I am sure many people enter into marriage thinking that they have a head start. I know I did. How wrong I was. Just like nothing can prepare you for parenthood until you actually become a parent, nothing can quite prepare you for the marriage relationship.
I know that being married for one year and two months makes me a "newbie" still, but I am here to testify that once you are married, the lessons begin! You start learning right away! And here are a few things that God has taught (and is still teaching) me!
1. Christ must be your fulfillment. This lesson should begin long before the "I Do's" are spoken. It is very easy to rely on your spouse to fulfil you, but listen to me: this never works. There have been plenty of moments when I have grown irritated when Grant hasn't met my every need. It is then that I have had to be reminded by the Lord to stop and remember an invaluable truth: HE is all. Nobody, not even your dearest friend and soul mate, can meet all your needs. God created it to be this way as an ever-constant reminder that HE is God and the only One who can fulfill us completely.
2. Remember your spouse is a sinner. Yes, Grant is my prince charming. Yes, he is a man of God. Yes, he will stop and pray no matter when or where. Yes, he is my best earthly friend. But he is not perfect. I have seen him angry, irritated, and stressed out. I know what makes him tick (yes, he can get ticked). I know his weaknesses and his imperfections. He is still a sinner.....and as much as it hurts my pride to say it.... I am one too.
3. Pick your battles. That's a toughie. At first, it sounds like 100% fun all the time to live with your best friend. And, to a degree, it IS fun! But it is also work. Habits can become annoying (like the clearing of the throat in the shower every morning). Little things can get under your skin (like finding little hairs all over the sink after a shave). But I have to remember to stop and ask myself, "Is this worth getting angry over? Is this thing worth picking a fight about?" Most of the time, it's not. So pick your battles.
4. Learn how to make up. Pride has to die in a marriage relationship. It is easy for me to gloat when I am proven right in a disagreement. And it is very easy to refuse to say "I'm sorry." But it MUST be done! Disagreements are inevitable in marriage. Marriage takes two different people (male and female) who grew up in two different families (sometimes in two very different circumstances), with two different personalities and character traits, and it thrusts them together in tight living spaces. It's impossible for two opposite creatures to live in constant harmony. So you will have moments that are not pleasant. But one thing that has to be learned is the art of making up. Get over yourself. Let go of your pride. Remember you LOVE your spouse and made some serious vows to him/her. Forgive. Forget. Move on. It is rewarding if you do!
5. Compromise. I like to talk things out. Grant does not. When there has been a disagreement or if I feel unsettled about something, I need to talk about things in order to move past it. Grant prefers to go into "internal hibernation" for a while. So....what do we do in this situation? We learn to compromise. Sometimes I need to give Grant an hour or more to keep from overwhelming him or for him to get his thoughts together. Sometimes Grant puts those things aside in order to sit down immediately with me to talk about how I feel. We don't take turns. We just do our best to find the happy medium no matter what the situation may be.
6. Let go of your rights. I am still struggling with this area. Sometimes I don't want to compromise. Sometimes I want my way. Sometimes I am downright selfish. And sometimes I believe I have a "right" to act like a self-centered wife. But the more I study and pray, the more I find that we, as Christians, should let go of our rights. In all honesty, we have none. We gave up all our rights when we allowed Jesus to take over and buy us "with a price." So let go.
7. Have a date night. The reality of life can wear you down. Sometimes we get SO busy! It is for this reason that it is important to have a date night fairly often. For Grant and I, this was hard. We were married for three months when I got pregnant. Morning sickness, a growing belly, feeling tired, THEN a new baby! All in one year! A date night? Yeah right. But it is so important to make time for one another. Recently Grant and I did just that and WOW! It was such a blessing to be able to get away and simply enjoy each other's company. Even if you don't have the money to go out, stay in, turn the TV off and talk to one another. Or cook a hearty meal and rent a movie. Reminisce with each other. Just enjoy being together as husband and wife. Your relationship as husband and wife comes before all else, save your relationship with the Lord.
8. Be each other's best friend. Growing up, I had what I thought were a few "best friends" here and there. How wrong I was. Grant is literally my best earthly friend. I can let my hair down with him. I can be 100% me. He knows me, sometimes better than I know myself. And I know him better than anyone else. We belly laugh together. We tell crazy jokes. We giggle like teenagers. We hop in the truck and take off down dirt roads blaring music and singing. We pray together. We tell each other things that are difficult for the other to hear. We are there for one another....through thick and thin, good and bad. Don't ever let outside friendships and relationships, work, hobbies, or anything of the like stand in the way of you and your spouse being best friends.
9. Protect your spouse and your marriage. Privacy in marriage is almost foreign these days. And it shouldn't be! From the very beginning of our relationship, I made a personal committment that private things would always remain private. Marriage is a "bear-all" relationship. You are totally revealed in every way to your spouse. Protect that. Keep it sacred. I have vowed, when Grant and I have a disagreement, to never talk about it to anyone. It is no one's business and my words, even at a time when I may be upset, could hurt my husband and bring him disrespect. It is personal and between him, myself, and the Lord. I have vowed never to have "bedroom discussions" with girlfriends. The bedroom is sacred, holy, and deserves the utmost privacy. There are plenty of outside things that should be guarded against. Protect your spouse and your marriage.
10. Pray and pray together. Pray for you spouse. Pray that he can be a strong, passionate, mighty man of God. Pray that she can rise and be a valiant, virtuous woman of faith. Pray for strength. Pray for wisdom. Pray for your marriage as a whole. Pray for your children. Pray for yourself. Then pray together. Prayer brings unity. Praying alone can bring you closer to the throne of God and closer to His will. Praying together as a couple brings you closer together AS you draw nearer to the heart of God. Prayer brings unity and it brings strength. Always, always, always pray! Never cease!