It has been nine months since my husband and I exchanged our wedding vows on New Year’s Day, and every time I look at my husband, my heart grows warm with gratitude. Every day I am amazed at how much of a blessing he has been to me and how good God is to have brought him into my life.
Some people would probably dismiss this as a “honeymoon” phase, especially those who see marriage as a scary commitment, rife with burden and trouble.
However, the Bible does present marriage as a good thing, even if it doesn’t say that everyone must get married. Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord.” As pastor and author Timothy Keller said in his book The Meaning of Marriage, marriage at its best is healing, nourishing, and life-giving. It is a way God refines husbands and wives to become more Christ-like (Ephesians 5:21-32).
Even if we’re still in the “honeymoon” phase, I believe it is well and good for us to fully enjoy this season, and I’m happy to share that there have been at least three significant and happy helpful practices we’ve been doing as newlyweds:
1. Quicker conflict resolution
“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26b-27)
Now that we’re living together, it has amplified our desire to resolve any skirmishes or misunderstandings as soon as possible. Though the “conflict” situations have changed to more domestic ones (e.g., how to make each other’s needs known, how and when to run errands, do chores and manage parental expectations), our process for resolving misunderstandings has not changed since before marriage, and it helped that we have had many “practice rounds” while we were dating.
We did (and still do) this by first managing our emotions so we can be calm and not defensive. Then we work to clarify the other person’s intention, and figure out why that intention wasn’t communicated (or was miscommunicated), and how we could do better next time.
On my part, I have learned to not sideline my own feelings or needs, even when I felt that they were neglected unintentionally, but to share them with my husband at the soonest opportunity.
We have resolved not to let dividing thoughts fester for long, even when it’s tempting to do so for the sake of “peace” (which would be false peace). With these convictions firmly in each of us, we have never gone to sleep angry or upset at one another, and we try to reconcile and embrace again before going to bed every night.
2. Deeper intimacy with frequent shows of affection
We saved our first kiss for the altar, and now that we are married, we both look forward to embracing each other every morning before going off to work and every evening when we’re back home.
Whenever we do so, we also take the opportunity to appreciate each other for all the small yet significant things: chores done around the house, efforts made on physical appearance (e.g., how much I appreciate that he makes me feel beautiful every day) and praiseworthy character qualities (e.g., affirming my husband regularly how faithful, responsible, and wonderfully affectionate he is).
Author Patrick Morley, in his book Devotions for Couples, wrote about how a man primarily needs significance, while a woman primarily needs intimacy. And so, my appreciation for my husband’s contributions to our home and his acts of service affirms his need for significance, while his expressions of affection for me affirms my need for closeness.
Even though it wasn’t easy to hold off on physical affections during the dating period, choosing to wait until marriage helped us focus on getting to know each other better and learning other ways of love and affection.
Now that we’re married, physical intimacy is the beautiful icing on the “cake” (the relational and spiritual intimacy) that we get to enjoy as we spend the rest of our lives figuring out how to communicate and love each other well.
3. More intentional involvement in each other’s lives
Within our first week of marriage, I suddenly had the desire to include my husband in my social plans. It felt like a switch had gone off in me—that now, “my time” was “our time”, and although I could use my time however I wanted, my life wasn’t just about me anymore. It also now made sense to me to let my friends and family see us together instead of separately.
Initially, my husband did not understand my perspective since he still saw his friends as his friends. However, the more our lives and time became intertwined, the more he began to see his friends as becoming our friends, and how attending certain social events together allows us to enter into each other’s circles more.
After talking to each other about this, we decided to share our online calendars with each other so we could invite each other to our social events. Though we can’t always make each other’s events, it is greatly appreciated that we try to include each other in our lives.
We also do our best to warmly befriend each other’s friends. In doing so, we are telling each other, “If they are important to you, they are important to me”.
I understand that this “we-ness” cannot be forced but is something to be given voluntarily and mutually by spouses to each other. The way this is expressed differs from one couple to another, but the intention is letting our spouses know, “You are part of my life now. I want my circle to see you as a part of me as we live a shared life”.
Another thing I appreciate is my husband taking the initiative of texting me whenever he leaves work—a habit that I now reciprocate—so I know when to expect him home. After dinner, before we head off to finish our evening tasks, we would agree on a time for us to come back and spend time together before going to bed.
While this might sound a bit structured, doing so ensures that we’re able to really spend time together, which isn’t the same as being at home at the same time. Going to bed at the same time has also helped us stay accountable in terms of keeping to a healthy sleep schedule, communicating and praying before we end each day.
Conflict resolution. Physical intimacy. Accountability—these are three foundational areas we’ve identified for our marriage. While we have seen much encouraging fruit this first year of married life, we both also know that these are areas of growth we have to commit to working on together.
As we depend on the Holy Spirit for continued strength, wisdom and guidance, our hope for a joyful lifelong marriage is not in vain because God is the one who holds us together (Matthew 19:6).