And if we strive to hear our spouse when they speak, rather than immediately correcting, trampling, rebuking, or ignoring their concerns, we will reap a far better reward.
About a month ago, Ben and I got married under the bliss of sheltered trees and blazing sun. The day was magical and whimsical, the things they talk about in movies. But in the blink of an eye, almost an entire month has already passed and I'm in awe. One, at how quickly the time has passed, and two, what the Lord is teaching me through this process.
In a humble attempt, I'd like to say that I'm no expert on marriage or how my marriage in particular will turn out. I only know what I've lived for the last thirty days. That's my experience, just as your own experience would be particular to you. But to those of you who just tied the knot like me, I want you to know three tips that I've found valuable over the last few weeks. In hopes that maybe they'll help you, and in hopes that they will continue to grow and prosper within me.
1. Communication Is Everything
When Ben and I first started dating many years ago, my Grandma Memo always told me, "Communication is everything." Glancing between her and my Papa, I knew she was right. They'd married as high school sweethearts, and if anyone could make it to 84 and look as young and in love as them, I'd better start taking my lessons now.
Growing up, my mom's grandparents were my second set of parents. And though I've moved out and now live on my own, I still consider them with that high esteem. Not only do they exude wisdom and honor, but they truly illustrate the love, knowledge, experience, and faithfulness that Scripture writes about in Proverbs 16:31 (NLT): "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life."
But beyond the godly life and excellence, my grandparents illustrate, it's the honor they give and serve one another with that inspires me the most. Because for them, "Communication is everything," and they truly live that out.
During the last thirty days, I can say with ease that marriage has been both what I expected and what I didn't. Although I'm sure scholars will argue I'm wading honeymoon phase waters, I'd like to think that after five years of dating, Ben and I aren't crazy surprised by the challenges that have come our way.
By emphasizing the value of communication, both my husband and I know that our problems will have a significantly higher probability of being resolved. And as our marital counselor has noted, marriage is about navigating and living with all the conflict that often has no solution.
Communication in marriage, I've learned, is less about being right, and more about taking the time to listen. So, when Ben and I start to discuss or communicate something sticky, we each make it a priority to listen to hear, not listen to respond.
Proverbs 18:13 (NLT) supports this point well, noting it's shameful to speak without really hearing first: "Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish."
"Communication is everything" is valid not always because of what is said but because of what is heard. And if we strive to hear our spouse when they speak, rather than immediately correcting, trampling, rebuking, or ignoring their concerns, we will reap a far better reward. One that isn't rooted in prideful ambitions of "being right," but in what James 1:19 calls being "slow to speak," and "quick to listen."
2. Remember to Laugh
In the early stages of our dating relationship, Ben and I often struggled to have fun. Not because we weren't capable or compatible, but because it was hard for two serious-about-life individuals to remember to let loose and have fun.
I wish I could say since marriage this wasn't an issue for us, but if I'm honest, this is something we've continued to make a goal to improve continually. And Ecclesiastes 8:15-17 reminds me of this often: "So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. In my search for wisdom and in my observation of people’s burdens here on earth, I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night. I realized that no one can discover everything God is doing under the sun. Not even the wisest people discover everything, no matter what they claim" (Ecclesiastes 8:15-17, NLT).
As work-driven individuals, both Ben and I have struggled in different ways to "Lighten up, Lucy," a phrase my mom used to tell me as a teenager, and quite frankly, still uses often. Psalm 127:2 always convicts me of this: "It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones" (Psalm 127:2, NLT).
Nevertheless, Ben and I have made strides toward living a more laughter-filled, joyous life. And not because it sounds good or fun, but because we know God wants us to enjoy this beautiful life He's blessed us with. Not only enjoying one another but basking in the presence of this thing called life we're called to live.
Laughter is good medicine for the soul. And while it won't cure everything, it might just bring what you need to your marriage. Proverbs 17:22: "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength" (NLT).
3. Pray Through the Struggles
It would be naive for me to write this post without mentioning that your first month of marriage may include some bumps and hiccups along the way. Because the fact of the matter is, that's honestly just reality. Getting used to living with a member of the opposite sex for the first time in your life can be overwhelming. Guys aren't like girls, and girls aren't like guys! And for me, this has probably been the biggest adjustment in my life.
But no matter what challenges have come our way, Ben and I have not only committed to communicating and laughing with each other and the Lord, but we're committed to praying through the struggles as they come.
When Ben and I were in pre-engagement counseling, our awesome teachers told us to catch the little foxes and pray often. Song of Solomon 2:15 references this: "Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming" (NLT). The Passion Translation writes it this way: "You must catch the troubling foxes, those sly little foxes that hinder our relationship. For they raid our budding vineyard of love to ruin what I’ve planted within you. Will you catch them and remove them for me? We will do it together" (Song of Solomon 2:15).
The reason I love the reminder to pray and catch these little foxes isn't because it's cool or sounds like a good idea, but because they stem from biblical advice. And biblical advice is always right.
As Christians, we're told to never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This doesn't end when we enter into a covenant called marriage. And it certainly doesn't end when things like sickness and mental health come knocking on our doors.
Just a day after Ben and I got married, we got a taste of what it means to pray through the struggle. Through sickness and in health, Ben helped me through chronic pain and anxiety, and I helped him through OCD spurts and questions. It wasn't always pretty but it was certainly always prayerful.
If I'm sure of anything from the past month, it's that marriage doesn't solve all our problems or take away our pain. In some ways, it exasperates it when we learn to hold not only our sufferings but also our spouse's. But that also means we get to share in and hold their joys.
I still know relatively little about marriage. After all, I'm a married woman of almost thirty days! But I'm learning, growing, and praying through the process. And I hope you'll join me.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Ridofranz
Amber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
Video credit: ©RhondaStoppe/SWN