The difference is in the decisions that you make in those first five years.
A focused first year of marriage.
Our first year of marriage, we purposed to grow relationally in 3 dimensions: with God, with one another, and with whatever local church we were part of. The reason this was one of our best decisions is because it helped us stay narrow on the essentials that really mattered to us. The implications of this decision have had vast implications for the rest of our marriage, as well as for the rest of our lives. For example, because we instilled the value of cultivating a relationship with God in that first year of marriage, God has been gracious to allow us to build on that foundation. Secondly, because we purposed to grow relationally with one another, we adopted certain relational habits that have stuck with us to this day. And finally, because God led us to commit to growing relationally with those in the local church we were a part of, we have enjoyed the benefits of strong relationships regardless of geography or season of life.
Running together (literally).
One of the activities we regularly did together was running. If Christy wasn’t working the hospital on Saturday mornings, we would go on long runs together and then come back and have a leisurely breakfast. While we no longer have that luxury, those were great days of relating together while doing something we both enjoyed. Over the years, Christy and I have often found ourselves encouraging young couples to find activities they can do together. Whether it is for a sense of joint accomplishment, or just to enjoy one another’s company and conversation, it is worth finding what that thing would be for your marriage.
Choosing our first church.
When we were engaged, we shared what we desired for our early years of marriage. One of the main things Christy desired was to be in a large church, in a large young marrieds Sunday School class. The reason for this desire is that is what her parents had done, and they had maintained some of those friendships throughout the years. I was not opposed to this, but it wasn’t as much of a desire for me. As we prayed, I sensed that we were to be part of a small church plant in downtown Dallas. Christy wasn’t so thrilled at the time, as, at that time, there were not any other newly married couples. However….
Praying in community.
We started our married life together in Dallas, Texas. I had a couple of college roommates living in the suburbs, and Christy the same, but other than that - we were literally starting from scratch relationally. We had heard a prayer for a friend of ours that we politely stole and made our own. The prayer was this; 'surround us with wonderful comrades who fear Your Name’. When we didn’t have community, we prayed this. And God went above and beyond what we were believing Him to do. This was one of the best decisions we made early on not only because it established us in community, but also in being able to trust God for relationships. Regardless of where you are, we would invite you to pray the same and watch God provide for you relationally.
Asking Questions vs. Living by Assumptions.
Living in Dallas in roughly our third or fourth year of marriage, I received a job offer in Waco. We had both assumed that we would start our marriage in Dallas, but then eventually move back to Waco as we began to have children. I had even given a verbal acceptance of the job, and was just waiting for them to send me the contract. During that time, I received a different job offer in Dallas, even though I had told the other employer that I was not interested and had already accepted a different job. The new offer was not financially attractive enough to change our decision. However, it did get us re-considering our initial assumption to move.
Why were we moving? Had we really prayed about this decision - or just assumed it was what we would do? What were the implications for our lives? I remember Christy saying what I had said many times in my life: ‘I wish God would just give us a sign in the sky’. What she was meaning was - I wish this would just be clear. I responded that I did not wish for said sign, because I wanted us to learn to make decisions like Scripture teaches. And as we began praying about these questions, to our surprise, we felt God’s leadership to remain in Dallas. That decision has had far-reaching implications for our lives, as the trajectory of our lives has certainly changed, and we believe, for the better.