[This article is also available in Urdu.]
Many of my younger relatives and friends are getting married at the moment. My hope and prayer is that they will have a great marriage with plenty of emotional comfort, security and joy, and that they will work out practical considerations and compromises easily.
However, marriage has a way of bringing out our frailties and foibles. Rather than endless romance and joy, the first year or two of marriage can actually be bewildering, disappointing and even painful for more than a few newlyweds. Not to mention, plain hard work! So I thought I would offer some relationship advice in the hope that it may prevent some conflict and heartache.
Think of your marriage as a third entity. Always do what is in the best interest of your marriage.
Be prepared to put aside personal feelings of discomfort or injustice to keep the communication lines open between you and your partner.
Never compare your partner to one of their parents, or say things like, “You’re just like your mother/father . . .”
Don’t blame. Blame achieves nothing! Instead of spending time working out whose fault it was, look for ways to improve or remedy the situation.
If you have something to say that may be unpleasant to your partner, such as a criticism, choose your words carefully. Also, choose the time and setting to say these words carefully. Say things as plainly and kindly as you can, and try to keep emotions minimal. Avoid accusations and avoid saying “you”. Instead of saying “you do this” or “you do that”, say “I feel this” or “I perceive that”.
Never ever use emotional manipulation or mind games to get what you want! Be honest, open and kind —to yourself and to your partner! Don’t keep your partner guessing and assume they should know what you mean. Speak plainly, kindly and honestly.
If your partner has a complaint or criticism against you, try very hard not to get defensive. (Remember to put your marriage first.) Instead of defending yourself, listen and make it clear that you’re listening to the complaint—stop what you’re doing and look at your spouse, and make appropriate, empathetic verbal responses. And don’t just say, “I’ll try” in response. Tell them how you will try to change or remedy the issue, if you can. If you don’t think you can change, or don’t think it’s necessary to change, then honestly and kindly discuss that. (In reality, some people are simply incapable of this level of communication. If this is the case for you or your partner then be patient and considerate and do the best you can.)
If you notice patterns of destructive and unproductive ways of resolving conflicts in your arguments, find ways of deliberately steering clear of these patterns.
Find ways of relieving negative emotions; don’t let them build up. Go for a walk, go to the gym, listen to your favourite music, etc. Follow King David’s example and share your feelings freely with God: your moments of joy and sadness, expectation and disappointment, highs and lows. Bring to God any feelings of resentment, frustration or anger, and leave these feelings with him, in his capable hands. See Philippians 4:6-8
Never criticise something that is beyond your partner’s control. Never criticise any part of your partner’s body!!!
Choose your battles! Don’t criticise everything. Be prepared to put up with irritating stuff. (Simply choose to ignore it.) Many parents put up with bad habits in their older children, and you and your partner will bring, perhaps unwittingly, some of these bad habits into your marriage. These bad habits may involve anything to do with the level of courtesy in how you speak to each other, tidying up after yourself, selfishness, self-discipline, punctuality, personal cleanliness, spending, etc.
Always treat your partner with respect. Never “name call” or put your partner down just because you’re angry or frustrated. Words spoken in anger are rarely completely forgotten even if they’re truly forgiven. And don’t “name call” or put your partner down for fun. Always speak respectfully and encourage your partner.
Honour your partner above your parents, your pastor(s) and your boss in importance and loyalty.
Don’t expect your spouse to be a super homemaker. If your mother was a great housekeeper and/or cook, realise that what you saw in the final years at home was the product of 20+ years of experience and practice.
Work out housekeeping rules and standards together. Share household chores and be prepared to compromise. If you can’t compromise, do it “better” yourself.
Great sex makes life so much more enjoyable. It is a panacea for all of life’s little woes. Work hassles, financial worries, problems with children or in-laws, etc, seem much more manageable when sex is wonderful. On the other hand, lousy sex (or no sex) can make life seem like a drudge. If sex isn’t great, work on it together, slowly.
Some wives think that their husband will know instinctively how to please—after all, sex is natural, isn’t it? Wives should not assume that the husband will know exactly how to please her, especially when, for the most part, the wife doesn’t really know what it is that will please her in the early days/weeks/months (years?) of marriage. Work it out together. Learn to speak honestly about sex from day one. Get over any prudish “eww” factor.
Ignore statistics about sex, and don’t compare your marriage or sex life with others; every marriage is unique. However, if you need “technical” advice on sex, get a good book.
Sex is like a dance, sometimes a complicated and confusing dance. And often once you’ve learnt the moves, the dance changes. Keep adapting and experimenting and having fun. Learn how to seduce and entice your partner.
Don’t be selfish in bed and never pressure your spouse to do anything they are not comfortable with.
When you want to have sex, don’t go straight to the obvious “sex” areas on your wife’s body. Find other areas to kiss or caress, such as the neck or inner thigh—areas near the obvious “sex” areas. Linger here before progressing slowly. Err on the side of SLOW.
It’s usually worthwhile to make sure that your spouse is comfortable and relaxed before having sex. Are you half expecting visitors? Are the dishes piling up in the sink? Is there a bill that needed to be paid yesterday? Sometimes it is worthwhile attending to practical things before having sex, so that your spouse isn’t distracted with concerns. I once heard a woman say that the best foreplay was hearing her husband vacuuming the carpets while she was getting ready for bed.
Most women need to feel that sex is emotional and relational as well as physical and hormonal.
The hormones in The Pill can be a big passion killer for some women.
Poor personal hygiene can also be a passion killer. Brush your teeth and shower, etc.
It is very unlikely that you will go through your married life without ever feeling attracted to someone else. When this happens, try to shut these feelings down ASAP. Don’t “enjoy” these feelings. Avoid being alone with the person you have a crush on. Don’t think that you are immune to infidelity. Don’t keep prolonged feelings of attraction hidden inside where they can grow and do damage! One of the best ways to deal with a crush is to honestly admit your feelings to someone you trust. (Hopefully, this person will be your partner, but be wise here.) Feelings brought out into the open often lose their power.
Don’t look at porn. If you can’t stop looking at porn, get help!
It could be helpful to find out your “love language”, and that of your partner. Read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 1992). Or talk to someone who has read it. (I read the whole book but didn’t learn much more than I had already learnt from a previous conversation with someone who had read the book.)
Most importantly: Pray for your partner and your marriage! My experience has been that God answers these prayers quickly. God wants to bless your marriage!
I can honestly say that after a somewhat bumpy beginning, the last decade or so of my marriage has been amazingly wonderful. I feel very blessed! Pete and I are free to be ourselves. We deeply respect, love and care for each other. We enjoy each other’s company very much and are looking forward to many more years of wedded bliss.
Here is some great biblical advice:
By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4
The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1
Finally all of you be like-minded [live in harmony], be sympathetic, have affection, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9
© 25th of April 2010, Margaret Mowczko