I just celebrated twenty years of marriage! Though twenty years is worth celebrating, it hasn’t always been easy. I wish I could sit my ‘newlywed’ self down and have a conversation with her. I’d have plenty of advice and a few tips for her that would have saved time and trouble. The tips are written for ‘me,’ but I hope you find them helpful too!
Welcome to marriage…it’s going to be an incredible adventure that will challenge you to become the best version of yourself. Here are some things to keep in mind as you journey together into the future. Tips for ‘happily ever after…’
1. Become the defender of WE instead of ME!
- Please remember that you are on the same team.
- Don’t try to WIN a fight. The strength of your conviction that you are right, doesn’t mean that you are! If you insist on being “right,” you can “right” yourself right out of the relationship.
- When you are fighting, instead of trying to come up with all the things he’s done wrong (to justify your anger), think of all the things he’s done RIGHT and it will change your attitude.
- Pride says, “My way is better.” It motivates you to refuse to stand in the shoes of your spouse and attempt to see the world through his or her eyes.
I’m not better than my spouse. I might not have the same shortcomings, but my shortcomings are not better or worse. There are beautiful and unsightly things inside both of us. My mistakes and my weaknesses are hurtful to my spouse, just as my spouse’s weaknesses are hurtful to me. – Toni Nieuwhof
2. Don’t let little things become BIG things.
- Don’t fight over something that is fixable. You are going to get mad at Ted for stealing the blanket at night. Don’t get ANGRY, just GET ANOTHER BLANKET!
- Ask for what you need rather than assume he can read your mind and getting mad when he doesn’t.
3. Choose friends wisely!
- Be careful about choosing your closest friends. Your friends will determine the direction and quality of your life. Choose friends who are heading in the direction you want to go.
- If your closest friends are criticizing their spouse, it’s easy to do the same. Choose friends who speak highly of their spouse (when they are around and when they are not).
Find friends who will help you WIN in your marriage. Surround yourself with WISE, trustworthy, and objective friends who help you make better decisions. Your friends help you lean into or away from your marriage. – Toni Nieuwhof
4. Get some counseling.
- You are coming into the marriage with some baggage. Talk this through with a trusted counselor who shares your values. It will do you, and your marriage, some good.
- You won’t regret the money and time you invest in getting professional counseling.
5. Say THANK YOU!
- Be grateful and don’t take things for granted.
- Thank Ted for working hard, thank him for the things he does around the house, and thank him for his integrity. Thank him for the ways he makes you feel loved.
- Be thankful, stay thankful.
A spouse should express appreciation, affirmation, or another positive emotion (like flirting or sharing a positive emotion), FIVE times for every ONE complaint or criticism. – Toni Nieuwhof
6. Be your husband’s cheerleader (Not his critic).
- He may not have anyone else encouraging him, so always cheer him on!
- Don’t say things to others that make him look bad. When you mock him, it will make you both feel bad.
Be a raving fan publicly but an honest critic privately. – Andy Stanley
Am I willing to make space in my relationship with my spouse for our differences? Can I view my spouse’s strength with admiration and my spouse’s weaknesses with compassion. – Toni Nieuwhof
7. On listening…and responding.
- Listen without formulating a response. Listen to understand.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply…seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey
- Don’t blame.
It’s easier to hold someone else responsible for your pain than to take responsibility for ending your own victimhood. – Dr. Edith Ever
8. The ‘D’ word…don’t use it.
- Remove the word ‘divorce’ from your vocabulary. You may want to sleep in another room some nights and work things out in the morning. You are in this for the long haul and you will be forever grateful that you fought for your marriage.
- Divorce doesn’t give you a better story, just a different one.
Divorce moves some people into a reality that is more painful than their marriage ever was. Divorce is NOT the easy way out. – Toni Nieuwhof
9. Don’t say: “That’s just the way I am.”
- We can ALWAYS learn, grow, and become better.
- You CAN stop habits that irritate your spouse. For example, you can learn how to be ready on time!
10. Always be kind.
- Sometimes you’ll be tired or irritated, but you don’t have to be rude.
- No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
You reap what you sow…you reap later than you sow…and you reap more than you sow. Are you sowing seeds of kindness, patience, and love – or – indifference and criticism? – Toni Nieuwhof
- You were raised in a house full of women and don’t know how important “respect” is to a man.
- Do some research on this word, and apply what you’ve learned. (Spoiler Alert: Your future involves a house full of MEN!)
Did you know that if men had to choose between love and respect, 3 out of 4 would choose respect? – Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
12. When going through a hard time…keep going!
- Tough times will come, fight the problem and not each other. It will get better.
- The choices you make to stay and work on your marriage will affect you, your family, and your community. You will leave a legacy.
These are a few of the things I wish I knew from my first day of marriage. Twenty years later, I’m still a work in progress. I’m still learning and growing. I do not have all these tips mastered, but they are things for which I am striving.
Which of these tips resonate with you? Leave us a comment.
What tip would have helped YOU as a newlywed? Please leave a comment.
A good marriage is like a good story, and anyone who knows anything about a good story knows that it will have plot twists into the absurd and melancholic, it will meet seemingly insurmountable odds, and the musical score may shift from moments of major happiness into a minor key of misery. – Daniel Grothe, Power of Place
Also, I’ve quoted author Toni Nieuwhof several times in this post. I absolutely loved her book called “Before You Split.” She’s a former divorce attorney and shares what she’s learned from couples who’ve divorced, as well as from couples who went from a relationship that was barely surviving – to THRIVING! If you want encouragement in your marriage, I highly recommend the book! Click here to check it out.