To state the obvious: when you first get married, you’ve never been married before. For the first time in your life, you’re joining two lives into one. Two imperfect people become one family. Of course you’re going to make mistakes!
Five Big Mistakes Married Couples Make!
Mistake #1 – Don’t Pray Together
Ultimately, it’s easier now to implement prayer together because we long for our children to have healthy spiritual habits; but they will learn best from what we model, and from what they perceive in our behavior. I would prefer to now be modifying an existing pattern than attempting to establish two new ones at once.
SUGGESTION | Set a time each night that you pray for one another. Ask each other how you can pray for one another.
Mistake #2 – Buying a House Too Soon or Buying Too Much House
- I would have rented for a year after moving to Texas
- I would have asked someone else for advice on how much we should spend in light of our finances
- I would have purchased a significantly cheaper home (our 2nd home was significantly cheaper than our first)
SUGGESTION | Seek the advice of someone much older and wiser than yourself. Give them permission to tell you when you’re ready to purchase a home. Find someone that you trust enough that you can tell them all of your financial information (and who understands and shares your financial goals), and then take their advice on what your budget should be
Mistake #3 – Don’t Create a Monthly Budget or Talk About Finances
Budgeting | Telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went – John Maxwell
Like he said, we could have made a lot smarter choices than we did, had we known what we know now. Now that I think about it, I don’t recall having any discussion of expectations of my role as “financial manager,” or our financial plans in general, other than, “Debt is bad. We don’t want it.” Seriously. I can only imagine what our present selves would say to our past selves — it would be a rough conversation! And, even though we know more now than we knew then, because we didn’t start implementing a budget system or technique then, I’m still struggling to get the process down.
SUGGESTION | Before the first of each month, schedule a meeting where you talk through that month’s budget. One person can create the first draft. However, both people get a say in the budget, and both people need to agree on the budget.
Mistake #4 – Don’t Evaluate Your Relationship and Future Plans (at least) Annually
Unlike the previous three mistakes, this is the only one where I think we’ve gotten worse as time has passed. With the first three, we were ignorant newlyweds who learned how to be better spouses as time passed. The longer we’re married, the more complicated it gets to get away and talk about our relationship. Between responsibilities with the kids and the church, it’s really hard to get away.
Here’s the reality:
- You need to know what each person is struggling with in the relationship
- You need to talk about the issues which keep coming up
- You need to voice all the wonderful things that happened the previous year
- You need to voice and discuss your personal struggles
- You need to discuss your desires for the next year
- You need to know how you can serve your spouse in the coming months
- You need to discuss events you know are coming up
- You need to discuss where each of you want the family to be in five years
Just stop and consider any one of those eight points. Consider how obviously unhealthy it would be (or at best non-ideal) if you DIDN’T know what your spouse was thinking in one of those areas.
- How do you do life with a person when you don’t even know what they’re struggling with?
- How do you help and serve your spouse when you don’t know what they want out of life?
- How do you head move in the same direction when you’re headed towards different destinations?
You need to talk about the past, the present, and the future regularly. Some of these conversations are exciting. Others may be boring. At times, these conversations will be extremely painful.
If you want to live life together, you have to actually talk about your life together.
This one really speaks to me. It seems like such a healthy and easy thing to do, doing it would bring so much peace and clarity, and yet it is the first thing to be pushed back…at least, for us it is. It’s not uncommon to have random conversations with family members, throw around ideas for holidays and special occasions, write things on the calendar and, before you know it, another year is over. One of the things I’ve heard a lot in youth group with my husband over the years is, “Your direction, not your intention, determines your destination.”
It is so easy to intend to make such and such a priority…to plan on doing that thing you’ve been putting off…to do whatever. But, if you don’t make a plan and follow it, you’ll end up going wherever you’re headed, instead of where you had hoped. It’s terrifying, actually. Having kids has made it even more disturbing to me — like everyone says, they grow up so fast. If we’re not intentional about our direction, we very likely won’t end up where we had planned…and likely won’t notice we’re headed there until we’ve already arrived. Eep! Same as with finances and prayer…same as with everything, I suppose…the sooner you start implementing this habit, the sooner it will become a habit, and the more you can utilize it to your advantage.
SUGGESTION | Every year, take a weekend vacation where you discuss where your relationship is at, what you want for the next year, and your future hopes and dreams. Before you have kids, this is pretty easy to do. If the budget is tight, you can go camping and talk while walking trails in the woods. However, this becomes far more difficult when kids enter the picture for the obvious reasons; but once kids enter the picture, it’s absolutely CRUCIAL that you do this. It’s so easy for your role of parent to completely trample over your role as spouse. Even if you can’t do an entire weekend, at least find a night where someone can watch the kids, and you and your spouse can discuss where you’re at.
Mistake #5 – Don’t Communicate Love To Your Spouse Using Their Love Language
The idea of love languages comes from a book called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary D. Chapman. The premise of the book is that each of us express and receive love using one of the five love languages:
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch
While we may appreciate when someone communicates love to us using any of the love languages, each of us best feels loved when someone communicates love to us with our personal love language. Usually, we attempt to express love the same way we like to receive love, but not necessarily always. My wife seems to feel most loved when she receives words of affirmation, but she defaults most of the time to acts of service.
My love language is quality time.
My love language is words of affirmation. Or, at least, we’re pretty sure that it is 😉*edit* Since I was unsure, I took the quiz here, and it actually said my love language is acts of service
I feel loved just by sitting next to her watching a movie. It’s likewise really frustrating for me when I’m trying to share something with her and she doesn’t give it her full attention. On the flip side, I’m very bad at naturally being affirming with my words.
Here’s a regular criss-cross of love languages in our home: I come home from work wanting to relax with my wife and spend quality time with her. She, however wants to serve me by getting a bunch of stuff done. I become frustrated that she isn’t spending time with me, and I voice my frustration that she won’t join me. She then becomes frustrated that I used my words not to affirm her for her hard work, but criticize her for not spending time with me.
- I was trying to communicate love through quality time, but she didn’t feel loved because I did not use my words to affirm her.
- She was trying to communicate love through service, but I did not feel loved because she did not spend time with me.
- The end result is frustration (and possibly an argument), and all of this occurred because we weren’t expressing language the way the other person receives love.
Ugh, this one drives me crazy! It’s so incredibly difficult! It’s super tricky because both of you are naturally inclined to express love one way, and also interpret or receive love in a certain way. Altering this is, in my experience, an on-going process…as well as a sacrificial act. The example of a criss-cross of love languages in our household that Sean gave was extremely accurate. It’s a huge challenge for us to not assess how we feel the other is loving us, instead of first seeking to find what we can do to support and encourage by communicating love to them the way they receive it…I’m striving to learn to love my husband in the way he best receives love, regardless of his method of expression of love toward me.
SUGGESTION | Discover and discuss each of your love languages. Knowing how each of you show love and feel loved can be a major breakthrough for your relationship.
Those are our five big marriage mistakes! What are some mistakes which you’ve made?