Having been married only three and a half years, my husband and I are by no means an old married couple. We have, however, already grown our family by two children in those first three years, so I feel as if we have already lived a lot of life in our short marriage! Even though folks who have been married for 50+ years would likely view us as practically still being newlyweds ourselves, there are nevertheless several things I would go back and now say to my truly newlywed self.
Check your expectations at the door.
Hardly anything does more harm to a marriage than unrealistic expectations. “My husband will always complete me”, “He will always be a total Prince Charming”, “He will never be anything less than truly romantic.”, “He will never raise his voice to me,” “We will never argue.”, etc. are all examples of some of the unrealistic expectations that can be entertained in the minds of young women as they approach marriage. And while our husbands will be wonderful and marriage will be beautiful, we are nevertheless marrying sinners who will sometimes act like sinners. How much better off we would be as wives if we loved our husbands as Christ loves us – in a way that “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5), but instead is patient and kind. Rather than harboring unrealistic and unfair expectations about how your husbands should act, you should instead…
Focus on yourself.
I don’t mean this in a selfish way, either! 😉 Instead, what I mean is that we should focus on our own sins, failures, and shortcomings and think about how we can improve in these areas. If we would pay more attention to the log of sin in our own eye rather than the speck of sin in our husband’s eye ( Matthew 7:3-5), just think how much better off our marriages would be! We would find our homes to be far more harmonious if we simply paid more attention to where we need to improve rather than focusing on where our husbands need to improve – after all, we are not responsible for our husband’s actions, but we are fully responsible for our own. The love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 goes on to say that love “keeps no record of wrongs” (vs. 5). Now that’s something I could have been better at as a newlywed (and even now!).
Enjoy the time together and make the most out of it.
Because we got pregnant with our daughter just one month into our marriage, I would definitely go back and tell my newlywed self to make the absolute most of the time together while just a couple. Get out of the house (you can have at-home dates any old time once you have kids!), make the memories, read the books together, take the fun classes together, forget Netflix (it’ll be there later!), etc. Travel, go on grand adventures, learn, explore, grow. Not because you won’t be able to do those things at all once you have kids (you won’t catch me being one of those downers who say, “Oh, just wait ’til you have kids…..”!). But because it is true that, once you have children, you will always have children. Even once you have an empty nest! You will never get back this season of life where it is just you and your husband and no one else in your little family of two. Enjoy this time. Let the petty little frustrations and expectations go and just delight in the joy of each other’s company. You won’t regret it! But you may very well regret not doing so.
View yourself as the new family unit you actually are.
When you got married, you left your parents and your single life behind to became one new family unit with your husband. Don’t call your mom and start complaining when your husband annoys you. Don’t spend a bunch of time out with the girls when you should be enjoying time with your new husband. Don’t plan all your holidays, vacations, dreams, celebrations, and family traditions around what your extended family or in-laws want you to do. Build a new family with your husband, protect the autonomy and freedom of being a married couple, and fashion your family dynamics according to what means the most to you and your husband – not the in-laws, parents, cousins, or best friends.
Work on your communication.
Nothing will serve you as well in marriage as good communication. Seek to understand your spouse and his viewpoint. Don’t automatically assume that, because his viewpoint may be different from yours, that it is automatically wrong. It isn’t. Don’t assume that you know what your husband is thinking or what he expects of you or what would mean a lot to him or why he does what he does. Ask him. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been just sure that my husband would prefer one thing only for me to discover I was wrong and he actually prefers another! When something doesn’t make sense to you about the way your husband is acting, get him to explain himself and elaborate. Become a student of your husband.
Likewise, just as you are seeking to get him to open up and explain himself to you, be sure you are being real and vulnerable with your husband. Be open and honest with him, leaving room for no secrets. Always keep the lines of communication open between the two of you, and your marriage will blossom.
Above all else, I would tell my newlywed self to just relax and enjoy this brand new season of life. Does it require an adjustment sometimes? Sure. Is it challenging at times? Of course. But it’s so beautiful! Being newly married is such a precious, fleeting season of your life. Don’t waste it harboring unrealistic expectations, giving way to petty disagreements, or giving in to distractions. Protect your new marriage, delight in it, and grow closer to God as you grow closer to each other.