There I was in my first period French class of freshman year of high school, I was so nervous/excited/anxious. Our classroom was split in half so one half of the class was facing the other half of the class. There he was…bright blue eyes, rosy cheeks, tall slender body, and gorgeous lips. Each class we would make eye contact, smile, and look away. This interaction lasted a few weeks, I kept waiting for him to ask for my phone number or my AOL screen name. (yes, I realize I’m aging myself. AOL chat was THE thing when I was in high school). Finally, as the class gathered by the door before the bell rang, he asked. I was so giddy the rest of the day and immediately signed into AOL as soon as I got home from school and waited….and waited….then I heard the *ding* and all the butterflies started going crazy in my belly. We instantly hit it off, we both played basketball and enjoyed the same types of things. Our first official date was chaperoned by his mom (we were only 15 at the time) and we went to the movies to see “Shanghai Noon”, what a stupid movie haha! After that day we were inseparable, we wrote notes to each other in class and would pass them in the halls between classes, hung out after school, played basketball together, went to all the school dances, he was my love.
We dated on and off through college (took some time apart to do our own thing) but were engaged the February before college graduation. We were 22 and in love, excited to start our lives together but had no idea what we were doing. We had the wedding and honeymoon of our dreams.
When we returned to reality we quickly learned we didn’t really know how to have a successful, thriving marriage because we were both so young and still so selfish. So now after almost 9 years of marriage this is the letter I would write to my newlywed self:
You are about to embark on an amazing, exciting, difficult, beautiful, journey called marriage. There will be great up’s and down’s in this journey but keep these things in mind.
- Marriage is designed by God and therefore is good. “God, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage…So guard the spirit of marriage within you” (Malachi 2:15). God cares about your marriage and wants it to succeed, however that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Marriage is more about selfless love and refining you into who God designed you to be than it is about butterflies and lovey feelings. It takes great maturity to lay down your life day in and day out for another person, learning to take hold of that maturity will be key. “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace…But if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” (Matthew 19:11-12).
- Your marriage will not always look like a romantic movie. There are countless romance movies that tell the beautiful story of a man and woman falling in love. The kisses that make a woman get swept off her feet, the romantic gestures, and then the movie ends. Most movies don’t touch on what happens in the middle and end of a marital journey. We spend so much time planning the perfect wedding but not enough time preparing for what it takes to keep a marriage thriving. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!'” (Luke 14:28-30). Create an extraordinary vision for your marriage that includes what you want it to look like in the middle and end.
- There will be hard times, sometimes seemingly impossible times. Since marriage is the joining of two selfish, sinful, people it is bound to come across difficult times. “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Know this, you will hurt your spouse, and your spouse will hurt you, but there is room for forgiveness and reconciliation and even a stronger bond on the other side of the difficulty. You and your spouse are a team and should work for a common goal in all good times and more so in challenging times.
- You should always seek your spouse’s best interest and put their needs above your own. This was a hard concept for me to grasp at the beginning of our marriage. However, once I changed the terminology to me ‘serving’ him it changed my attitude toward it. Serve your spouse with encouragement, helping them fulfill their goals and desires, and giving them freedom to pursue their interests.
- Comparison really is the thief of joy. In today’s society filled with Facebook and Instagram it can be easy to compare your life with other’s highlighted life. Don’t! Remember that ALL couples argue, and go through ups and downs. Focus on the good in your spouse even on days when the good is hard to find. Know that your marriage is YOUR journey, each marriage is different and will take a different path in different seasons. The grass will grow where you water it….meaning put the effort you would normally use into comparing into your marriage and it will do you a lot more good.
- You will love your spouse more than you thought possible when they become a parent. The day Brent became a dad will go down in history as one of the most beautiful and sacred moments of our marriage. The look on his face when Charlotte was brought into this world was full of love, pride, and joy. Watching him interact with her, love on her, discipline her, has changed the way I look at him. I never knew how much my love would grow for him once he became the father of my daughter until it happened.
Marriage takes work but it’s so extremely worth it. These past nine years have been the best of my life and I’m really looking forward to the adventures coming our way.
If you could write a letter to your newlywed self what tips would you have??