How to Have an Extraordinary First Year of Marriage, Pt. 2

Last time, we saw six choices that can help make our first year of marriage—or any year, for that matter—extraordinary. Today, we’re going to look at six more. Whether we’re engaged, newly married, or married for decades, we can all start today, by God’s grace, to make our marriages the best they can be.

#7: Be interested in what interests your spouse.

James tells me he’s read more books since meeting me than he has in the rest of his lifetime. That’s a credit to him for wanting to care about something that interests me. On the other hand, I’ve gotten into mountain biking because of him and really enjoy off-road biking now.

I’m not saying you have to change your interests because of your spouse. Instead, you should expand them so that you each spend more time with your spouse doing something important to him or her. The impact on your relationship will be the best return you can make on any time investment.

#8: Encourage time apart.

Some couples become so absorbed in each other that they completely lose their identity and their friend groups, which is entirely unhealthy. You are still two people. Even though you have mutual friends and are each other’s favorite person in the world, he needs some time with the guys, and you need girl time. James has been wonderful about encouraging me to take a night out with my friends, and I’ve encouraged him to do the same. We’re both better for it.

#9: Always give more and never keep score.

Try to “out give” each other. This is a challenge I’m striving to practice. It means buying the brand of Fig Newtons he likes (even though I don’t) or putting his favorite chocolate chip cookies in the oven “just because.” It means looking extra special just for him or finding a fun way to surprise him.

Secretly, I suspect James is practicing on me too. The other night, my stomach was upset, and even though we had both gone to bed, he offered to get up and get me some Tums and something to drink. (I didn’t want to get up, and I imagine he didn’t either.) But he did. Because loves cares about upset tummies.

A marriage of two givers is a beautiful thing.

To read the full post, visit Manna for Marriage, the blog of my friend and writer Tami Myer. Special thanks to Tami for inviting me to share on her website!

~ Kristen

How to Have an Extraordinary First Year of Marriage, Pt. 1

Just over a year ago, my husband and I said “I do.” Like most new couples, we received lots of advice, and we welcomed what wisdom others had to share. However, one reoccurring comment troubled me: “The first year of marriage is hard.” Although I understood that we would both have adjustments to make, I didn’t like this “survivalist” mentality. After all, Jesus came so that we could have life “more abundantly” (John 10:10), and surely that concept applied to marriage, part of His design. But what did I know?

Well, I have good news. The first year of marriage doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can truly be extraordinary, but both husband and wife are responsible to each other to make it that way.

#1: Agree that you married the right person.

Once you say, “I do,” this one is signed, sealed, and delivered. In God’s eyes, that person is now the “right person” because you made a covenant before Him with this individual. You can’t make the excuse, “I married the wrong person.” The truth is that anyone you marry will disappoint or upset you at one point or another, and that reality doesn’t make him or her the “wrong person.”

In short, remove this excuse from your vocabulary. Resist the temptation to compare your spouse to any other person. It’s not a fair comparison, because you don’t know anyone’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your spouse’s. This person, complete with brokenness and beauty, is God’s plan for your life. Relish that reality and that privilege.

This person, complete with brokenness and beauty, is God’s plan for your life. Relish that reality and that privilege.

#2: Be kind and thoughtful to each other.

This one should be a no-brainer, but if the Apostle Paul felt the need to remind his readers, then more than likely we can use the reminder too. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV)

Marriage brings adjustments. You each bring different life experiences and personal habits into the relationship. Instead of expecting the other person to be just like you, embrace the differences. Also, make room for changes.

When we got married, James moved into my house. Realizing what a big change this would be for him, I rearranged and gave away furniture to make room for his. I also practiced saying “our home” instead of “my home” and tried to look for ways to incorporate his things.

Everyone’s situations are different, but during those first early weeks and months, be sensitive and aware of simple ways to make the transition smoother. When in doubt, ask what you can do.

#3: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

My husband and I marvel at how much other couples seem to fight. We’re redeemed sinners like every other Christian couple, but we don’t argue or yell at each other. If we disagree, we talk about it. If we’re having a bad day, we’re honest about it. If we mess up, we have to apologize.

I remember having a particularly rough day at work. Coming out of my office, I found James working on his laptop and told him straight: “It’s been a tough day, babe, and I’m pretty upset about it. Just know that it has nothing to do with you.”

Don’t make your spouse guess if you’re upset with him or not. Be transparent. Once James knew how I was feeling, he was able to lovingly support me through my emotions instead of wondering if he were somehow responsible for them.

To read the full post, visit Manna for Marriage, the blog of my friend Tami Myer, a gifted writer and marriage mentor. I’m honored to be sharing this two-part series with her readers and you.

Next time, we’ll look at more choices couples can make to get their marriage off to a great start. For now, which of these ideas is most helpful to where you are right now?

~ Kristen

How to Have an Extraordinary First Year of Marriage by @kjhogrefe on @Manna4Marriage

4 Core Strengths in Marriage, Pt. 2

Today, I’m excited to share the second part of this Core Strengths series by my friend and author Tami Myer who blogs at Manna for Marriage. If you missed last week’s post, you can go back and review the first two strengths needed for your marriage by clicking here. Personally, this posts are timely, since James and I celebrate our first anniversary this week (social distancing style). I’m so grateful for an amazing first year of marriage, and next week, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned this first year. But for now, please join me in welcoming Tami once more as she shares her last two points with us.

Post by Tami Myer

3. Commitment

Many people think that the most important “C” in marriage is communication. Communication is important, certainly, but I think that commitment is even more essential.

When you and your spouse are committed to one another, you gain a firm platform under your feet that allows you then to work on your communication or any other issue. Being committed to your marriage means that nothing on earth is more important than your relationship. Of course, you want your obedience to God to be your highest commitment, but your obedience to God motivates and strengthens your commitment to your marriage.

Even after exchanging vows on your wedding day, there are times when it is important to verbalize that commitment. When you and your spouse do not agree on the color of the carpet, it can be helpful to say, “I like the green, but I value you more than the carpet.”  Or when you are dealing with something more serious, it can be very stabilizing to say, “This is tough, but I am absolutely committed to you and to our marriage.” Speaking your commitment out loud reminds you both of what you truly value.

Commitment is the solid foundation that undergirds a successful marriage. It is your commitment that protects your love, not the other way around. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it: “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but … the marriage that sustains your love.”

4. Kindness

Is there ever a time not to be kind in your marriage?

Short answer: no. Long answer: never.

Some people seem to think that marriage is a license to be unkind, as if demonstrating thoughtlessness were part of real intimacy.

But God says:

Love is patient, love is kind. … It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. … Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV)

Practice kindness every day with your spouse. Nothing will strengthen your marriage more than simple, ordinary, everyday kindness.

Smile. Be patient. Give a hug. Speak a gentle or encouraging word. Stick a note on the mirror, or leave a small gift in the drawer. Join your spouse on an errand, or rub his shoulders. Refill her empty glass.

These things may seem little, but so are the breaths that we take into our lungs moment by moment. Our lives are sustained by the little things.

Honor. Attentiveness. Commitment. Kindness. These are relational strands that you can weave into your marriage every day. The result of these daily, consistent practices–however small or unseen–will be a strong and successful relationship.

Learn more about strengthening your marriage in “10 Simple But Powerful Ways to Build Your Marriage.”

4 Core Strengths in Marriage by @manna4marriage on @kjhogrefe

4 Core Strengths in Marriage, Pt. 1

If you received my newsletter this month (if not, you can get next month’s by clicking here), you may be looking forward to my friend Tami’s post as much as I am. Tami blogs at Manna for Marriage where she encourages and equips couples in their marriages. As my husband and I near our one-year anniversary, I asked if she would share some advice for building a strong foundation for the future.

Well, I have good news. She shared so much excellent material with me that we decided to break it into two posts: this week and next. Please join me in welcoming Tami today!

By Tami Myer

Every marriage is unique with its own blend of personality styles, family backgrounds, and life circumstances. Even the “secrets to success” can vary from couple to couple.

However, there are four concepts that add immense strength to any marriage. Relationships that build on these four principles will be resilient and healthy. Couples who fail to establish these qualities in their homes can expect pain and crisis.

Developing these core strengths will make all the difference in your marriage: honor, attentiveness, commitment, and kindness.

1. Honor

Learn to maintain an inner posture of honor toward your spouse. In your spirit, keep saluting your husband. In your spirit, keep bowing to your wife.

Work on developing this discipline until it becomes your default position. There are no “days off” and no “time out” when it comes to honor. It is the oxygen in your marriage.

Honor is the oxygen in your marriage. Read more by @manna4marriage on @kjhogrefe.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Romans 12:10, NLT)

Your spouse is created in the image of God. That was true on your wedding day, and regardless of how long you’ve been married, it is true today. And it will still be true on your most difficult days. Your spouse will always be worthy of honor because of the eternal spirit that God created him or her to be.

Your husband’s actions may not always be worthy of respect; but every day, he is worthy of your respect because he was designed by God for greatness and strength. He is an immortal, priceless spirit, created for significance and success, known and valued by God.

So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, NLT)

Your wife’s behavior may not always be worthy of esteem; but every day, she is worthy of your esteem because she is an immortal, priceless spirit, designed to bring delight and pleasure to the heart of God. She is loved and cherished by God.

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. (1 Peter 3:7, NLT)

Honor your spouse by using gracious, tactful speech. You might even want to do what my husband, Chris, and I have done throughout our marriage: banish sarcasm. I realize that sarcasm can be witty and fun, but it can also be like a little crack in the door.

Sarcasm often opens the door wider and wider until truly ugly and hurtful comments come sliding through.

Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29, NLT)

Honor your spouse by using your best manners. Don’t save your polite behavior for company! Instead, use your “fine china” manners with your spouse every day. Sure, you can relax and wear your comfy clothes, but don’t relax the filter on your thoughts or the guard on your tongue. Should we be more courteous to complete strangers in the grocery store than we are to our covenant partners?

I don’t know if I should tell you this next thing about my husband because it might make the women jealous and the men annoyed. Chris opens the car door for me not only when I am getting into the car but also when I am getting out of the car. Before Chris and I were married, someone warned me that my husband would soon quit opening doors for me; but 32 years later, he is still walking around the car to open my door! Chris does this as a gesture of honor to me; but primarily, it reveals him as a great man of honor.

Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10, ESV)

This is something we often forget: when we show honor to our spouses, we are actually demonstrating that we ourselves are people of honor. When we withhold honor from our spouses because we think that they are undeserving, we are only exposing our own insecurities and pettiness.

2. Attentiveness

Dr. John Gottman is a world-renown marriage researcher who discovered that he could predict–with surprising accuracy–the success of a marriage based on a single factor.

Dr. Gottman had expected to find that successful couples communicate at deep, intimate levels throughout the day. He had expected to find that they usually agree with one another. But that was not what the research showed!

Instead, Dr. Gottman discovered that the single most important factor in marriage is attentiveness. Successful couples are attentive to one another’s attempts to connect. Couples who are not attentive to one another in positive ways will eventually break up.

Dr. Gottman found that husbands and wives make bids for attention throughout the day. A “bid” is any attempt to connect with another person. A bid can be spoken words, a touch, a facial expression, or a sound. “Accepting” a bid means responding to a bid in a positive way. This process of making and accepting bids is what knits a relationship together.

Accepting a bid can be as simple as responding to a comment by saying, “Really? That’s interesting!” If your wife smiles at you, you can smile back or wink. If your husband says that there is a red bird sitting on the fence, you can take a moment to look out the window and thank your husband for pointing that out.

Ignoring bids or responding in a hostile way (“Who cares?!”) absolutely shreds a marriage.

This concept of making and accepting bids is simple, but it is extremely important. (It is another expression of honor.) Be attentive to your spouse’s bids, and respond in pleasant ways. Responses may be brief, but making the effort to acknowledge your spouse is critical.

Join us next week for the second half of the Core Strengths series! Until then, what did you learn from Tami today that could encourage your own marriage? Or if you’re a young adult, what idea might you want to tuck away for later? Please share in the comments.

4 Core Strengths in Marriage by @manna4marriage on @kjhogrefe

6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage, Pt. 2

If you missed last week, you’ll want to look back at the first in this two-part series by Tami Myer. In these posts, she maps out a beautiful and biblical perspective on marriage for Christian singles.

Today, we pick up where we left off last time with the fourth thing singles should know about marriage.

If this post is a blessing to you, please leave a comment below-or share it with your single friends to encourage them in their walk.

***

#4. Marriage will not complete you.

Single people are not “halves” waiting for their other “halves” to join them. Two single people are two complete people. But after a man and a woman marry, God unites these two individuals as one married couple. Two people become one flesh and one team. [i]

Christ is the only One who is able to fully satisfy us. Whether we are married or single, Christ is the Lover of our souls who knows us completely, loves us unconditionally, and cares for us perfectly.

#5. Marriage is not the cure for loneliness.

Singles struggle with loneliness, but so do married people. In fact, some people say that the loneliness they experienced within marriage was more intense than the loneliness they felt when single.

Ravi Zacharias points out that the only lasting cure for loneliness is worship.

That may seem like a strange statement unless we understand that true worship is actually an expression of relationship. Worship is not a monologue of verbal praise or a one-person performance. Instead, it is a two-way relationship: we delight in knowing God, and God delights in knowing us. Genuine worship requires that we know God in our spirit (not just as facts in our brain) and in truth. [ii]

Without worship, we experience only temporary relief from loneliness through various distractions. But true worship can be a continual posture of our soul; it becomes a lifestyle. If we live in worship, then we can live free of deep loneliness.

#6. Marriage is an assignment from God.

Instead of looking for a soulmate, listen for God’s calling. Click to Tweet.

Marriage is a calling to serve another person. It is as much a calling as a missionary’s call to Africa or a pastor’s call to preach. A wife is called to minister to her husband’s needs, and a husband is called to minister to his wife’s needs.

If you marry because someone makes you happy, what will you do on the day that he or she doesn’t make you happy? (And that day will arrive sooner than you expect.)

Most of the reasons that people give for marrying then flip into their reasons for leaving: “he was kind, but now he’s not,” or “she was attentive and appreciative, but now she’s not.” However, if your reason for marrying is to serve, then you will never have a reason to leave because you will always be able to serve.

If God is calling you to serve Him as a single now, then fulfill that calling with everything you’ve got.

If God calls you someday to serve as a husband or wife, then fulfill that calling with everything you’ve got.

And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. (1 Corinthians 7:17  MSG)

The calling is God’s business. Faithfulness to the calling is our business.

~ Tami Myer, MannaForMarriage.com

Notes

[i] Genesis 2:20-24; Mark 10:6-9

[ii] John 4:24

 

6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage, Pt. 1

Tami Myer is my friend and fellow writer who blogs about godly marriage and what that looks like. I asked her if she could share a biblical perspective on marriage for singles that we could apply to our walk now, and she graciously said yes.

Whether you’re a teen, young adult, or adult who’s not yet married, it’s my hope that Tami’s two-part series will bless you as much as it has me.

***

Why should singles care about the topic of marriage?

If marriage is not on your radar or even on your wish list, you may think that the subject is not relevant for you right now. But regardless of your marital status, you will benefit from understanding the divine design for marriage. [i]

Here are six important things to know about marriage.

#1. Marriage is a profound revealer of spiritual truths.

When we look at the universe, we know that there is a God. And when we look at marriage, we learn who this God is. The created world reveals the existence of God, but marriage reveals the nature and character of God. We learn that He is a God of relationship and that He is loyal and loving.

In the Scriptures, God makes a stunning claim:

For your Creator will be your husband. (Isaiah 54:5 NLT)

God will be our husband? What does that mean? As we study biblical marriage, we learn that a man is to be the protector and the provider for his wife. The husband is responsible for the well-being of the woman. He lays down his interests in order to love her well. His very life is to be a covering of protection over his bride. He honors, nurtures, and cherishes her.

Amazingly, God is eager to be this kind of “husband” to everyone who enters into a covenant relationship with Him.

I will take you to be My wife forever. I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. (Hosea 2:19 HSCB)

As a type of “wife,” we accept God and welcome Him. We take His name as our name. “I am His” becomes our identity. We become covenant partners with Him, and we allow Him to carry the weight of responsibility. We give up being spiritually single. We end our other spiritual love affairs (pursuing pleasure, prestige, or possessions), and we devote ourselves to Him. Instead of being spiritually independent (“I know what is good for me”), we depend on His guidance and wisdom.

We live to know Him and to make His name great. We trust His care, knowing that His goal is our radiance. [ii] Our thriving is His glory.

We abide in Him, and He abides in us. We delight in Him, marveling that He delights in us.

As a groom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you.
(Isaiah 62:5 HCSB)

#2. You can have a great impact on others in the area of marriage.

As you interact with people every day, you can be a powerful influence. You don’t have to be married to know what God teaches about marriage. Understanding the Scriptures will enable you to share helpful truth with others.

It has been said that wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective. Whether married or not, we all need wisdom in this area because the marriages around us affect our lives. Marriages shape our society and culture.

#3. You may have heard that sexual purity is a gift to your future spouse, and that is certainly true. But purity is also a valuable gift to yourself.

You are far more than physical instincts and chemicals. You are more than an animal, which lacks moral strength or character. You have inherent honor, for you are a man or a woman created in the image of God Himself. Women have the God-given glory of being women. Men have the God-given glory of being men.

Your sexuality is deeply linked to your spirit. If you are abused sexually, there is a deep wounding in your spirit. If you give your body away sexually, your spirit is dishonored and demeaned. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT)

Perhaps you don’t know how much you are worth. Perhaps you don’t know that you are a person of high value. God says that you are a treasure. You are priceless!

Your body and spirit are worth far more than cheap words and empty promises. You are worth nothing less than someone’s solemn vow before God and witnesses to honor you “til death do you part.” Guard yourself against anyone who says you are worth less than a lifetime commitment.

Sexual purity isn’t just physical. It is also mental. Stay away from porn. It will destroy you. We live in a pornographic society, so it takes strength to fight back, but it is well worth the effort. Porn promises pleasure, but then it sabotages even the ability to enjoy pleasure. It is highly addictive, encourages abusive behavior, creates dissatisfaction, destroys empathy, and causes users to view people as objects.

Pursue sexual purity in your behavior and in your thinking. You will reap great rewards from this, both now and later, whether single or married. Purity will free you to be healthy physically, spiritually, and in your relationships with other people.

Whatever may be in your past, you can embrace purity now because God loves to give fresh starts and clean slates.

~ Tami Myer

To be continued… Be sure to come back next week for the second part of: 6 Things Singles Need to Know about Marriage.

Notes

[i] One of the best books on marriage was originally written for singles. The Meaning of Marriage is based on a series of sermons which pastor Timothy Keller preached at his church in New York City, where his congregation is predominantly single.

[ii] Ephesians 5:27, NIV

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