5 Important Things to Do in Your First Year of Marriage

5 Important Things to Do in Your First Year of Marriage

5 Important Things to Do in Your First Year of Marriage

My first year of marriage was a mess. Standing at the altar, I envisioned a lifetime of bliss and ever-deepening love. But I hadn’t a clue how much work relational intimacy required, nor how little I knew about loving my husband well.

We were severely unprepared and ill-equipped, but too short-sighted and naïve to realize this. So instead of leaning on Christ, learning how to relate to one another in a healthy manner, and connecting with others who’d weathered young married life successfully, we turned to self-sufficiency.

We planted our feet firmly in self-reliance, self-deception, and flat out selfishness until pride and distrust nearly shattered the bonds between us.

Less than five years after we said our vows, my husband and I found ourselves standing in a divorce lawyer’s office, ready to walk away—wondering how we’d landed in that place. By God’s grace, however, we pushed through and discovered, together, how to work through hard issues and love one another well.

Through prayer and perseverance, God healed our hearts and restored our relationship. Through it all, He showed us how to build a strong, unbreakable foundation able to withstand job changes, health crises, financial struggles, and raising teens.

If you’re a newly wed, here are five ways you and your spouse can avoid the pain we experienced while binding your hearts, ever closer, to each other.

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1. Prioritize growth over comfort.

1. Prioritize growth over comfort.

No issue, regardless of how consequential or urgent it felt in the moment, had the power to make or break our marriage:

  • That bout of unemployment that had us fighting day after day.
  • That move that left me bitter and insecure.
  • That parenting challenge that led to sleepless nights and a great deal of confusion.

We got through it all and discovered, once the drama settled, that each chaotic event helped us become more Christ-like and taught us vital skills that made the next upheaval feel more manageable.

A while back, my daughter and her boyfriend were navigating some difficult, potentially life-changing challenges. Seeing my daughter hurt triggered my protective side, so I cleared my schedule and rushed to her side, determined to help “fix” the situation.

But while there, with my mind plotting and planning and processing, I sensed God saying to me, “This is good.” I immediately thought of Romans 8:28-29, which tells us that God works all things for our good to conform us into the likeness of His Son.

I realized that God wanted to use the situation to grow my daughter and her boyfriend, and that their growth—or lack of it—would have a much greater impact on their relationship than any of my solutions.

This is true for all of us. So often, when difficulties hit, we immediately focus on fixing the problem. But God wants us to go deeper. He wants to use that problem to fix or transform us.

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2. Learn to have hard conversations.

2. Learn to have hard conversations.

No one enjoys conflict. In fact, most of us will work hard to avoid it, even if that means allowing unhealthy relationship dynamics to persist and grow.

Often, when problems arise, we slip into one of two responses: fight or flight. We might attempt to attack the issue directly, often displaying ugly and destructive behavior that may allow us to conquer it, while losing our loved one’s heart.

The opposite reaction—to retreat and avoid—isn’t any better. This fosters dishonesty within us and toward our spouses. It also allows seeds of bitterness to take root and grow. We discover, as time progresses, that the issue we hoped would simply go away grows worse and our hearts begin to harden toward the one we’ve promised to love.

But even more dangerous than that, we’ve begun to create a false foundation to stand upon. For intimacy to thrive, we must be honest with and kind to one another. Unfortunately, few of us have learned how to do this. In fact, we’ve likely spent a lifetime of witnessing and practicing destructive conflict-resolution patterns.

Therefore, to love our spouses well, we need to unlearn damaging behaviors while developing the tools that facilitate wholeness. We can do this by taking marital classes, attending conferences, and reading books and articles on healthy conflict resolution.

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3. Pray together.

3. Pray together.

The human heart is deceived and bent on self-reliance. We like to analyze situations and formulate plans. We also tend to be incredibly self-obsessed. As a result, our perspectives will usually be faulty, short-sighted, and heavily tainted by sin and pride.

God, however, sees and knows all. This means He’s alert to the situation and to our behavior—but His vision goes so much deeper. He sees the fears, insecurities, and hurts that hide within us and distort our thinking, triggering ugly reactions. More than that, He knows how to address each of those things so that, through every struggle, we and our spouses become more whole.

My husband and my relationship began to change dramatically once we started praying—in the middle of an argument. We’d be angry, perhaps saying hurtful things to one another and falling into old, ugly behavior patterns. But then one of us would stop and say, “Let’s pray.” And so we did.

We chose to set our pride and hurts aside to seek God’s heart, His help, and the power to love one another as He desired.

As we come to Him, honestly and together, seeking His guidance, He soothes our hurts, softens our hearts toward one another, and recenters our priorities. Through prayer, He shifts our focus from fighting against one another to fighting for one another and our marriage.

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4. Connect with others.

4. Connect with others.

Consider happily-married, older couples you’ve witnessed. They display the emotional depth and intimacy all spouses long for but, unfortunately, not everyone experiences.

We may think their lives have been easier, or perhaps their husband is more attentive than ours. Listen to their stories, however, and we find they have faced the same challenges we do—but they’ve learned to overcome.

They’ve learned to thrive.

Most likely, they’ll share every hard-learned lesson with us if we would ask. There’s power and strength in connecting with those who’ve successfully weathered our current struggles and challenges. Hearing the difficulties they’ve faced and overcome will birth hope within us that we can as well. But perhaps most importantly, living life with others reminds us that we’re not alone.

If you want a strong marriage, connect with those who have been where you are and are a few steps ahead. Learn from them, lean on them, and invite them to speak truth into your life.

Marriage is far too difficult, and at times, painful, to attempt to push through alone.

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5. Take financial classes.

5. Take financial classes.

According to biblical financial expert, Dave Ramsey, money causes the most fights in marriages. We each come into the relationship with different ideas regarding how to handle our finances and few of us have learned to manage them well. These differences can create a great deal of stress, which only multiplies when debt is involved.

When my husband and I were struggling relationally, our finances were a mess as well. We argued about who spent what, worried about rising credit card balances, and blamed each other for our inability to manage money. This created ongoing conflict and distrust. But then we took biblical financial classes where we learned not only how to budget but also how to communicate and work together in a previously contentious area.

Had we learned these tools earlier, we could’ve saved ourselves a great deal of frustration and money spent on interest.

Most, if not all, of us begin our relationships with high hopes and expectations. We envision years of happily-ever-after, of intimate and lazy Saturday mornings and peaceful walks in the park. These dreams are God-given and can be God-led, if we surrender to Him and seek His will. He longs to bring husbands’ and wives’ hearts together, to form one deeply connected and interdependent union—a place where trust and transparency thrive.

We experience this unshakable, thriving love as we focus on growth rather than solutions, develop our conflict-resolution skills, anchor our relationships in prayer, cultivate mentoring relationships, and learn to manage and discuss our finances well.

Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faithand numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HEREto learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases. 

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