so hard because I am not good at suspending my agenda! When I believe I am right, it’s so hard not to camp there.
So I am always finding great comfort in God’s Word. He tells me that He’ll never call me to something He hasn’t already equipped me for. That I can do all things through Him. That His way is always better than mine.
Indeed, a flourishing relationship is made up of two people who continually give 101% to the relationship. It’s not a one-way street.
But great relationships always begin with one person asking ‘how can I make this relationship better?’ How can we resolve this and still have a “we” at the end of it?
I have learned that if I do my part (pray and keep a right attitude), God always gets around to doing His part (changing my Tommy)! And I know that He can do that for you too*
If you are wrestling with the overwhelm and angst of new marriage, I have a resource that can help. Marriage is God’s good idea, and He wants your marriage to thrive. And one of the way we set up ourselves for success in the newlywed and early years is learning how to deal with the hard stuff without falling out of love. It’s easy to love when the sun is shining and hearts are fluttering. Not so when he pulls away or suffers a job loss, or family interferes, or you struggle with cleaving. But God’s plan for your marriage hasn’t changed! If you are looking for the joy and happiness you had when you walked down the aisle or if you simply want to break out of average and mediocre marriage, you can get on that road now. Click here to find out.
There are more than four habits to cultivate in a young marriage. I want to hear what has worked for you? What other tip can you add?