A few weeks ago, I co-hosted a wedding shower for my brother and his fiancée. They’re getting married in May. I’m so excited for them and so happy they have decided to partner with each other for life. For the shower, I shared a reflection about marriage and I thought I’d reprise it here.
When my husband and I were preparing for marriage, people warned us that the first year of marriage was the hardest year. We braced ourselves, expecting the worst. And the worst never came. We had a wonderful first year of marriage! What were those people so worked up about?
In the five years since then, I’ve realized there isn’t a specific year where every marriage experiences its “hardest year.” The truth is, you never know when it’s going to hit. It very well might be your first year of marriage. Or your fifth. Or your twentieth. Or your sixtieth. It doesn’t matter. Hardships are inevitable.
In fact, it really has nothing to do with marriage. Hardships come from marital strain, but mainly they come from life. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or not. Hard stuff just happens. It’s how you get through the hard stuff that makes a difference.
Since this was a wedding shower, I wanted to give some tips on how to prepare for and respond to the “hardest year” in marriage. Here are my bullet points. I hope they are useful for you, whether you’re in your first, fifth, twentieth, or sixtieth year of marriage.
1. Focus on friendship
As a couple, the best thing you can do for your marriage is to focus on your friendship. Do things you both enjoy. Commit to spending quality time together, whatever that means to you. Laugh together. Hang out. Share what’s going on in your lives together. Be friends.
2. Remember you’re on the same team
When you do have a disagreement, remember that you’re on the same team. You want the best for one another. Remember—you’re friends! Even when you disagree, you can find common ground. Do what’s best for the marriage. When you’re stumped, do what’s best for the other person. This is where mutual submission and mutual respect come in.
3. Cultivate a support network
You can’t be all things for your spouse and that’s okay. You should be friends, but you need more than one friend. So don’t build your marriage in a vacuum. Cultivate a network of people you can rely on, for the good times and the bad. When you’re in crisis, these are the people you can go to. My husband and I have found great support from friends we’ve made at church. It’s wonderful to have support from people who are not only your friends, but also your brothers and sisters in Christ.
4. Be like Jesus
If you want a healthy marriage, you need to be a healthy human. Married or not, modeling your life after Jesus will help you maintain strong and healthy relationships. Five years ago in June, we had this passage read during our wedding ceremony. I still think it’s a wonderful foundation to build a marriage on:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful (1 Colossians 3:12-15).
What do you think? How have you prepared for “the hardest year?”