At our wedding we asked guests to share advice, stories, or memories with us in our “guestbook” (which was really a bunch of postcards.) Reading through them revealed several nuggets of wisdom that have had a profound impact on our marriage. Almost three and a half years later, we still look at those cards and learn from them!
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, instead of sharing my own advice about marriage, I thought it would be fun to share some of the best advice we’ve gleaned from others.
1.) Treat your spouse better than anyone else
That may sound obvious, but for some reason it’s easy to be impatient and thoughtless with the person you love most. Sometimes it’s easier to treat complete strangers- the barista at the coffee shop, the fellow shopper in the grocery store- with more kindness than your spouse. It would take a LOT for a complete stranger to get that impatient, thoughtless version of myself that I sometimes unleash upon my husband. Simple as it may seem, this has been a powerful reminder to speak sweetly and offer gestures of kindness as often as possible.
2.) Ask each other these 5 questions at the beginning of each week
Normally this sort of practice seems too hard to implement (especially if your schedules don’t allow for that sort of routine.) However, these questions are 100% worth the effort and if there is one thing I’d recommend for any married couple, it’s do this! I could write an entire post about how beneficial they are. You can read more about them from the source on Today’s Letters.
Here they are:
1. How did you feel loved this past week?
2. What does your upcoming week look like?
3. How would you feel most loved & encouraged in the days ahead?
4. How would you best feel pursued in sex / intimacy this week?
5. How can I pray for you this week?
We added one question to our mix: what has your walk with God looked like this past week?
My favorite question of the bunch is “how did your spouse make you feel loved this past week?” It’s sweet to answer and remember all of the kind things your spouse did for you, and it’s sweet to recieve the answer and learn how you made your spouse feel loved. I love that this question emphasizes the positive things your spouse has done, rather than highlighting what your spouse could have done differently.
One caveat: we don’t do these every single week. Sometimes they slip our minds entirely for long stretches of time before we pick them up again. But much like conversing with an old friend whom you haven’t seen for a while, we pick up right where we left off. I think that when implementing something like this, it’s best to do so with grace!
3.) Expectations are a big deal
Pretty much all of our premarital counseling was focused upon expectations; for how you’ll spend your weekends, what you’ll do on vacation, who you’ll spend Christmas with, how you’ll raise your kids, what sorts of gifts you like to recieve… I’m pretty sure we read a book that was composed entirely of things we might have expectations about and discussed them all.
The biggest takeaway was to recognize where you have expectations and verbalize them rather than expecting (ha!) the other person to read your mind. Expectations have a profound impact on our experiences, so learning to identify and deal with them is key. This has played out on an almost daily basis in our marriage.
4.) Your friendships are important
We all know at least one couple who dropped off the face of the planet when they got married (I really can’t be too critical here, because I moved to Europe the week after I got married.) Not only is that exceedingly lame for everyone involved, it can be a really big stressor on a marriage in the long-run.
I’ve lost track of how many people told us to continue prioritizing our friendships once we were married, both as individuals and as a couple. I see now that it can be hard to find the time for other relationships between work, moves, kids, keeping up with family, and making time for each other. But no matter how crazy life gets, those friendships are critical to our wellbeing and fulfill different needs than our spouses can.
5.) Learn how to fight well
Conflict is inevitable in any relationship. I think it’s a good thing, actually; marriage is a refining process, and when my husband and I don’t agree on something it means that we’re two different people with two separate perspectives who can help each other grow. Ultimately, learning to tackle your disagreements together is going to help you deal with whatever life throws your way. Learning how to handle disagreements together is an process, and there can be a lot of trial and error involved. The process in and of itself can be a growing experience 🙂
6.) Prayer is the best way to grow
I am not going to change just because I decide that I need to change. My husband is not going to change just because I decide that he needs to change. God can work in our hearts and help us to change, and prayer is instrumental to that process. Prayer can also change your heart toward a situation, and increase the grace and patience needed to grow/ help your spouse grow.
This list is by no means a complete representation of all the marriage advice we’ve found helpful- these were just some of the most universal. We’ve had wonderful examples of marriage to look to and for that I am thankful. The most significant take away from all of this insight for me was to remain teachable, because there are a lot of lessons yet to be learned!
Any advice you’ve been given about marriage that has had a serious impact? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!