By the time you read this, I will have walked down the aisle to the man of my dreams, and we’ll have begun our life together as husband and wife. My husband, Michael and I learned several big lessons during our five month engagement. Our dating and engagement seasons were uniquely different than other couples. When I was a teenager, I found out that I can’t have biological children. I’d had years to process this life-changing news, and Michael needed time to wrestle through what barrenness would look like if we continued our relationship. Most people walk through childlessness as a married couple. We didn’t have that luxury. It’s rare to know before you get married that you can’t have children.
My forthcoming book Longing for Motherhood—Finding Hope in the Midst of Childlessness talks a lot more about this journey. We feel like we’ve already been through more hardships than some people go through in the first few years of marriage. Even though neither one of us would have chosen the suffering the Lord has given us, it’s drawn us closer together, and closer to the Lord. We’re excited about joining our lives and stories together, and seeing all that the Lord is going to do in our lives.
My hope is that these lessons will encourage you, and help point your eyes to the Lord.
1. Spend more time planning for your marriage than your wedding
Our wedding day was incredible, but it was also only one day. If all of our time, energy and attention went into wedding planning, then we would have failed. Michael and I were intentional about planning for married life. We attended premarital sessions with our pastor and read helpful books on marriage. (The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller is my favorite) One of the most beneficial things we did was talk through some thought-provoking questions about our marriage.
- What do we want our marriage to look like?
- How can we use our marriage to proclaim God’s glory?
- How can we love and serve others in our marriage?
- What rhythms do we want to establish?
- How can we open up our home and practice hospitality?
2. It’s okay not to know everything before entering into marriage
Spend more time planning for your marriage than your wedding.
Marriage isn’t a thing to take lightly, and we realized the seriousness of what we were about to enter into. It was easy to want to know everything about how to be a good spouse, and try to prepare for all the challenges we’ll face. A good friend recently reminded me, being a good spouse is nothing more than being a good Christian. We already know how to love God and serve others. Marriage will be a more pronounced way to live out those two objectives, but it’s special that we are being sanctified with the person we love most. Some Scriptures I’ve been meditating on teach us how to be faithful Christians, and therefore, godly spouses.
“I . . . urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Eph. 4:1-3
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Rom. 12:9-13
3. Everyone’s relationship is different
The amount of unsolicited advice we received once we got engaged was astounding. While I’m so grateful for the wisdom, guidance and counsel offered, it was easy to get overwhelmed. Something that’s been beneficial to remember is that no two relationships are alike. What works for one couple, might not work for ours. It’s important to seek godly wisdom, but we should be able to distinguish between biblical imperatives and personal opinions. Many people quickly blur the two. It’s okay that relationships look different. No two humans are alike, so no two marriages are going to look alike.
4. Communication is crucial
Developing good communication habits is worth its weight in gold. We are by no means perfect in this area, but we have a few practices that are beneficial.
- Block out regular, uninterrupted time to have deep conversations
- Ask frequently how the other person is doing
- Listen to the other person's answers
- Ask what you can do to love and serve the other person (you might think you know what they need, but asking gives them a chance to share practical needs)
- If you don’t understand where the other person is coming from or why they are feeling a certain way, ask!
- It’s better to over communicate than under communicate
- Learn the language of apology
5. Prayer is the glue
Inevitably, the closer you grow to someone, the more your sin will be exposed, the more you have the capacity to hurt one another, and the more you realize how much of a sinner you actually are. One of the things I love the most about Michael is the fact that he’s quick to lead us into communion with the Father. Whether we had moments of miscommunication, or if we were seeking wisdom on an issue, he would pause and pray. He acknowledges that we can’t have a good relationship apart from Christ’s wisdom, guidance, and love. Prayer truly is the glue that keeps anyone close to one another and to God. It’s amazing how much of a difference praying regularly together and for one another makes in our relationship. Make prayer a priority in your relationship.
Marriage is a blessing, but don’t skirt past the blessing that engagement can be in an effort to get to the wedding day. By God’s grace, a right focus in the engagement season can help propel you toward a marriage that honors the Lord.