Sully and I are coming up on our 6 month wedding anniversary, ah! It seems like a momentous milestone. Obviously it’s also a very small one and I’m still quite new at this whole wife thing. However, you guys seem interested in this side of my life and I wanted to make a post where I could share some things that have helped me in my marriage without pretending like I’m an expert now or something. I landed on this topic since I’ve at least been married long enough to start seeing how aspects of my life before marriage affected my life today.
All that to say… today I wanted to share a few things I’ve been pondering on the subject of living in preparation for marriage. This post is mostly written for young women who are currently unmarried or living at home, but it also applies to young men in a similar fashion. And if you’ve been married longer than I have and can actually speak from experience, I’d love to hear your advice in the comments! 🙂 Either way, I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts.
Find a hobby. Something Sully and I had to work out early on was time management. Our calendars were slam full when we first got married, so when we had an evening at home we naturally wanted to spend it together. Eventually we realized that left us no time to pursue our individual passions and hobbies – and that we were slowly becoming each other’s only entertainment. Not a good situation. Even though we absolutely love spending time together, we shouldn’t entirely depend on each other for happiness, if you can see what I mean.
If you don’t have a hobby (other than scrolling your phone), this is a good time to find one. Try art, writing, reading, solving puzzles, working out, sending snail mail, etc. It’s really important to be able to exist by yourself if you want to have a healthy relationship existing with another person without burdening them with the weight of being your only purpose in life.
Be interested in people. When someone talks to you, listen to them, regardless of whether you find their topic of conversation interesting. This particularly relates to my first piece of advice if it turns out you don’t naturally share all of your spouse’s hobbies or interests. When someone is passionate about a topic you neither know nor care much about, ask them questions instead of changing the topic. Broaden your tolerance for things and people who don’t align with your exact beliefs, opinions, and preferences.
Take a genuine interest in people because they are each made in God’s image, because they each have a unique story to tell, and because every person teaches you something else about humanity or the world or even reflects a different part of God’s nature. Treat every person as valuable and worth your time, no exceptions, and it will be much easier to treat the most valuable person in your life like they’re worth your time on those rare occasions when you’re not very interested in what they want to tell you. 😉
Track your spending. Money is unfortunately an inescapable part of life that will only increase in complexity when you get married. If you can make a budget now, go for it! Even if you don’t want to go that far, at least look through your bank statement or think through your recent shopping trips to see where you spent your money. Sort it out if you can and add up each category. Where is most of your money going to? Is it sustainable to spend that much on clothes, coffee, eating out, your hobbies, technology…?
I don’t need to give you a formula for this one – you can probably tell which way your spending should go in any given category by whether you feel pleasantly surprised or a little guilty. Good personal spending (and saving!) habits will really help you out when you have to balance your own wants with someone else’s.
Do chores and schoolwork responsibly. I have bad news for you: one day you’re likely gonna have to share in or oversee the household responsibilities you hate right now. I’m especially talking to girls still living at home here – it’s tempting to think that having your own house will give you all the motivation for cleaning that you’ll need. While I can attest that it’s far more fun to clean my own house than my family’s house, it still requires discipline, some sort of routine, and the willpower to do things regardless of whether I feel like it or not.
If your husband is at work and you’re both out of clean clothes, you can’t rely on someone else in the house to cover for you. It’s up to you, my friend. Complete your household chores or homework now with the assurance that you’ll be grateful for your bathroom-cleaning skills and self-discipline later on.
Learn to cook. You certainly don’t have to serve only homemade, from-scratch meals to be a good housewife. But chances are you’re not going to have the money or desire to eat out every night. While you’re still on your own, practice preparing nutritious, simple meals that you’ll be able to enjoy with your spouse.
Try a new cookbook (I recommend Hope’s Table – aff. link) or look up recipes online, keeping notes on your phone of your favorite ones that you’d like to make again. I’m hoping to make a post with some of my favorite meals plus packed lunch ideas in the future so stay tuned!
Develop a healthy lifestyle. It is way harder for me to be a good wife – or good person in general – when I’m tired or not feeling well. I’m grateful for good habits I formed before marriage that helped smoothly establish my new routines. For instance, getting enough sleep is especially important to my mood and health. Even if you’re planning to be a stay-at-home mom who homeschools her kids, good sleep, the discipline to wake up at a decent hour, and a regular morning routine helps start the day off strong for everyone.
For you, the key factor might be getting enough exercise, eating balanced and healthy food, or taking vitamins or supplements. Figure out what keeps you feeling healthy (or even just motivated and positive if you deal with chronic health issues) and pursue that – a healthy husband or wife is a great gift to your future spouse!
Practice patience. An obvious piece of advice you’ve probably heard a thousand times. To make this a bit more practical and less vague, it’s worth asking yourself what or who regularly makes you impatient. A coworker? A younger sibling? Clothes on the floor? Bad drivers? Even if you marry a sweetheart like I did, your spouse is inevitably going to try your patience sometimes because that’s just how it goes living in close contact with another human. Identify one or two specific impatience-causers in your life currently and start there.
Most of the time it helps me be more patient with the person in question when I slow down and try to put myself in their shoes. It’s hard to be impatient with someone without feeling superior to them. When you realize you do the same things, or have different but equally frustrating habits, it becomes easier to give them the grace you always desire for yourself. Think about it – have you wished for attention like your little brother? Ever completed a task halfheartedly like your lazy coworker? Ever left in a rush without cleaning up after yourself like your sloppy roommate? Ever made a mistake while driving like the guy who cut you off in traffic? Yeah. Me too.
Share a room with a sibling or roommate. Speaking of practicing patience… I know having your own room is often the dream, especially if you come from a large family, but I consider sharing a room excellent practice for sharing not only a room but your whole house and life with someone. Negotiating disagreements like different levels of cleanliness or different tastes in décor will come in handy when you get married to someone who probably isn’t exactly the same as you in either area.
For instance, I really like spaces to be kept clean. I shared a room for almost 20 years with my sister Megan who also liked spaces to be clean but often had… other priorities for her time (which is understandable). Sully kept warning me he was not as concerned with cleaning as I was, but it turns out picking clothes off of the floor really doesn’t bother me that much after all. Having to sacrifice some of your personal preferences to live peaceably with others comes in handy.
Make gratitude a habit. One of the best character traits you can bring to marriage and life in general is contentment – or, similarly, joy. Being happy with what you have. Constantly wishing you had more money, more kids, more time, better treatment, better circumstances, or a different partner will totally ruin the joy of marriage. Contentment is often framed as “not wishing anything about your life was different,” but I think that’s a false expectation – we’re always going to wish our lives were different until we get to Heaven where nothing is broken anymore. It’s not wrong to, say, wish to be married. It is wrong to let that unfulfilled desire poison any possible joy in the season you’re in.
So although complete and constant contentment is impossible to grasp, in my experience I’ve found that making gratitude a habit gets me a whole lot closer. There are totally things in my life and marriage right now that cause me frustration, exhaustion, and dissatisfaction. But there are heaps more things that bring me great joy! Start a gratitude journal where you write down one good thing each day. Print out Philippians 4. Go for a walk and concentrate on finding beautiful or interesting things. When you start worrying about your own problems, pray for other people or focus on an attribute of God instead. Once you make a habit of noticing and dwelling on good things, joy will follow you.
Build a network of friends and mentors. Marriage is great because you have a built-in best friend to talk with, hang out with, and grow with. But just like all of life, life as a husband or wife should not and cannot be lived well alone. You can probably think of times when someone wise spoke into your life or a friend cheered you up or gave you a new perspective on a situation. Living in community when you’re single addresses your personal flaws and blind spots just like it will address your flaws and blind spots as a couple.
And this is super important: if you want people to speak into your life, someone needs to know what’s going on in your life! Do you have any friends you can have messy conversations with? Are you close with anyone you look up to and respect, not just people who make you feel good? If you’re not able to be vulnerable with friends or family now, you’ll likely struggle with that in your marriage as well. Trust is a scary thing, but a necessary one. Find a godly friend or group you can open up to. A church or a small group is a great place to look.
Get to know yourself. Self-awareness is a valuable gift you can give to anyone who has a relationship with you. Having a balanced sense of your strengths as well as your weaknesses gives you both humility and confidence. The fact that Sully was able to articulate at least partially how he viewed the world, what motivated him, and how his past has affected his present helped me understand him in a way that would have take years if I had to figure it out from scratch.
Here are a few good questions to reflect on. What are you motivated by in life? (People’s expectations? Your own goals? A desire to be accepted or loved?) What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can your strengths be a weakness or your weaknesses, strengths? How do you relate to people? (Does spending time with people drain you or give you energy? Are you better at talking or listening? What do your friends have in common and what do those traits say about you?) How would your family or close friends describe you, and do you think their view is accurate? What brings you joy and what causes you pain or frustration? What are your dreams or goals for your life? How do you react when life doesn’t happen like you expect it to?
Get to know God. Regardless of whether you’re planning to be the “spiritual leader” in your household or not, you should have something to bring to the table. A great way to help your spouse grow in their spiritual walk as well as empower them to help you grow is to invest in that area yourself. Spend time praying, reading through the Bible, participating in a small group – all the things – with the goal in mind to one day have your own perspective and insights to contribute to your marriage.
Two more things to practice: open-mindedness and discipline. The first has been a big thing for me personally to work through since Sully and I come from different faith backgrounds and it requires thoughtfulness and patience from both of us to truly consider the other person’s opinions and allow them to grow and inform our own. And lastly, it’s been so good for Sully and I to end our days with reading a chapter of the Bible and praying together. That takes holding each other accountable. You can practice that yourself or with a friend already – and you won’t have to wait to start reaping the benefits.
I hope you found those thoughts helpful! When you’re not married but want to be it can feel kinda helpless, like nothing you do gets you any closer to your goal, you know? So I wanted to write a post to encourage you that pursuing good habits right now will definitely help your future marriage – at least it did in my case.
As a final note – please don’t view this as a list to check off before you’re ready for marriage. I find that mindset is damaging because it doesn’t take into account how much you and your spouse will grow each other. Sully has helped me overcome my weaknesses in many of these areas. That’s the beauty of marriage! I just don’t want you to underestimate the power you have right now to set yourself up for a smooth transition when the time comes, that’s all.
Which of these tips do you find most useful? Do you have any to add?
Thanks so much for reading, my friends, and have a lovely day!