Before Greg and Ann got married, they vowed not to become like married friends they knew who had abandoned all their single friends and spent every spare moment together. Returning from their honeymoon, they jumped back into their routines of work, exercise and social activities. Once a week, Ann joined her friends for dinner while Greg went to the movies or to shoot pool with the guys.

While their alone time and friend time felt protected, they often wondered why their together time seemed uncomfortable. Whenever issues like in-laws, finances or housework came up, they tended to explode into arguments and storm off – for time alone or with friends.

They suspected they should free more time to work on their marriage but didn’t want to offend their friends.

Greg and Ann’s dilemma is common among newlywed couples. How can new husbands and wives resolve the tension between their old and new lives?

First, it’s important to look at why the new marriage should be a priority. Jesus described a profound truth about married couples when He said, "They are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6).

This oneness doesn’t just happen. While the physical union of sex symbolizes oneness, the process of truly becoming one requires ongoing intentional effort.

Acting single

According to U.S. government statistics, the chance of divorce is highest during the third year of marriage. While some of the risk is due to unrealistic expectations, far too many new marriages flounder because young couples don’t work enough on leaving behind the habits of flying solo.

One reason for this new "married singles" mentality is that men and women are marrying later; on average, men are marrying for the first time around 27 and women around 25. That means many men and women have a lot of practice being single and have gotten pretty good at living independently. This is a change from a generation ago when people spent most of their lives in close quarters with family – whether their parents and siblings or their own spouse and children.

Another reason couples cling to their single lifestyle is that marriage is not the clear transition into adulthood it once was. There’s no longer the expectation that when two people marry, they take on all the obligations of adulthood. Couples can be tempted to treat their new spouse as more of a roommate than someone to whom they have new responsibilities.

Even after marriage, the mind-set of extended adolescence encourages men and women to continue prioritizing independence, personal disposable income and freedom in their use of time.

In addition, our entertainment-oriented culture interferes with a move toward oneness. Over the past century, the path to marriage has grown increasingly dominated by an entertainment-based dating system that makes the time couples spend together full of ticketed events: movies, concerts, sporting events and so on. It’s a season characterized primarily by fun.

After moving from that season into the routine life of marriage, couples often find it challenging to stop focusing on fun and begin the work of building a marriage.

The template for a Christian marriage is found in Ephesians 5 – a passage all about serving and sacrifice. For many couples, that’s a whole new twist on how they view and relate to one another. It’s no wonder that when things get tough, they’re tempted to fall back on old habits.

What’s missing for many newlywed couples is practical help on how to become one. A successful lifelong marriage begins with a fresh look at your circle of friends, your media diet and your commitment to time together.

Evaluate your circle of friends

One of the primary reasons God gives us friends is so we can encourage and build each other up. Men and women still need such friendships after they marry, but those friendships won’t, or shouldn’t, look like they did before you got married. Your expectations about time together and even conversational topics have to change.

Do your friends affirm your marriage? The need for friends who esteem marriage draws newlyweds to other married couples. While single friends can provide a listening ear and encouragement, other married couples – especially mature ones – can offer life experience and foresight.

Rethink your media diet

Popular entertainment often stirs up discontent among married couples by holding up singles as having the best sex, the best friends and the most fun. What you watch, listen to and read has a lot to do with what you end up believing.

What wisdom are you getting from TV, movies, magazines and websites? In order to nourish your marriage, pray for discernment about your entertainment choices and be willing to cut out ones that could fuel discontent.

Give priority to time together

In the Old Testament, the transition from single to married was so unlike any other life change and so foundational to the rest of married life that new grooms were told to take the year off! "If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married" (Deuteronomy 24:5).

What would it look like for you to dedicate time to bring oneness to your marriage? Take the ideas you come up with and put them on your calendar as important dates before the little things fill up your schedule.

The newlywed years are a tender but fleeting season. Don’t let the inertia of singleness undermine the challenging but rewarding process of becoming one.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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