My 10 Best Tips
Josh and I have been married for over three years now. In all honesty our first couple of years were messy. We were all over the place with selfish expectations and yucky emotional colors. We are no masters now, by any means, but we have been very intentional about digging deep into a good foundation so that when we do have a disagreement or he’s gone for weeks at a time we don’t tumble down a cliff. Here are the 10 most important things we’ve learned together so far.
1. Meet with a group of couples
This is the place where we really started to grow. I don’t remember how the idea was planted but after Josh and I got married I started feeling lonely. We moved off campus and he was gone most weekends so I resolved to really hunt for some good friends.
So, one of my ideas was to go to pizza at the Squire with another couple. That one time meeting turned into a biweekly experience that grew to four couples and now consists of a boisterous group of six couples.
The reason this group meant, and means, so much to us is how much it gives life and clarity to our marriage. I remember that it was particularly eye-opening and life-giving in the first several weeks we met. We found that, through story swapping, none of us were crazy for thinking or doing certain things. This essentially helped bring about a jumping off point to fix various issues and connect in ways we couldn’t before. I loved that we could enjoy cheese pizza, coke, and a safe space to unintentionally hash out marital life.
2. Attend church together
Josh and I particularly struggled with this for a while because, as a musician, he leads at a number of churches. It took us a long time to figure out that it not only was good for us, but especially for me, to feel like I had a “home church.” Ever since, we’ve attend Willow Creek Church together whenever we can because we love their mission, sermons, and worship but we also have the option of going on Saturday night since Josh usually leads on Sundays whenever he’s home.
3. Pray together
We started praying together daily a little over a year ago. We’d committed in stints off and on before that but we were hit hard by provision and God’s presence in our marriage when we committed daily. I still distinctly remember the first day we’d missed in weeks – we were utter grouches to each other and completely unbearable and amiss. As soon as we realized that we had missed praying together we laughed it off and snuggled up for some pray time. Praying together, we’ve found, is perhaps THE MOST important thing we do for our marriage. It totally grounds us where we ought to be grounded and glues us to each others side in purpose. A huge gift in praying together too is the whole idea of two or more gathering to pray… we see Gods blessing in our prayers so fast it’s the most incredible experience.
4. Dig into the Bible together
Josh and I do this a lot less regularly than we used to since we’ve committed to daily praying together, but this experience is also incredible. God gave you your life partner to help challenge you and grow you in ways you could never reach on your own. When Josh and I dig into the word together I count myself so blessed to understand the words in a new way because I’m reading it out loud plainly, he’s reading it out loud in his slightly dramatized manner, he’s asking questions, I’m asking questions, he divulges information he’s learned as a pastor’s kid, and I from my childlike faith. He gave us each other to complete each other in so many ways it’s crazy we never thought we would see fruit of that in Bible study.
5. Give together
Over the years Josh and I have developed a huge heart for giving. I remember several years back I was suddenly struck by one of those life-changing sermons about giving. I couldn’t tell you what the sermon said or where I was or what pastor I was listening to, but I remember leaving feeling so convicted that I hadn’t bothered to tithe once in my life (my parents giving me some quarters doesn’t count I don’t think). From then on I committed to the 10% tithe and the blessing I’ve seen because of that in my own life, in the lives of others, and the way that’s ushered my heart closer to His has been one of my biggest blessings. And then I got married and quickly realized that Josh and I had the same heart and it’s been so amazing sharing in that journey together.
Budget is fitting as the next tip because about a year or two into our marriage we went through Financial Peace University and were able to expand our giving by learning to properly budget. Plain and simple, I highly recommend going through this program. It gave Josh and I all the tools to succeed in sound budgeting and all other matters of money that we hadn’t even begun to think about. I remember thinking before the class that budgeting sounded too scary and official but when we tried it I felt so freed from our money. All of a sudden I didn’t feel stressed out every time I spent because I was carrying with me the exact amount we allotted to spend (yes we follow the cash envelope system). It was so freeing to easily spend that money on essentials that I only assumed we couldn’t afford and to not spend that money on impulse items that cluttered our lives before.
7. Dream together
This is perhaps mine and Josh’s favorite activity. We love grabbing a cup of coffee and dreaming out our careers, our family, our home, and everything else that is lovely and exciting. We find this brings us so much joy and hope because we start working towards those dreams as soon as we voice them. It’s funny how it only takes saying something to turn that incomprehensible dream into something attainable.
8. Weekly date night
This was one piece of advice we received before getting married that we started in engagement and have stuck to ever since (thank you Alison Calhoun). We were told that, after marriage, it’s easy to let the days slip away without making time for each other. Because of our commitment to a date night I can honestly say that I haven’t felt shorted in the quality time bank. Now, there have certainly been times when we didn’t have a penny to spend on an outing but sometimes those are the best dates because we certainly got very creative!
9. Serve the other
This is a more recent learning experience. I remember one day I was starting to boil over at Josh because I was feeling shorted in receiving love. Then God gently whispered to me that maybe I ought to try pouring my love into him instead of expecting him to fill me up at my every whim. What I discovered was incredible. Instead of feeling more drained and undesired I felt so loved because not only was I taking my attention off myself but it inspired Josh to reciprocate thoroughly.
10. Humility and forgiveness
This lesson is more vague because I am still working on it. I didn’t know until I got married just how prideful I am. So, obviously, this flaw doesn’t pair well with marriage and it has been a battle trying to break this in me. God’s first step was giving me the most humble husband as an example and then making him gentle as well so he can slowly work me out of my pride – one certainly can’t break it with force because stubbornness only becomes more stubborn when threatened. I am slowly learning to say “I’m sorry,” “it was my fault,” and “I forgive you” quickly.