In light of Valentine’s Day today I wanted to get a little more personal about my marriage. Michael and I got married right outside of collage at the young age of 22. It was the best decision I have ever made. When I married Michael, all I could see was how perfect our marriage was going to be. We would make dinner together every night, wine and dine on the weekends, and he was going to send roses to me all the time at work…..yeah right. Any married person out there knows that all of the above are unrealistic expectations. Our first year of marriage was T.O.U.G.H., but praise God for getting us through it! Marriage is a learning experiences and each year we have gotten married, I can honestly say that it has gotten better each year. I am going to share you five things I would have told my newlywed self [almost] 6 years ago.
1. Leave and Cleave
Leave the old, and cleave onto the new. I learned this mostly in our first year of marriage. I grew up with a close family. We did everything together. We ate dinners every night at the dinner table as a family, we went to church together as a family, and we even took family pictures together as a family. Michael and I made the decision to move to his hometown in Chicago during our first year of marriage.Even though I loved always finding something to do in the city, I missed the days that I could just pop by my parents on the fly. It was very challenging to put my comfort in Michael instead of my family. I remember my our first Christmas away from my family I tried to recreate our family breakfast and it was a disaster. I burnt the eggs, our Christmas tree was as big as our tiny apartment, and I spilled pancake batter everywhere…twice.
Long story short, my husband saw that I was not comforted by just him and that hurt him. Husbands love to feel that they are the source of comfort and security for their wives. It also is a sign of respect to them as well. Once I learned that, it changed our dynamic. We started to be each other’s “family” to each other. It is a bittersweet feeling to leave the family you grew up with and cleave to a new person, but it was worth it.
2. Travel Together – ALONE
My husband has never been the big traveler. He loves to explorer, but he hates going to the same place and not actually doing something active. He also is hugely afraid of flying. I, on the other hand, could travel every other week and be completely ok with that. I am always counting down to my next trip. Whenever I am debating on spending money I always tell myself that I am using up plane ticket money. Haha.
We went on many trips with family our first two years of marriage. Probably about 3-4 times a year. Traveling with family is great, but it isn’t the same as spending one on one time together. You can get one on one time at home, but let’s be honest – that rarely happens. After two years of being married, we decided to take a week long trip to Florida, just the two of us. This was an amazing trip. We learned to travel together, to go out to eat together and not have to worry about being somewhere by a specific time. It was good for us. We found out what our interests were and how to carry on deeper conversations. When you travel alone together you see and learn of a different side about your spouse and what they like to do in their free time when there is no distractions. When you are on vacation you like to do what you love so I got to see more of what Michael likes to do for fun and his hobbies. Most of the time at home we don’t truly take the time to do our hobbies because life gets in the way. Vacation time is the best time to figure this out. Below are a couple of pictures from the Florida trip we took.
We now take multiple trips a year. I am not saying extravagant trips for a week. We have only taken one other trip since then that has been longer than a weekend this past June for our 5th anniversary. The trips we took were weekend trips where we stay in a $50 a night hotels, hiking in the woods, trying out fun cafes and restaurants, having meaningful conversations while we were on the road together, and simply doing life together. I encourage you before the end of the month to plan a trip with your spouse, even if it’s for a weekend.
3. Find a hobby that you BOTH can do together
I cannot stress enough how important it is to find a hobby that you BOTH can do together. If you know Michael and I, we are very similar, yet very opposite people. We both enjoy the outdoors, being active, pizza, and ice cream. However, I love blogging and he loves hunting and smoking meat (very manly haha).
While supporting each other’s hobbies and interests are VERY important in a marriage, it is not realistic to expect the other person to jump on board with you on your interest in hobby 24/7. We both take the time to support each other’s interests. However; it is okay to not like your spouse’s hobby. But it is very important to find something that you both can equally enjoy doing together. This can be cooking, going out to eat, movies, DIY project, etc.
It took us a while to find that hobby /interest. It wasn’t until a small trip to a state park changed that when we both fell in love with hiking. Since then, we know how to spend our weekends. We have driven to Tennessee many times to go hiking and we recently did a trip to Colorado/Utah where we visiting many national parks. Hiking is our space to reconnect, to talk with no distractions, and to glorify God’s wonderful creation. The best part is that it’s inexpensive and you get a good workout while doing it. What also comes from hiking is the stories and pictures that follow. We will sometimes spend evening looking at old videos from our hikes or planning our next dream trip! If you and your spouse are looking for a good hobby to do together, HIKE!
4. Spend time away from each other (AKA have girl time and bro time )
This directly goes against what I just said in my previous thought. Yes, Michael and I do prioritize spending time together doing something that we love, BUT it is very crucial to spend time with others outside of your relationship. (AKA girl time and bro time). Every couple falls into the trap of being consumed by each other as some point in their relationship (even if it’s for a day haha). When I first got married I felt so guilty to make plans without Michael. However, when it came to talking about the Bachelor or shopping – Michael didn’t exactly know what to say in those conversations. I also didn’t have much to attribute to hunting. We didn’t start actively spending time each week with other people until our 4th year of marriage! I can’t believe it took us that long. You will not always enjoy each other’s hobbies and that is ok. Some things were just meant to do with the same-sex. Spending time with our girlfriends or bros keeps us sane. I mean I love spending time with Michael, but we both can say at times we need our girl time and guy time.
5. Pray Together
It’s like the saying goes: “Couples that pray together, stay together”. This is something that Michael and I started doing recently. I cannot believe that we waited until almost 6 years of marriage to start praying together…and I am not talking about at the dinner table. The kind of prayer I am that I talking about it praying together when times are tough, when one person is upset, or for no particular reason at all. Praying for each other out loud tears down those walls and makes you both vulnerable. This is something that we are in the process of working on and have a long road to perfecting, but in the short time that we have started doing this I have already felt a closeness to Michael that I have never experienced. There is nothing more attractive than when your husband asks you “ How can I pray for you” and takes your hand and starts praying over you. It is very hard and awkward to do at first, but I promise it will get easier. It is also a great way to prevent fights (hehe). I mean, how can someone get angry and mad when you ask them to pray together?
….and that’s it!
I want to clarify that Michael and I have a long way to go and we are not perfect. We still fight like once a week and get annoyed with each other, but we have learned to apologize and “get over it” much faster than our first year of marriage. We are more than just a married couple. He is my best friend and knows every part of me. He knows my struggles, my weaknesses, my faults, my strengths, my faces and gestures, and sometimes my thoughts (which can be very creepy at times). I encourage anyone reading this to NOT set these five things I have talked about as expectations from your spouse. I challenge YOU to take ownership and try them out for yourself. Most of our fights stem from unmet expectations. Most likely when your husband sees you doing all of these, he will want to return the favor.
My hope is that these five tips encourage you instead if discourage you. You have to work for a good marriage and all of that hard work is worth it in the end. As much as I wish could tell my 22-year-old self all that I have learned, I wouldn’t have taken the mistakes, fights, hard situations back. I now know the importance of these five lessons I have learned in our marriage. I now value the importance of balance and the importance of making Christ the center because I know what a marriage is like without it.