About a year ago I made the best decision of my life–I married my wife Nicole. This has been the most significant thing I’ve ever done (sans having our daughter). We celebrated one amazing year of marriage in November. So much has happened in the past twelve months that it feels like we’ve been married for much longer (kind of like dog years, but in a good way). However, its seems like this time of flux is rarely unique for newlyweds.
With a year of experience under my belt and since I’m clearly a pro at married life (yeah right, just ask Nicole), I thought I would share some of the things I have learned so far. Here’s some newlywed wisdom for you–three points on how to survive, or better yet thrive in the first year of marriage.
Tip #1, make time for your wife
This sounds pretty basic. When you get married you will naturally spend more time together, right? After all, isn’t this what the honeymoon period is for? Ahh…thus the conundrum. Story time…
I came home from work and Nicole had made dinner. Thrilled (as this is a rare occurrence, since I’m the family chef), we grabbed our plates and sat on the couch to watch a few episodes of the Office on Netflix. Four episodes later, it’s bedtime. After a week of binge watching episodes and a similar routine, she turned to me and said, “can we just spend some time together this weekend?” My thoughts in that moment, “Um… we’ve been hanging out all week. What more does she want?” A head scratcher…
“Time” is such a loaded concept. Not all “time” is created equal. When your wife wants to spend “time” with you, she means quality time. This does not mean returning those wedding gifts to Bed Bath & Beyond or surfing the Web with Monday Night Football on in the background. She wants to know that you have set aside a dedicated moment for the two of you.
Make time for your wife = PLAN something
This means date nights or shared experience guys. For us, our honeymoon period ended quickly (thanks to our honeymoon baby). I’ve learned that even though the honeymoon period in our marriage is over, it doesn’t mean we can’t have honeymoon experiences.
Practically, this means buying that Groupon for a wine tasting. Or in our case, getting the grandparents to babysit and seeing some live jazz for our anniversary. Whatever it is, plan it and make the time, because your marriage should always be your first priority.
Tip #2, meet weekly about the day-to-day business
One of the hardest parts about the first year of marriage is the merging of two lives. Couples quickly leave the honeymoon period and enter a time filled with conflict and negotiation. If you’re in this stage, don’t worry as it’s only natural as you work out your new routine as husband and wife.
What is the process for paying the bills? Who is responsible for making sure they get paid and when? What is the “right” way of doing the laundry? What is our overall financial situation? This minutia of tasks for daily living can pile up and become major points of conflict.
So how do you stay on the same page? Well, we found life from setting aside time weekly to have a husband and wife meeting.
What the heck is that?
A husband and wife meeting is dedicated time to discuss all the business items of your marriage with your spouse.
Ok, this might sound formal, but it is one of the most beneficial things we have done for our marriage.
It is a scheduled time to get on the same page.
It is not a date night.
In fact, it’s far from it. The whole point of having this meeting is to prevent those off-the-cuff ten-minute discussions about the bills that interfere with your date night. Instead, having this meeting allows your time to be focused on just that…your date night. It also gives dedicated time to work through any major decisions/conflicts you may be facing (this is particularly helpful for newlyweds).
Basically, a husband and wife meeting means freedom to be more present, because when you know that there is a set time and place to discuss these critical pieces of your relationship, it takes the burden off of your time outside of those boundaries.
Guys, it is your job to take the lead here. As the head of your household, man up and plan the husband and wife meeting. I prefer to have an agenda made and it helps Nicole know what to expect. And fellas, just to help you out I created this Google doc template of the running agenda that we use. Put it to good use.
Nicole and I meet weekly, usually on Sunday nights. We found this works best for us, but you may find that another time works best for you. Sometimes we are so busy that we order a pizza so that we don’t have to worry about dinner that night.
It doesn’t matter what you have to do to make your husband and wife meeting happen or how often it happens, just make sure that it does consistently happen.
Tip #3, be the first to forgive (and to seek forgiveness)
I feel like the advice “be the first to forgive” is in every father of the bride speech I’ve heard. It sounds like a simple concept, yet it takes the time to master.
Forgiveness, in general, is hard.
It is particularly difficult in marriage because there is so much emotion tied up in the relationship and this act goes against our natural tendencies. Regardless, the forgiveness mantra is a good one. I have also found benefit in being the first one to seek forgiveness.
Seek forgiveness in your relationship with your wife and with the Lord too. The means becoming a good steward of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It also means sometimes swallowing your pride during an argument. There is something special about owning up to your faults. With it comes an intimacy you experience that is hard to describe, but one that will allow you and your wife to be open and transparent no matter what.
Within the last year, I’ve learned a lot about myself, my wife and our marriage. The three tips mentioned above are some of the most practical pieces of advice I feel that I can share. I have not mastered any of these tenants and I continue to work towards being a good husband (and now a good father). Let’s review:
- Make quality time for your wife and schedule it so it doesn’t get missed.
- To stay on the same page plan a regular “business” meeting a.k.a. Husband and Wife Meeting.
- Swallow your pride and seek forgiveness.
Like learning any new skill, it takes deliberate practice to become a better spouse. With this in mind, a good first step is to schedule a check-in meeting with your bride (or groom) and talk about how your marriage is going. Call it your first husband & wife meeting. Also on a regular basis here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- When was the last time I spent quality time with my spouse?
- Have our daily conversations been taken over by the messiness of life?
- Do I need to forgive my spouse or ask for forgiveness?
- When was the last time I went to confession?
My hope is that by sharing my experience, it helps you (and me) go from just surviving in our marriages to thriving. Here’s to another incredible year of marriage… and many more years to come!
Have advice of your own? Share it with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page.