Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My "12 Things" List for Newlyweds

It seems to be fairly common these days to run across lists of "10 Things" or, if you are on Facebook, it might be "100 Things". They are usually fun, sometimes light-hearted, and occasionally poignant. Once in awhile, they go viral like Kate Connors "Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls", which was excellent, by the way.

In the course of my life, social events have tended to come in seasons. One year it will be graduations. Another, weddings. This past year has been one of weddings. I have had the opportunity to witness the beginning of five marriages within the past year, and it has had me thinking about what sort of advice I would give to newlyweds, based on my 33 years of experience of married life. Once I started making a list, it easily came up to twelve things. I expect someone else has had a similar idea and posted it somewhere, but I intentionally did not research it, as I wanted this post to be reflective of my experience. Some of these have a biblical basis, as I think that is important, and others are just what I've learned over time. So here are my

Twelve Recommendations for Newlyweds:

1. Be each other's family. Once you say your vows, you become each other's immediate family. What was your immediate family is now your extended family. Put each other first.
2. Be stubborn. By this, I don't mean stick to your guns in an argument. That can be pointless. What I mean is that you should be stubborn about making your marriage a success. Don't give up easily. There are many reasons why couples throw in the towel. I would encourage you not to give up when one of those things comes into play in your marriage. You will be a better person for having made your marriage work.
3. Build routines together. Routine home maintenance and cleaning is not always fun, especially if we come to it with the wrong attitude. I would encourage you early on to establish good habits for keeping things tidy. If you don't know how to do that, visit the Flylady or Totally Together. They both have some good recommendations.
4. Let your love "grow-up". Typically, relationships that lead to marriage start with romance - that sensation of being "in love." Now don't get me wrong, romance is a good thing, and well worth the effort to keep alive in a marriage, but being "in love" is different than "loving". Loving is what you choose to do when you discover that she doesn't know how to put the cap back on the tube of toothpaste, or when it becomes apparent that he forgets where the laundry hamper is when he takes off his dirty socks. It's a conscious choice, and you know your love is growing up when you choose to love despite the circumstance you find yourself in.
5. Don't go to bed angry. This is biblical - Ephesians 4:26 states "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." This can be difficult, especially if you are one, like me, whose anger tends to escalate easily and reverse slowly, but it's worth having a good nights sleep and not waking up grumpy and with things yet to be addressed to take care of your issues as they come up. I would also add a caveat to that - keep short accounts. Don't dig up the past when you argue - stick to the issue at hand.
6. Be each others biggest fan. I don't mean be joined at the hip, or even to do everything together. I mean cheer each other on. My husband has always enjoyed photography. I've never been particularly good at it, but I love the work he does, and I let him know that I'm proud of him and praise his work. He reciprocates with my hobbies that he doesn't actively participate in.
7. Support and defend each other. Do not let anyone else speak ill of your spouse in your presence. Sometimes it is hard enough to keep up a good attitude within the framework of marriage. Do not let anyone else add fuel to the flames of a bad attitude.
8. Keep disagreements private. Don't argue for all of the world to see, and especially not in front of any children you may have. This may seem unpleasant, but this includes supporting your spouse in front of others even if you disagree with him or her. Get behind closed doors before you vent.
9. Be ready to give 100 percent to the success of your marriage. You may have heard that marriage is a 50/50 deal. Not so. If you are not willing to give 100 percent, how will you face the situation when your spouse has nothing to give? One of the vows my husband and I repeated at our marriage ceremony included "in sickness and in health". When the time came that I was sick for two years, my husband picked up the slack. I had little to give, so he covered for us both.
10. Make memories together. Remember all those special times you spent together while you were engaged? That should not end. Keep doing the things you enjoy together.
11. Cultivate your relationship. Keep talking to each other. Stay connected. When the children grow-up, you still want to know each other and have memories together.
12. Be a student of your spouse. Get to know their likes and dislikes. There are many stereotypes of men and of women, but stereotypes are meant to be broken. Find out what is specific to your spouse, and have some empathy for them. You would want them to do the same for you.

I am sure this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it a list of ways to fix your spouse, but hopefully it contains a few kernals of wisdom that you will find useful if you happen to be newly married. And, if you are a newlywed, my hope for you is a long and happy marriage!

What have you found to be important in your marriage? Leave me a comment and tell me about it!

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