12 Things I Learned in My First 12 Months of Marriage

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Yesterday was our one year wedding anniversary. These first 12 months have been a time of overwhelming joy, blessing, and of course challenges. Along the way, both from mistakes and from the welcome victories, I’ve learned the following 12 things:

1) A wedding doesn’t change a person, so allow for transitions.

A lot changes after you move in together, but most things don’t! Our deep-seated habits take time to change and reform. Don’t expect that having a wedding and going on a honeymoon is what makes you a husband or wife. Those roles are something you grow into, so allow for grace each way.

2) Patience wins the day.

It may be tempting to be clear about expectations early on by insisting on your way or by providing rationale for the way you do things. While clarity is important, remember that patience wins the day. Marriage is a huge life-adjustment, and certain areas may be more difficult to adjust to for your spouse than they are for you, and vice-versa.

3) Practice life-giving habits.

I’ve learned that this is important both individually and as a couple. For me, one of the most life-giving times during the week is on Sunday mornings during second service at church. Leigh works with middle school girls so I usually bring a book along and read during that time. I find this to be very refreshing. As a couple, we like to go on walks around our small town almost daily. This keeps us active and spending time together regularly.

4) We both bring family traditions into the marriage.

Marriage is a beautiful image of unity in diversity. What happens when two people from different backgrounds get together has the potential to be incredibly rich. For example, I’m a Canadian-born first generation Romanian living in America. My wife is from the American South. I’ve learned to let go of arbitrary traditions in order to honor my wife’s. She’s probably had to do the same. Talk about what’s important to you and what’s not. Also, try coming up with traditions that can be unique to your own family. And remember this isn’t limited to people from different regions; every family has their own culture.

5) Marriage is sanctifying in surprising ways.

We’ve all heard that marriage is sanctifying, but what’s neat is the surprises along the way. For example, I’ve learned that the other tends to be compassionate when the other isn’t “feeling” it. Or, she’s passionate about people groups and causes that I’m not naturally. Be open to the unexpected ways that God is using your marriage to sanctify you, and welcome them as gifts rather than intrusions.

6) If you want to make it, you must laugh often.

I tend to take myself way too seriously. But I’ve learned that laughing at myself instead of holding a grudge or trying to prove a point is a lot more helpful, and therapeutic! Don’t just use laughter to resolve conflict though. Be intentional about setting aside time for being playful and celebrating God and all that’s good in life.

7) Friendships will change, and that’s OK.

Some people insist that getting married won’t change a thing for them—then they get married and realize how impossible this is. I’ve come to accept that some friendships will change once I commit myself to a single person. This is natural, expected, and quite healthy, I’m sure. You shouldn’t stop hanging out with friends, but be realistic about time spent and what’s time well-spent. On this point, I really enjoyed Marilyn Elliott’s video on Life Transitions.

8) Communication really is key.

I don’t think it can be overstated: good communication really is key to making a relationship work. Voice compliments, pleasures, frustrations, expectations, etc. and be willing to work through them with kindness. The cool thing about communication is it can even overcome “incompatible” personality types. So for those who put their faith in Myers Briggs tests, invest your energy in learning good communication techniques rather than despairing over who you can and can’t get along with!

9) Spiritual rhythms require intentionality.

I used to think that living together would make it easier to be spiritual together. You know, free up time and such. It simply doesn’t work this way. As with everything else in life, praying, reading, and directing our thoughts to the Lord together requires very purposeful time set aside. So develop these rhythms early, and if you fail often, start again just as often.

10) Marriage is about both holiness and happiness.

One of the most common (mistaken) aphorisms I hear in Christian circles is that marriage is really about your holiness and God’s glory. While the intentions are good, this is, in my opinion, puritanical and false piety. True happiness flows out of holy love, and if God was only interested in our holiness he would have left us all celibate in the local church family! So learn what it means to delight in the companionship of your spouse on every level, and do the same for them!

11) Your first year is a year of discovery.

Maybe the first Christmas holiday together was wreck. That’s OK. You can live and learn. Your “firsts” won’t necessarily define your lifetime together—don’t despair! Rather, recognize that there’s a lot to discover together. The next time probably won’t be so bad.

12) Honor your spouse’s love language.

The model of love languages developed by Gary D. Chapman in The 5 Love Languages is really helpful. Basically, learning and practicing what communicates love most to your spouse (words of affirmation, acts of service, affection, quality time, gifts) is critical for them to feel valued. Don’t assume it’s the same one as yours—most likely it will be different (or a combination of several). So take initiative in learning their love language and cherish your spouse this way.

How about you? What formational experiences would you share with a young couple?

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Andrew is an acquisitions editor for Seedbed books and director of online resources for Seedbed. When not editing he enjoys design, photography, and gardening. He lives with his family in Tennessee.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Good thoughts, Andrew — and congratulations, belatedly!

    I’ve been married going on four years. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done (harder than being a dad!), but it’s the hard stuff that makes it rewarding. We say over and over that marriage is “dying to self,” but we forget that we don’t get to die to ourselves in our sleep. It takes hard work.

    I think a big thing I would tell young couples is to learn how to fight right. So many times, we go into marriage thinking the job is to avoid fights, so we’re surprised when tensions flare and we think a fight should discourage us. But the key is to realize what things are worth fighting about and what things are petty. Plus, learning how to fight is essential. When we got married, I tried to defuse whenever there was conflict by trying to hug my wife and calm her down. It took me several times before I realized that’s not what she needs — her personality is such that she needs me to step away and let her calm down, and then we discuss things calmly. I saw my own need to control and salvage things, but I needed to learn to respond properly and in a way that let her work through things.

    Also, the other advice I would give would be that while romance comes and goes, one of the greatest joys in marriage is seeing your spouse as your best friend. Romance is nice and it’s essential — just “being” with another person is priceless.

  2. When I read the Romanian thing I thought I was actually reading Dan’s writing! Good stuff man, keep up the good work.

  3. Congratulations Leigh and Andy! Our whole family has been enriched and grown through this union. Miss you, but was glad to witness and share some of the joys of this journey and looking fwd to all God has in store for yous:))

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