Milk and Honey Magazine's tips for a successful marriage. What do you wish you knew before you were married?

What I Wish I Knew About Marriage

Lauren Torres

While marriage can be a lifelong celebration, it also comes with much work and humility, all the while tightly bound with constant learning. My husband Derek and I have been together for four years, and I’ve collected these truths through a ton of reading, learning from people who have thriving and God honoring marriages, and let's face it, lots of trial and error – I can’t make this stuff up, people! But they’re practical, wise, and simply put - they work.

While my list is short and will be ever-growing, sharing information that will benefit not just you, but also those around you, and bring glory to the Designer of marriage is my favorite – because marriage is my favorite, and I want it to be your favorite too!

A good marriage isn’t something you find. It’s something you make and you have to keep on making it.

— Gary Thomas

Milk and Honey Magazine's tips for a successful marriage. What do you wish you knew before you were married?

Your Marriage Roadmap

1. Give 100%, expecting 0% in return. I know this math doesn’t quite add up. But God’s math tends to do whatever it wants and still turn out better than whatever formulas we can muster up. You’ve heard it said, “a relationship is 50/50,” or “do what makes you happy, and if he/she is no longer making you happy, then find someone who will.” But all that is so contrary to what Jesus taught and exemplified. We are to love and serve not only when it’s easy but even when it’s difficult, knowing that God is faithful to give us the capacity to do so, and reward us tremendously for our obedience. Not to mention, you married your spouse for a reason, and chances are you chose a good one who may try to one-up-you when they get a taste of your “loving without expectations."

2. Another thought on expectations: Placing unrealistic expectations on your marriage or spouse will leave you feeling alone and disappointed. Your spouse is a perfectly imperfect human who wasn’t created to bring you everlasting joy or to meet all your needs, that’s God’s job - the only One who’s resume qualifies Him. So, it’s completely unfair to measure your spouse by a list of expectations. And the same goes for you! You too were not designed for this role. Rely on God to give you the energy and desire to give 100%. And then count on Him to show you grace when you’ve given anything less. I dare you to allow God to meet all your needs in His presence. And then just watch in amazement how your ability to love unconditionally frees your spouse to do the same.

3. “Be careful of the bar you set for people because they just might reach it.” My Pastor taught me this one. I quote him all the time! If there’s power in our words (Prov. 18:21), then I want to speak proudly and boldly of my husband, always using my words to encourage and to never tear him down; in private and in public. If I speak highly of Derek, he’ll have no choice but to desire to be the man I know he is and has the potential to become! The opposite is also true. If I am constantly complaining and pointing out his flaws (jokingly or not), he can begin to identify with those labels or complaints as true to his character. I want the best for my husband, so I will speak the best of him and watch as he brings those attributes to life!

4. Be aware of your spouse’s unique needs as well as their love language. Each individual was designed and nurtured to love and receive love differently. In order to love your spouse best, you’ll need to learn the ways they feel most loved and appreciated. If you’ve only grown to express love to your spouse in the ways you most feel loved, then there’s a chance your efforts might go overlooked or misunderstood – you’re speaking a different language! Marriage requires being stretched in new ways, but it’s so worth it! If you’re lucky enough to have the same needs or the same love language as one another, then you’ve got a little less work cut out for you. Otherwise, you’re like the other 95% of us who need to creatively find ways to love outside of our comfort zones. But trust me, it works.

5. Learn and learn to appreciate what the Bible says about your unique role in marriage. I know that this can be a challenge to those who may still question whether or not the Bible has the final word.  Or if you believe that the Bible’s depiction of a marriage may have worked for that time, culture, or context but is no longer relevant today. I’m here to say, that it most certainly still is.
We simply can’t achieve a harmonious marriage when we have both parties fighting for the presidential position. There is such a beauty in each individual role and we miss out because we want to prove that we’re capable to play the other’s part. Let’s keep in mind that when we don’t fight for each other’s position, we’re both freed to help each other become what God originally intended, and if you know God, trust that His way will be the most fulfilling and the most natural.

God loves his people and he loves his glory. Therefore, when we follow his idea of marriage we are most satisfied and he is most glorified.

— Barbara Rainey. Letters to My Daughters; The Art of Being a Wife

6. Remember you’re a team and your arguments aren’t against one another but alongside one another. Let’s face it, arguments will arise. And if marriage is supposed to depict the relationship between Jesus and His Church, then of course the enemy is going to try and sabotage any image reflecting God’s abundant love, power, and grace.
It’s important to recognize when darkness is trying to invade your relationship. Now I don’t want to give too much credit to the enemy for his craftiness because let’s face it, we’re human and our own selfish nature can get in the way. But in times when you can shed some light and truth in the heat of the moment, allowing yourself to see a little more clearly, you’ll realize setting aside your pride and not giving the enemy what he wants – which is your marriage – your anger can shift from your spouse to the one who’s coming in between you two. In fact, protection mode may set in, strengthening your bond and you’ll use your most powerful weapon, prayer. And hopefully, you’ll pray together making it all the more powerful.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood (AKA. our spouses, or any human for that matter), but against the spiritual forces of this dark world.

— Ephesians 6:12 (Paraphrased)

7. Another thought on when arguments arise: Designate safe havens for when you and your spouse need to vent and seek trusted counsel. Now I know you are your spouse’s best friend and I’m sure your spouse has a sturdy string of friends they can share their hopes, dreams, and even struggles with. However, when it comes to the delicate and sacred nature of your marriage, you want to be cautious with the amount of details you decide to divulge. Predetermine with your spouse who these go-to people are.

Here are a few things to consider when you two are choosing the trusted few:
   - Faith. Is their faith in Christ the same as yours? Are they living faith-filled and fruitful lives? You want people who will speak graciously and truthfully.
   - Relationship Status. Consider seeking marriage advice and accountability from people who can relate.
   - Sex. The gender of the friend you wish your spouse to run to when things aren’t great between you two is of the utmost importance. (DUH!)
   - Familiarity. Choose those who know and love both you and your spouse equally. Perhaps someone or another couple who met you two as an established couple. Biases are real, so you don’t want to turn to family or friends who are likely to choose sides or taint their perspective of your spouse. (I repeat: NO FAMILY)

Remember, this is about protecting the individual reputations of you, your spouse, as well as your union, and maintaining discretion for your marriage. You want people who are safe and trustworthy to pray with you and point you and your spouse back to Christ, and to each other. We weren’t designed to live out our marriages in isolation but in healthy and holy community.

8. Marriage is a gift to be enjoyed! While marriage was designed to make us holy, holiness and happiness are synonymous in that when we walk through marriage in obedience and with the right perspective, we will reap the most joyfully abundant lives together! When you can consistently view your spouse as a literal gift from God, then your perspective of their differences can shift to pure appreciation. Think about it, gifts are usually given to add value, to enhance your quality of life, to increase in beauty or vision, to intensify or spark interests, hobbies, and abilities, and ultimately to bring joy! At least, that’s my thought process when gift giving. Now picture, when the Giver of Life gives gifts, it’s going to be perfect, grand, and complete with divine intentionality! Enjoy your gift by prioritizing time to unwrap and appreciate their unique qualities daily. Always thank God for your spouse, this will keep them fresh in your mind as an undeserved gift that adds value and doesn’t take away. And enjoy uninterrupted quality time, married with children or not, to date your spouse!

Follow Lauren, milk & honeys! xo