Those Marrying “I-Do-s”
Some of my younger single friends, high school and college graduates, with whom I’ve visited lately, are considering marriage, which to them seems a most exciting, albeit normal, next step in their life’s progression. They’ve received fine educations, have good parental examples, and are capable young adults, yet for their new roles as husbands and wives, some say that they still feel unprepared.
They aren’t sure what a good marriage requires on their part. They want successful marriages, not failed unions. They desire to be good spouses, but aren’t sure what that entails–and wonder if they are up to the task. After all, life will be changed. It will be a shared life, whereas up to now, its been all about “me”. Marriage is a turn of events where math goes backwards–two become one. The “me” becomes ” us and ours”. This requires an attitude shift.
One must do certain things differently than before. So this post has a few ideas for you, my dear younger friends, who will soon be saying “I do” and wondering what actions and attitudes (the “I dos”) are involved for a truly good marriage.
First, (and this is important!) do not set aside your good manners. In your marriage, look for ways to demonstrate love and respect. Etiquette helps us do this. Practicing courtesy in little things makes a BIG difference in relationships. This necessity is life long. I’m still working on not interrupting my husband or trying to finish his sentences. Deference demonstrates respect. This means I set aside my exuberant tendencies and respect his more measured, reserved nature. Another example: My sons (and my hubby) open doors for the ladies in their lives. I especially appreciate this courtesy when I’m in high heels exiting an automobile. Their helping hand shows more than gentlemanly manners; it speaks love. Their thoughtful care also kindles my good will towards them-and visa versa.
Do discard unfair expectations. Don’t expect your mate to solve all of life’s problems or make the world’s wrongs right or to always say the “perfect” thing. These are unfair expectations. You certainly can (and should) discuss concerns and problems, but look to Christ as your true burden bearer. Don’t expect your spouse to be your savior or replace Christ as Lord and caretaker of your well being. Bring your burdens, worries, fears, and your cares, in prayer, to the Throne of Grace. Of course you can-and often should-do this together. I’m an advocate for a daily devotional time together as well as a personal prayer time. Evening time works best for my husband and me. The adage “The couple who pray together, stay together” has truth in it.
Do Observe the Sabbath together-go to church. Become members of a solid and faithful congregation. Marriages have failed by neglecting this practice.
Do serve one another– a major key for a successful marriage. Be willing to serve and help your spouse. We’re talking servanthood. On the other hand, don’t expect your spouse to be yours. This translates into putting your spouse first in countless ways and everyday activities. The laundry’s done, dinner’s ready on time, a meal out on a busy day; help with dishes, packages, check the air in her car’s tires–and the oil. My sweet daughter-in-law practices servanthood. Not only in larger ways, but in simple actions. Yesterday she returned from the dessert buffet with choice confections for her husband and father-in-law while they carried on a conversation. How considerate!
Do learn to resolve conflicts and anger in a respectful way. No pouting, no shouting. And, don’t use sex as a weapon. Nancy Wilson relates that she and her husband had a rule to never carry a disagreement into the late evening. This is a good rule of thumb. Bedrooms should not be places of upset and anger, but of rest and love. Respectful resolution of problems means thoughtful dialogue. No purposely hurtful accusatory words or sullen, punitive silences. And, tantrums are No-No’s. Apologies should flow when respectful communication is breached.
Do practice proper communication. Build up, don’t tear down. Think before your speak-another aspect of good manners. Include praise and humor. I’m grateful that I grew up with a family who had a constant sense of humor. (The downside is that sometimes I see humor in things when others do not). But comic relief is much better than perpetual complaining, nagging, abusive or demeaning language. Speaking considerately is a life long endeavor, and no where is it more important than in marriage.
Do Listen to your spouse. Since it’s now “us and ours”, not “me” listen respectfully to your partner’s opinion and respect it. One of the most important areas to listen and pull together is in the area of finances, budget, and related priorities. Both people must be reasonable and on the same page. Its wrong for couples to pull in opposite directions by one overspending or one being too tight. And, don’t micro manage the other spouse. As a general rule, women need to fit in with their husband’s plans and men need to honor their wives by not being insensitive dictators. Listen, really listen, to each other if you want to build a trusting and loving relationship. Then practice give and take, but mostly give.
Do maintain clean quarters and pleasant home atmosphere whether you live in an apartment, house, or RV. Surely the RV would be a challenge, but keep your living space clean and neat. When both husband and wife work fulltime outside the home, each spouse should lend a hand in domestic duties.
Do take care of yourself. Maintain a nice physical appearance. You’ll feel better about yourself and so will your mate. More than one wife or husband have sadly commented on the poor physical appearance of their spouse saying, “This isn’t the same person I married”. They speak with a tone of disappointment. Don’t under-estimate the significance of good personal hygiene and a pleasing appearance. Caring for yourself and your body is responsible and considerate. It also keeps the spark of love stronger.
All of the above, presupposes that you have the blessing and approval of your parents for engagement and marriage, in which case, proceed with joy. If their approval is absent, remember those cautionary words before crossing a street: “Stop, look, and listen.'” Your parents disapproval will likely prevent a future collision with tragic results.
For more suggestions, I hope you’ll take time to read Nancy Wilson’s blog Femina and Mr. Charles Wingard’s blog where he reviews Holding Hands, Holding Hearts. Here’s his link. http://charliewingard.blogspot.com/2007/09/before-you-say-i-do.html
You, my young friends because of who you are and your calling in life, have the prospects of good marriages ahead if your I do-s include the above practices. Do know that the rewards of a good marriage are many. Stay close to the Lord and DO your part to foster its success.