Marriage is a beautiful and unique experience; finding one’s life partner and being on a journey together is incredibly special. I call it a journey because it truly is a journey; one that can be turbulent at times- full of highs, lows, and in-betweens. In this article I will share what I have found helpful through my personal marriage experience over the past six years. Keeping these central has helped me stay devoted to this long-haul union.
Choosing the right partner is integral to how you experience marriage. I would say seek God on the matter. Knowing that you are with the right person shouldn’t be too difficult to determine. Be aware of red flags and anything that doesn’t sit right with you. So, what does a good partner look like? Does he treat you with respect? Does he value your friendships with others and your family? Is he interested in what interests you, even if it is not something he is particularly interested in? Is there compromise in the relationship? Compromise is the key to a successful marriage / relationship; the ability to compromise on anything and everything that is not a common interest between you. Does this happen in your relationship or do you find that it is always going one way?
Communication is key but it is not something that is either there or is not; it takes time, practice and is something that needs to be worked on constantly. Think of it as an art that you evolve in, through careful crafting and refining over time. So, what does this look like? Firstly, being able to acknowledge your partner’s feelings and being able to listen to what is being said. You could ask “How does that make you feel?’’ or ‘’What are your thoughts on this issue?” After you have listened, respond thoughtfully.
Acknowledgment is important; by acknowledging your partner’s feelings you make them feel valued and respected whether or not you agree with their point of view. There is great value in developing this skill. For example, if you’re having an argument and things are getting heated, acknowledge that you have heard what your partner said, and take some time out to reflect on it. It’s much better to say, ‘I am feeling angry or upset right now; let us talk about this later’, than to carry on with the argument. Walking away before you lose control is good as it allows you to maintain love, respect, and dignity in your marriage. It allows you to calm down and mull over the situation, giving yourself time to think and reflect rather than cause damage by saying something you would regret in the heat of the moment. Being able to say, “I’m sorry” and admitting when you are wrong is especially important. In my experience of marriage this is the glue that holds it all together- respecting your partner, acknowledgement of their feelings, speaking and listening openly to each other’s points of view, admitting when you’re wrong and of course praying together.
Managing one’s expectations. It is important to remember that marriage is nothing like you see in the movies or on television. People often have unrealistic expectations of marriage and this can set you up for disappointment. Keep in mind that what you witness on the outside is not always a true reflection of what happens behind closed doors. We are all fighting our own battles and every marriage is unique and different, just as our Creator has made us. There is danger in comparing your marriage to that of others; it will make your partner feel undervalued, inadequate, and resentful- all things that will damage rather than build up your marriage. Just as we all have strengths and weaknesses, so too do our marriages. It is better to accept your partner for who they are, remember to appreciate, value and nurture what you have with each other and appreciate its uniqueness. When it comes to marriage, whether it be in relation to finances, intimacy, family or work, there is no “normal”, “right “or “wrong” way; it’s more about what works for you and makes you both happy as a couple.
Maintaining your God given Identity. This is an important point to note and one that is close to my heart. Women can sometimes lose their sense of self or identity after marriage because they fall into a pattern of trying to please and satisfy every desire of their partner, children, family, or friends and they forget to make time for themselves. They lose their FIRE, their joys, passions and what makes them who they are. It is so important to maintain your God given identity even though you are in a relationship with someone else. Remember to make time to do the things you love without feeling guilty about it- whether it be having a coffee date with a friend, making time to exercise or taking time out from your partner or children to pursue a goal or aspiration. As women we need to remember that “we” are important too, so, remember to respect and nurture yourself. You cannot pour out of a cup that is empty, therefore, remember to fill your cup so you can always be a blessing to others.
So, if you are single and preparing for marriage remember to maintain all the facets that make you unique! Be whoever God created you to be- wife, mother, friend, professional, artist, whatever! Just remember to maintain your God given identity.
Shenai is South African by descent. She has lived and studied in New Zealand and is currently working in London in the Education sector as a primary school teacher. Shenai's passions include travelling, scuba diving, photography and theatre. She also serves in the youth and children's ministries.