Saturday, February 09, 2013

Unsolicited Marriage Advice

I originally started compiling these ideas/suggestions for my brother, who is newly married.  I was going to include some or all of them in the "best man toast/speech" at his wedding, but it was just too long and probably too preachy.  But what are big brothers for, if not to give unsolicited advice?  So for Steve or whoever else cares, here are my observations and suggestions from my 12 years (so far) of marriage experience.

The first year of marriage in all likelihood will have more challenges than you anticipated. In fact, it very well may suck. With any big change in your life, there's a recalibrating process to go through. An adjustment to the changes of what is now considered “normal”.  Amanda and I dated for 5 ½ years before we tied the knot. I was plenty mature at 29 years old too.  We were (and still are), more compatible than most other couples I know.  We grew up only about a mile away from each other, had similar senses of humor, moral values, on and on.  Needless to say, we get along great!  But even with all of these factors being in our favor, that first year of marriage was really difficult!  Many other couples I've talked to (although not all) have echoed this same experience too.

When you encounter disputes, be the first to step up and reconcile. Even though it stings your pride (sometimes a lot), think of it like a game, and the first one to apologize and/or humbly start communicating wins. Because really you do.

Give each other grace. Remember that nobody is perfect except for Jesus, and your spouse isn't Him.

When there are ongoing issues or deficiencies that I think exist in the relationship with my spouse, I have found that the problems I am experiencing often directly mirror my relationship with God.  I'll use the most common challenges I've heard from other married people as examples:
  • Problem: My wife is lazy. She doesn't exercise or take care of her body enough.
    Spiritual Parallell:  Well, how much time do you spend on your relationship with God? On taking care of your spirit?  Work on fixing that first.  Combine that with praying for your spouse and see what happens.
  • Problem: My wife isn't interested enough in intimacy.  In fact, most of the time she could care less about it.
    Spiritual Parallell:  How intimate/available are you to God?  Do you pursue Him?  Do you let Him into your heart/spirit/mind?  Think about what this looks like spiritually and try to correct it.  Then combine that with prayer for your spouse and see if it helps your marriage.
  • Problem:  My husband doesn't give me the attention or affection I want, I NEED.
    Spiritual Parallel:  But how much affection or attention are you giving to God?  Are you "dating" Him by spending time alone with Him?  Are you pursuing, praising, and appreciating Him like you want your husband to do with/to yourself?  Start there and also pray for your husband, then see what God does in your marriage.
To summarize this idea, when I focus on improving my relationship with God (based on the issues I have with my spouse), I'm amazed at how God helps to solve the problems in my marriage for me.  So first fix this (point to yourself) and this (point between yourself and to the sky), before you try to fix each other (which will never work anyway).

Periodically ask your spouse, or at least yourself this question – are you everything your spouse desires?  On another level, are you everything your spouse fantasizes about?  This might not be terribly relevant at first, but the longer you're married the more you'll have to fight against complacency (especially with the addition of kids and life's stresses), and the more important these questions become.

And finally, be resolved that divorce is not an option.  Our culture tells us that it is, but I disagree.  Unless there is abuse involved, don't dare even mention "the d word", ever.  If the thought even crosses your mind, rebuke it and instead focus your thoughts on creative ways to reconcile and rebuild.  If necessary, seek counseling from someone you can both agree on (it may take many tries to find the "right" counselor).  You can also try asking for mediation, prayer, or whatever else you have to do to make it work.

1 comment:

Nate said...

Good post Mike. I agree with all of your points and emphatically agree with the last. I have had known some to walk away from their marriages for some pretty selfish reasons and others who really gave all they had to it and yet it still didn't work out. in either case it should really not be an option until there are no others.

Thanks Mike.

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