Joey and I started dating when I was 16 and got married when we were 18. We’d been out of high school a hot 10 minutes. Not really, it was October of the year we graduated, but still. *Audible gasp*, yeah, I know; we were babies. But you know what one of the biggest benefits to marrying so young was? It gave us the opportunity to grow and learn together. We barely remember what it was like to be without each other because it seems like a lifetime away, and we view that as a benefit.
We’ve been married for 6 years now and together for almost 8. It seems crazy that it’s even been that long, but at the same time, I know it’s just a drop in the bucket when you’re looking at the rest of your life. That man and our marriage is one of the single greatest gifts God has given me.
We are far from perfect, but we have learned so much in these years we’ve spent learning and growing in love.
This could be a long list, but in light of Valentine’s coming up, it just felt right to put together a list of Marriage Advice I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married:
How you feel in this moment doesn’t matter.
Love often starts in a way that feels so huge and takes over your life in the most amazing way that you can’t imagine anything ever changing, but feelings and people do. How you feel in this moment doesn’t matter. Love is not one single, static emotion. Love is an action and a continual choice and you will have to make that choice with intentionality every single day for the rest of your life.
Real love is a covenant.
There are no “outs”, or there shouldn’t be.
It’s the complete weaving together of two lives. You take two people, two perspectives, two completely unique experiences in life, then you intricately weave big and medium and teeny tiny pieces together into one and before you know it, it gets hard to distinguish what was once singularly “yours” because now 90% of your life is “ours”.
“Falling out of love” or “I love you but I’m not in love with you” are lies because love is a choice. Marriage is so much more than “just a piece of paper”. It’s a commitment to stick with this person for the rest of your life, and it shouldn’t be entered into lightly.
Before you marry him, see him angry.
Emotions cloud judgment. Anger can transform the person right in front of your eyes. But there is anger you can work through, and there is anger that’s dangerous. Look for red flags when he’s angry. Does he call you names? Berate or belittle you? Get physical? If he does or even if there is a question in your heart, hear me when I say that these things will warn you of trouble in the water. And if you want to have kids, slow down and soak in the words: If he does it to you, he will do it to your kids; good or bad. Red flags do not change. But if there aren’t any, you can probably work through it.
Don’t wish your life away waiting on the next thing.
This is something we did because we were so excited to start our life together. When we were dating, we talked constantly about when we got married, had a house, and had kids. We were so excited to start that we ended up cheating ourselves and wishing away a season that we could have enjoyed a lot more. We have done the same thing in different seasons, always waiting on the next thing:
- “When we get a house…”
- “When we have a baby…”
- “When we get an SUV…”
- “When you get on first shift…”
And we have ended up rushing and wishing away many seasons because what we have failed to realize is this is our life.
This is what we were waiting for and wishing for at one point. We’re in it. We’re living it.
And I don’t want to be old one day and regret rushing experiences and seasons and the kids’ childhoods. I want to be there. I want to relish. I want to soak in my life.
Walk into it ready to embrace change.
The only thing that is inevitable is change.
If you’re committing to spend your life with somebody, make sure you are both committed to becoming the best version of yourself. Push each other towards your version of greatness. Walk it out together. Always make sure as you grow change and as life changes, that you’re growing together so you don’t grow apart.
You have got to look for ways through, not ways out.
If you go into a marriage with the mindset that “if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just get divorced”, you’re already doomed. You have to be rooted in the fact that this is it. This is your person. No second guessing, no do overs. When it gets hard, you look for ways through, together. You put your nose down and figure it out. You don’t look for anything outside of your marriage that you should be getting from your spouse and you don’t give your spouse a reason to, either. Be fully dedicated to making them feel loved in the way that they feel it, not the way you want to express it (this goes along with #11).
Listen with the intention to understand, not fix.
One of the pillars of emotional support and connection is having somebody that you feel like really hears you and gets you. Really listening is a gift that you can train yourself in. When someone is confiding in you, listen to try to get it. Try to understand them, their mindset, and what is going through them right now. Put yourself in their shoes. Consider the how and why that they are feeling how they are feeling. Don’t listen to correct it, fix it, or give them advice they didn’t ask for. Let them feel heard and understood, then when the time is right, if they ask for it, offer help.
There will be squabbles and disagreements, but you always should do it with respect.
Absolutely no name calling. No attacking the other person’s character. Stay focused on the matter at hand; don’t veer off into left field and start attacking them for things that aren’t pertinent right now. And the only thing you should ever be physical in is to hug them. If he ever pushes you or uses his hands on you, he will do it again, he will do it to your kids, and it will get worse.
Put both of your names in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 everywhere you see the word love:
Joey is patient and kind. Joey is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Joey does not demand his own way. Joey is not irritable and keeps no record of being wronged. Joey does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Joey never gives up, never loves faith, Joey is always hopeful, and he endures through every circumstance.
Nobody is perfect. We’ve been married for 6 years, and I’m still too impatient. But I’m happy to say (without sounding braggy), for the most part, this is true of both of us because we work to make is true. If most of this chapter does not describe you and your fiance before you get married, you have some work to do before you get there.
Parenting tip: This is one thing I’m going to tell my girls when they get close to dating age. If they put the boy’s name they like in this chapter, and it doesn’t fit, he’s not the one.
Make sure you are on the same page.
If one of you have different religions, there will be problems.
If one of you is fine with being in debt up to your eyeballs and the other wants to live debt free, there will be problems.
If one of you wants to move to Wisconsin to make cheese and the other wants to stay close to family, there will be problems.
If one of you wants no kids and the other wants 9 kids, there will be problems.
If one of you wants to live in a mansion that the other would fit in like a fish out of water, there will be problems.
Then there will be unmet expectations and hurt feelings. There will be disagreements. And there will be problems you could have avoided.
If you are on the same page, next you have to resolve to be a team in everything you do. Neither has to go at anything alone, because you are each other’s only partner in this life.
Learn each other’s love languages, dialects, and become experts in speaking them.
If you don’t take anything else away from this post, please take this one to heart.
This was such a game changer for our marriage, I wrote a whole post on it! We didn’t do this until about 4 years in, but several months ago we re-hashed the idea and started reading through the book together this time. Check out the full post here:
Be wise with your money right out the gate.
There is a reason that this is among the top reasons for divorce. Money, and lack of money, can be incredibly stressful.
Learning to manage it takes some trial and error, and I think everyone makes mistakes in the beginning trying to figure out what really works and what doesn’t. Joey and I are no exception.
When we got married, I was in nursing school full time, and Joey was working two jobs as an aviation mechanic, just barely making enough money for the two of us to live on. At one point in time, we opened our first credit card, literally because we couldn’t pay our water bill. We dug ourselves into a bit of a hole, climbed out of it, and repeated a few times. But now we are working hard towards becoming debt free now and staying that way.
Some of our goals that are motivating us towards getting out of debt:
- A bigger house to be able to foster in down the road.
- The ability to give more.
- Leaving an inheritance to each of our kids and grandkids.
- Having college funds for each of our kids and grandkids.
- Being able to travel – both with the kids and without.
- Wanting to give our kids real experiences.
- Affording whatever education they want for themselves.
- Not living a limited life.
Being out of debt can and will be life changing, and it is not the norm. If you haven’t checked out Financial Peace University, I highly recommend it! I don’t always love the way Dave talks to people, but he has some incredible ideas that I’m thankful he has chosen to share. I know it’s changing people’s lives, and we aim to be part of that!
Bonus tip: If you’re in debt and struggling to find motivation to climb out of the hole, I encourage you to write your own list of things you want out of your life. Dream up the best version of who you want to become, and ask yourself how being debt free will make that possible.
Laugh together and kiss every single day.
Laughing and kissing like you still like each other can shift your perception of each other.
In the midst of the chaos of life, in the monotony of the days, take time for each other. Do things with intention to make each other smile. Tease each other with a little wink. Hug and kiss and dance in the kitchen, and let the kids see.
Treat each other like friends.
Sometimes it’s easy to take each other for granted, but for some reason, sometimes we treat our friends better than we do our spouses. I know I’ve been guilty of jumping down Joey’s throat over something small when I’ve had a bad day, and it shouldn’t be this way, because he is not my enemy or my verbal punching bag. He is my equal. He is my best friend. And he’s my partner in everything. Why is it so easy to give our spouse our leftovers at the end of the day instead of the best of ourselves we have to offer that we give everyone else?
I wish I could remember where I saw this quote to give credit, but once I read that our husbands are worthy of the same kindnesses and courtesies we would bestow on our friends. Easy to say, harder in practice, but so worth it in the long run.
Nothing build to last is build quickly. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Lasting marriage isn’t something that is created once; it’s something you work towards building every single day for the rest of your life.