September 2020 marked 12 years of marriage with my best friend. In those first dozen years together, we experienced four moves in two states, two miscarriages, two births, multiple job changes and too many of life’s peaks and valleys to count. In celebration of our anniversary, I highlighted 12 pieces of newlywed advice I wish I could have shared with the newlywed version of myself.
1. The honeymoon season doesn’t end — it improves
Well-meaning acquaintances warned us to “enjoy the honeymoon phase while it lasts.” Vacations all end, but the sweetness of newlywed life can develop instead of fade away. The goal of marriage isn’t to stay in a blissful, conflict-free daydream. It’s living life with a partner — someone who will walk with you through whatever difficulties lie ahead.
2. God won’t force Himself into your marriage; invite Him in
Sunday school taught me that God is a gentleman — He waits for us to invite Him into our hearts. In the same way, God doesn’t force Himself into our marriages. It took me years to realize how often I assumed God’s role in conversations and decisions instead of intentionally inviting Him in. Welcoming God’s presence and active participation in our circumstances changed so much for us. It’s a central practice I talk about in A Wife’s Secret to Happiness.
3. Your emotions aren’t supreme rulers; they’re indicator signals
Feelings are like warning indicators on a car dashboard. They alert us of what’s happening under the hood. Our emotions aren’t ever the actual problem — they’re just signals of the issue to address.
I’ve discovered that I am the boss of my emotions; they’re not the boss of me. When I acknowledge what I feel and seek to understand why I feel the way I do, I can validate my emotions without letting them take over the situation or sidetrack the conversation.
4. Learn to fight well, not fight to win
True success in an argument isn’t if you win; it’s if you make progress together as a couple. Learn to listen to understand, and how to fight for common ground instead of for what you want. These skills will prevent many future headaches.
5. Never say never; seasons often change what you want or need so take time to reevaluate
A helpful piece of newlywed advice I’ve learned is to know how your spouse feels most loved. The first time Jared and I discussed love languages, I labeled acts of service as my least favorite. Who needs an extra pair of hands to help when you can have quality time together, physical affection, affirmation or presents first? Well, fast-forward a few years and add a few kids, and acts of service is now my primary love language. Never did I think an empty kitchen sink would speak love so loudly.
Only relying on what’s worked before can leave us out of touch with our spouse’s current needs. Reconsider ways to partner together and how to show love and consideration in each new season.
6. Sometimes fun is a good enough reason to participate in something
I like to accomplish things, so I can prioritize efficiency, productivity and achievements above all else. Some newlywed advice I’ve had to learn is that doing something for the fun of it is also a worthwhile use of resources. It’s enjoyment — not efficiency — that creates sweet memories.
Learn How to Cherish your Spouse and Have a Deeper Connection
7. No one has everything figured out — we’re all just learning as we go along
I longed for the day when, like everyone else, I’d somehow know what I was doing. I still remember the work meeting with our company executives when I first realized everyone learned as they went along; some were just further along in the journey. I’ve found that this applies to careers, relationships and general life. Do your best with what you have, and trust God with it all.
8. Commend the good in your spouse
In tough seasons, it’s easy to want great changes and discount smaller steps. But good actions are never insignificant, even if they’re minor. Train your eyes to see and praise what’s good — even in deeds like taking out the trash, the way your spouse engages with your kids, hard work or acts of consideration and care.
9. He needs you to verbalize your respect
In the same way a wife needs her husband to affirm his love, a husband needs his wife to express her respect. We were at least four years into our marriage when I realized my failure in this area. We sat on our couch one afternoon as I read Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ Love and Respect. I turned to Jared and asked, “You know that I respect you, right? Like, I tell you I respect you?” He softened his gaze as his eyes met mine and replied, “Yes, I think so. You don’t say it though.”
So, I began a new habit. In the days that followed, I learned how appreciating his respectable traits and actions esteemed him and showed love in ways that speaking of my love couldn’t.
10. Hard times become future campfire stories
A friend said this piece of newlywed advice once and it’s stuck with me. No one loves difficulties, but those experiences often produce great “campfire” stories as you remember what you’ve survived together. For my husband and me, those memories include prolonged seasons such as when we moved to a city where we knew no one or walked through loss and fertility struggles. They also include momentary chaos, like when water leaked through to the kitchen downstairs and Jared learned how to patch a ceiling, or when a toddler discovered how to unlock doors and left the house solo.
Take hope that this too shall pass and look for lighthearted moments during a hard season. You’ll come out stronger together.
11. It’s worth the work and God is faithful
Married life is incredible, but melding two lives into one is far from easy. That’s why God partners with us instead of leaving us to figure it out on our own. God is faithful to carry His work to completion in your lives. When we press in to know Him more, we can be transformed into His likeness.
12. Appreciate the never-ending opportunities to learn about each other
Well, newlywed me, my husband and I are 12 years in and still appreciate more about each other every day. I’ve heard from couples with even greater tenure that the discovery never stops — it’s one of the beautiful gifts of married life. The last piece of newlywed advice I’d give is to embrace the opportunity to know and be known by your spouse in deeper ways for as long as you both shall live.