How to Have an Extraordinary First Year of Marriage, Pt. 1

Just over a year ago, my husband and I said “I do.” Like most new couples, we received lots of advice, and we welcomed what wisdom others had to share. However, one reoccurring comment troubled me: “The first year of marriage is hard.” Although I understood that we would both have adjustments to make, I didn’t like this “survivalist” mentality. After all, Jesus came so that we could have life “more abundantly” (John 10:10), and surely that concept applied to marriage, part of His design. But what did I know?

Well, I have good news. The first year of marriage doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it can truly be extraordinary, but both husband and wife are responsible to each other to make it that way.

#1: Agree that you married the right person.

Once you say, “I do,” this one is signed, sealed, and delivered. In God’s eyes, that person is now the “right person” because you made a covenant before Him with this individual. You can’t make the excuse, “I married the wrong person.” The truth is that anyone you marry will disappoint or upset you at one point or another, and that reality doesn’t make him or her the “wrong person.”

In short, remove this excuse from your vocabulary. Resist the temptation to compare your spouse to any other person. It’s not a fair comparison, because you don’t know anyone’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your spouse’s. This person, complete with brokenness and beauty, is God’s plan for your life. Relish that reality and that privilege.

This person, complete with brokenness and beauty, is God’s plan for your life. Relish that reality and that privilege.

#2: Be kind and thoughtful to each other.

This one should be a no-brainer, but if the Apostle Paul felt the need to remind his readers, then more than likely we can use the reminder too. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV)

Marriage brings adjustments. You each bring different life experiences and personal habits into the relationship. Instead of expecting the other person to be just like you, embrace the differences. Also, make room for changes.

When we got married, James moved into my house. Realizing what a big change this would be for him, I rearranged and gave away furniture to make room for his. I also practiced saying “our home” instead of “my home” and tried to look for ways to incorporate his things.

Everyone’s situations are different, but during those first early weeks and months, be sensitive and aware of simple ways to make the transition smoother. When in doubt, ask what you can do.

#3: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

My husband and I marvel at how much other couples seem to fight. We’re redeemed sinners like every other Christian couple, but we don’t argue or yell at each other. If we disagree, we talk about it. If we’re having a bad day, we’re honest about it. If we mess up, we have to apologize.

I remember having a particularly rough day at work. Coming out of my office, I found James working on his laptop and told him straight: “It’s been a tough day, babe, and I’m pretty upset about it. Just know that it has nothing to do with you.”

Don’t make your spouse guess if you’re upset with him or not. Be transparent. Once James knew how I was feeling, he was able to lovingly support me through my emotions instead of wondering if he were somehow responsible for them.

To read the full post, visit Manna for Marriage, the blog of my friend Tami Myer, a gifted writer and marriage mentor. I’m honored to be sharing this two-part series with her readers and you.

Next time, we’ll look at more choices couples can make to get their marriage off to a great start. For now, which of these ideas is most helpful to where you are right now?

~ Kristen

How to Have an Extraordinary First Year of Marriage by @kjhogrefe on @Manna4Marriage

How to Celebrate, Social-Distance Style

Yesterday marked James’ and my one-year anniversary. He had made a reservation at the restaurant connected with our honeymoon hotel in Tampa, but in light of COVID-19, those plans vaporized. I had given myself the pep-talk that all was well, and we’d celebrate at home, but the morning of, I found myself feeling low. Such a special day seemed to have lost its luster.

So many of you are experiencing similar situations and watching your vacations and special celebrations go down the drain. Friends have had to cancel weddings. (I can’t imagine how heartbreaking that decision must be!) Others have had to cut honeymoons short, miss prom, and the list goes on.

Though easier said than done, we can make lemonade out of our lemons. Today, I want to share some ways we made our home celebration memorable in the hopes that they’ll inspire yours too.

#1: Acknowledge Your Feelings

Yesterday, as I struggled through thoughts of COVID-19 cheating us of our special day, I realized that I simply needed to admit how I felt before I could move on. It was okay to be disappointed.

But I couldn’t stay there. I vented to a friend, and that external processing helped. Then, I was ready to brainstorm.

If you’re feeling the way I did, don’t bottle up your feelings or pretend they don’t matter. They do. Share them with someone and then start thinking about how you can make the best of what you have.

#2. Treat Your Home Celebration as Special as You Would a Fancy Restaurant.

To get started, consider how you usually spend the evening and then ask what you can do differently. In other words, don’t eat at the dinner table the way you do every night.

We just moved into our new lake house and both enjoy eating outside on the porch overlooking the water. Usually, though, we sit in old fold-up chairs.

Though we’re still living out of boxes, I dug around until I found a white tablecloth and some of our wedding decorations. Then, I set up our folding table, covered it with the tablecloth, and started adding the finishing touches. Thanks to my wonderful husband, I had fresh sunflowers (my favorite!) to include.

Though I was tempted to stay in my comfy yoga pants, I realized that even if we could have kept our reservations, I wasn’t dressing up for a restaurant. I was dressing up for James. Ever the bargain shopper, I’d found a little black dress at Ross that I’d planned to wear. After staging our table, I freshened my makeup and slipped into the number.

The look on James’s face told me how much the effort meant to him. He slipped into a nice shirt too.

As for food, we’d made a backup plan a few weeks ago in case something like this happened. He grilled up some filets, shrimp, and Pita bread. (Yes, I’m a lucky girl that my husband is a grillmaster!) We’d also purchased some sparkling apple cider and our favorite Edwards pie.

Maybe you don’t have a porch, but you can decorate your table extra nice. If you don’t grill or like to cook, consider calling to see if a favorite restaurant offers takeout. There are plenty of options, so get creative! Just put in that extra effort, because it will make a difference.

#3. Remember Good Times and God’s Goodness

Instead of groaning about what we don’t have, let’s remember our blessings instead. Last year, we were blessed to go on a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon trip. In 2019, maybe you had the best birthday celebration ever. Or maybe your last vacation was incredibly memorable, and you just sneaked it in before all the travel restrictions started.

Regardless, Scripture tells us to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. My pastor has been walking through the book of Lamentations, a timely series for today! May these verses encourage you:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV)

God’s faithfulness doesn’t change due to our circumstances. He is always good to us. When so many things are changing and out of our control, remember that God remains constant.

#4: Plan a Sequel

Just because today’s expectations went unmet doesn’t mean they can’t be reinvented down the road. Yesterday, James and I started talking about possible options for travel this year. We’ve already had one trip canceled, and another one may or may not be a possibility any more. Instead of focusing on the negatives, we considered some other alternatives that would be wonderful too.

Although planning anything right now is almost impossible, add a date on the calendar to come back to the conversation. At that point, you might be able to plan another time when you could celebrate instead. Be sure to write it down! As someone said, a dream is only a wish if it isn’t written down.

As much as possible, we can be intentional in planning ahead and looking to the future, instead of dwelling on the past.

What other ideas would you add to this list of ways to make celebrations special, social-distance style? Please leave a comment below.

~ Kristen

How to Celebrate, Social-Distance Style by @kjhogrefe

4 Core Strengths in Marriage, Pt. 1

If you received my newsletter this month (if not, you can get next month’s by clicking here), you may be looking forward to my friend Tami’s post as much as I am. Tami blogs at Manna for Marriage where she encourages and equips couples in their marriages. As my husband and I near our one-year anniversary, I asked if she would share some advice for building a strong foundation for the future.

Well, I have good news. She shared so much excellent material with me that we decided to break it into two posts: this week and next. Please join me in welcoming Tami today!

By Tami Myer

Every marriage is unique with its own blend of personality styles, family backgrounds, and life circumstances. Even the “secrets to success” can vary from couple to couple.

However, there are four concepts that add immense strength to any marriage. Relationships that build on these four principles will be resilient and healthy. Couples who fail to establish these qualities in their homes can expect pain and crisis.

Developing these core strengths will make all the difference in your marriage: honor, attentiveness, commitment, and kindness.

1. Honor

Learn to maintain an inner posture of honor toward your spouse. In your spirit, keep saluting your husband. In your spirit, keep bowing to your wife.

Work on developing this discipline until it becomes your default position. There are no “days off” and no “time out” when it comes to honor. It is the oxygen in your marriage.

Honor is the oxygen in your marriage. Read more by @manna4marriage on @kjhogrefe.

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Romans 12:10, NLT)

Your spouse is created in the image of God. That was true on your wedding day, and regardless of how long you’ve been married, it is true today. And it will still be true on your most difficult days. Your spouse will always be worthy of honor because of the eternal spirit that God created him or her to be.

Your husband’s actions may not always be worthy of respect; but every day, he is worthy of your respect because he was designed by God for greatness and strength. He is an immortal, priceless spirit, created for significance and success, known and valued by God.

So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, NLT)

Your wife’s behavior may not always be worthy of esteem; but every day, she is worthy of your esteem because she is an immortal, priceless spirit, designed to bring delight and pleasure to the heart of God. She is loved and cherished by God.

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. (1 Peter 3:7, NLT)

Honor your spouse by using gracious, tactful speech. You might even want to do what my husband, Chris, and I have done throughout our marriage: banish sarcasm. I realize that sarcasm can be witty and fun, but it can also be like a little crack in the door.

Sarcasm often opens the door wider and wider until truly ugly and hurtful comments come sliding through.

Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29, NLT)

Honor your spouse by using your best manners. Don’t save your polite behavior for company! Instead, use your “fine china” manners with your spouse every day. Sure, you can relax and wear your comfy clothes, but don’t relax the filter on your thoughts or the guard on your tongue. Should we be more courteous to complete strangers in the grocery store than we are to our covenant partners?

I don’t know if I should tell you this next thing about my husband because it might make the women jealous and the men annoyed. Chris opens the car door for me not only when I am getting into the car but also when I am getting out of the car. Before Chris and I were married, someone warned me that my husband would soon quit opening doors for me; but 32 years later, he is still walking around the car to open my door! Chris does this as a gesture of honor to me; but primarily, it reveals him as a great man of honor.

Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10, ESV)

This is something we often forget: when we show honor to our spouses, we are actually demonstrating that we ourselves are people of honor. When we withhold honor from our spouses because we think that they are undeserving, we are only exposing our own insecurities and pettiness.

2. Attentiveness

Dr. John Gottman is a world-renown marriage researcher who discovered that he could predict–with surprising accuracy–the success of a marriage based on a single factor.

Dr. Gottman had expected to find that successful couples communicate at deep, intimate levels throughout the day. He had expected to find that they usually agree with one another. But that was not what the research showed!

Instead, Dr. Gottman discovered that the single most important factor in marriage is attentiveness. Successful couples are attentive to one another’s attempts to connect. Couples who are not attentive to one another in positive ways will eventually break up.

Dr. Gottman found that husbands and wives make bids for attention throughout the day. A “bid” is any attempt to connect with another person. A bid can be spoken words, a touch, a facial expression, or a sound. “Accepting” a bid means responding to a bid in a positive way. This process of making and accepting bids is what knits a relationship together.

Accepting a bid can be as simple as responding to a comment by saying, “Really? That’s interesting!” If your wife smiles at you, you can smile back or wink. If your husband says that there is a red bird sitting on the fence, you can take a moment to look out the window and thank your husband for pointing that out.

Ignoring bids or responding in a hostile way (“Who cares?!”) absolutely shreds a marriage.

This concept of making and accepting bids is simple, but it is extremely important. (It is another expression of honor.) Be attentive to your spouse’s bids, and respond in pleasant ways. Responses may be brief, but making the effort to acknowledge your spouse is critical.

Join us next week for the second half of the Core Strengths series! Until then, what did you learn from Tami today that could encourage your own marriage? Or if you’re a young adult, what idea might you want to tuck away for later? Please share in the comments.

4 Core Strengths in Marriage by @manna4marriage on @kjhogrefe