Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Little Marriage Advice

            I wrote this advice for a young couple at our church who was getting married, some would say “too young.”  While I didn’t marry too young (I was nearly 24), I did marry my first boyfriend, who I began dating at 18.  And I heard things like “be young, have fun . . . date around . . . don’t settle so quickly . . . find someone who will sweep you off your feet.” 
            But I knew (before I ever started dating) that I would only date someone worth marrying.  I would not set my heart up to get broken.  And so when I found “the right guy” at 18, I knew that I was set.  I found the guy I would marry.  I wasn’t dating just for fun.  And I wasn’t about to date around just to see what’s out there.  I found someone worth taking a risk on, I trusted him with my heart, and he proved himself to be trustworthy and loyal and stable. 
            And that’s what I wanted in a marriage.  Not to get “swept off my feet” with someone more flashy or fun or unpredictable.  I like predictable and stable, especially after watching my mom go through a couple divorces. 
            So when this young couple was getting married and facing the “too young, too soon” criticism, I decided to send them a little advice of my own.  And since I think it’s good marriage advice for anyone, I decided to put it in a post, with a few additions.  Just for fun.

A little marriage advice, from someone who married her first boyfriend and proved all the doubters wrong:

1.  Pursue God passionately, in your individual lives and as a couple.  Seek to become who He wants you to be . . . and you will become the spouse you should be.

2.  Surround your family in prayer and immerse yourself in God’s Word regularly.  One of the enemy’s main goals is to destroy the family.  Do not attempt to build yours without the Lord’s help. 

3.  Learn to recognize spiritual attacks on yourself, your marriage, and your family.  You cannot fight spiritual attacks without the spiritual weapons of faith, prayer, God’s Word, etc. 

4.  Live humbly before the Lord, seek His Kingdom and righteousness, abide in Him daily, and learn to need Him, to be dependent on Him daily.  Do this, and you almost can’t go wrong. 

5.  Remember to do everything for the glory of God.  Cook for God’s glory.  Clean for God’s glory.  Go to the same boring job every day for God’s glory.  If you remember that you are working for God - that your faithfulness in doing the little and the big things is for His glory - then you will be less likely to become bitter if your spouse doesn’t notice or appreciate all you do.  You are not doing what you do for your spouse, for thanks, to please them, or to be appreciated.  You are doing all you do for God’s pleasure, for His purposes and His glory.  So be faithful, even in the little things, and remember that God sees all you do.  He appreciates it and He will bless you for it.  Appreciation from your spouse is a bonus, but not a “need.”  (But do try to always show appreciation for each other, to notice what the other person does and to thank them for it regularly.  A little thanks goes a long way.)

6.  There will always be “more attractive” people out there, reasons to be jealous.  Don’t exhaust yourself being jealous.  It’s not worth it.  Always remember that your spouse chose you . . . because they love you.  You are a blessing to them and they are a blessing to you.  So live like it.  Live like you are the desirable person that your spouse thinks you are and remind your spouse of how desirable they are to you.  Build each other up and have fun celebrating your union, being the blessings that you are to each other.

7.  Keep a strong hedge of protection up around your relationship, boundaries to keep your marriage safe.  Draw the “line in the sand” way back from the edge of the “danger zone.”  Do not flirt with danger or temptation.  Such as . . .
          - Do not go out with friends of the opposite sex without your spouse.
          - Do not keep your own, private email account that your spouse cannot see.
          - Do not connect up with old flames on-line.
          - Do not keep secrets that might make it easier to stray.
          - Do not seek emotional support or sexual satisfaction outside of marriage, even if just through pictures, email, books, movies, etc.  It’s a slippery slope and can lead to dissatisfaction with your spouse and marriage.  (It’s why I have always refused to read romance novels.)  And it hurts feelings and destroys trust.  Always protect that trust! 
          - Be careful about who you hang out with.  Bad company corrupts good character.
          -  Learn from other people’s mistakes - such as how seemingly innocent on-line or work-place relationships with friends of the opposite sex have led many into affairs - and don’t repeat them.  Use them as cautionary tales that point out potential pitfalls to be avoided.  When it comes to protecting your marriage nowadays, you can’t be too careful.     

8.  When it comes to sharing wants and needs with your spouse, speak up!  None of us can read minds.  And be honest, but gentle and kind.  Feelings are everywhere.  And listen when your spouse shares a need with you.  If it is important to them, it should be important to you.  Because how you respond to their “needs” will show them how much they matter to you.   

9.  If you have to confront them about something, use “I . . . “ statements instead of “You . . .” statements.  Focus on how you think and feel instead of on how “bad” they are.  If it sounds like an attack on them, they may focus on defending themselves instead of on how your feelings were hurt.  And it will complicate the conflict. 
          Don’t use “always” or “never,” as in “You always make me feel bad” or “You never think about me.”  “Always” and “never” are almost always never true. J  They are exaggerations that will muddle the argument. 
          And make sure to separate what they did from who they are.  Say “It hurt my feelings when you made that joke about me in front of our friends” instead of “You are so inconsiderate all the time.”  One talks about how you felt about a particular thing they did and the other makes it sound like you are bothered with who they are.
            And always be willing to forgive.  That doesn't mean you have to forget what they did.  Actions do have consequences and changes might need to be made in order to make sure the offense doesn't happen again.  But forgive.  Bitterness only destroys!   

10.  Be each other’s encourager and supporter, especially around other people.  Never mock your spouse in public or speak about them negatively for other people’s enjoyment.  Do not share their faults and shortcomings for a laugh.  It is not worth the breakdown of trust and respect. 

11.  Let your home be “the safe place” for everyone in your family, where you all feel like you matter, like you belong, like you are protected, like you have each other’s backs, and like you are deeply loved and wanted and respected.
          Treat your spouse and children with at least as much respect and kindness as you treat other people.  Use “please” and “thank you.”  Do not call names or harshly criticize or mock or hurt feelings, just because you are so familiar with each other.  Your future will reflect how you treat each other today.      

12.  Divorce is not an option.  If you live like this is true, you will try harder to work through the hard times instead of running away and you will work for the good of the family instead of just for yourself.

13.  Never use the “D” word as a threat.  Don’t even go there!  It will make your marriage feel unsafe.

14.  A good marriage involves compromise, not fighting for your own way.  You are a team.  Work like one and work for the good of the team.  Always include each other in big and not-so-big decisions.

15.  Remember that we don’t have to find “the one” – that one right person out there for us.  We make our spouse “the one” when we marry them.  This will keep you from wondering if you married “the wrong person” during the hard times when the warm, fuzzy feelings aren’t there.  Your spouse is the only one for you because you chose them to be.

16.  If you are marrying young, don’t let anyone convince you that you are “too young” or “doomed to fail.”  You get to build your lives together, instead of building your own life first and then trying to incorporate someone else’s life.  And this gives you a better chance for a successful marriage. 
          (And if you are marrying older when you have built your life, remember that you are a team now.  The old “single person - it’s all about me” life is gone.  Now, it’s about the couple that you have become and the family you are building.  There is no room in marriage for self-centeredness.)

17.  The quality of your marriage is not seen in how many fun, new, exciting things you do or in how much you have.  It is seen best in how much you still enjoy each other’s company when things are quiet and predictable, when times are tough, and when money is tight.

18.  Never go to bed angry.  Talk it out.  But yelling, shaming, name-calling, and insults are not necessary and are very damaging.  Be mature and respectful when you disagree or argue.

19.  “The more content you are with less stuff, the richer and more blessed you will feel.”  This is good advice for when money is tight.  Learn to enjoy the simple things.  Count your daily blessings, not other people’s blessings (which will only lead to discontentment).  And don’t try to “keep up with the Joneses.”  It only makes people miserable!  You are richly blessed indeed just to have found each other!

20.  Laugh a lot!  At yourselves!  With each other!  When times are tough!  Life is too short and too full of trouble to take things so seriously, to take yourself so seriously, and to be grumpy and stressed all the time! 

21.  And even though life is full of unexpected twists and turns, discouraging detours, and seemingly insurmountable road-blocks, there is always something to appreciate and be thankful for.  Enjoy all the goodness you can find, especially during the times you have to look really hard to find it!  Enjoy what you have.  Enjoy each other.  And enjoy the journey! 

Congratulations and God bless your marriage!  

                   Sincerely, Heather

What marriage advice would you give?  Any advice you have been given that really meant something or that helped?