Marriage Mistakes You DON’T Have To Make
“We are all varying degrees of crazy but if you can learn what part of the crazy is YOURS, HIS and OURS, it will help you make better choices for the long-term health of the marriage.”
That’s what one of our readers told us in response to our January 2014 survey called, If You’d Known Then What You Know Now. The idea was to find out what things they would change if survey respondents had known before marriage some of the things they learned after marriage.
Only a handful of people took the survey. Maybe because our readers wouldn’t change a thing, or maybe they were just having too much fun elsewhere. Fortunately, the few who took the survey—and we thank you—took time to offer thoughtful responses.
And so in this post, I want to share their wit and wisdom with you.
3 Big Themes
When I reviewed the survey responses, I noticed 3 big themes: communication, finances, and faith. Let’s look at what our respondents had to say.
Here’s some communication advice from our survey respondents:
- “Communicate, communicate, communicate. You must be comfortable enough with yourself to ask for what you need and say how you really feel about a matter. Learn the real person – not the one that you want them to be.”
- “Communicate everything, and in constant prayer allow God through the Holy Spirit to guide you.”
- “Become friends. Listen to each other.”
Two respondents shared lessons they learned the hard way:
One told us, “I joined a church when we first got married without discussing it with my husband. We have had years of disagreements along these lines.”
Another told us it would have been good to know before marriage “How to listen to my mate with a deeper concern. How to say, ‘Please explain in more detail.’”
Communication Mistakes You Don’t Have to Make
Shallow Talking–not talking at all, saying too little, or talking only “on the surface.” To build intimacy, we have to learn to dig deeper, to say what we really think and feel about the things going on in our lives and relationships.
Sometimes we’re afraid to be transparent for fear of rejection or fear of offending our spouse. And sometimes we just want to do what we want to do without being challenged. So we keep silent. But a good marriage requires the risk of honest conversation. The payoff when both spouses work on it, is genuine intimacy.
Ear Plugging–not listening, half-listening, or listening only to form the next reply. Listening to our spouses—really hearing them—is an act of respect. Listening to hear their hearts–their unspoken words–is an act of love. To listen, we have to set aside our own interests long enough to focus on our spouse’s. When we don’t listen, our spouses are just talking to the walls.
Some of our respondents told us they wish they’d learned more about financial matters, including the need to save, before they married. They didn’t elaborate on the challenges they faced, but based on our work with couples over the years, they likely struggled with debt, overspending, and generally making their money reach the end of the month.
Money Mistakes You Don’t Have to Make
Avoidance–not talking together about your expectations, desires and plans as they relate to money. Many of us grew up in families that didn’t talk about financial matters with children. So we may not have a pattern for discussing money with our spouses.
Money is one of the top causes of divorce in the US. So talking about it is critical. You and your spouse may have different “financial styles,” and those differences can lead to trouble. Find a way to reach an understanding about financial matters, even if that requires professional help. Refuse to let money separate you.
Out of Balance Spending–spending big when your budget can’t take it or penny pinching because you’re too cheap or too afraid to spend money. Some people tend to be savers, while others tend to be spenders. One big mistake you don’t have to make is ignoring your differences until you’re done in by a crisis, either financial or marital.
Forgetting Faith–making decisions without considering God. The Bible has a lot to say about money, and so the biggest money mistake you don’t have to make is assuming you’re smarter than God when it comes to providing for your family.
Here’s what respondents wish they’d known before marriage:
- “What the Bible says about marriage.”
- That “in order for marriage to really work, both people should be committed to serving God.”
- That “marriage is a form of ministry.”
And one respondent said she failed to act on something she knew to do before marriage: “Allocating proper time for God.”
Faith Mistakes You Don’t Have to Make
Thinking Single–making major decisions without consulting your spouse. Faith is very personal, but since the Bible tells us a husband and his wife are one, we need to decide together how we’ll live out our faith as a couple and as a family.
The two of you may not agree on every point, but if you’re both committed to following God, you should ultimately end up traveling in the same direction. So one faith mistake you don’t have to make is forgetting that marriage means 1 +1 = 1.
Conforming to the Culture–letting the larger culture dictate right and wrong. Some say we live in a post-Christian nation, which means the broader culture rejects God’s Word, even while it accepts “religion.”
Still, God created marriage and gives us His Word and the local church to help us get marriage right. The high divorce rate proves we need all the help we can get. So one mistake you don’t have to make is letting the culture tell you how marriage ought to work.
Neglecting the One-on-One–failing to spend personal time with God. Some people think Christianity is all about rules, but it’s about a relationship with God. If we’re to be all God has designed us to be as people, as spouses, and as parents, we need to nurture our relationships with Him. One marriage mistake you don’t have to make is leaving a source of strength, endurance and wisdom locked away in a dusty unread Book.
To Amuse and Enlighten
Whether you’re single, engaged, or married, I hope you’ve spotted a few marriage mistakes you don’t have to make. If you’ve made one already, I hope you’re encouraged to turn it around.
Here are a few more tidbits of wisdom and warning from our respondents to amuse and enlighten:
- “Good sex takes w-o-r-k and sometimes years to get it right.”
- “Find more things to do together and once in a while, learn to do something separately.”
- “The good part takes lots of time and there can be a LOT of rough water before the waters get calm. Trust the process. If you hang in there, it gets better.”
- “I wish I hadn’t tried so hard to control everything and everybody. My husband and kids don’t really interact with each other much because I have become the hub of the family wheel, and the other family members are the spokes. We are all connected but nobody else touches anybody but me. Very depressing and very stressful to be the hub.”
- “You really can’t change him, but you both never stop changing.”
- “Read Boundaries [the book].
- “Marriage has phases just like childhood–terrible two’s, puberty, teen years–and some of those phases really suck, but they will pass.”
And on that note, dear reader, I leave you to consider how you can put these tips to work in your life. Let us know what you think below, and please share this post with your friends.