By Dolores Smyth, Crosswalk.com
Everyone has marriage advice for newlyweds, and for a good reason. Newlyweds are (understandably) caught up in the bliss of their union and, because of that, may be unprepared for any choppy seas that lie ahead.
For this reason, it’s wise for newlyweds to peer over their rose-colored glasses every now and then and take advice from longtime spouses who have learned how to navigate life’s inevitable challenges and keep their marriage afloat.
Here are five marriage-fortifying habits that newlyweds can put into practice from the start.
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1. Make Your House a Home
When you’re first married, decorating your house so that it feels like a home can be daunting. When decorating, one thing to keep in mind is that your home should reflect the things that make both you and your partner happy. This may include specific colors and scents or certain furniture and styles. Agreeing on how to make your house a home may be a bit tricky if you and your other half have wildly different tastes and behaviors. This is where a compromise is in order.
For example, you may be enthralled with elegant furniture while your spouse would gladly model all rooms of your house after a sports bar. In this case, perhaps your spouse can pick the size of the family room TV while you get to choose the couches and the color scheme. Alternatively, there is wisdom in utilizing a furnished basement as the dedicated space for a sports fan, craft aficionado, or gaming enthusiast.
Something that many couples can agree on is that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Consider making your kitchen a welcoming place to come home to and keeping it well-stocked for a relaxing and enjoyable way to end a long workday.
2. Share At Least One Meal Daily
Throughout your marriage, you may find that sharing a daily meal with your spouse becomes inconvenient. You may have different job schedules and, therefore, different sleep schedules. You may already have children who constantly keep you on the go, or you may have responsibilities outside the home that make it easier for you or your spouse to eat on the run.
If any of this sounds familiar, consider the following. Eventually, eating a meal together daily may be the only time you and your spouse are fully present and focused on one another throughout the day.
Sharing and enjoying food together makes you slow down and have meaningful interactions. Our Lord Jesus Christ understood the importance of a shared meal when He ate with His Apostles and with sinners alike. In fact, making time for meals was of such significance to Jesus that He instituted the New Covenant during His last meal with His Apostles, the Last Supper (Luke 22:20).
As newlyweds, pick a time of day that works for both of you to sit down, turn off the phones and other devices, enjoy a meal together, and check-in with each other. The good food will nourish your body, while the good habit will nourish your marriage.
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3. Stick Up for Each Other
When you look at your beloved, you may not be able to imagine anyone who doesn’t think that he or she is as wonderful as you do. Nothing bursts this newlywed bubble faster than when someone you know disparages your spouse. This can be especially hurtful when the critic is a friend or relative. Unfortunately, this is a reality that many married couples have had to endure and that some married couples with poor boundaries have been unable to surpass.
If you want your marriage to thrive, take your cue from longtime, happily married couples who say that making each other feel supported and respected is key to the success of their union. Simply put, you will help your marriage grow if you have each other’s back in both the easy and the hard times and if you assert firm boundaries with anyone who routinely causes tension in your marriage.
When you maintain strong marital boundaries, you reinforce the unity at the core of your bond. Protecting your marriage from those who cause division within the marriage—whether intentionally or not—also upholds God’s Word that a husband and wife are to form their own family unit and become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).
4. Maintain Realistic Expectations of One Another
It’s normal for couples to enter into a marriage with certain expectations of what they want married life to look like. One person may envision a 50/50 split of household chores, while the other may not intend to pick up after themselves. Likewise, one person may want to have a boatload of children, while their partner may want to have a much smaller family.
While it’s easy to say that these things should have been agreed upon before the nuptials, there is not a single married couple out there who had every aspect of married life figured out prior to their wedding day or who didn’t change their mind about something later. In reality, couples in healthy marriages embrace a more mature understanding of what a good relationship looks like. That includes accepting each other’s quirks and shortcomings.
For example, you may have married someone with no cooking or other domestic skills and very little interest in developing any. Rather than getting miffed at your significant other for this, learn how to cook and do things around the house yourself, pay someone else to do it, or find fair ways for both of you to tackle the household responsibilities that must be done and learn to live with those that don’t.
Related Resource: Listen to our new, FREE podcast on marriage: Team Us. The best marriages have a teamwork mentality. Find practical, realistic ideas for strengthening your marriage. Listen to an episode here, and then head over to LifeAudio.com to check out all of our episodes:
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5. Refuse to Play the Comparison Game
Just as every individual is unique, every couple is unique too. Thriving couples know that comparing your marriage to someone else’s overlooks that uniqueness and tempts you to make changes to your marriage that might suit someone else’s relationship but that may be a poor fit in yours.
Successful pairs also know that idealizing someone else’s marriage is dangerous because it distracts you from nurturing your own marriage with what it needs to flourish. Since no one is perfect, it stands to reason that no marriage is perfect either, no matter how it looks from the outside or on social media. Frankly, you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. You may very well be green with envy over a couple who claims that they never fight only to find out that, in reality, one of those spouses routinely bullies the other out of having their own opinion.
People in good marriages understand the importance of doing what’s best for their relationship instead of getting hung up on “keeping up” with other couples. By refusing to compare your union to someone else’s, you’ll refocus on your marital vows to love and cherish each other as you are, not as how comparisons deceive you into believing you and your spouse should be.
Every newlywed wants nothing more than to have a happy and long marriage. In working toward that goal, consider heeding the advice of successful, longtime couples who have learned how to enjoy each other’s company and keep their marital bond strong.
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