“Why don’t you put the dishes over there?”
“Why can’t you just listen?”
“Why do you always do that?”
“Why can’t we get along?!”
Dating, engagement, and even the first couple of months of marriage are made of beautiful, purple sunsets — so much so that when real life arrives, it hits most couples with the force of a cement truck.
In other words, the first year of marriage can be hard. Bringing any two people together into the same house for a year can be rough (can you say college roommates?), but on top of that, the Bible says that marriage is designed to make two people into one person! (Mark 10:8) While the end result is beautiful and God glorifying, the process can be messy at best.
Look at Benjamin and me, for example. We started dating in high school and dated for two years. In that time, we never argued. Not once.
When we were engaged, we started to bicker a little more, but still… We thought marriage would be a cinch and we wondered what was wrong with those other misguided people.
After that came the walking-on-air honeymoon phase…
And then, the cement truck.
About a month into our marriage, we started arguing over everything — how to spend our money, where to put our furniture, how often to visit our parents. The kicker for us was the dishes… We argued about how often to do the dishes, how to do the dishes, who should do the dishes. Once, I burst into tears because Benjamin washed the dishes, obviously meaning that I didn’t do them right or that he didn’t need me.
It was rough, and over and over again we asked the question: Why can’t we get along anymore?
By God’s grace and a lot of hard work, we made it through that first year and our marriage has finally settled into a comfortable routine of crazy downhills and cozy uphills that we are learning to manage more Biblically. As we look back at that first year, though, we realize that we have already learned a lot of truths from God’s Word that we wish we had followed then and that we are trying to apply to our still-fresh-and-green marriage now.
We didn’t start praying regularly together until we had been married close to a year, and the difference it made was staggering. Taking time first thing in the morning or before falling asleep to talk to God together helps Benjamin and me to reprioritize and refocus. It brings a desire to glorify God back to the center of our relationship and it makes us humbly ask for marital direction from the only One that can supply it. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing,” meaning that prayer should be our life’s, and our marriage’s, foundation.
2. Pray for each other.
Fun fact: It is almost impossible to stay angry at someone you are sincerely praying for.
In marriage, we have the chance to pray for our spouses in ways that no one else can because we know them like no one else does. Intentionally stopping to pray for each other’s spiritual, emotional, and physical needs helps keep you in tune with each other and reminds you that you both desperately depend on the Lord. James 5:16 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another…” Ask your spouse what they most need prayer for today!
3. Read the Bible regularly.
Even though we don’t often read our Bibles together, there is an undeniable correlation between the amount of time each of us spends in God’s Word and how well we get along. It’s all about our constant need to connect with our Creator and to be refined by His Word.
4. Listen more than you think you need to.
This is perhaps what we are the worst at, to be honest. James 1:19 says, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath…” Never have words more applicable to marriage been spoken. Whether your spouse is sharing their emotions, talking about their interests, or sharing their ideas, really take the time to listen. Benjamin and I have learned the hard way that feeling like you are heard makes all the difference in the world.
5. Be ready to sacrifice and compromise.
Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
While we all know this, a lot of times, we struggle to follow it. When it comes to giving up something that we actually care deeply about, this suddenly gets harder to do than it was to say. (Like, say, someone really liked doing dishes a certain way and the other person wanted them to do it the other way…)
No marriage is perfect and no two people come together seamlessly. If you are struggling through a rough first year of marriage, or sixth, or tenth, go back to these basics. Dive deep into God’s Word and get to your knees in prayer. Talk through your struggles and work hard to connect with each other in every way.
And let’s pray for each other as we all keep getting better at this!
Share your story! What advice do you have for newlyweds? What has God taught you about growing in your marriage? If you aren’t married, how are you preparing for a strong first year or how are you supporting others through theirs?