Among the things newlyweds should know is this truth: Wedding vows frame an uncertain future in the light of the present. The bride and groom declare their intense love in that moment, confident that their love surely will help them handle the road ahead. It seems simple: Love is all they need and will see them through.
But all newlyweds quickly discover that life—and love—are more complicated than they assumed at the altar. If I could go back to counsel my younger self, here are 5 things newlyweds should know that I wish I knew when I was one.
Differences are good.
It’s easy to celebrate our differences in those early years. But in personalities and habits, differences can become a source of friction. It’s tempting to want your spouse to be more like you. Instead, I should have appreciated our differences more. The fact that Susan is different from me has proven to be so good, for both of us, through the years. Spouses’ differences sharpen and challenge and sanctify each other. It may be hard to believe and put it into practice, but it’s true.
It’s not all about you.
The excitement and anticipation of doing life together can be quickly overshadowed by disappointments that reveal a lot of selfishness. In those early years, I started to realize just how many of the benefits of marriage I viewed as being good for me. A growing marriage is one where each spouse learns how to consider the other spouse’s needs, preferences, and personality. In many ways, marriage is about making your spouse matter to you more and more through the years.
In many ways, marriage is about making your spouse matter to you more and more through the years.
You will need to apologize—a lot.
When we married, I didn’t anticipate needing good conflict resolution skills in my idealized expectations. But every marriage faces lots of conflict that requires apologizing. I’ve done this a lot during our 30 years of marriage. In fact, there have been times when I offended Susan and didn’t even know that I did anything wrong. Instead of keeping score or getting defensive, I’ve learned the value of owning it, apologizing, and asking for forgiveness.
Your marriage is more important than winning an argument.
The lawyer in me usually enjoys winning a good debate. But I’ve learned my marriage wins more when I care less about winning with Susan. When we get into an argument, I’ve learned to ask myself, “What’s more important: who is right or our relationship?” My younger self thought figuring out “who is right” was good for our relationship. The years have taught me otherwise.
How you express love is as important as how often you express it.
Loving your spouse the right way is more than asking yourself what you’d like to do and then doing that. It’s understanding and showing love in ways that are most meaningful to your spouse, not necessarily to you. I learned this in our marriage once when I took time to wash, dry, and fold all the laundry for Susan, thinking my heroics would really make her day—only to have her react dismissively. I learned that her love language is words of affirmation. She appreciated the laundry, but she felt my love when I complimented and encouraged her.
Are there other things newlyweds should know? What are they? Share in a comment.