Six months ago today, I stood beside my husband and made a vow to stand beside him for the rest of my life. On May 27, 2017at 2:24 PM, I made a promise before God and our families that I would love him with all that I have and all that I am each day of our lives. This is something that I didn’t enter into lightly, and it’s something I haven’t taken lightly since. Jared and I made a serious commitment to one another that day, but we’ve made that same commitment each day since.
Now some of you may be thinking, “Y’all have only been married six months. I’ve been married longer than you’ve been alive. What could you possibly have to say about marriage that I don’t already know?” I’m not claiming to know anything you don’t already. But marriage isn’t some secret formula that once you have down, you get it right everytime. It isn’t something that people master over time. Does my lack of experience discredit my knowledge of loving my spouse? If someone that has been a Christian for a year came to me with things they had learned about being a Christian, I wouldn’t turn them away and tell them they haven’t paid their dues long enough to give me advice on what to do. I would tune into their testimony to see what they had learned that maybe I hadn’t yet gone through. My experiences and my choices could be a different path than you have experienced in your 45 years of marriage compared to my six months. So with that being said, here are six things I have learned about having a strong marriage for the last six months.
1. Pray with your spouse every day.
Each morning, before our feet ever hit the floor, either Jared or I will pray for our day. It’s not always long and drawn out, it’s not always elaborate. But we make a conscious decision to start our day off with the Lord at our center. The truth is, we as creatures of the flesh want to be selfish, stubborn, and prideful. We want things our way. I can be this way in my marriage. If I’m not careful, I can get wrapped up in my own world and completely forget that there’s another person in it now. Starting my day off with the Lord and Jared is a reminder that this day is the Lord’s and I have a partner to help me work through it. That’s one of the reasons God gave us marriage, to have a helpmate, a partner, a support system so you don’t have to do life alone. And God has to be at the center of it.
2. Read scripture with your spouse every day.
This is actually something that Jared and I did while we were engaged, and I’m so grateful it carried into our marriage. Again, this is short and sweet. This isn’t a full out Bible study we’re talking here. It’s a few verses in the morning before I’m walking out the door. But it’s a way to keep Christ as our center during that day. There have been days when we have been at each other’s throats, and usually, these are the days we forgot to read in the morning. Sometimes, Jared can be an absolute terd with this and choose the most convicting verse he can find to address a struggle we’re having. Or it can just be a few verses to refocus our attention on what our mission is during the day. Either way, we have a stronger marriage when we keep God’s word at the center.
3. Have a regular date night.
This is also something Jared and I practiced during our engagement. Once a week, (our’s is Wednesday nights after church) we leave our phones in the bedroom and we focus on one another. This has become one of my favorite nights during the week. Sometimes we play board games. Other times we watch a movie. There are times when we just sit down and talk about our weeks, our struggles, our plans for the future. Whatever you choose to do, use this time to completely focus on your spouse. It may not be a once a week thing for you, although I highly suggest that. Maybe your schedule only allows one night every two weeks. But there needs to be a regular time where you tell your spouse, “You are worth my time. You are worth me tuning out the world. You are worth me focusing on you right now.” Time is a beautiful and precious thing. Why would you withhold that from the one you love most?
4. Always say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”
These two statements are very precious in our household. We made a decision when we started dating, that we would only say these when we meant them. We won’t say, “I’m sorry,” if we’re not truly sorry for what we’ve said or done. We won’t say, “I forgive you,” if all is not truly forgiven. But once “I’m sorry” enters the picture, it changes the whole mood of the disagreement. We also BOTH say “I’m sorry.” It takes two people to cause friction. You may not have been the one that started it. You may have just reacted. But there is almost always fault on both parties in some form or fashion. We both say “I’m sorry” and the issue is not resolved until we have each talked through our differences and ended with “I forgive you.” After this, we have forfeited all right to ever bring this argument back to the surface. If you have said “I forgive you,” then let it truly be forgiven.
5. Laugh often.
This is an easy one for us, but sometimes I feel as though some couples have forgotten to do so. So often, life sets in and the motion sweeps us up and we forget to enjoy the one God has partnered us with. We forget to take moments to smile and laugh with our spouse because we’ve had to be serious and take on the world with them for so long. I encourage you to remember your dating days. Remember the fun you used to have. Remember why you fell in love with them in the first place. Go back to the fun times. Guess what. That is the same person God has you partnered with now. Laugh at the fun times and the hard times. Laughter carries us through life and reminds us to enjoy it.
6. Keep your spouse above all else.
This has been a hard lesson learned, and one I still work on. When I became Mrs. Conatser, Jared became the most important person to me on this earth. Yes, I still have God as my God. If I don’t put Christ first, all else fails. He is still at the center of our relationship. But Jared is second after that. I am a wife before I am a daughter. I am a wife before I am a sister. I am a wife before I am a teacher. I am a wife before I am a Sunday School teacher. Jared is a husband before he is a pastor. Jared is a husband before he is anything else. We have chosen to keep each other a priority. If my marriage is faulty, then all those other roles in my life are faulty. My marriage can help or hurt my career. It can help or hurt my ministry. It can help or hurt my influence. It is sacred and should be protected. He and I make decisions together. We work on goals together. At the end of the day, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:22 and 25 ESV)
Our marriage isn’t perfect, but we work at it each and every day because it is worth it. What are some things you have learned about marriage or experiences you’ve had that have taught you about loving your spouse?