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?

 

8 Books to Prepare You for Marriage

8 books to prepare for marriage

Marriage is AWESOME. And it’s work.

Donald Miller once compared marriage to a marathon. You don’t just wake up one day and decide that you want to run a marathon without training.

In the same way, you don’t just wake up one day and decide you want to get married without training. Great ways to train for marriage is by talking to and being mentored by people who are already married, meet with a pre-marital counselor, and also by reading books.

Marriage is more than just living together and binge watching your mutual guilty pleasure show. Marriage involves several different aspects of intimacy. I’ve broken three big ones down for today’s post: spiritual intimacy, practical marriage, and physical intimacy. Today I’m sharing several books that I read before and during my first year of marriage.

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Spiritual Intimacy

Sacred Marriage – Gary Thomas

I read Sacred Marriagewhen I was in college, and definitely picked it back up the summer Mr. M and I got engaged. Gary Thomas explains marriage as a union that reflects our relationship with Christ. He asks, “What if God designed marriage to make us  holy more than to make us happy?” Ouch. But so good! It is so easy to fall into the assumption that marriage is an avenue towards happiness; but anyone who has been married more than a few weeks could tell you that your spouse does not define your happiness. While Mr. M makes me incredibly happy, he also encourages and pushes me to be a holier follower of God. Sacred Marriage showed me that a healthy Christian marriage involves sacrifice, vulnerability, and keeping God at the center of your marriage.

The Meaning of Marriage – Tim Keller

It took me a long time to get through The Meaning of Marriage due the density of of Tim Keller’s wisdom. Plus, I’m more of a feeler and Tim Keller isn’t a super emotional writer. However, I learned a lot about the sanctity and practicality of serving our spouses in marriage.

You & Me Forever – Francis Chang

When Mr. M and I picked up You and Me Forever, I thought I was reading a book about making a life long commitment to your spouse. However, this book is so much MORE than that. Francis Chan transcends marriage here on earth, and talks about how our marriage prepares us for heaven. Similarly to Gary Chapman, he states that marriage is not here to make us happy. Nor is marriage something we use to serve ourselves; instead, our marriage is a ministry opportunity to serve the world and bring people closer to Christ. This book is convicting. And intense.

8 Books to Prepare You for Marriage

Practical Marriage

For Men Only/For Women Only – Shaunti & Jeff Feldhan 

I totally read both the “For Women” only and “For Men Only” books because a) I’m a reading fiend and b) I wanted to know what Shaunti and Jeff had to say. For Men Only/For Women Only is a basic beginner “How-to” for marriage. I loved the realistic approach it takes towards marriage. It uses anecdotal research to explain why we are the way we are, and how to best love our spouse in a way that will cross those perspectives.

Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married – Gary Chapman 

I will read any book I can get my hand on by Gary Chapman. He has another great book called The Five Love Languages; I haven’t read The Five Love Languages yet, but I have taken this test multiple times throughout my relationship. Good news: I’m scored high in all five langauges. Does that make me easily lovable or high maintenance? Who knwos. But the Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married breaks down marriage in all its practicality. While marriage can be love and flowers, it is also mundane and interspersed with occasional conflict. But in a healthy conflict, Dr. Chapman tells us that “conflicts have the potential of teaching us how to love, support, and encourage each other.” I would also recommend his book, 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Enaged!

8 Books to Prepare You for Marriage

Physical Intimacy

OK so I’ve ranked this in order of . . . detail, let’s say. I’ve never gotten into the subject of physical intimacy much on the blog, because my dad reads my blog, and so do some of my Zimbabwean Aunties – and sometimes they pass my blog posts onto my awesome Mother in Law. But if you want to meet me for a cup of coffee, I love to talk about and celebrate the gift of intimacy within marriage, so we can dive deeper there. 😉

Darling – Aanna Greer

I’ve been a follower of Aanna’s blog for a couple of years. I more specifically followed her series, “Extra Virgin” where she dished on marriage and sex in a healthy, celebratory way. So when she released her book Darling, she was gracious enough to send me her book in exchange for a blog review.

I loved how Darling is laid out. She has sectioned her book into three sections: For Single Darlings, Engaged Darlings, and Married Darlings. Aana’s objective is to celebrate female sexuality in a godly way. Reading Darling is like sitting down with an older sister who is dishing all the details of sex.

The Single Darling section starts out with stating God’s design and purpose for sex, and then goes into understanding and caring for your body. She talks about everything from periods to infections to gynecology appointments.

Since I was already married when I picked up Darling, I focused on the Engaegd Darlings and Married Darlings section. This lady is packed full of so much wisdom! I wish I had this book when I was engaged. She gives amazing practical advice on preparing your body and your mind for your honeymoon.

In the Married Darlings section, she breaks it down to the basics, understanding sexual arousal, true sex appeal, and more. I love that Aanna gets real about sex, but also gets real about sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy is more than having passioante sex, but it is about the intimacy you and your spouse carry throughout the day. (Women are crockpots, anyone?) One of my favorite lines from Darling says, “Instead of passion, make intimacy the plumb line in your sex life.”

Sheet Music – Dr. Kevin Leman 

My Aunt sent me Sheet Musicabout a month before Mr. M and I got married last year. I highly recommend Sheet Music as a honeymoon book! While we did read a couple chapters before we got married, Dr. Leman says to wait to read chapters 4 – 16 until the honeymoon because he gets detailed in discussing all aspects of sexual intimacy! While Mr. M and I have hardly ever finish books we read together, we made it all the to chapter 14, which is a good run for us.

Good Loving – Dr. Melissa Jones

If Sheet Music is the book to read on your honeymoon, Good Loving is the book to read after your honeymoon. (Besides, who has time to read two books on their honeymoon?) Since Good Loving is written by a woman, she goes into great detail for the ladies. I felt like I was reading a Christian Cosmopolitan magazine reading this book. While she covers some topics I don’t necessarily feel comfortable or agree with, I appreciate that she brings so much insight into sex!

What books have you found helpful to prepare you for marriage? Tell me in the comments below!

Marriage: 6 More Things That Surprised Me

6 More Things that Surprised Me About Marraige

Last night I got deep into the sentimentals when I thought about the most amazing bachelorette party my sister threw for me. A year ago yesterday we were partying at a bookstore in Asheville, the most unique place to throw a bachelorette party, but perfectly me. It really was the perfect way to start off wedding week, so I am feeling ALL the feels and remembering all the great mems.

To commemorate anniversary week, I am sharing all things wedding this week. Six months ago I shared 6 things that surprised me about marriage. Mr. M and I can hardly believe we’ve been calling each other husband and wife for a whole year. I can honestly say that our first year of marriage has been BETTER than our years of dating.

We Fight Less Now That We’re Married

Mr. M and I had a couple mentor us our first year of dating. They encouraged us to be as open and honest in our communication as we could be, and so we did that. And we fought. . . a lot. I’m sure it was a culmination of things – being in college, being in grad school, and trying to communicate through two different perspectives and ideals made for a rough and rocky beginning. However, I am so thankful we learned how to communicate early on in our dating period, because that has carried on into marriage.

It also helped that we had the “newlywed” conversations before we were even engaged. We talked about our dating history, our future, whether we wanted kids, where our hearts aligned with what ministries, etc. After a counseling session during our engagement, we talked about how difficult it would be had we not discussed all the necessary deep aspects of marriage beforehand, but because we were equipped with the knowledge and communication, it made our first year of marriage easier than our years of dating. (Being free to make out all we want helps to.)

How Busy We Can Be

When I dreamt of marriage as a single lady, I thought we would spend every night entangled in each other’s arms. And while we do that some times, half the time we collapse onto the couch with Netflix. Mr. M and I try to stay intentional with our date nights, but there have definitely been seasons over the last year where it has been a leftovers and Netflix night. With our work schedules + our social calendar, we stay pretty busy. Thank goodness we are both extroverts.

How Much I Love my In-Laws

This is not as much of a surprise as it something I’m incredibly thankful for. Before I met Mr. M, I worried that one day I wouldn’t love my in-laws. I am incredibly close with my parents, and my parents’ parents – both sets of my grandparents – are best friends.  I always hoped that my husband’s parents and my parents would be best friends. Proximity is not on our side with this one, but my family and Mr. M’s family love each other, and we have even celebrated Thanksgiving together for the past two years. It’s been the best. It is a great feeling to honestly say that I love my in-laws like I do my own parents.

Marrying into another culture can be scary on the forefront, especially when it involves relationships with the parents. Having my mother and father in law and entire M clan embrace me and teach me their customs has been amazing.

6 More Things that Surprised Me About Marriage

How Many Adventures We’ve Been On

Mr. M and I want to avoid the stigma of being a boring married couple. And while we definitely have our introverted – be in bed by 10pm nights, we have had so many adventures this year.This summer I did a mini travel series on the blog, because there has not been one month since we got married (or even engaged!) where Mr. M and I have stayed in one place. It has been exhausting and a great adventure. How do we do it? Basically we have friends all over the country + air bnb’s are my jam.

The New Dreams We Share

Couples always talk about how fun it is to dream together, and it’s true! I love having a marriage partner who pushes me to dream, and dreams alongside me. We both passionate about our own things, but they often align with each other which makes the dreaming process fun. Mr. M is a big scale dreamer, and I’m more realistic, so he challenges me and pushes me to open my mind to bigger dreams. It’s scary as all get out.

How Deep Our Love Goes

If Mr. M and I have learned to love each other more deeply in year one, I can’t imagine what it will look like when we have children, and go through different seasons of life together. While I try to stay light hearted on the blog, there have definitely been unique challenges Mr. M and I face. Rather than look at these challenges as obstacles, we have used them to draw closer to each other and the Lord. Mr. M always reminds me that we are on the same time.

6 More Things that Surprised Me About Marriage