Dear New, Young Wife,
When you said, “I do,” not too long ago, there were probably a lot of other eager and excited thoughts that followed.
I can’t wait to share a life with you.
I can’t wait to be able to spend all our time together.
I can’t wait to have someone who warms my cold toes at night and brings me coffee in the morning.
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Okay, maybe you didn’t think about the coffee part – but you might have thought of all the other ways this wonderful person would make you happy, and hopefully how you would make him happy too.
Sixteen years have passed since I said my own “I do” to my husband, Cliff, and with each passing year, we’ve laid a new layer of love and life down, and you might say added another ring to the trunk of our marriage tree.
That tree, if it actually existed, would look very different today than when we first started out. It would be taller and wider thanks to God’s grace and growth in our lives, and the trunk more weathered. There would be dings and scratches left by the storms we’ve survived and the tree bark itself would be far less green than it was, thanks to the wisdom we’ve slowly (and sometimes painfully) gained. The repeated passing of seasons would have added a little more protective hardiness to the tree’s exterior. Experience and time can be a blessing – both for trees, and for marriages.
Unfortunately, today we’re not always encouraged as couples to look for that blessing of experience and time – and we’re not taught to see that the hard and difficult stuff marriages go through can be just as important and valuable as the fun and happy moments we enjoy.
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So can I share with you a few things I’ve learned over the years that have helped our relationship? Not as a marriage expert, but simply as a wife who’s walking the same journey as you, just maybe a few miles farther down the road.
Think Two, Not One
It’s funny how we’re often attracted to our spouses for qualities they have that are different from our own, and yet, over time, we still try to change them to be just like us! But God brought the two of you together, and each of you will have strengths to offer and weaknesses to overcome. When you can think “we” instead of “me,” that’s when you realize certain things don’t matter as much – and that includes always getting your way (even if you think your way is better). The longer you’re married, the greater the temptation to think about yourself first, but if you ask this question daily – “How can I serve my spouse today?” you’ll find it’s a lot harder to be selfish when you’re intentionally looking for ways to be a blessing to your husband.
Go to Bed Together
This one may seem odd, especially if one of you is a night owl and the other is an early bird, like Cliff and I are. But there is something special and meaningful about ending the day together by talking and spending time with each other before going to sleep. We decided early on in our marriage we’d do this, and with the exception of times where there were deadlines for one of us that required late night work sessions, we’ve made it a point to go to bed together.
Yes, sometimes that’s meant this early bird staying up a little later than I’d like to, and sometimes my husband the night owl turning off the tv before he’s quite ready to, but putting each other first in this way has been a great reminder and discipline for us to keep thinking “we” instead of “me.” We’ve done this even when we have been upset with each other or struggling with something and might have preferred going to bed at different times. Why? Because it’s a lot harder to stay mad at the person you’re nose to nose with than if you’re in different rooms.
I didn’t realize it at first, but for the first several years of our marriage, I kept a double standard. When I made mistakes, I expected and assumed my husband would graciously overlook and forgive my carelessness or selfish choices – but when it came to his mistakes, well, I wasn’t always very forgiving or offering the same grace and care.
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How often do you find that you’re more kind and generous to a complete stranger who accidently cuts you off with a cart in the grocery store than you will to your husband who forgets to take out the trash?
When you begin thinking about all of the things God forgives you for, you will realize why it’s so important to forgive your spouse. Because you’re not perfect. Neither is he.
Love in Verbs, Not Just in Words
There will be days in your marriage that you’re not going to feel a whole lot of love towards your husband. You may question if you even like him. But love was never designed by God to simply be a feeling. Love should go much deeper than that – it’s an action that comes with commitment and one you can do even when you don’t always feel it. Our feelings are fickle; they change as often as the weather sometimes. But when you commit to God and to your spouse to live out committed love, then no matter what you’re feeling on a given day, you’re promising to live out love towards your spouse. You will show it in your actions. And amazingly enough, your actions will often lead right back to feelings of love. So if loving words start to fail you, than ask yourself if you’re living out love in what you do, how you respond, how you behave. Then keep doing it.
What would happen if you saw the love you give your husband as a ministry, a gift you give not because he deserves it, but because God’s asked you to do it? Would it change your actions? Would it increase your love? Try it and see.
Depend More on God than Your Spouse
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a young wife was that my husband couldn’t be my “everything.” Know what I mean by that? As a wife, your happiness and your life’s value and worth cannot begin and end with your husband. It’s not fair to him, and it’s not God’s will for you.
When you let God serve as your foundation for your life, there will be far less pain and disappointment when your husband lets you down (and he will, because he’s an imperfect person, just like you).
Realize that your husband is trying to figure out life and marriage and family and future just as you are, and God has brought you together as a team to encourage and cheer and help one another – not for you to place all of your hopes on your husband to answer and achieve for you.
This also helps if you’re tempted to try and change your husband into the man you think he should be. Instead, spend time with God, and pray for God to grow your husband into the man he wants him to be.
You cannot be your husband’s Holy Spirit. But you can be an encouragement. Be a loving one.
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Sara Horn is blessed to be a wife to Cliff for 16 years and mom to their son for 13. She is the author of six books, founder of Wives of Faith (wivesoffaith.org), a ministry for military wives, and a new Crosswalk Marriage Channel contributor. Her latest book, How Can I Possibly Forgive? releases in October. Visit her website at sarahorn.com.
Publication date: July 23, 2014Ivory File auto-gathered this post from Cross Walk