We just celebrated one year of marriage!
In the months leading up to our wedding day we devoured marriage books, went to premartial counseling, and enjoyed questioning all our married friends about married life. We knew there was no way to be completely prepared for what we were walking into, but at the same time we enjoyed using engagement as an intentional season to ask deeper questions of ourselves and others. And somewhere in those conversations we made an important decision.
We enjoyed premarital counseling, but often felt stumped by questions we just didn’t have the answers to yet. We were asked questions about how we would spend our time, what our budget would look like, how we would work through conflict (all good questions!), but the reality was that we were moving to a new city, didn’t have jobs yet (or $$), and just generally didn’t know what the pain points of our conflicts in marriage would become. So while we did our best to work through as many hard conversations as we could before marriage, we knew that there was no way we could properly anticipate what the next year through forever together would bring.
So we made a commitment.
We decided that 6 months into marriage we would go to marriage counseling. We decided this before the conflicts arose, before the tensions were high, as a commitment to invest in our marriage from the very start. We knew that premarital counseling could only take us so far, and we wanted to lay a solid foundation for our marriage in year one. We wanted someone older and wiser to speak into our lives, affirm us, help us sort through conflict, and lead us in setting good patterns for communication and love.
6 months of marriage rolled around and the tensions were high. We had found our pain points and the conflicts we couldn’t kiss our way out of and kept circling back to. There were small things like how we did the dishes, but then there were big things like “I don’t feel loved!” And so we made good on our promise to ourselves and showed up to our first counseling session. And let me just say…
This was the best thing we did for our marriage in year one.
I’ll share more in another blog post about specific things we learned (let me know what questions you have!), but for right now I will say that anniversaries are a good benchmark. Kind of like the New Year with your health goals, anniversaries give the opportunity to reevaluate and reflect. Are we really closer than we were a year ago? Has our marriage reflected the grace God shows to us this past year? Have I grown in humility and patience and thoughtfulness and love this past year? Do I understand and love my spouse more? Have I fulfilled the promises I made on our wedding day?
I am grateful to say that I can answer yes. Not because of how awesome we are, but because of God’s grace towards us and the specific and practical grace of working in us through marriage counseling. If at the 6 month mark I had been asked those questions, I could not have answered them so whole-heartedly. But here I say, by the grace of God, we are looking towards year 2 full of hope! We are not without sin and conflict but we are daily being renewed! We can learn to love one another better! Our conflicts can end in forgiveness, grace and makeout sessions on the couch instead of silence and bitterness. Counseling has become another tool in our tool belt, and a crucial one to utilize in seasons of drought and plenty!
To all my engaged friends, investing in your marriage should not end once you say “I do.” That’s when it truly begins! There is so much you can do now, but there is no way you can be fully prepared for what marriage and life will bring. Commit now to going to counseling during year one! You do not have to wait until your marriage is on the edge to do the hard work of learning one another.
And to all my married friends who have never been to marriage counseling, now is the time! In a hard season? It’s not too late. You are not too entrenched in bad habits or patterns that God’s grace cannot meet you. Commit to working on your marriage together, and be amazed at how the Lord will change and shape you both. In a sweet season? Even better! Go and learn each other better, talk through life with someone older and wiser, and be affirmed and encouraged in who you are as a couple so that when the waves come (and of course they will, that’s life!) you can stand up TOGETHER.
Have questions about our experience, what we learned, and why we have committed to keeping our counselor on retainer? Send them my way! I would be honored to share more.