15 Feb After the Wedding, #marriageadvice
I attended the wedding reception of my cousin’s daughter over the weekend. She was a glowing bride, he was an ecstatic groom, everything was perfect. It was about a dozen years ago when I enjoyed my wedding day. Since then my husband and I have experienced joy, heartache, trust, betrayal, tears, fears, laughter and lots of kissing. We are practically babies compared to my parents who will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, but after 5 kids and 7 moves we have seen enough to teach us a few things. I was thinking about what I would say to these 2 newlyweds and came up with a few principles that have served us well thus far in our marriage.
1-The principle of work. Work is, without doubt, an eternal principle. Mountains are formed this way. Apple trees become apple trees through work. Our learning, as humans, requires some sort of action. So for your marriage to thrive you must plan on working at it. Think of training for a race. You set goals, you stick to those goals with dedication, you even change your lifestyle (diet, sleep patterns, etc.) to help you reach your goals. A dedicated relationship requires constant nourishment so take time to “work” at your relationship– even if sometimes that work is dancing in the living room! It can be the hardest work but also be a total blast.
2- Choose joy. Every day you are faced with choices. ‘Someone was mean to me, I’m going to crawl into bed and scowl at everything.’ Or, ‘someone was mean to me, I wonder if there’s something I can do to help them.’ Your spouse will have bad days. You will have bad days. Make a commitment to strengthen each other, even at your worst. Don’t pick apart their character when you can uplift with positive comments. Don’t furrow your brow when you can smile instead. Don’t be exasperated and find fault– find inner peace and encourage one another’s strengths. The way to be a joyful person, to have a joyful marriage, is to choose joy.
3- Make plans. They will inevitably change. (Having kids will be the greatest plan-derailer you’ve ever experienced. And they’re totally worth it.) Life is crazy and you will never expect it. That’s part of the joy. Life is usually what happens to you while you’re making plans. Even if they change, make plans together.
4- Opposition is necessary for growth. Anything important you’ve learned in life has been because of opposition. Life is full of ups & downs, dark & light– always expect opposition and let your spouse know you’ve got their back, no matter what. I asked my husband his take on this and he quoted the Stockdale Paradox, which in part says never lose sight of the end goal: that everything will work out in the end. There may be brutal realities to confront along the way but it will only drive you along the path, it doesn’t need to derail everything. Things will be ok, just solve one problem at a time and keep working for that end goal.
5- Pray together as a couple. Pray for each other, pray for your detractors, pray for your community or nation. Praying together, especially during times of opposition, will be one of the most enduring foundations of your relationship. It will connect your relationship to God, it will help you forgive one another, it will help you forgive others. It will bring you greater peace than you know.
6- Be slow to anger. In this instance it’s immeasurably better to pray for yourself– to have more charity, quicker forgiveness, and greater clarity and understanding. This principle, to me, says that my relationship is more important than my pride, my expectations, even myself as a person. And I’m still working on this one. My goal is not to have a better marriage but to be a better wife. And if my spouse has the same goal we consequently find greater joy in each other and in our marriage, simply as a by-product of trying to serve each other.
I’m sure there is more marriage advice out there than you could read in a lifetime. And I’m also sure that in another dozen years my own advice will have changed. But these are still a handful of solid, eternal principles. Take it from me that it’s worth it. Having a family is worth it. Being a husband or wife is worth it (my husband agrees). You’ve started on the greatest adventure of your life. Hang on and enjoy the ride.