As wedding season winds down, you’ve probably seen many people say “I do” over the past few months. Maybe you were even lucky enough to tie the knot with the person you love.
But maybe you’re hesitant to make this big committment. After all, it’s a commitment fraught with failure in our culture. We don’t blame the wary. It’s an intimidating prospect when you begin to realize that the rest of your life is going to be promised to one other person.
Most books on marriage are written by seasoned professionals. How did these authors, stalwarts of marital success, get so good at loving and serving each other? And how come so many other couples have a hard time making the cut?
There are no hard-and-fast rules, but if our friends ask us about what to expect in that first year of being married or how they can make it easier, we certainly recommend they read some of the great literature on the subject.
But, of course, each marriage is different, and the literature doesn’t cover everything. Fresh from one year together, here are five things that marriage books might forget to mention:
1. Marriage can be really fun!
If you brace for a storm and it turns out to be only a mild drizzle, you might be pleasantly surprised that it went so well.
Many people caution against being married. From television to books on marriage, the outlook can seem grim. But we discovered that despite many trials, our married life was not drudgery. Rather, it produced hope and joy in our lives.
In all of the crises and unexpected adjustments during your first year of marriage, don’t forget that it’s meant to be enjoyed! If that means letting some (or many) things go, or if that means mounds of forgiveness heaped on your partner, do it.
Our best advice is to lighten up and remember you’re growing closer to your best friend! Heed the caution and advice of others, but never lose sight of one of marriage’s best parts: friendship.
2. You can and should minister to your spouse.
While finding a new church or adjusting to a new environment can be unpredictable, there is one sure thing: Your new partner is in need of some serious ministry.
We don’t mean that you need to cook them every meal or always take out the trash; we actually mean that you need to pray for and with your spouse.
Much like a pastor caring for a member of the congregation, open up time in your schedule to talk about scripture, faith and church. When your husband or wife feels as though he or she is faltering in faith, make sure to pray, counsel and offer unconditional support.
Even if you are finding it difficult to start a new ministry life in a new place, you can be sure that your spouse needs a shoulder to lean on and a listening ear.
3. Your “role” is always evolving.
Most of us like to think that we are going to permanently fall into certain roles once we are married. The truth is, these roles are continually shifting. Roles and expectations are amazing, but only so long as you are willing to adjust and be flexible to new ones.
With all of the unexpected changes that occur in that first year of marriage, be open to taking over the roles of cooking, cleaning, working, etc. for certain seasons of life in order to help the other person out.
In our marriage, since both of us are on-and-off students, we seem to shift roles every time a new term begins. When one of us was taking the dreaded medical school admissions test, the other gave up study, sleep and even work in order to be of service.
What makes all of this very simple and easy is our shared desire to always put the other person first. What makes it very difficult is finding the middle ground where both of us can flourish and pursue the dreams that God has instilled in both of our hearts. But as long as both of us value and understand the other’s goals, we can find that happy medium and serve each another appropriately.
4. God simply needs to come first.
This is the most important lesson of all, and yet it often gets left out as a given. Our paths in that first year can suddenly shift in new directions and it’s important to put all of our needs into context.
What is the primary goal of our lives and who or what are we serving? Once you can answer this question with your spouse, you can tackle many difficult problems.
When one of you struggles in your spiritual life, drop everything in order to help reinvigorate their relationship with God. This is the foundation of a marriage and its primary source of fuel.
5. A dedicated counselor or pastor is a must.
When the relationship becomes rocky, sometimes the only thing to do is get an outsider’s perspective.
Relationship meltdowns can happen in an instant, and none of us are immune to them. For the sake of your marriage, get to know someone who can speak with clarity and understanding into your lives.
In that first year of marriage, being out to sea without a paddle could have disastrous consequences. So get in the habit, early, of developing the kinds of relationships that support your marriage with people who are willing to give wise counsel.
Christopher Unseth is a graduate student at the University of Chicago's Divinity School and blogs at postnineteen.com. His wife, Sarah, is an aspiring medical student who blogs at sweetsilentthoughts.com.