Our first year of marriage was one amazing journey, it had its own share of challenges but we really had fun. The challenges that we faced in this one year were very instrumental in shaping our view about marriage and our passion for each other.
We hope these 10 lessons that we learned in our first year of marriage will make a difference in your life. If you enjoy videos more than reading then check our youtube channel, Honey Let’s Talk we have a playlist on the 10 lessons.
The goal is to help you prepare well in your first year of marriage. Let’s dive in.
Here are the best resources that go hand in hand with this guide. (Available on Amazon--Start a 30-day free trial here)
- Preparing for Marriage Couples Guide
- Preparing for Marriage Leaders Guide
- The Meaning of Marriage-Timothy Keller
- Devotions for Engaged Couples- Gary Thomas
Not sure where to start with a premarital counseling conversation, start here.
1. Work On Me Pray For Them
One of the programs that we invested in before getting married was that we did a Premarital Counselling Course. This program really helped us to prepare well for our first year of marriage. In the seasons, one statement struck us: ‘Work on me pray for them’.
At that point, it was very theoretical because we were listening to it and agreeing to the fact that we needed it for our marriage. So when we got married, we had to learn to go back to some of the notes that we had learned. The phrase, work on me means that I keep looking inwardly to see where I am going wrong or what I need to be focusing on to be a better partner in the marriage. To pay attention to the tension.
There was a particular day I realized that I really did not like being sent from one part of the house to another. The other thing that bothered me was that I was very keen on reminding my husband of his past wrongs. This then came up in conversation we were having and I realized that it had also affected him in ways I had not seen.
So I went back to God and told him to really work on my faults and also prayed that my husband would forgive me and be okay with how I was. I asked God to deal with my pride and deal with my unforgiveness. God took my heart and started to change it.
He started putting in the ways that I could serve him. I understood that when he wronged me, I was careful to go back to tell on him to Jesus. This helped us in the first year of marriage because I realized that I really didn’t need to argue every time with my husband.
I realized I could tell Jesus everything that was happening in the marriage. He would then help us have conversations from a Jesus mindset and not our own. It is very important to pray about everything in your marriage.
2. Focus on Jesus
During our wedding ceremony, I can vividly remember a bit of what the pastor said. As he did his sermon, he expressed to us that the marriage was not ours but that God designed it and He invented it. Those words then hit home as we got into the house after our honeymoon.
We both realized that we both had to know whom we belonged to and who we were doing anything for. It came out so strongly that it we had to keep connecting with God. As a wife, I realized that my husband is not responsible for my happiness or joy. That he is not responsible for connecting me to Christ and that I had to keep connecting with God.
My husband also had to focus on keeping his connection on Jesus. So I set my own quiet time before the Lord to pray and journal through my prayers as he did the same. We realized that the more we connected with Jesus separately, the more we connected with each other.
We realized that the more we drew closer to God the closer we drew to each other. The more we communicated with God about any issue we faced or went through, the easier it got to communicate with each other and find the right words to say.
Matthew 6.33 tells us that Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto us.
So imagine how much a married couple has to keep seeking God because the devil is here to steal, kill and destroy. However, God has given us life in abundance and we have to keep focusing on Him who is the designer and perfector of the marriage institution.
3. Have a vision
Before we got married or even started courting, we would ask each other the question: Why do you think God has placed us together? This question was so paramount and important to our relationship because then we wanted to understand the why before we even got into the what.
We prayed and fasted and kept on asking God why we were together. We asked him why He placed us together. I remember the days we would ask each other the difficult questions of What had He called us to do as a married couple? What were some of the things that made us compatible? What direction were we heading? We asked each if any of us was to travel due to obedience, would we support that dream and desire?
Before getting to this place of understanding the purpose of why we were together, we had each battled on our own purposes. I as the lady had talked to God and asked Him to show me what He had put in my heart that needed to bear fruit.
I asked him to show me where I was headed even before I started dating. I asked Him to guide me to know my purpose and my husband did the same. Slowly we started to hear God clearly. We had now been praying for a year and we had been waiting on God to really show us if He had called us to be together.
We then realized that there was a peace of mind every time we talked. We kept our friendship alive. We saw the things we had in common: We both loved God. We both loved church and what it had to offer in terms of serving people. We both felt a longing to pray for people, to cover them, to be there for them. We both felt we wanted to encourage leaders.
We both desired to see young people know what God had called them to do and be confident about it. We both really had a longing to see couples know why they were together and to live out their dating lives as God desired them to be. And so there it was! We had a vision.
We started to realize the reason why God had placed us together. Most of it was to honor Him through our marriage. We narrowed it down to a deep desire we both had which was to make it better for other couples.
We had gone through our dating journey as well as the courtship journey and we had seen how much God had taught us through all the experiences. We really desired more of Jesus in people’s lives.
So when we got married we started asking God how can we put what He had put in us into practice? What could we do to ensure that we are living out what He had put in our hearts? And this is where He revealed to us one step to another. Through listening to him and walking by Faith, we have been able to walk in obedience!
4. Focus on the issue not the person
As we got into marriage, we realized that we would argue and at times we would end up blaming each other for the conflict. And so we decide to sit down and have a conversation on how to handle conflict better in our marriage. One of the things that one cannot avoid or run away from is conflict or arguments or fights. Since this was inevitable, we had to think through how to ensure we handled this area well.
First and foremost, we had to know how we both react or act when presented by an issue or a conflict. This is where we realized we are different in handling conflict. I am more of “lets talk about it later one after I have taken time to think about it”and my husband is more of “lets talk about it right now”. After addressing this particular area we were now more aware of what we needed in terms of conflict.
We started looking at issues more objectively than subjectively. We both started being more gracious in the issues we would encounter. It has became a point to know and learn each other better. As his wife, I realized that I had to be more patient as well as look into what we were going through as a point to win together.
We might have different opinions about a certain issue but it was now easier to be more vulnerable and open with how we both felt. This has been and will continue to be a point of growth because we both evolve in the relationship. The other part of knowing how to solve issues was creating an atmosphere of forgiveness.
For us it meant giving each other time to understand how we would solve conflicts better and leave it past us. It might have been a huge load on our backs but we made it a point to constantly see the best in each other. To constantly fix our eyes on coming up with a solution instead of putting each other down.
We learnt through this one year that issues helped us to know each other better. They helped us uncover things that would otherwise be in the dark or that we would not in any solve them automatically if we swept them under the rug.
We learnt that it was very uncomfortable to see each other in such vulnerable states but they were a good place to pay attention to the tension. Paying attention to the tension meant that we get more and more in each other’s spaces to realize what each of us was going through.
It meant reading and being present through the feelings and emotions but solving the tension in a mature way, in a way that was bringing harmony and peace to the marriage. We feel this has really helped us look at conflicts in a good light and that we have to keep fighting for each other and not against each other.
5. Date Night
This is one of the most favorite lesson we took out of our first year. We learnt to value date nights. Before we got married, we would go on dates and not necessarily during the night but we valued the time we spent together having endless conversations about our future. We were so determined to be in a space where we got to talk about everything and anything that came to our minds.
Since we live in different places, we could not spend nights together unless probably we went for an event that caused us to stay up late. So when we got married, especially after the honeymoon, we went back to our normal day to day activities that were very engaging. We then knew that something had to change, a big chunk of it being the fact that we had to think through date nights and put a structure on them.
First and foremost, we put it on the budget as an item that we knew we would spend if we went out. We also desired going to a nice place so that it also became a space to treat each other and enjoy each other’s company in a really nice and cozy place.
That takes me to the second part which is to look put it in our calendars and specify the timings through the year. This was a day when we didn’t put anything else other than making sure the dates happened. We also made sure that we didn’t double book or make any appointments on that day.
Thirdly was that we looked for the places we wanted to attend through the month. We searched for nice spots and hotels: online. We also looked for these places through any person who would recommend. We would make sure it is space we would not have to struggle to listen to each other.
We also made sure that it was a nice cozy space where we would enjoy and not feel cold because most dates would happen at night. We did also sometimes book some restaurants depending on whether it was requested or maybe as a surprise from each of us!
So on the day of the date night, we would dress up and wear our best as if we were seeing each other for the first time. We also made sure that we smelt great: It for sure went a long way. As his wife, I would even wear the best heels that he likes me to wear or the dress he hasn’t seen me wear in a long time. This was quite a great space to showcase each other especially after a very long day we had.
We also made sure we got to the venue early enough to have a lot of time to spend with each other. We would talk about the day but the main question that would keep popping up was: How do you really feel? The other question that we would think through was how to make it better for the both us. How we would work on our relationship or how we would address certain issues that we might have swept under the rug for quite a while.
This is where we would also discuss goals and aspirations that we have for our marriage. These date nights helped us dream big beyond our imagination. The dates also helped us manage our finances better as some dates would be used to discuss what we needed to do to keep up with our expenses or spending throughout the month. The most important part of date night was the fact that we would and we still do have a lot of fun together!
6. Disconnect to Reconnect
I had no idea how distracted I had become until I got married when there is more expected of you. There are more responsibilities and more people to connect with. This can get into the marriage. The first few months of our marriage seemed so long and quite busy.
This was because we had people over at our house. We love to host but then we realized that by the beginning of a new week after a long weekend, we were quite tired of doing basically anything. The most dangerous part was that we were too tired to even speak about inner issues or have energy to catch up.
Don’t get me wrong: We love people but then we had to have boundaries to be able to keep our marriage in check. We had to figure out our timelines so that we could be able to work on any issues we might or could have with a clear mind. So we sat down and had a conversation about how we would schedule our time without getting burnt out.
We decided to have designated timings during the night when we would sit and get to know how each of us is doing. We decided to switch off our phones or not use them at all at a certain time in the evening. We decided that by 8pm every night we have each other’s attention and there is nothing competing with our time.
There are days when we have had events late into the night and these are days when we ensure that a date night comes sooner than later to be able to compensate the time we lost through the busy nights that we could not avoid. Disconnecting for us meant that if there are any calls we need to make that we do way earlier.
The other solution that we came up with was to ensure that we were off social media platforms whether it be whatsapp or facebook or instagram or twitter or snapchat and any other messaging up. The only allowance we had was if it was life and death in this case a emergency.
So you would wonder what will we do when children come into play or maybe you are reading this and you have got children. There is one thing we have been learning through the past few months: When children start arriving and coming into your marriage, then safeguard your marriage and let them also understand when it’s time for mummy and daddy.
When they are quite young as infants, once they are asleep then spend time with your spouse. It gives you time to remove any distractions that may take the two of you away from reconnecting in the marriage. The importance of disconnecting to reconnect is that your spouse has full attention of you. Some of the conversations you could have during this uninterrupted time is asking each other the following questions:
How are you really doing? How was your day? What were some of the highlights in your day? What challenges did you experience during the day?What was an exciting part of the day? What did you learn about yourself today? What did you worry about? What might have made you anxious?How would you like me to be there for you before end this day?
Those are just a few of the questions that we ask each other. Some of the days they come as the day was for the two of us. For some days we intentionally ask each other certain questions that we feel fit that particular day. This could be very different for different people depending on their jobs. Your reconnecting time can be in the morning or over lunch or over some coffee in the evening or it may be over a video call if you are in a long distance relationship. Some of the advantages of disconnecting to reconnect is that:
You get to remain emotionally connected and build on the emotional intimacy
You both get to identify areas of tension and deal with them as they arise. Hence it prevents the two of you from putting things under the rug.
You both grow in your communication of anything that could happen during the day that needs your spouse’s attention.
You both get to learn different ways of dealing with conflict through paying attention and observing your spouse’s non verbal cues.
You both get to silence any noise that could be around and it becomes a routine and a healthy habit that adds onto your love bank.
You both get to learn more about your spouse and know how to be there for them. You learn how to help them through any difficult season as well as be accountable to them in any situation they may be through.
7. Forgiveness in marriage
Forgiveness is one of those things in marriage that can make or break the two of you. As we did premarital counselling classes, we were taught that the first five years are the dream stage of the marriage. This means that it is the exciting as you are both getting to know each other.
However, we have learnt that this is different to different couples as some find the first year as quite difficult while others find it easy. However, since we are both human beings and we shall have different opinions on different things. Hence conflicts keep erupting when you disagree with your spouse.
The first few months when we got married, I would wonder whether we should ever argue because it seemed as though it was a long way back to recovery when we did. We had a lot going on, don’t get me wrong: We were and are still quite happy with each other and we enjoy marriage.
But then when when the disagreements coming along, we get very mad at each other. We were already different through our backgrounds, routines and habits. Sometimes this could bring a few arguments on how we are both different and it would be easy to go on being angry for so long because we were both too proud to speak or tell each other sorry.
However we soon realized that we would want to not come head on with the issues that we were going through. We started feeling like we are walking on egg shells and growing cold towards each other. That is when we made a few adjustments to our marriage.
We had to learn how to deal with conflicts in a more mature way that could help us grow in conflict resolution. We decided that when we got into a conflict we had to learn how we each handle disappointment or hurt or pain or a disagreement.
As the wife, I realized that I needed time to think through the issue and calm down before having a conversation with my spouse. My husband on the other hand would prefer to talk about the situation or issue and get over with it.
There are times when as his wife I would keep silent for a while. But then I realized that this was not working for my husband at all and hence we decided to talk through issues by having balance. There would be arguments that we would both have and we sort out immediately. Then there are others that we would take more time to think through before we sat together and talked it through.
We would then get to give all the details from each of our sides: What we both understood or got or meant by what we said or what we acted on. Then we would come up with solutions on the way forward. This helped us get a different perspective on the argument or issue that we presented. This help us a lot to walk into forgiveness knowing where we have been.
As we formed solutions on the way forward on what we would stop doing, start doing or continue doing. When we had a solution to the issue that we had both agreed on we then talked about forgiveness. Sometimes as the wife, I would say sorry to just get over the matter so that I don’t have to deal with coming to terms with the damage of the arguments.
However, I had to learn and we both learned that forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness is being willing to be humble enough to move past an issue. Forgiveness helps the two of you transition from what was a mess to get a message of hope from it. See we are commanded from the word of God that we forgive others so that we are also forgiven our sins.
Forgiveness also shows that we are both not in control of the relationship but that God is at the center. We understood that in order to really push ourselves not to keep getting in the same pit of disagreement, that we had to forgive.
Forgiveness gives the two of you the confidence to trust each other even more because you have hope that the argument would not last for long. It also helps you pray for your spouse that they may learn to forgive you as you forgive them. This is a place to constantly work through in the marriage because issues come in all shapes and sizes.
The one difference that forgiveness makes is that we are all forgiven and hence we have to treat our spouses with a lot of grace when they wrong us or when we wrong them.
8. Accepting differences
As a single person, I would imagine how we would not be so different with my husband. That marriage would somehow makes us be alike. I thought that we would never have to deal with differences. Well, we have many things in common with my spouse and we enjoy those similarities but then what makes the marriage even more interesting is the fact that we are also different.
Through our premarital classes, we were taught that opposites attract then they attack. And truly we saw this during this first year of our marriage. First and foremost, I realized that our sleeping times were very different.
I am more of a morning person while my husband is a night owl. As a good wife to him, I would sleep late to be able to spend just a bit more time with him but then it was not doing me any good. I would wake up so exhausted and drained by the next morning.
We then had to agree on how we can work together to accept that we were different but find a balance. And so we decided that if there are days I do not have to be up so early like during a rest day, then I would sleep late and be a night owl for those days. For my husband, he had to come to bed a bit early until I slept then he goes back to working late in the night.
This however taken a lot of practice over and over. We learned that in order to accept each other’s difference, we had to know that we would never change any part of who we are but we would adjust to a new pattern.
We decided to form a different kind of culture in our family, part of it being that we had to look closely within. We had to know why one person behaved as the other person. For me as his wife, I knew that I was quite active in the morning and functioned way better than at night.
My husband had to help me through this process as I also did. This helped us know that we are both supportive of each other. We want both of us to grow in any space we put ourselves in.
9. Investing in others
In this first year of marriage, we have learnt that we have to have a community around us who rally around us. These are people who have invested in us who we call mentor couples. For those that we invest in each other, we call them peer couples.
Lastly is mentee couples who are people who we have invested in. All these people have somehow made us learn more about marriage. They have also helped us to know that we have people around us other than family who we can do life together with.
Immediately we started dating, we realized that we both wanted accountability as well as guidance to continuously pleasing God in our relationship. We knew that we wanted what would benefit our relationship.
We desired to get better and solve issues in the best way we could. We also understood that we would not pull through on our own and hence needed people around us to check up on us and let us know when we are walking in the wrong direction.
Part of how we got into being kept accountable was attending premarital classes. This helped open our eyes to what we were both not seeing in us. We learnt everything from personality differences, to purpose of marriage to inlaws and outlaws, to sexual intimacy and financial management.
In addition to these classes, we realized that we needed one on one experiences from other married couples who were way older than us and had gone through seasons of marriage. We would be brutally honest with where we were at and they could bring out the things we had to work on in the relationship.
They shared their experiences that helped us have a glimpse of marriage in a different light. These mentor couples would help us navigate through any questions we would have concerning marriage. They would then speak into our lives as we have given them the person to do so.
They would also help us see marriage in a different lens and prepare for it in a better way. We handled different topics with different mentor couples ranging from finances to sexual matters to background differences to family issues to friendships to our relationship with God.
Peer couples are people who got married almost at the same time with us. These are great friends of ours who have added great joy and laughter in our lives. We have regular meetings that help all of us get to know how we are, we get to challenge each other to be better wives and husbands.
These couples have helped us know each other better and to get to solve some matters that would be shared within ourselves and answers are found in the process. This has been a great platform for us to empower each other and enrich each other in the process.
It has changed the way we think about marriage. It has made us know that we have couple friends who not only love Jesus but they also are willing to walk the extra mile in making sure that we are enjoying marriage. In this way we have couples who keep us accountable constantly through the seasons that marriage would bring our way.
We know that there are couples who can pray with us and stand with us when we might be in a difficult season. We get to also be there for these couples, we get to meet each other’s families and be able to basically do life together.
This is another area where get to invest in others. Immediately we started dating, we made the decision to be intentional in our journey. We knew that we had to prepare for marriage really well as Jesus desired us to.
We therefore decided to ask God how we can be more instrumental in the lives of those around us. We asked Him to give us couples who we would walk with and be able to share what would help them to prepare well for marriage.
We desired to keep our marriage vision alive. So during the first year of marriage we walked with couples. We invited these couples to our home. We would visit their homes together and get to know the better. We had regular meetings to discuss different topics with some of them being what they would learn through premarital classes.
This has been the journey we have been on over on even after our first year of marriage. We have a lot of joy when we meet with these couples because we know that we have got to also keep working on our marriage to help them.
We have found that our vision becomes more and more clear in terms of understanding the call of God over our marriage. We get to see other couples get married having gone through the process of preparing well for marriage. We have therefore learnt that when we get couples to talk through any issue that they come out it better.