This week Jackson and I turned TWO! Meaning we had our second anniversary ;) It seems so surreal. I know we're young, marriage-wise. But these past two years have been pretty tough! Ask any newly marriage couple how their first couple of years are and they'll probably laugh and say it was a learning opportunity.
Why? Because nobody can prepare you fully for marriage. There will always be surprises. Why? Because nobody knows what life events will be served up to you and at what point they'll come! We can't predict the future. Unfortunate, I know.
BUT I've found that there are certain guidelines that can be given to help in those unseen times. Some tried and true truths that can be paired with whatever comes your way and helps to build the relationship instead of take away. So, without further adieu, here are some tried and true tips we've received.
Don't go to bed angry
The "d" word is never mentioned
Be the first to say, "I'm sorry."
Never be afraid of counsel
Attend marriage conferences
Don't go to bed angry. This past February Jackson and I, along with two other couples attended a Church of the Highlands conference. During one of the sessions we were reminded of the bible verse in Ephesians, "Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil" (v. 4:26-27). Some versions say that going to bed angry gives the enemy a foothold.
I've never had an experience where I've gone to bed worked-up, woke up and it was all sunshine and rainbows! There's always a little piece still there. Not only that, but the next time we argue, that little piece chimes in on the new argument and they make a powerful duo that usually leads to things being blown out of proportion! I think that is the foothold that scripture is talking about. Every once in a while we'll agree to talk something out the next day because we've hit a wall. But that is still different than going to bed with a grudge. It's re-establishing as a team before the day ends and it really makes a difference.
The "d" word is never mentioned. When Jackson and I got married we both agreed divorce was never an option. Now reading this "rule" before I was married I would have thought, "why does that need to even be in there? Of course nothing like that is mentioned." Fast forward when you're a year in and you two have something you cannot see eye to eye on, you have tried every possible angle and you're endlessly frustrated or hurt... you may catch your mind wandering. Not that you would ever say it out loud or maybe it's just a passing threat spoken from a place of hurt and frustration that you've thrown out without understanding. But suddenly you've made way for this idea. So from the beginning Jackson and I have said since divorce is not an option that word doesn't need to be brought up either. It's a slipper slope. First it's a mention of the word but the next argument may lead to considering the word and the next to acting on it. So let's just stop it before it begins.
The "d" word likes to wear disguises too. It may dress up as: "life was so much easier before we were married," "why did we even get married in the first place?" or "I was better off on my own." It is anything that drives a wedge between the marriage. Anything that suggests that separation may be the only answer.
Scripture says the power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). So let's speak life into our marriages even in the most challenging times!
Be the first to say, "I'm sorry." This one is hard, since I'm usually right ;) KIDDING! I will admit that Jackson is better at this than me. I tend to want to come back in an hour or so and say it and he is better at taking a deep breath and apologizing much sooner.
I think this one comes from the heart of Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Saying sorry is a way of putting your spouse ahead of your own hurt feelings. Scripture also says, "a gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).
Do a little experiment next time you find yourself in a disagreement. Say something sarcastic or something in a tone of voice that seems insincere... what happens? It goes to the next level. Now, say I'm sorry or apologize for the part you played in that disagreement. Now what? My bet the argument almost fizzled out.
There was one time Jackson and I were arguing, I couldn't even tell you what it was about anymore. All I know is I got so frustrated I just left the house to go grab dinner and told him he could figure out his own. As I was in the car I started talking out loud to the Lord. I basically came to the conclusion that I knew I had a choice. I could carry this out and definitely ruin the rest of our night. OR I could get him food as well, apologize and write a sweet little note for him. I am proud to say that night I chose the second option. The tension melted from the room when I came with Chick-fil-a in hand with his favorite milkshake for desert. Scripture really knows what it is talking about with these life suggestions and communication skills!
Never be afraid of counsel. If there was one mis-conception I wish I could zap out of people it would be that counseling isn't helpful or is "too much of an extreme" to be their answer. There have been times when I've suggested a counselor and that person has responded, "but our marriage is fine, it's not like we're on the brink of divorce or something."
My best analogy for counseling is comparing it to a car. Do you wait to bring your car into a shop once your engine has completely failed and you now need to spend thousands replacing it? Potentially needing to get a new car because the old one is ruined. OR do you go in for oil changes? Knowing that things need a tune up every once in a while. These tune ups don't mean you have a bad car. It means... you have a car and cars require maintenance.
Early into our second year of marriage Jackson and I were faced with a big decision. We had a job offer in Houston where I'm from and my family still is and one in Dothan where we currently are and where Jackson's family is. We both had really valid points for each direction but COULD NOT make the decision. So we called up our pre-marital counselors as well as some of our friends who a few years ahead of us and we sought out advise! Then after the decision to stay was made, we spoke with another counselor again! My heart was hurting and we needed to be sure we were on the same page again and that we worked through everything so I wouldn't hold any bitterness.
Tally that up for me... that's about 3 or 4 conversations each maybe and hour or so long, that may have saved our marriage and love for one another! It expedited the process as well instead of dragging it out over the years.
So if we are so willing to go in for routine oil changes why are we so resistant towards small counseling sessions. Those small sessions could save a life time of damage! I wish I had just one good scripture talking about how good advice and counsel is but I really couldn't choose one so do me a favor and just google, "counsel mentioned in scripture."
My last note on this is if one of God's names is "might counselor" it may be worth our attention and consideration. If you are in need of a counselor but don't know where to start begin at a church. They should have what you need!
Attend marriage conferences. This one is a fun one! Or at least the ones we've attended have been fun. I mentioned this is the first rule but on valentines weekend each year Jackson and I attend the Church of the Highlands marriage conference. We meet up with two other couples and make a weekend out of it. The conference itself is only a day and a half but it's so much fun. Each of us typically gets one main thing out of it but more than that it's fun to be in a room of people all trying to figure this thing called marriage out. It makes you feel normal. We try to attend one conference a year and we make sure to keep it fun.
Another incredible one is put on through JH Outback America. This one is a full weekend but it's hosted in many cities all over the states as well as different countries! I've volunteered at these events for the past 7 years. Watching what takes place in just a weekend is incredible! I 10/10 recommend attending this event at some point and sooner rather than later!
So here we are! These are 5 of the things Jackson and I have agreed to take on in our marriage and I am so glad we did. These little tips have made a huge difference and are why we celebrating turning two together. We're proud of where we are and each day, month and year together is worth getting excited about! Whether this is the first time you've heard any of these things or the thousandth, I hope it encourages you to keep on striving for your healthiest marriage!