In a new season of ministry in a new town and new church (to us), I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage ministry and how to help couples thrive. As I pray about next steps with the marriage ministry at Harris Creek, I thought it would be good to go back to the basics. Let me share what I would tell my newly married self. Sometimes it’s good to go back to the beginning to remember what we used to do in our marriage (Revelation 2:4). Also, I know many of you reading this post are thinking about getting married or are newlyweds. I know this will help you!
And for those of you like me (i.e., not so newly married!), it helps to go back to the beginning, to be reminded of the basics. Like basketball coaching legend John Wooden telling his players how to put on their socks or Vince Lombardi telling his teams “this is a football,” sometimes you and I need to be reminded of the basics.
What would I tell my newly married self?
1. Lean into conflict
Most of us don’t like to have hard conversations. They’re awkward, take time, and we don’t like to admit when we’re wrong. Married life is filled with opportunities to get in arguments or disagree. Sometimes it’s related to sin (i.e., selfishness) and other times it comes when you each have different views or preferences. We need to change our perspective on conflict.
I’ve been doing marriage ministry for a very long time. If you want to struggle in your marriage and get divorced or be miserable, then just sweep your conflict under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist. Nothing will make you miserable more quickly.
2. Be humble
This is a very close relative to #1 about leaning into conflict. In both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5, the Bible says, God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. I want all the grace and favor I can get and I certainly don’t want God opposing me.
I wish my newly married self would have learned to be humble more quickly. And I wish I was more humble today. I HATE being wrong, especially if it means Kristen is right. It’s ugly, God hates it, and it will crush your marriage. On the other hand, a humble husband and wife will thrive. You’ll seek unity more than being right, and it will go well with you.
Learn to say, “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?” I promise these seven words will profoundly change your life and your marriage.
3. Be assertive
This one is also very closely connected to #1. We need to be people who are assertive in marriage. We’re often confused on what this words means. It doesn’t mean we’re aggressive and it doesn’t even mean we’re always right.
When we’re assertive we’re not afraid to express our thoughts and preferences. Too often we suppress what we desire because we’re afraid of being wrong or of our spouse having a different opinion. The problem comes when we don’t share with our spouse. In the process we stuff our true emotions and thoughts and often begin to resent our spouse because they can’t read our minds.
I wish I knew as a newlywed how important it is to not stuff my thoughts or preferences. Be willing to share with your spouse (assert yourself), and then communicate with humility.
4. Have fun
Premarried couples typically do a great job of having fun and pursuing each other in unique ways. The typical pattern is that couples stop being creative and pursuing each other a few years into marriage. They get stuck in a rut and become consumed with work, kids, and bills and in turn stop prioritizing their marriage.
I’d definitely say this has been one of our biggest challenges in marriage. It’s easy to fall into this rut and seems harmless, especially because we get consumed by important things. We need to work and pay bills and we have to/get to care for our children. The problem sets in when we no longer keep our marriage as one of the highest priorities and couples look for fun outside of their marriage. Be adventurous, romantic, and take some risks and find a hobby to pursue together.
I’ve written about this many times before, so I’d recommend reading a few other posts if you want more details. Here’s a curated list of date night posts.
5. Go easy on yourselves and quit expecting perfection
Question: What happens when one sinner marries another sinner?
Answer: Lots of unmet expectations. Some will be the result of sin, and others will be the result of the reality of living in a broken world.
I would tell my newly married self to quit expecting perfection in everything we do. There will be times when you burn your dinner. There will be times when things don’t work great in the bedroom. And there will be times when you get into an argument over something really, really stupid.
We’ve got to learn, as newlyweds, to take it easy on ourselves and expect mistakes. You won’t learn it all in a day—in fact you’ll often learn a lot more from your mistakes and failures than from your wins and successes. I wish I learned to give my wife more grace and I wish I learned to give myself more grace.
6. Pray together every day
I missed the mark on this one. Big time. While we pray for our kids and bless every meal we eat together, we don’t do a great job of praying together as a couple. If I was a newlywed, I’d start praying together as a couple from day one of marriage, and I’d continue to pray together every day. It’s much harder to add a new habit a few years into marriage instead of initiating the habit from the beginning.
Let’s get super practical. Here’s what I would tell a newly married couple:
- Set an alarm as a reminder to pray together. Let’s say your bedtime is 10:30pm. Set an alarm for 10:15pm as a reminder to pray together.
- Pray for the big things and the little things. Pray for big decisions you make as a couple and pray for the mundane moments of life. Life is a combination of the big and little moments and we can pray for every single one of them, both large and small.
- Challenge each other to lead out in prayer. It’s not just his responsibility or her responsibility. Help each other.
This article about my newly married self originally appeared here, and is used by permission.