This past December, Nathan and I celebrated 5 years together since saying “I do.” We’re no experts on marriage, but we have made a lot of mistakes and we have done our best to try and learn from them. Last year, we shared a similar post of 4 years of marriage, and I thought it might be fun to continue with the tradition again this year as well. Obviously, we believe in marriage. We believe it was God’s idea in the first place. And we believe marriage grows us, challenges us by making our flaws come to the surface, but it also makes us better because then God can change us through it. But we are also fully aware and know that many people have given up on the idea of marriage, are simply afraid of marriage, or just don’t see the point of it. Whether it be your personal preference, or you didn’t have a great marriage modeled for you, or you are just afraid of being “stuck” with the same person for life …I fully recognize that these are all very real reasons for many people – mostly rooted in fear, and it is my hope to share the beauty of marriage, while also providing some practical tips because a great marriage doesn’t happen on accident; it takes a lot of work! Hard? Yes! Worth it? Also, yes! But most importantly, what it all essentially comes down to is this:
Nathan and I are two imperfect people who love Jesus and choose to love each other each day. Life is hard, and as much as we love each other, sometimes loving each other doesn’t come naturally. But it is because of God’s goodness, and His grace alone, that equips up to love each other the way it was intended.
Here’s a few practical tips to encourage you along in your marriage, or tips to help you along in your future marriage 😉 :
1. Passionately pursue being DEBT FREE. It doesn’t matter how deep you feel in debt, it is never too late to START. Being debt free is NOT for those who are “well off”; it’s a way of life and a mindset that you carry regardless of how much money you make. Money issues bring so much stress as it is, and most definitely in a marriage. But fighting for financial freedom is worth it. We followed the model created by Dave Ramsey, and also use Every Dollar (free) for our monthly budget. Or, purchase this book if you can be self-learner for a cheaper price. 😉 Take one step at a time and just move forward. If we can do it, anyone can!
2. Recognize that you’re both (hopefully) growing. We met in our teen years, and have been together for 8.5 years. While those years are full of transition (high school, college, adulthood, careers, etc.), I’d like to think we will be growing as people no matter what age we reach. With that being said, while Nathan and I still uphold many of the characteristics that we had when we were younger, we’ve also changed, too. When those differences come up in our marriage, we try and work through them together instead of saying things like “Well, that didn’t used to bother you.” or “That didn’t used to matter to you.” Love each other fully knowing that you’re both growing together, and celebrate those differences as time passes. You will ALWAYS be learning from each other.
3. Make time to do what you love as a person and make time for what you can do together as a couple. When you first connect, it’s easy to want to do anything and everything together. While this is good (hello, making memories!), make sure you do what you love as a person, too. I like to blog, decorate the home, and occasionally I like to read a good book among other things. Nathan likes biking and going to VCU games along with a few other favorites. Encourage each other in pursuing your personal outlets, and allow the time for it. Likewise, maybe you do that REALLY well, but you haven’t found a hobby to do together. Try things out and make it a point to make time for that, too. We love trying new restaurants and watching our favorite shows, but we’ve found that we want to add more to our “together” list and are hoping to start biking together very soon. Yay!
4. If you’re interested in having children, have real conversations now about what family means/looks like for you. First, I hesitated even including this in here simply because we’ve been very open about our struggle with growing our family, and I don’t want to even plant seeds of fear in your marriage, or attempt to ask people to “prepare for the worst,” because I don’t think that’s healthy or honestly even necessary. But when thinking about children, talk about all the ways to grow a family and see where each of you stand, or at least begin the conversation. This doesn’t mean make plans you’re not ready for, but it just means being unified in what family looks like for you whenever the time comes. Parenthood can look like mentoring others, adoption, fostering, biological children, etc. Explore all the possibilities together, and begin that conversation early on if possible. There is no “right” answer, except that you both need to honestly be on the same page.
5. Know each other’s love language, and try to meet that need. Often, how you love others and how you receive love are two different things. Following Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages book, the five love languages are physical touch, quality time, acts of service (doing something for them), receiving gifts, and words of affirmation (encouragement). Each season of marriage may bring different ways of receiving love. Make sure with every season, you are communicating what you need, and revisit it regularly. If you’re still not sure what these means, I highly encourage you to check out the book; it is truly life changing! Or, you can take the free test here. Have fun!