Most married people will confess to this. Sometimes you look at your spouse and ask yourself (silently of course) ‘how did I get here? how did I end up with this man or woman?’ Sometimes my wife verbalises this jokingly and I am always swift to let her know that the joke is on her. She made the choice, she entered the box. Haha!!
But all jokes aside, I have never been more aware about the devices against marriage than at this stage in my life and marriage. I don’t know if am just noticing things because am growing older or things are generally changing.
And so I find myself meditating often about marriage and what can be done to make it better. How can young couples position their marriage for success? I think about what those in it can do to improve the quality of their marriage and what those yet to enter can do, to have a better head start. I have come up with a few observations below.
I am always quick to remind everyone that am not perfect, neither am I an expert in relationships, am just a young, concerned married man. I also write to keep myself in check, to be accountable, to remind myself of the things that I should work on.
And who said good stories should only be written at the end, we can savour and record the journey as we grow. So here we go….
Be equally yoked
Marrying a believer does not mean marrying someone who goes to church. It means marrying someone who submits to God and to whom the word of God is authority.
You can be unequally yoked very effectively in church, because we are all aware that not everyone in church believes in God, which is not necessarily a bad thing, because church is the best place an unbeliever can be.
The question is, how do you recognise a true believer? Quick answer is that you don’t, you be one.
You need to ask yourself if you have really submitted to God and whether his word is authority in your life. You will attract or notice a true potential spouse if you are true yourself.
You need to be sure of yourself because marriage will demand your faith like nothing has before. Work on yourself, improve yourself and then pray that God will guide you to the right person. God is faithful to guide you in the right way.
It is important to enter marriage through the front door but that’s not the reality for most people. Beginning on the wrong foot does not mean continuing or ending that way. Just like most things in life you have to keep developing yourself, and in this case spiritually.
Position yourself to grow spiritually in a way that equal yoking becomes a goal that the couple grows into.
Expect people to change
I hear this a lot; he changed or she changed. Of course they changed. It is the nature of people to change. Growth in itself is change.
People often talk of change when it is negative, positive changes are often overlooked or unappreciated.
People change physically, emotionally, financially and many other ways. People will make more or less money, take interest in new hobbies, find new friends, discover a new purpose, change environments or desire new things. And they won’t need your help to change; they will manage it perfectly on their own.
I am not the same man from two years ago, I have dropped and acquired new tastes in music, books, people, places, philosophies….. and it is Ok.
They say that men marry their wives hoping they will not change while women get married hoping their husbands will change.
My wife made me aware of this from Dale Partridge
‘Men are so worried that marriage will leave them with ‘only one woman’ for the rest of their lives,” he wrote. “That’s simply not true. I fell in love with a 19-year-old rock climber, married a 20-year-old animal lover, started a family with a 24-year-old mother, then built a farm with a 25-year-old homemaker, and today I’m married to a 27-year-old woman of wisdom’
Expect change. And pray that the change is for the good. Position yourself and your family to change for good. Give your spouse an opportunity to make better choices in life by virtue of your actions. Love them to goodness. It is all you can do. The rest is up to them and their maker.
This is cited as one of the main home breakers of our time. How a couple handles their finances is so important it can either make or break their marriage. Most people are not ready to let go of control of their money, mostly because they have mastered independence in their adult life and marriage threatens to disrupt it.
Most people love their spouses, but they are just not sure if they can trust them with their money. They fear that their money will be squandered or redirected. Some fear that they will not have the freedom to spend money on whatever they want. Others have obligations (like supporting parents or educating siblings) and they fear that it may be interfered with.
And so people hold on to their money tight, closest to their hearts. If you touch their money, you will immediately know their true character.
We decided early on in our marriage to be having an open discussion when it comes to our finances. This includes our current obligations and future plans and then doing a joint budget based on our joint income. We then assign payment responsibilities to each other. It has worked for us, of course with its share of challenges but we thank God for the lessons we continue to learn.
Handling money requires discipline.
You have to recognize where you are weak in regards to handling finances and let your spouse compliment you in that. Some men are weak in saving and investment, but they insist on going at it alone. You have to give and take.
Handle money together as a couple, it will save you half the trouble marriages go through.
Resist the stereotypes
Not every couple will fit the traditional stereotypes of how society views marriages. Typically stereotypes apply to only a part of a demographic being sampled. For example, society defines the roles of men as providers and women as homemakers and nurturers, but this may not apply to your marriage.
You and your spouse must understand the uniqueness of your marriage and treat it as such.
The ideal does not always apply to everyone. Some people are in marriages where couples work in different towns or countries, other marriages, it’s the wife who is the sole provider, in others a man maybe at home. Marriages still work in unique situations; the couple should recognise this and work towards building their relationship regardless.
Have some perspective
We sadly live in times when people jump to conclusions too quickly, making major decisions based on short term experiences. If you witness a couple fighting, you would think that it’s the last day of their relationship, but mostly it’s not. Five years later you will see them pushing on.
Some of us want to measure the success of our marriages based on the experiences we have had in the 2 or 3 years that we have been married. It is a general problem with our generation, instant gratification is our mantra and patience is becoming as rare as a white rhino.
You may have had a rough beginning but if you look back at it 20 or 30 years from now you could laugh at yourself. The few years of suffering will be absolved in the grand perspective and you will be able to appreciate things for what they really are.
I think this is how most of our parents made it. They pushed through thick and thin and at 30 or 40 years they could look back and see the children they brought up, the challenges they overcame, the investments they made, the friendship they built and be satisfied. They had the right perspective.
Of course I am not advocating for anyone to endure physical or emotional abuse in the pursuit of a grand perspective. Try as much as possible to resolve every issue and find balance, just don’t be too quick to make major decisions.
God’s extraordinary match making skills means that we mostly end up with people of the opposite personality. And it comes with its fair share of struggles. Couples tend to clash a lot, especially in the early years of marriage, due to personality.
My wife and I are very different. I am more outgoing than her. She is more collected, calm and organized than me. I tend to have some strange ideas and I have come to really appreciate her a lot because she helps me put those ideas to perspective. She challenges my ideas often, questions my motives and that has made me a better thinker. I have to rethink my assumptions often and work on my logic.
She is not a yes lady and now I love that about her. I say now because in the early days of our marriage I used to think she is challenging my authority as a man. I used to get angry (am reminded that I still do at times) and wonder what she was up to. It is her personality to interrogate things.
She edits all my major writing because she can see when and where am losing the plot or seeming to. I have had to shelve some articles because I wrote them with the wrong motivation and she flagged it.
Understanding and appreciating your spouse’s personality takes time and humility. But it pays off, it can be the answer to a lot of problems you may be facing, and this applies to life in general.
Disclaimer: do not use your personality as an excuse to mistreat people.
Expose your marriage
One of the things that has worked for us immensely is being part of a group of couples that meets consistently to walk with each other in marriage. We discuss our challenges in marriage, encourage each other and pray for each other.
Being part of like-minded couples who believe that marriages are worth fighting for is a great blessing.
I cannot emphasize this enough. You need to expose your marriage to see different ways of doing things, to hear how other couples are solving problems, to learn how to go about finances, you get to learn a lot.
Sometimes it’s just that relief of knowing that you are not alone in the struggle. Sounds bad but it works.
We all need someone to walk with, more so in marriage.
Expose your marriage also to valuable seminars, dinners, retreats, teachings. Whatever works for you, do it. Of course, not everything goes, you need to vet the doctrine you allow in your marriage.
Make sure you do it together, one for two doesn’t work here.
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