Lessons Learned My First Year of Marriage Part 2
Develop Good Communication Skills and Conflict Resolution
Something I learned early on into my marriage is that good communication skills and biblical conflict resolution are key if you desire to have a strong marriage. My husband came from a family where everything was discussed and conflicts never remained unresolved, I did not. My husband wanted to talk about everything until it was worked through even if it meant staying up all night long to do so. I shied away from controversy as much as possible and tended to sweep things under the rug whenever disagreements arose- this was not good for obvious reasons and provided many opportunities for me to grow. Being willing to discuss and work through things is necessary in order for relationships to thrive. It is unhelpful to ignore issues rather than to discuss them calmly and collectedly as mature adults should. Misunderstandings or disagreements will happen in every marriage, it is how we deal with them that is important. We should work to develop good, clear communication skills so that we can work through any problems that arise in a God glorifying way.
Communicate with one another often and about everything. Don’t have unspoken expectations, make them clear. Consult one another about your plans and arrangements. Don’t play the guessing game; your husband is not a mind-reader. If he asks you what’s wrong, just tell him. Don’t lie and say “nothing” when there really is something, it won’t benefit your relationship in the long run. If something has been done to upset you, don’t give your husband the silent treatment or withhold your affection until he figures out what he did wrong, go to him as the Scripture say (Matthew 18:15) and work through it. Don’t run from hard conversations.
Don’t assume one another’s motives for doing or saying something (e.g. “He said that because he believes this, and that’s not true” or “He did that because he just doesn’t care about how I feel” etc.). “Love believes all things”, choose to believe the best of your spouse and their motives until proven otherwise. If something was done or said that is bothering you, talk about it. I have never regretted hearing my husband’s perspective or allowing him to clarify what he meant before forming a judgement. If there is confusion simply ask, “Is this what you are saying?” then repeat what you think they are telling you in your own words, allowing them to clarify if that is not the case. You don’t owe your husband your agreement in the end, but you do owe him the courtesy of listening and doing due diligence to understand him better. Communicate calmly with one another, don’t raise your voice in an argument or stoop to belittling one another. Never separate from each other in the midst of a dispute. If you need a moment to calm down, say so, don’t just leave in anger.
Listen more and talk less. It is better to be quiet than to say things you will later come to regret. Painful words are not easily forgotten even if easily forgiven. You will never regret holding your tongue until you have prayed over what you should say, especially in those heated moments of sorting through disagreements. Strive to work out conflicts quickly and apologize for sin quickly. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree or see each others’ view points right away but if one of you has sinned in the midst of a disagreement repent of it quickly. Don’t leave each other as long as you have unconfessed, unrepented of sin. You can be at peace with one another even if you are not in perfect unity on a subject. Most importantly, be resolved to work out conflicts no matter what. If you can’t solve a problem on your own, go get help and counsel from your pastor, elders, or a trusted, godly friend.
Strong marriages are not those that have zero conflict but those where couples know how to deal with them in a biblical, Christ honoring manner. Remember, Christ sees what takes place between you and your husband in the privacy of your home though others may not, honor Him in the way you deal with conflicts and communicate with each other. Disagreements don’t have to be scary and they don’t have to turn into big arguments, they are not hindrances to your marriage, they can actually be an opportunity to grow closer to one another as you learn to work through difficulties together.
Forgive Quickly and Completely
Just as sin should be repented of quickly, it should also be forgiven quickly. Don’t hold grudges against one another, don’t grow bitter towards each other. Bitterness can destroy relationships faster than almost anything else. Forgive quickly and completely. Don’t bring up past wrongs that have been repented over, not even in the heat of an argument. Don’t use terms such as “You always” or “you never”. These types of statements are rarely true in the first case but also show a spirit of unforgiveness. “Love keeps no record of wrongs” don’t hold things against your husband, forgive him and move on.
Holy People Make Happy Marriages
People often ask how you know when you’re “ready” to get married as though marriage is an exclusive reward for the spiritually mature or exceptionally holy. Oftentimes, marriage is the means in which the immature become more mature and the sinful are sanctified. Marriage exposes your sin and forces you to reckon with parts of yourself you need to change. Marriage does not magically change you into a better person, it is a way of shining a bright light on faults you didn’t even know you had. The wedding day is just the beginning of a lifetime of growth. No one is perfectly ready by someone’s arbitrary standards. Your character doesn’t freeze in time the day you get married. Marriage is an ongoing tool of refinement and sanctification, not an excuse to hit cruise control. You don’t need to be perfect in order to enter marriage, but you do need to be willing to grow and be sanctified, this is non-negotiable. If you desire to have a happy marriage, strive to grow in personal holiness. Holy people make happy marriages.
Willingness to grow takes humility. We must be willing to acknowledge our own failures and shortcomings. We must be willing to learn, but also to unlearn any bad or sinful habits in our lives. One of the best ways you can grow in holiness is to hold each other accountable. Allow your spouse to critique areas in your life and receive their constructive criticism humbly, with a willingness to change. Have others hold you accountable as well. Find an older, godlier woman who has been married longer than you have and seek out her counsel and advice. Accountability is one reason why the body of Christ is so vitally important.
As you strive to grow in holiness you must make war on any sin in your life. Know what your specific temptations are. Before you can be victorious over your besetting sins, you must first acknowledge that they exist and see them as sin. Come up with a battle strategy for how to deal with this sin when the temptation arises. For example, if you struggle with the sin of anger, first identify it and acknowledge that it is sin. Begin praying that God will help you to grow in this area. Find an accountability partner- a friend you can go to after you have failed who will admonish you and pray for you. Go to the Scriptures to find any verses that deal with this sin and make a list of them to refer back to. Have a plan in place for what you will do in the heat of the moment e.g., you may send a quick text to your accountability partner asking for prayer or you may step away from the situation that is frustrating you to pray or read through the list of verses you came up with. Do whatever it takes to kill sin in your life.
I hope these articles have been a blessing those of you newly married or preparing for marriage. Again, I still have much to learn about being a godly wife and much further to go in my journey towards sanctification. By His grace and with His help, let us press on to be the wives He has called us to be so that our marriages will bring glory to God.