I attended a bridal shower over the weekend, a champagne brunch in a medieval-looking hall in a sea of impossibly well-groomed gardens. He’s a chef, she’s in finance. She opened their first gift, a sleek pewter bowl, and she winked at us past his barely concealed glee, and quipped, “This is perfect for a hot bowl of ramen!” His hand remained at the small of her back all afternoon, and they shared an inside-joke smile about every four minutes.
Once upon a time, I would have gotten lost in their afternoon, dreamily listening as she offered up tidbits of their wedding plans, oooohing over the bridesmaid’s dresses…but this day I realized that somehow, over time, my perspective has shifted.
Instead of sharing in their bliss, I wondered about their faith. Did they have any idea that, after they exchanged vows, life and time would inevitably, imperceptibly work its way into their love and change them? I wondered how much they knew beyond the immense emotion they clearly felt. Did they know about God’s plan for marriage?
Because, thirteen years ago, I sure didn’t.
This, of course, got me thinking. What do I wish I’d known? What message, if given the chance, would I send back through time to my blissfully newlywed self? Maybe something like this:
Have a servant’s heart
You’ll think it’s all about you for a while. You’ll have dreams and wants and opinions, and you’ll put unwarranted expectations on your new husband. You’ll also let him know every time he fails to meet those expectations.
And you will have it utterly backwards.
Try putting him first. Cook his favorite meal. Listen when he talks about how much he misses his old cars. Show him you’re happy to see him, that you love him. Encourage him. Build him up. Put his needs above your own and watch in amazement as he mirrors your behavior. This is not a manipulative ploy, but a pure and enduring gesture of love.
Choosing to let your husband lead does not equal oppression
Submitting to authority is a choice. There cannot be two leaders – in the military, in business, in a household. There’s a hierarchy for a reason. Does this mean you must bow and scrape and bend to your husband’s will? Nope. And if you’ve married a good and godly man, he’ll never ask you to. Instead, he’ll seek out your counsel and he’ll welcome and value your input. He will not value nagging and haughtiness, not even when you’re positive he’s wrong. There will be times when he has to make a tough call that doesn’t jive with your opinion, but you’ll know that he’s only called it after he’s seriously considered your view. You’ll know he loves you and that he’s doing what he believes is best for his family. You’ll much prefer this to power struggles, arguments and a deepening wedge between you.
Having children changes everything
Who am I kidding? Everyone told you this. It’s just something you have to live through to understand. Freedom? Gone. Sleep? Gone. Dates? Gone. “Me time?” Gone. Not gone forever, but long enough that, if you’re not careful, you’ll come out the other side to find a strained marriage. Be kind. Be understanding. Make your husband a priority inasmuch as it’s possible, because it’s easy to drift apart in a sea of diapers and sleepless nights.
Learn God’s priorities and plan for marriage
God, husband, children, work, self. Commit this to memory. Why? At the risk of getting preachy, because humans are fallible. Humans will disappoint you. But God won’t. You might not always understand His intentions, but He will not fail you. Ever. That takes the pressure of your dear husband, because there are times when he will disappoint you, and at those times you’ll need to lean on God. If you don’t, you’ll probably start up with those unwarranted expectations I mentioned earlier. Children come in third, but a close third. Your husband needs to be second so you can both show your children how to love. Work comes next, whatever you choose it to be. Then you. I know, putting yourself last doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? But consider that there are people who turn this priority list upside-down and live by it. How happy are they?
That covers the big stuff, I think. I was twenty-five when I got married. I thought I knew everything and that our love for each other would carry us through anything. Now, looking back, I see that love counts for a lot, but there’s so much more to it – and I’ve barely scratched the surface. But with God’s help I’ll keep learning and trying (and failing and trying again).
I pray this young couple either already knows these truths, or learns them much faster than I did.