Years six through eight of marriage are often the most difficult. So many marriages seem to fail in the seventh year. I have lost count of the couples who are struggling—and ready to call it quits—just a few years into the marriage.
The better you learn to communicate, the stronger your marriage will be.
That’s why it makes sense to protect your marriage during those years.
The way your marriage starts helps to protect its long-term health. I believe the attention we place on new marriages in our churches is critically important.
Based on my experience, I have some specific advice for new marriages. While our first seven years of marriage are long past, if we had it to do over, there are some things I’d make sure we did as a couple to get a good solid start.
- Recruit a mentoring couple. We would find a couple further along in years of experience who seem to have a marriage like we want. We’d ask to spend time with them. We tend to become like the people we hang around most. All couples could use mentors who can talk them through the rough patches all marriages face.
- Invest financially in the marriage. We’d keep dating. It could be a sack lunch at the park, a five-star steak dinner, or a weekend in Paris, depending on your income level. But just do fun stuff. Stay active. Boredom is one of the leading causes of marriage failure.
- Protect your budget. The last one is important, but so is this one. You’ll need to balance the two. Debt causes huge problems in a marriage. You don’t have to have everything now. Let me say that again: You don’t have to have everything now. It’s not the key to a happy marriage. Money problems are a leading cause of marriage trouble. We would set an agreed upon budget (that’s key), and discipline ourselves to live it.
- Set a schedule. Life has a way of sucking time from us. It becomes very difficult for busy couples, especially once children come along, to find time to be together. Yet it’s critical. Don’t neglect your time together. We would set a routine of intentional weekly time for just the two of us.
- Limit outside interruptions. In-laws. Friends. Work. They can all get in the way. Sure, they love you. They want their time with you. But, let’s be honest—some of them also want to control you. Don’t believe that other people will work to protect your marriage as much as you will. They won’t. The two of you are creating one unit. If we were starting over, we would guard our marriage from any undue pressure.
- Be active in church. Sounds selfish, I admit. But it’s also strategic. You need community—especially a healthy community that can be there for you when things go wrong. And, things will go wrong. You’ll need a community of faith around you. And, you won’t know how much you need them until you need them. We would—and we did—commit to a strong church community.
- Talk. Lots. Many times couples become so comfortable with one another that they fail to communicate at deeper levels. This becomes very common in the first years of a marriage. Routines and familiarity set in and the couple assumes they already know all there is to know about each other. I have talked to so many couples who just don’t communicate anymore. They don’t share their deeper, unspoken thoughts. The better you learn to communicate, the stronger your marriage will be. The best way to improve communication is with practice. We would practice this one a lot.
Of course, I’m pretty sure it’s not too late on any of these—even if you are past the first seven years.
Used by permission of Ron Edmondson. Visit his site for more blog posts like this at ronedmondson.com