Advice for newly-weds

I recently gave the talk at a wedding of friends of mine. From my experience, these talks have two key components: lame jokes and advice on marriage. I needed no help help with the first of these, but the second was a lot more tricky as I'm not married. After struggling for a while as I thought about this, my girlfriend came up with the brilliant suggestion that I ask married friends for their advice. Here's what they said...

"The first 15 years are the worst"
“Keep Jesus central, always give time for communication and never stop courting.”

“The battle to keep God central in your marriage is definitely real but it's definitely one worth fighting for. (I didn't realise until I got married that most married couples struggle to do this.)”

“You can't change your spouse and the sooner you stop trying the quicker you'll learn to love them just as they are.”

“Good communication is so helpful and so important.”

“Have fun and create great memories together.”

“She needs to watch trashy detective programmes he needs to watch Match of the Day. Get over it.”

“1.  Nothing competes with sex except prayer. 2. Nothing competes with prayer except sex (Based on 1 Corinthians 7, and the 7:7 challenge)
“1. Read The marriage book by Nicky and Sila Lee together. 2. Get a kingsize's significantly bigger than a double and will prevent countless arguments. 3. Pray together lots. 4. Laugh together lots. 5. Don't play board games on your'll only end in tears!”
“Train them up the way you want them to be!”

“Know that the rose-coloured spectacles will fade but what you discover will be like gold so long as you acknowledge and respect each other’s differences.”

“Always keep the lines of communication open because once they close they are difficult to reopen.”

“1. Find a regular ‘dating’ time every week- especially when children come along. 2. Forgive at least three times a day- or should that be thirty? (Read Choosing Forgiveness by John and Paula Sandford) 3. This person should be your best friend. How does that work?”

“Cultivate good habits”

“Like a good wine, marriage tastes great at the beginning but continues to improve with age…”

“Patience, love, patience, forgiveness, relax, don't keep a record of wrongs, more patience, be open to being different but embrace oneness, honesty, make time for one another, don't stop doing what you always did (dates, meals), patience, encouragement . . . . . and enjoy the journey!”

“Understanding what love really is - a decision to put someone first rather than just a soppy feeling. There’s a rather corny story called ‘Don’t hope, decide’ which makes this point.”

“The best piece of advice I was given was to keep my sense of humour – I've definitely needed it! 

“Make your home where you have fun, relax, enjoy God together and everybody feels God’s love.”

“I think the one piece of advice I'd give at the moment (because it's something I'm trying to learn!) is to unashamedly, vigorously and deliberately make sure you have quality time for each other. Don't let business, work, ministry, emails or anything else rob you of each other!”

“The first thing that immediately came into my mind was the word 'listen' and then when I thought about it I added a word 'listen carefully'! Perhaps in the first flush of a relationship and even in the early days, months or even years of marriage this is not an issue as the other person is not only interesting but there is still much to learn about one another. Over time as a couple get to know each other this is both good, and not so good. It is good when both agree about a situation without having to have a huge discussion because they know each other so well - the disadvantage is that it tends to preclude the need for discussion, and that is not always so good! So get into the good habit of listening carefully to one another from the start.”

One friend really went for it:

“The apostle Paul says some stuff about marriage but the main thing he says is that marriage is to show the rest of the world what God is like. Make sure your marriage is prophetic like this (i.e. it reveals God's character to others). If you have tough times, it will almost certainly be because one or both of you have forgotten what your marriage is meant to be a picture of.

“So, the reason marriage is for keeps is because Jesus is absolutely faithful. So if you're unfaithful in marriage, it says Jesus or the church is unfaithful. If you're a harsh husband, it paints the picture of God being harsh. If you're an nagging or domineering woman, it suggests that it's OK for the church to complain or boss Jesus around. 

“I cannot leave my wife without lying about what God is like. Will Jesus disown or abandon the church? No and so neither must a husband abandon or disown a wife. If I beat her up or shout at her or get impatient with her, I'm lying about how Jesus loves the church and laid His life down for her, how He tends her as if she were His own body (which of course, at a deep level, she actually is).

“A husband and a wife have a special privilege and responsibility having not only been made in God's image - male and female - but also joined together by Him to demonstrate the profound mystery of Christ and the church, of which marriage is meant to be an emblem.

“It all sounds very theological and theoretical and doesn't sound particularly practical until you start living the principle out in your marriage. Then it amazingly becomes about as practical as it can get. If you want a marriage to succeed, take your eyes of yourselves and make its purpose be about Jesus and the Church. If you can believe it, Jesus is the main reason for being married, not companionship, sex and procreation.”

What a challenge! But how wonderful to have experienced voices to listen to. Being part of a community of people who not only give advice but share life is one of the great blessings of church - thank You, Father!