My eyes were opened the day he helped me load the dishwasher. We were just dating and that day he was helping with the dishes. Did you know there’s more than one way to load a dishwasher? Apparently neither of us knew that. He put stuff in the wrong places and loaded things I would only wash by hand. My attempts at correcting him proved less than helpful to our relationship. As we argued about the “right” way to get those dishes clean it occurred to me that it was going to be a lot harder than I thought to merge two lives together, especially when I had my way of doing things and he had his.
The first few years of marriage are really great but there’s also a lot of adjusting and compromising. It can be really tough to pick your battles, find a balance and reach common ground on certain things. We’ve only been at this ourselves for three years but I can tell you it does get easier… and better. If you’re in a place in your marriage that you’re wondering how it gets easier – keep reading. I’m going to share with you six tips that we’ve learned so far (and some we’re still working on implementing) that have been key for us in our first few years of marriage.
Figure out each other’s love language
I’ve mentioned it before because I believe it works. Learning what makes us feel loved made a real difference in how we relate to and treat each other. And bonus, when he speaks my language it’s easier for me to speak his, and vice versa. So figure out each other’s primary love languages and start talking!
A consistent date night
I’m sooo glad we started making this an actual appointment on our calendars. Ours is every other week because right now that works best for our schedule. We’ve decided to try new-to-us restaurants and spend time talking and building our relationship. We usually end up doing other things too, like watching a favorite show, wandering around a store (hey, it’s winter in upper MI, we’re slightly limited right now)… It’s just been good to reconnect and have something to look forward to together. We plan it and protect it – our marriage needs this so we’re learning to say no to other things on that night.
A healthy prayer life
We started off strong with this in our dating days, but it’s tapered off since we’ve gotten married. We talk a lot about how we need to be better about praying for each other but we’re not so great at actually doing it yet. The glue that holds a Christian marriage together is the presence of Jesus. When we’re just keeping Him in the loop and not holding Him up as the center of our lives and marriage things just don’t work as well. I’m learning to pray for my husband, he’s learning to pray for me, and we’re learning to take time as a couple to spend quality time with Jesus together.
I’ll be honest, we didn’t really seek this one out, but God has worked this out really nicely for us. Two couples have invited us over for dinner or desert and just talked with us. We have no agenda – we just chat. These Christian couples have been married for years and have solid relationships with each other and God. They give us advice on everything from dealing with people at work to fighting fair with each other to encouraging us in our callings. They invest in us, make plans to meet with us, and genuinely care for us. We have been beyond blessed by their Christian love and encouragement. It’s so important to have people who have “been there, done that” and have come through the other side to help you out.
Friends with other Christian couples
Vital. Necessary. Must-have. How many ways can you say “very important”? Having couple friends who share your values about marriage is a real game-changer. These friends are right there in the trenches with you. They celebrate your highs and understand your lows because it’s likely they’re in a similar boat. And it’s always good to know that what you’re dealing with as a couple is normal. It’s good to know you have people you can trust to share personal details. It’s a relief to know that others struggle just like you at times. Most of all, it’s just fun to do life with other people your age and stage of life. No marriage is perfect, and friends can help you keep yours in perspective.
This is another recent thing my husband and I just started talking about together. We realized that we each have individual dreams and goals, but haven’t spent much time figuring out “our” dreams. That was our most recent date night conversation, and we came to realize that the longer we’re together, his dreams kind of become mine, and mine kind of become his. Of course, we do have some shared dreams since we’ve gotten married, like being parents one day, for instance. But we also know now that we can still hold on to our own dreams and nurture some joint dreams.
This whole concept of two becoming one is definitely a mystery. It’s a wonderful, frustrating gift from God that goes way beyond the right way to do the dishes or fold clothes. How did we solve our dishwasher dilemma? We bought a house with no dishwasher – so now we do all of them by hand, and argue a little about where we’d put a dishwasher in our kitchen one day. Because, you know, there’s always a right way…