One of the signs of a healthy couple is an openness and desire to continually learn more – more about themselves, more about each other and more about how to make their marriage everything God intended it to be. For newlyweds, however, most of their learning lies ahead of them. They can’t look back on years of experience, but hopefully they can seek the wisdom of godly couples who have been together longer than they have.

You may have a couple in your life who can mentor you, teach you and guide you along the road ahead. If you don’t – or even if you have already sought help from those who have been there – we wanted to help get you started.

While every couple is unique and you’ll learn what you and your spouse need to prioritize in order to thrive in your marriage, the following couples wanted to share with you some valuable wisdom that only comes with experience.

Those who shared with us were asked one simple question: What is something you wish you’d known when you first got married?

From communicating to prayer, personality differences to finances, we hope the following advice will give you and your new spouse a head start in your relationship.

“As much as it sounds like a cliché, it’s all about communication early on. I think it’s of vital importance to talk especially about expectations for your future life together. A lot of conflict comes from the fact that spouses are not ‘on the same page,’ even when it comes to really big issues like children. Do we want to have children? If so, how many? What would that look like, who stays at home with them, or do both spouses work? When would be the ‘ideal time’ to start a family? Where would we live? Would we try to buy an acreage in the country, or would we rather rent an apartment in the hustle and bustle of the city? What would dream vacations look like? Roughing it in the back country or five-star hotels at the Mayan Riviera. The more spouses communicate about these expectations, the fewer arguments they will likely have in the future.” – Terry* and his wife, Sharon*, have been married 18 years

“My advice to my newlywed self would be to pray with – and pray for – your husband regularly. This will help you stay united in times when things get hard. It’s hard to stay mad at your husband when you are praying for and praying with him. Also remember to go on regular dates with your husband. Over the years, we let life take over with kids, work, aging parents, etc., and rarely went on any dates. Recently we took our first holiday without the kids since they were born (they’re now 16 and 12!) and it was such a blessing to reconnect and focus on each other! I realized how I missed my husband, how much fun he was/is and how we need to make time for each other on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be as small as going for coffee together, or going for a walk together. Ultimately, a good marriage requires continuous work, effort, care and prayers.” – Sandra and her husband, Jingo, have been married for nearly 19 years

“I wish I had known more about communication between spouses when I got married. Communication seems like a basic skill that we have all developed by the time we get married but when you get married it’s important to step back and talk through how we communicate. The families we grow up in play a big part in how we communicate and respond to situations. Taking time to talk about how each of your families dealt with emotions, like joy, sorrow, anger, etc., will help give you insight into how your spouse will respond in these situations. It’s too easy to take for granted the way you’re used to responding and expect your spouse to respond the same way, which can quickly cause confusion and hurt if your spouse doesn’t respond the way you expect. Even something like a simple personality test can provide a springboard for this sort of discussion.” – Jon and his wife, Renée, have been married for nearly 8 years

“Your spouse is much more vulnerable to criticism than you think. And even when you think you’re being clear, your spouse will often hear a different message than the one you’re conveying. When you’re trying to tell them they’re being annoying, they may be hearing, ‘You’re incompetent,’ or some other negative message that they internalized as a child. What’s deceptive about criticism is that your spouse may absorb it without much reaction; only much later do you realize you’ve caused a lot of hurt. It’s also good to know that your spouse isn’t responsible to fix how you feel. Because they love you, they want to make you feel better about the bad day you just had, or whatever is bothering you, but ultimately you are responsible to deal with your negative feelings yourself, and to get your emotions under control. Always be the very best version of yourself that you can be whenever you are with your spouse.” – Judy* and her husband, Tom*, have been married 32 years

“Understanding how your spouse thinks about money can be really helpful. Coming from an affluent family, I tended to see money as a plentiful resource. I didn’t understand my spouse’s anxiety about finances until I realized her family background led her to see it as a limited resource. Instead of working on our finances on my own, we began working with a financial planner as a couple. That helped my wife see that, Lord willing, we had a reasonable savings plan in place for our future. Taking away that anxiety for her reduced a lot of tension in our marriage around finances.” – Geoff* and his wife, Carrie*, have been married for over 30 years

*Names changed to protect privacy

© 2024 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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