I have heard horror stories about the first year of marriage. I have heard many people say, “the first year is the hardest.” I have heard about the cheaters, the annulment, the liars, the frauds, and the thieves.
Our story isn’t anything like that, thank God. However, we prepared well to take this step in every possible way. Today, I want to talk about the preparation we took before we jumped off the commitment cliff. I will elaborate on three major things that were enormously helpful to us: flexibility, counseling, and prayer.
Flexibility is key to any relationship – whether you are planning on standing at the altar or not. I would consider both my husband and I pretty laid back people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a self-admitted control freak. However, I’m not rattled easily and react to change well. My husband is also pretty go with the flow – that is, as long as you don’t hit any of his buttons. Everyone has a limit.
Why was flexibility so important to us? Well, my husband and I got engaged on April 3rd, legally married on April 17th, married in the church on July 9th, quit our jobs, sold our cars, vacated our houses, put everything in storage and moved to Europe on July 14th. So yes, flexibility was not only important, it was vital to our sanity.
Communication was a big part of our flexibility. Both of us were willing to be flexible in numerous areas but without actually telling each other what we need or want; it doesn’t actually help. Also, it’s a give and take. You have to be willing to think past the want or need of your spouse and realized why it is a want or need for them. I’m all about logic over emotion when it comes to decision-making. But weddings can’t be all logic. It is an emotional time. For some, there are parts that were planned long before you – the spouse – were even in the picture. You will run into decisions of wants or needs which for some reason – that might be insane to you – are very important to your spouse. On the other hand, balancing emotions with logic can be a good way to keep checks and balances within your wedding planning.
Weddings are stressful. The wedding industry in America is a multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on freak outs. Think about it, there is a TV show called “bridezilla” for a reason. So often, decisions are made simply to keep their spouse from losing their mind. While that probably isn’t healthy, it is reality.
We planned everything – and I mean, down to the details. We then accepted this fact: there is no way it goes down exactly like we just spent hours planning for it to go down. We then took steps and choose not to get rattled because we had already discussed there would be changes and compromises all the way through the process.
SERIOUSLY CONSIDER COUNSELLING!
In my world, pre-wedding counseling is assumed. Some folks do it because they need real counseling for real problems. Some do it because it’s required by the venue they chose. Some do it because one or both sets of parents put on pressure based on tradition or religion. And some – like us – do it because we honestly wanted an outside opinion about us. We wanted someone who didn’t know us well to listen and give insight into the decision we were making.
Vowing to be with one person for the rest of your life is one of the biggest decisions of any humans life. It shouldn’t be taken lightly. How does that look in reality? For us, counseling was one way to take it seriously.
There were many steps in the process. One in particular we found very cool. We took a test that showed us strengths and weaknesses. It showed the good and bad of our personality traits, positive and negative behaviors, emotional and logical reactions, realistic and dreamy expectations and much more. It was awesome! For us, it show us literally that we complete each other – literally. His positives were my negatives and his strengths were my weaknesses. It felt poetic looking at that piece of paper, like a movie.
What I didn’t realize was exactly what that meant. People always say, opposites attract and that was true for us in a lot of ways. What people don’t say, adjusting to someone who thinks exactly the opposite from you is tough. While over time it becomes something beautiful, the growth pains are real and strong!
This time of counseling took us through scenario after scenario of things that could/would happen in our marriage. Some of the scenarios were things we had already talked about but got to dive deeper together, others were scenarios which hadn’t occurred to us to discuss.
I’m not saying we solved all our problems in pre-martial counseling. But I am saying that it was a tool we equipped ourselves with as we took on this massive commitment.
My husband and I are active followers of Christ who do our best to take our problems and lay them at God’s feet. Often, we find ourselves being more reactive than proactive when it comes to our prayer life. It is easy for us to remember to pray when something bad happens, we have a problem, or we need something. It doesn’t quite come as naturally when there is a decision coming up to ask for guidance. Frankly, who likes to be told what to do? Or more so – who likes to be told no? The reality with praying about decisions is that God could say no. That’s scary. Why? Because what the heck do I do with my boyfriend that I’m in love with?
As a couple, we decided to take that leap of faith and really ask God what to do about our relationship – fully knowing what this meant and fully intending to obey God’s voice. It was March 2016. We decided to take an entire month to pray about what to do about “us”. Get engaged or not? Get married or not? Quit our jobs or not? Move to Europe or not?
Everyday of the month of March we asked different people to pray for us – specifically the future of our relationship and these life changing decisions. It was magical. It was the best month of my life. In a months time, my future became very clear to me and the hardest decisions of my life felt like a breeze. Not to mention, the people who came out of the woodwork to bless us was inspiring.
I’m not standing here saying it was all just that easy. I can imagine if that month went differently and God had steered us apart I would have a different opinion about what we did. But I believe God is a God of clarity who does not confuse and He was exactly that for us in that month!
I challenge any of you couples who are facing “the big commitment” to really take your preparation seriously, to invest time and effort into your relationship, and to face your problems head on in boldness!