Lessons Learned My First Year of Marriage Part 1
This article has been a work in progress for well over a year now and while I wish I could say I learned all of these lessons the easy way unfortunately, most of them were learned through my own regrets and failures. My hope is that in sharing some of the things I learned as a new bride, I can prevent other wives and future wives from making the same mistakes I did and help them to thrive in their role as a wife. Marriage is truly a beautiful gift, may those of us called to be wives strive to live out our calling well for the glory of God.
Cling to Christ and Remain Devoted to Him
My wedding day was not the sunny, summer day by the lake I had always imagined. Not long after the ceremony began, the ominous storm clouds began to loom in the not too far off distance. At first, there was merely a light sprinkle, but it wasn’t long before the torrential downpour came. My groom and I shared our first kiss underneath the privacy of an umbrella then walked out of the ceremony to the song “Raindrops are Falling on my Head”. We scrambled hurriedly to get pictures with the backdrop of the black wall cloud, then the heavy rain began moving in as we ran to the tent for shelter. My veil had blown away during the ceremony and the tent would have likely followed it during our first dance had it not been for the many kind men willing to brave the storm and hold it down for us. It was an unforgettable occasion for more reasons than one to be sure. As my husband and I prepared to leave our reception and begin our new life together, my new father-in-law prayed over us and offered a simple, yet profound piece of advice. Though I can’t remember word for word all that he said, I will do my best to paraphrase the gist of what he shared with us that day: “There will be many more storms in your life together, much greater than the one you faced today.” he said, “Each of you will have to cling to Christ, He will be your sure and steady anchor through them all.” It may sound overly simplistic to some but how much we would need to remember it during that first year of marriage, as well as the ones that would follow it.
Neither my husband or I realized that day we stood at the alter making our vows just how many storms awaited us. Looking back in retrospect, that first year was easily one of the most difficult of my life- and probably my husband’s too. Every week seemed to bring with it a new trial, new problem to work through, a new burden to carry, and a new reason to cling to Christ.
A common temptation for many new brides is to idolize their husbands. After marriage, our focus often shifts, and it is all too easy to become consumed with pleasing our husbands and being a wife. This is a natural temptation for women, after all, when we stand at the alter and say “I do” we commit our whole selves to becoming the helpmeet to this one man for the rest of our lives. It can almost feel as though our very identity has changed- we change our name to our husband’s name and our primary role in life is now to aid him in his life calling and vocation. Though it is good and right to desire to please our husband and by serving him, we are honoring God in doing what He has called us to, we must not become so consumed with the gift (our husband) that we neglect the Giver. As 1 Corinthians 7:33-34 says, “But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband…” It is important that we are intentional to continue seeking Christ and remain devoted to Him in every season of life. Your husband does not need a wife who worships the very ground he walks on; he needs a wife who sits at the feet of Jesus each day to worship Him. Strive to remain in close fellowship with your Savior, it is only when we remain close to Jesus that we can truly be the kind of wife our husbands need.
Another common temptation to young brides is to become overly dependent on their husbands. With the many drastic changes marriage brings, it is all too easy to begin leaning on our spouse for that sense of security and purpose that should ultimately be found in Christ alone. While it is good to cleave to our spouse and to grow in unity, it is unhealthy to enter into marriage with the unrealistic expectation that it is now our husband’s job to meet all of our emotional needs and fulfill all of our desires. This is simply an impossible burden for your husband to bear. My own husband, as wonderful as he is, could never possibly meet my every need, only Jesus can do that. My husband brings me great joy, but he is not my ultimate source of joy. My husband comforts me, but He is not my ultimate source of comfort. My husband cares for me well in times of sickness, but He is not my healer. My husband provides for me, but He is not my ultimate provider. While God has and continues to graciously use my husband to bring me joy, comfort, protection etc., I must never forget that God is first and foremost the One I ought to look to for these things. Any time we treasure something or someone on this earth, more than we treasure Christ Himself, we are committing the sin of idolatry, in the end we will only be left empty and disappointed. Regardless of how godly he is, even your husband will fail and disappoint you at times. God is the only One who never will- He is unchanging, the same “yesterday, today and forever.” Don’t place expectations on your husband that were never made for him to fulfill. Only God can properly satisfy the deepest longings in our heart- cling to Him more tightly than you cling to anyone else. Remain wholly devoted to Him in every season of life- He is the only One truly worth living for, the One who is able to carry us through the storms of life.
I would also like to note here the importance of cultivating strong female friendships with other like-minded wives who can encourage you to become a godlier wife yourself. Your husband can absolutely be your best friend but it is not his job to replace all other friendships in your life. Men need male friendships to cultivate godly manhood and women need female friendships to cultivate godly womanhood. Your husband wasn’t meant to replace all your girlfriends or sisters in Christ, you still need them too.
Leave and Cleave
In the months leading up to the wedding and even more so in the months following, other relationships in your life begin to change. This is only natural- marriage is a significant life change and there is a lot to learn and balance as you and your spouse seek to adjust to life together and grow closer to one another. God has designed marriage to be the closest, most intimate relationship human beings can experience with one another. Your relationship to your husband will be unlike that of any other relationship you have experienced prior, it will be closer than the relationship you have with your parents, siblings and closest friends. Once you are married, you become one flesh with your spouse, they become your other half. You leave your former home behind to start your own. You leave your family to cleave to your husband and start a new family. This does not mean that you abandon or neglect prior relationships, but it will change them as your primary priority is now the new family unit you have built together.
As someone who struggles with people pleasing tendencies, this was a difficult adjustment for me. There was a lot of pressure on me as a new bride; many expectations were placed on me by various people in my life for things to “stay the same”. I remember feeling so stressed and busy during those first months of marriage trying to live up to everyone’s expectations so that nobody would feel hurt or neglected. Yet somehow, it was still never enough- someone was always disappointed or upset with me if I didn’t call more frequently, text back soon enough, show up at a certain event, or spend more time with them doing X, Y, Z. Though every slot on my calendar was full trying to manage it all I was still falling short. Over time, I learned that this pace of life was not only unmanageable long term, it was unhealthy for my marriage. My husband battled the same struggle, people contended for his time and attention then became offended when their expectations were unmet. Each of us, as individuals and as a couple, had to come to terms with the fact that there was simply no possible way we could please everyone. While we strove to be considerate of others and generous with our time, we had to set some healthy boundaries along with realistic expectations for the sake of our marriage.
As a wife, your time is no longer your own, it is shared with your husband. You can expect your schedule to change. Again, this doesn’t mean abandoning former relationships at all, but they will look different than before. For every couple things will look different and only you and your husband can decide what is right for you, perhaps it looks like spending less time with friends or family as individuals and more time with them as a couple. Maybe it looks like setting limits on phone time e.g. if you are having an important conversation with your spouse or are spending quality time with each other you may not answer your phone or respond to texts right away. It may look like saying “no” to certain events or invitations. It may mean hanging out with new people like your husband’s family or friends as you try to get to know them better (and vice versa). Husbands and wives should communicate about these things and be on the same page when it comes to time spent together and schedules. One thing my husband and I have done to help us in this area is connect the calendars on our phones- anytime my husband adds something to the calendar I get a notification and same with me. This allows us to keep track of what the other has going on and what we are doing together.
Another aspect of leaving and cleaving is the shift of authority that takes place. When you become a wife, you are no longer under the authority structure of your parents, but your husband. As an adult, you are commanded to honor your parents, but you are never commanded to obey them and as a wife you are now called to submit to your husband. He becomes your spiritual head, leader and your primary counselor and advisor. Your convictions are held as a couple now and you make your decisions together. When the decisions you have made together are being questioned or criticized, you will need to stand by your husband and kindly but firmly remain resolute. Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remain teachable and open to correction if we are wrong about something. It also does not mean that we should never seek counsel from godly parents or other older, godly couples in our lives. If it is not an issue of sin though, do not be afraid to stand by your husband and own your decisions, regardless of who in your life may be disappointed.
Yet another way we cleave to our spouse is by being completely open and honest with them. This means that you are open books to one another, nothing is hidden from or unknown to the other. Your phones, passwords and browser history are not kept private. When you say “I Do”, complete access into every area of your life should be given to one another. If information is shared with you that you think your husband would be interested in knowing, it should be shared with him. If someone comes to you in confidence, tell them beforehand that whatever they say may be shared with your spouse. Keeping secrets from one another rarely fosters unity. Don’t form alliances with others that are closer than the one you have with your husband- this includes mothers, sisters, best friends etc. Your husband, not your family or friends, is your other half, he has the right to know everything about you. True intimacy not only involves physical intimacy but emotional intimacy.
Your Respect Matters
My husband once told me that a man can face anything or anyone if he knows his wife has his back. Men crave respect, just as women crave love and affection. Men want to know that their wives look up to and respect them, just as women want to know their husbands love and cherish them- this is the way God designed us.
One of the ways wives can respect their husband is by being supportive of their vision, work and ministry. We were created to be our husband’s helpmeet, don’t be a hindrance to his calling, strive to encourage and aid him in it. For each woman this will look different based on their husband. One of my friend’s husbands recently decided to run for Governor. He saw a vision for how a State should function if run in accordance with the Word of God. His wife, even though pregnant and sick, got behind him and supported his vision from the very beginning. She helped him renovate a travel trailer and traveled with him for campaigning projects all the way up until the end of her pregnancy. She cared for their children and ran their household while he was in important meetings or phone calls- she supported his vision to the fullest. Another friend of mine is married to a missionary who’s vision is to reach an unreached people group. She left her home and family, moved to another country leaving behind many modern conveniences and comforts. She now lives on a houseboat with their three children traveling to unreached people groups to share the gospel alongside her husband. Another friend of mine is married to a cabinet maker, she supports his work in various ways. She often praises his work to me and to others, she doesn’t complain when he needs to work extra hours, she runs their household smoothly so that he has a pleasant place to come home to at the end of each day and on some occasions, she goes to work and helps him in the ways she knows how to. Whatever your husband’s vision or life work is, get behind it and find ways to support him in it. It may be as simple as packing his lunch, praying for and with him, praising his work, or just letting him know how you appreciate how hard he works to support your family.
Another way wives can respect their husbands is by not speaking negatively of them to others, even when they are not present. Don’t degrade your husband’s reputation, choose only to praise him when in public, unless of course there is an issue of serious sin that needs to be taken before your elders and church. Refuse to let others speak negatively of your husband also, this includes your closest family members and friends. Be a wife who is greatly offended if someone is speaking ill of your spouse behind their back. Be ruthless in guarding your mind against outside negativity. Nobody comes between you and your husband. The husband of the Proverbs 31 woman could “safely trust her”. One of the reasons he could trust her was because she honored him and his reputation even when he was not present. Our husbands need to know that we have their back, we should never allow others to mischaracterize or belittle our husbands.
Don’t nag your husband, as a friend once told me “before marriage was the time to look but after marriage is the time to close your eyes”. In other words, don’t let the little things bother you, let them go. So what if he always leaves his clothes in the floor or the toilet seat up, does it really matter that much? It won’t hurt you to cheerfully and quietly pick them up or close the lid. If one of his quirks or habits is bothering you enough to say something about it, make sure you do it in a kind, respectful way- the way you would want him to come to you if something you did was bothering him. Again, this does not mean that there isn’t a time or way to address sin in our husband’s life. We should have the freedom to go to one another and point out areas where repentance and growth are needed, be sure to remove the log from your own eye first though and go in a humble, respectful manner.
To be continued in part two…