13 Habits to Start Early in Your Marriage

13 Habits to Start Early in Your Marriage

I absolutely love marriage. Although Mr. M and I have only been married for a little over a year, it is a topic I have always been passionate about, and something I love to encourage other ladies in. Recently, Mr. M and I were at a Sweetheart Breakfast thrown by our church for Valentine’s Day, and they stressed the topic of mentorship. As Christians, we believe in living through community and recognize that we can do nothing by ourselves. As newlyweds, we are to fall under the leadership of an older couple and allow them to mentor us in our relationship. However, even though we have only been married for a year and some change, we also have a calling to turn around and mentor other couples who are younger than us and who may not be married. The beauty of mentorship is accountability. I can’t tell a girl I’m mentoring that she needs to honor her boyfriend with her words and actions if I’m not honoring my husband with my words and actions.

That is a big reason why I love to talk about marriage every Friday. It holds me accountable to the things that I say. Every day I am reminded of who I am as a woman of God and as a wife; and every day I am shown new ways to love my husband, and convicted of old things I do that don’t show my husband love. Mr. M and I love to look up to couples who have been married 10+ years and talk about how they are more in love than they have ever been. And that is our goal – to not allow the stressors and selfishness in our lives to distance us from each other. Instead, we want to take our flaws, work through them, and grow closer to each other.

Last night we celebrated Anti-Valentine’s Day – the day when we first made eyes at each other. We went out for a nice dinner and dessert, then came home put on our pjs and snuggled while watching a movie. It was the perfect “ahhh” after having a busy first two months of the year. And that got me thinking about how grateful I am that we made date night a habit in our marriage. Even though we don’t have kids yet, I believe that starting good practices now will help us to transition into them one day when we have little babies running around. (We’ll come back to this in a few years to see if I’m correct.)

13 Habits to Start Early in Your Marriage

Make Date Night a Priority

Rain, snow or shine – pick out a day of the week that you can set aside as TOGETHER time. Whether it’s cooking together, or going on an adventure, it’s important to set aside quality time where you know you get to talk and connect emotionally.

Related: Date Night Ideas

Go to Bed Together

I can count on one hand the number of times Mr. M and I have gone to bed separately, and when that has happened, I don’t sleep well until he’s in bed with me! It’s so crazy how easy it was (for me, not so much for him because I’m a bed & cover hog) to transition into sleeping next to him. Going to bed together each night allows you to talk, recap your day, or do other fun married things. And by the way – keep your cell phones out of the bedroom.

Spend Time With Each Other’s Families

This is easier for Mr. M and me, since his family lives in our town and my family is only two hours away. Creating great relationships with your families unifies you as a couple, and unifies your families as well. In a perfect world, everyone gets along, but I realize this is not the case. However, you can show love to your spouse by showing them that the people they love are important to you, too.

Seek Wise Counsel

Once again, I’m talking about mentorship. Having an older couple to love on you and guide you in your first few years (and subsequent years!) of marriage is SO beneficial. It’s nice to have someone to text, “I’m mad because he didn’t do the dishes, am I crazy?” and get a sincere response. I love my husband better because of the mentors we have in our lives.

Go to “Maintenance Counseling”

Before Mr. M and I got married, we spent 6 months in pre-marital counseling. Then, at the 6 month mark of marriage, we went to counseling again. Tonight we are going to our 1 year counseling appointment. I jokingly asked Mr. M if he had his laundry list of complaints to submit and work through tonight. But seriously, I’m a huge proponent of counseling in general. Going to someone who knows you as a couple, asks the hard questions, and allows you to walk through any issues you might be going through in a safe space is life-changing for your relationship. In your relationship, you need to pull the weeds when they are small before they turn into full-grown weeds that choke up your relationship. Maintenance counseling gives you the chance to expose hte weeds and pull them up.

State Expectations, Revisit Expectations

One thing we did not do is set clear expectations of who was going to clean what in the house. We both work full-time, so we both take care of the house. I do the laundry, and Mr. M does the bathrooms. And then our genius idea was “whoever sees what needs to be done will just do it.” Wellll guess who sees what needs to be done. After many emotional break downs and little arguments, we finally realized our system was not working. Now we set expectations of who cleans what and I ask for help rather than sulk and do everything by myself. Whatever it is in your relationship – state your expectation: whether it’s for finances, sex, quality time, etc. Every now and then, go back and revisit your expectations and see what needs to change and where you are doing well.

Have a Monthly Check-In

One great space to revisit expectations is by having a monthly check-in. Mr. M and I don’t do this, but it is something I definitely want to implement in our relationship! I heard on The Real the other day that this lady has a monthly check-in with her husband while they’re in the bathtub. It’s a non-threatening environment, and the intimacy that comes with being smooshed together in the bathtub makes it so you are more emotionally available to talk about hard things. I’ve also heard about couples taking coffee dates to go over their schedules, their week, and their finances. Date night is not the time to sit down and make a budget, or talk about business related things, so setting aside a time for a monthly check-in keeps you on the same page.

Surprise Each Other

It is SO easy to get into the routine of things and start to take your spouse for granted. I’m embarrassed to admit that this happened quicker than I expected in our marriage. We both have pretty consuming jobs – both emotionally and time wise – and I’m not so fantastic at compartmentalizing. When I notice we’re off sync, I have to take a heart check and see what’s going on. Usually it has to do with one of us being extraordinarily busy and consumed in our mind with things other than each other. I get it – this is how life goes. But like I said earlier, I don’t want to allow the stressors of life to get in the way and consume us. So when things like that happen, I take intentional time to stop by Mr. M’s job and bring him a sweet treat. You can surprise your spouse in a multitude of ways. What is his/her love language? Use that as a guide to see how you can treat your spouse spontaneously.

Related: 5 Ways to Connect in the Busy Seasons

13 Habits to Start Early in Your Marriage

Have Alone Time 

Look, I love my husband and want to spend all my time with him. But you know what else I really enjoy? Books and bubble baths and long romantic walks through the home goods section in TJ Maxx. While it is incredibly life-giving to spend time with your spouse, you also need to take time to yourself. Find an hour each week where you can get some quality 1:1 time with you. Whether it’s taking yourself on a coffee date, going to the gym, cleaning the house, etc. Whatever it is that brings you joy, do it. You will be a happier lady and a happier spouse.

Set a Budget, Revisit the Budget

I hate the B word. I’m really good at saving, but I’m also really good at spending and not allocating monies for this and that. Mr. M is more thrifty than I. I joke that at the end of the month, I start to use his debit card because he has more money in his account. But seriously – budget for the lifestyle you can afford and stick with it. (I’m preaching to the choir here.) Keep credit card charges at a minimum, and consult each other before major purchases. Someone once told me, “The two biggest stressors in marriage are sex and money; my suggestion is to have a lot of both.” While I laughed, it’s so true. If you don’t have a lot of money, you can be wise with your money and that will save you a ton of grief.

Spend Time in Scripture Together

Mr. M and I both grew up in Christian homes where our families spent time together in Bible Study and prayer. A good foundation to set for any Christian couple is to keep God in the center of your relationship. How do you do this? By spending time with the Lord by yourself and also with your spouse. In all transparency, I’m not fantastic at being vulnerable in my faith in front of my husband. Why? Because I’ve always felt more insecure about my faith and it’s a very personal thing to me. However, I am learning so much by opening up in prayer and worship with Mr. M. And I have to look at it as spiritual exercise – the more you do it, the more you enjoy it.

Honor Each Other

Your spouse is your best friend and your life partner. You have to live with that person and go to bed with them every night. So why wouldn’t you honor and give life to them? A little honor goes a looong way in your marriage. Respect each other with your words, your actions, and the way you speak about your spouse in front of people. I know that people say “men want respect, and women want love” but the truth is, we all want to be honored.

Get Away

Getting away with your spouse to get out your element does wonders for your relationship. Mr. M and I took little mini weekend getaways several times last year, and it was so lovely and helpful for us to get away from the routine and relax and enjoy each other. The downside to it? You get spoiled and want to get away ALL the time. When you set your budget with your spouse, make sure to set aside “date night” money and “get away money.” That way you have something to save up to look forward to!

What would habits would you recommend setting early on in your marriage?

 

5 Quirky Ways to Celebrate Love this V Day

5 Quirky Ways to Celebrate Love this V Day

If I’m being honest, I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. I mean, I enjoy chocolate and a good excuse to celebrate love. But why do that just on February 14th and not all year? Some say (my dad, my husband) that I’m high maintenance.

It probably doesn’t help the fact that Mr. M and I met and consequently fell in love at an Anti-Valentine’s Day party. So February 15th is my preferred day to celebrate love.

But I’m not one to pass up an excuse to come up with an excuse to celebrate love – whether you’re loving on your partner or on your best friend: these five ideas are fun and quirky ways to celebrate an inexpensive Valentine’s Day!

Related: Why You Need to Celebrate Galentine’s Day

Inexpensive Valentine's Day Ideas

Take Awkward Couple Photos (on purpose)

I’m not gonna lie. . . I have done this both with my  best girl friends and with Mr. M. The girl friends were easier to convince. Awkward couple photos are bound to make you both laugh and have a fun time being silly. It also gives you a good excuse to make fun of Valentine’s Day and couples that take awkward photos by accident (because they’re awkward. . .)

Make a Spotify Playlist

When Mr. M and I first started dating, we spent a summer apart, so we stayed connected by making a collaborative playlist on Spotify. It’s like making mix tapes for each other, but in 2018. Pick out your favorite songs, or songs that remind you of each other and make a joint playlist! (This is also the perfect time to come up with your couple name.)

My best friend from college also regularly sends me an ACTUAL mixed cd for my  birthday or other special occasions and it’s my favorite part of snail mail.

Go on a Thrift Shop Shopping Spree 

Give each other a budget of $5-10, then go and pick out something fun and useful, or an item of clothing for each other. If you pick out clothes, wear those outfits on a date later that day!

Write a Poem for Each Other 

Whether you are a secret poet, or you just like to be adventurous, writing a poem for each other can be a fun way to express your love for your loved one. Your Valentine’s Day poem can either be silly or serious. My personal favorites are ones that make me laugh. If you’re not a great poet, you can still come up with fun ways to write about your loved one in a way that can make them feel special.

Make a Scrapbook Together

This one may appeal more to girl friends, because I have never met a man who willingly sits down and works on a scrapbook with his lady. I’ve started this thing where every New Year, we take time to reflect on the previous year and write down our highlights from each month and print out pictures from each month. Something like this could also be done for dating anniversaries, best friend-aversaries, or just any time you realize you have 1000 pictures on your phone.

Related:5 (Last Minute) Valentine’s Dates

Inexpensive Valentine's Day Ideas

The 3 Friends You Want to Have as a Couple

The 3 Friends You Want to Have as a Couple

Last night Mr. M and I had one of my best friend’s from college and her boyfriend over for dinner. We spent a couple hours with good food and good conversation. After they left, while Mr. M and I were cleaning up the kitchen, I smiled to myself because this is exactly what I pictured doing as a married couple.

Before our wedding, I heard horror stories about couples that got married and fell off the face of the earth. I remember reading a blog post from Helene In Between in 2014 about the desire married people had to still be included. After reading that blog post as a single lady, I made an extra effort to ensure my married friends still felt included and were invited to the various girl’s nights, date night activities, etc.

After Mr. M and I got married, I knew there was no way we’re going to become recluses. Once or twice a month we try to have people over for dinner or we go out on a date with another couple, or we’ll have our own respective girls/guys nights.

A term Mr. M and I talked about while we were dating was the importance of dating in community. Now that we are married, I believe those values hold true even more so in marriage. When you have a community that surrounds you in you marriage, you have a support group to hold you up during the good times and the bad.

This past year I have learned so much from the community that loved on us and continues to love on us as we go through life together. Mr. M has a group of guy friends he can go to when he needs accountability, and I have a few heart friends that I lean on to tell me I’m crazy when I’m being crazy.

When we do life with other people, we find that life may not be easier, but it is more fulfilling because you’ve got a tribe of people who support you – especially when you have these three types of friends.

the 3 type of couple friends you want

The Mentors

Mentors are typically an older couple that has been married several years. They are people that live their life in such a way that you want to follow in their footsteps. Mr. M and I have a couple that mentors us. We get together every other month or so to catch up, have food, and learn from them. They are also people we can go to when we have a disagreement and we know we will get solid, biblical advice from them.

The Couple Friends

These are the friends who are your peers who are either dating, engaged, or married. They are people you can have fun and double date with. I’ve often thought that finding coupled friends as married people is like finding a new boyfriend. You ask the other couple out to dinner, you have a good time. At the end, where do you go from here? Do you set up a second hang out right then and there? Do you text them after the date to say “thanks, I had a great time!” Do you wait 3 days to text them? It’s stressful.

I recently told some of our new couple friends about the stress of finding couple friends to hang out with and played out this whole scenario for them. After we left their house, the husband texted mine and said, “We had a great time, thanks for coming over. Or should I wait and text you in 3 days?” We laughed and now we see them almost every other week. Moral to the story? Live in the awkward and you’ll make new friends.

The Heart Friends

Heart friends are the people closest to you that encourage you, push you, and tell you when you’re crazy. Every couple needs to have a heart friend they lean on when they’re feeling blue. Because I’m not interested in my husband having a best friend who is a girl (other than me) I think that heart friends are people who are the same gender as you are. But also, I spend most of my time communicating what it’s like to be in a girl’s head for my husband. Sometimes I just want to talk to a girl and have her echo and understand where I am coming from.

While I strongly believe your best friend should be your spouse, I also believe that you and your spouse need to have a close friend outside who is a safe space. I’m protective of what I say about my husband and to whom I say it. If I am struggling with something, I’m not going to complain to everyone. I am either going to speak to my mentor or my heart friend because I know they will speak the truth in love and encourage me with our marriage being the best interest at heart.

What kind of friends do you need in your life and in your relationships?

Why I’m Glad I Changed My Last Name

Why I'm  Glad  I Changed  My  Last Name

Right about this time last year, I went to the social security office, the DMV, and the bank to do the big thing – Change My Last Name.

It was an intimidating venture. There were so many places where I would need to change my last name (and if we’re being honest, I still haven’t changed my passport. Ooops!) and I didn’t even know where to start. I did a lot of research on Pinterest on where to start and all the places where I should change my name. This graphic was suuuper helpful.

But before we got down to the details, I had to decide whether or not I wanted to change my last name. My maiden name was 10 letters long, and my married name is 12 letters long. As a joke, I said I was going to hyphenate it. And then I started to think about it more seriously.

Why I Considered Hyphenating My Last Name

The closer I got to our wedding date, the more sentimental I became about my last name. I had lived with it for over 20 years; it’s who I was. It was what kept me attached to my parents.

The thought of changing my last name almost felt like I was divorcing my parents. Which, in a way, I was. In Genesis it tells the husband and wife to leave their father and mother and cleave to each other.

Stepping into an African tradition nuanced the struggle for me as well. I felt as if my parents were literally handing me over to his family. And a part of me still wanted to run home and be known by my maiden name.

And then another part of me emerged from all the women’s studies feminist classes I took in college. Why does the woman have to change her name? Why can’t the man change his name? Why can’t we make up a new last name together?!

Because it would make all the Baptists and Zimbabweans faint.

In my heart, I knew that I would take my husband’s last name. It was always the plan – but when it came time to give up my maiden name, it was hard.

Why I'm  Glad  I Changed  My  Last Name

Why I’m Glad I Took My Husband’s Last Name

The thing I love about Mr. M is that even though he couldn’t empathize with what I was going through, he understood. I specifically remember one afternoon about two months before our wedding when he came over for lunch, and I was in a dark and twisty place. I was mourning the loss of my maiden name, and apprehensive about marriage in general. But instead of getting offended and hurt, he held me and let me talk through what was going in my  head.

Our last name is so unique. Not many people can say it, and it’s always an ice breaker when I show up at the doctor’s office and they try to say my last name. And I love it. It gives me an opportunity to teach someone how to say my last name, and it gives me an opportunity to brag on my husband. “Oh yes, my husband is from Zimbabwe.” And let’s face it, the name is so unique that you may not remember how to say it, but it will ring a bell when you hear it.

I get such a sense of pride when I write my new name – even though I sometimes get internally stressed out that I don’t have enough space or it’s taking too long. It makes me proud to be associated with my husband. He is an amazing leader in our community, and he does so by serving and empowering those around him. If having his last name means I get to be associated with him, then yay!

Why I'm  Glad  I Changed  My  Last Name

Why I Changed My First Name, Too

So readers who have been around a while may remember the post I wrote last year about changing my first name from “Nina” back to “Christina.” And BOY that has been hard for me and for everyone around me to get used to. When I decided I was going to change my last name, I knew I still wanted to honor my parents in a way. My mom never wanted me to have a nickname, but like the dramatic 9 year old I was, when we moved to Tennessee I told everyone my name was Nina.

Now I go by both. If you call me Christina – cool. If you call me Nina – cool. You’ll notice I didn’t even completely change it in the signature at the end of these posts, because it is still a part of who I am. My close friends call me Nina, and I’m Christina in the professional world. That transition has been almost as hard, if not harder, than changing my last name. And that’s OK. Because I’m finally filling into both of my long names.

If you are not married, do you think you will keep your name or change your name? 

If you are married, what did you do with your name change and why? 

 

Why Your Marriage is the Best

 

Why You Should Think Your Marriage is the Best Marriage

I was talking to one of my good friends the other day about the tension between talking about your relationship in a healthy way versus bombarding everyone with how “perfect” your lives are.

In today’s social media society, the feed is constant. We are seeing what everyone ate, what they are wearing, and why they are celebrating this and that. Being a lifestyle blogger who likes to talk about relationships, I’m very aware about what image I set forth. I first and foremost want to honor my husband in everything I say and do – whether in person or online. So you won’t see me over here airing out our dirty laundry. In instances where I have talked about an argument or point of tension, it is always something I have first cleared with him, and I am sharing it so as to speak constructively to that issue.

Even though Mr. M and I laugh, and have healthy and constructive conversation 85% of the time, 3% of the time I’m being whiny and dramatic, and 2% of the time we do pick at each other and argue.* (The other 10% of the time is filled with important things like paying bills and watching Netflix.)

*It is here that I would like to send out a general forewarning to all single and engaged women: husbands find it funny to purposefully annoy you or hide behind doors and jump out and scare you as you’re walking up from your creepy basement.

When I was in college, I was having dinner one night with my same friend as mentioned above, and her boyfriend at the time (now husband.) She had gotten up from the table to go get something from the cafeteria, and while she walked away, her boyfriend turned to me and told me how amazing she was and how much he loved her. Listening to him talk, I found myself wishing that one day I would get to marry a man who would be as verbally affectionate about me as my friend’s boyfriend was about her.

(Fast forward four years later, and my friend is now married to her college sweetheart, and I’m married to a man who is incredibly verbally affectionate towards me and about me to other people. Anytime I hear him talk about me to someone else, it warms my heart and makes think back to that time where I got to witness that kind of love between my friend and her man.)

Why You Should Think Your Marriage is the Best Marriage

In Dating

At that time, I was not dating my husband, and since I was not yet married, it was appropriate for me to notice something that worked well in someone else’s relationship that I wanted too. I was able to see how my friends and their boyfriends treated them and see what I wanted in a healthy marriage relationship one day.

When you are single or dating someone, this is the season to observe the relationships of those around you. In the season of singleness and/or dating, this observation period is vital for the health of your marriage one day. If you see an unhealthy relationship through your friend, you know what not to do and what not to look for in a partner. Whereas if you see a character aspect you like, then you get a better idea of what characteristics you would like to see one day in your future spouse.

In Marriage

In marriage, things look a little different. Once you have said, “I do,” your goal is “till death do you part.” So when you see something you love about your friend’s relationship that is absent in your own, it would be inappropriate to dwell on that aspect in comparison to your own relationship in a negative light because it can cause resentment against your spouse.

What do I mean?

When you see something in someone else’s marriage that you want, celebrate it for their relationship. If it is something you want to bring into your relationship, ask yourself a few questions:

Why do I want to incorporate this into my relationship?

How would this positively affect my relationship with my spouse? 

What can I do to incorporate this into my marriage? 

Noticing what works in other people’s relationships is healthy and should be recognized. If it something that convicts you and makes you realize you want to be better at X,Y, and Z with your spouse, then celebrate that as you bring it into your marriage. But using others’ highlight reels as a measurement against what doesn’t work in your own relationship is a dangerous downward spiral.

Why You Should Think Your Marriage is the Best

I am a huge advocate of “If you don’t think your marriage is the best, you’re doing it wrong.” Why is that? Because I want to enjoythe uniqueness of the type of relationship Mr. M and I have. Much like those around us, our relationship cannot be duplicated. There are so many nuances and quirks that each of us bring into this relationship that can either make us laugh and draw us closer to each other, or irritate us and push us away from each other.

Let’s take working out – for instance.

I’m a super whiny work out partner. I wish I wasn’t, and I’m sure my husband wishes I wasn’t too.

But lately I’ve been bucking up and going at my work outs like a beast.

Until.

He made me do something that was hard that I didn’t want to do and I whined to him in front of all the cool strong kids at the gym. Not my finest moment, I know. But he knew what he was getting into before we got married.

If he looked around and saw another couple who was killin’ it and said, “Look at them! Why can’t we be more like them?” Then I would  have been DEVASTATED (and probably started passive aggressively lifting something really heavy to get my angry energy out.) But instead of looking around and comparing us to someone else, he took my whineyness in stride (and laughed rather than getting angry.) It frustrated him, but like I said – he knew what we was getting to before we got married. And even if he doesn’t like that sometimes I’m dramatic in the gym, he celebrates me and he honors the type of relationship we have.

Your relationship is not going to be like anyone else’s. So celebrate the gift that each of you have brought to the table. When you are able to look at your spouse and truly appreciate them for who they are, then you will have the best marriage you know.

Celebrate Your Marriage!