If you’re like us, at some point in your life, you wish you could go back in time and have a re-do at something you completely flopped in with your spouse. There are several moments that hop into memory that make us say, “Wow, if only we’d known this before we got married”.
When we got engaged, we both took marriage seriously and invested in preparing, but marriage is an ongoing process. No matter how much we studied the map of marriage, we still had the journey ahead of us with so much to learn.
As we look back on the path we’ve walked so far, here are three things we wished we knew before we got married.
1) Mutually agreed-upon boundaries with family and friends.
In the early days of our marriage, Meg would sometimes go to her parents for comfort and guidance, instead of me. One thing that caught me off guard was the way I felt when Meg sought help or comfort from her parents before turning to me. It hit me in a way I hadn’t expected. It really hurt. I found myself questioning my role and importance in Meg’s life.
At first, I struggled with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. I wondered if I was failing in some way as her partner if she felt the need to seek help elsewhere. But as I got deeper into understanding her perspective, I came to see that it wasn’t about me lacking something, but rather about her seeking comfort in a way that felt most natural to her.
Meg wasn’t intentionally sidelining me; she was merely navigating our new dynamic as a married couple while going to the support structures that had always been there for her– I mean, her parents raised her.
After a few conversations on how those relationships need to change (at least a little) as your spouse becomes a higher priority, I realized that Meg’s actions weren’t meant to exclude or devalue me. She was simply leaning on the familiar support system she had always turned to. It was a natural instinct for her, rooted in years of trust and familiarity.
Today, we aim to be intentional about:
1. Setting aside time to talk, bringing a welcoming heart for conversation
2. Creating mutually agreed boundaries that we follow in Christ’s love.
Though we made a plan, we’ve found that setting boundaries can be tough. But the struggle to become unified in Jesus is so worth it. Trust us, God sees your effort to honor Him and each other.
3. Our marriage can change the world.
Before we got married, we don’t think we really thought that much on how our marriage could change the world. Honestly, we wish we reflected more on how God had drawn us together, understanding we would be a part of a design way bigger than ourselves.
Whether you’re single or married, your life matters in showing who God is to others today. Now, He’s painted every aspect of your life and your spouse’s life – your surroundings, relatable memories, passions, differences, sense of humor – to draw you together toward Him and serve and love people around you (check out Acts 17:26-27).
Knowing this deeply ahead of time that our marriage will have power for its mission as we learned to listen and respond to the Holy Spirit would have allowed us both to quickly pursue God for a specific direction. We would’ve been more curiously early on on how He’d like us to impact the world in our little corner of life as newlyweds and every season after.
Today, we embrace the truth that our marriage is more than just two people making each other happy. We’re not perfect at it, but when we both sense the opportunity and call to represent God, we outwardly share it with others we encounter whether we’re on a walk in our neighborhood, the stairwell at the office, or our kids sporting events.
One new way we’re excited to be impacting other couples for Christ is in sharing more of our story in FamilyLife’s new Art of Marriage small group study. We get pretty open there about our day to day and also give others couples a way to easily impact those around them.
To build a marriage according to His design, we cannot ignore its potential to spiritually impact the world inside and outside our home for showing others who God is.
3) Conversations about our past can bring us together in incredible ways.
Engagement is a critical time to continue learning each other’s backstories. And if you’re dreading that sentence, we did too.
It was intimidating for us to share the depths of our pasts. But truthfully, we wish we knew early on, that on the other side of Christ centered conversation, was love and safety – for the both of us. We talk about this more in our book Preparing For Marriage, but we can say each time we’ve allowed God to lead us in peeling layers we may prefer to hide, the more we get to experience the masterpiece of closeness that God designed for us to have in marriage.
With a trail of almost two decades of marriage behind us, we have found it’s essential to approach these conversations with grace and understanding. We both work at this today in any tough conversation, committing to active listening to foster an atmosphere of empathy and Christ’s love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), for better or worse.
Recognizing and addressing our past sins, hurts, and misconceptions about marriage lays a foundation for a healthy today and future together.
Here’s the thing
There’s honestly a good chunk of knowledge we wish we knew that isn’t general but more specific to each other and our marriage. We say that as encouragement – marriage is a journey not only with each other, but Jesus. There’s lots of learning ahead.
Truthfully we foresee a ton more learning to come for years ahead of our marriage – even after two decades. And even so, our marriage rests in the fact that if dependence on Jesus is the goal, every weakness of ours is an advantage. If you’re looking for a realistic plan for marriage, find an Art of Marriage small group near you. It’s a great place to join other couples pursuing the Lord with their togetherness, even in the middle of every weakness they carry.
Looking at the mural of marriage, we find God to be the ultimate artist, skillfully crafting each piece and detail of our journey together. As we navigate the intricacies of His ways, may we all continually lean on His divine craftsmanship, trusting in His guidance and wisdom to shape each of our marriages into a masterpiece of love, grace, and lasting significance.
David and Meg Robbins are passionate about helping people integrate faith and family and equipping them to make a difference in their local communities. David became the President of FamilyLife in 2017. The Robbins have served together in a variety of ministry roles through the years, working primarily with the rising generation in Western Europe, Atlanta, and New York City. David and Meg, married in 2001, currently live in Orlando, Florida, with their four children. They are contributors to FamilyLife’s new edition of the Art of Marriage™ study that is available nationwide. This new resource is designed to help couples explore new levels of intimacy, communication, and connection with their spouse.