Advice to a young man about to get married
Your first year of marriage will be hard. Don’t let it take you by surprise. Expect it. Prepare for it. Marriage is hard work, and the first year is when you will work the hardest. It will be tough, but it is an opportunity. An opportunity to man-up and learn what it really means to love someone. So here’s my advice:
Take the initiative for reconciliation. Do not wait for her to come to you. Step up and start the conversation. You take responsibility and you sort things out. Jesus didn’t wait around for us to be in a better mood and beg forgiveness before he went to the cross. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”1 He took the initiative for reconciliation with us; you take the initiative in reconciling with your wife. Sometimes it may well feel like going to your death. So if you want to love your wife like Christ loved the church,2 then this is a good place to start.
Be the first to apologise even if it’s mostly her fault. Show some integrity and deal with your sin before bringing up hers. This starts the conversation with humility and patience, rather than anger and self-righteousness. It doesn’t mean letting her walk all over you. It just means triple-checking that you’ve got the telegraph-pole out of your own eye before you tackle the speck in hers.3 I’m not saying you should apologise for things that aren’t your fault either. But you will sin against her without realising it. Get good at discovering when you’ve done that, and apologise first.
Learn how to apologise. Explain in your own words what you did and why it was wrong. Describe your understanding of how that must have affected her. Say you are sorry. Then listen. Do not make excuses. Do not justify yourself. Most of the time your understanding of how it affected her will be wrong. Stick with it until you actually do understand, and she knows you understand. Do not ask for forgiveness until you’ve reached that point. It will not be quick. It will not be easy. It will hurt. Real apologies are gut-wrenchingly painful. They are also worth it.
Don’t let the sun go down on an argument.4 If you’re fighting, don’t let it fester. Take the initiative and sort it out before it turns septic and you have to chop off a limb. People will tell you that sometimes it’s good to give each other space and calm down. This is only good advice when you’re too angry or emotional to have a calm conversation. Don’t use this good advice as an excuse to put off a hard discussion. Agree with each other beforehand that this will be your strategy—you don’t go to bed angry. Then gird your loins, show some courage and talk it through.
In summary, have the courage to be humble and put her needs before your own. Learn to do this consistently when you least feel like doing so. This is easy to say and hard to do. It will pay off in the long run though. Through the process you will lay a good foundation for the future, learn a whole lot about your wife, and become a better man.