What were the main challenges you experienced in your first year living together?
Wife: In our first year of living together, small things would cause a lot of frustration. I would get irritated at something silly, like the way he brushes his teeth. But the main frustration stemmed more from knowing that it was petty and silly of me. This would get in the way of our relationship, without him knowing what it is that was bothering me. I learned to be more honest and real in communicating these kinds of things, but also to own up to them. After all, it was still my problem that I get annoyed at it! I took a lot of his patience to sort out my own feelings.
Another challenge was that I would expect him to already know what I need or want, without actually communicating this to him! Although it sounds so obvious, often these (unmet) expectations would lead to disappointment and conflict. It was also frustrating for my husband, because he was really doing his best for me, but was left in the dark as to how he could make me happy. I learned to be real with my expectations and to adjust my unrealistic expectations (picked up somewhere from romantic movies for example).
Husband: A major challenge for me was that we started off with different feelings and expectations for another. The love or affection for another didn’t match that of the other from the start and consequently each other’s expectations were not quite met, resulting in the need of communicating those and learning about how to address them.
When we moved in together, each other’s individual habits become exposed to another and sometimes caused conflict and hurt feelings. In order to deal with these situations it has been important to mature to a state of self-reflection and accept to change. The right way of communicating. I had to learn that addressing things too direct could harm each other’s feelings and that I need to choose my words more carefully.
What were the key decisions and efforts you made to overcome these challenges?
Wife: We decided to make sure not to let any negative feelings or resentment linger. We did this by resolving any conflict or hurt feelings before going to sleep. This meant that sometimes we stayed up really late, to first calm down and then talk about it. It became more important to me to be understood and to understand him rather than who was wrong or right. We also made sure we spent enough time together regularly by having a weekly date night for example. Personally, I decided to also dedicate enough time to my own spiritual growth and maturity as well, taking time in nature to pray and helping out at uplifting events.
Husband: We had a few rules that helped us to not get into greater conflict. One, to not let an argument stay unresolved. If we had a conflict we would try to solve it before going to sleep, so that it would be resolved within the same day. Second, to communicate well, my wife was especially good about this. Often in relationships there are more things that are expected by the woman that a man is not aware of. She would tell me here and there how she was feeling and what she was expecting in that moment for me to do, rather than her get worked up and I remain clueless about what happened. Another, less defined rule but what we do, is to share and listen to each other about our days, either over dinner or when going to sleep. Our biological clock is not in sync, but we make effort to go to sleep at the same time and share a bit more before we fall asleep.
How did you find solutions together when you disagreed as a couple?
Wife: It helped to understand each other’s way of dealing with conflict, disappointment or feeling hurt. I would want to confront and shout and get it all out (and then be all okay again), he would rather avoid it, calm down and talk about it later. Being aware of how we deal with things differently, and respecting that, definitely helped to not let a conflict get overblown.
Another approach which helped me is to separate what happened objectively (You were late) and what effect it had subjectively (which made me feel like you didn’t care) to be able to understand each other better. The objective reality is indisputable, but the subjective consequences are what cause the hurt feelings which are often totally unintentional! Sometimes it was tempting to just let things be and not make the effort to work things out, but then you end up drifting apart. So, lastly, we focused on ‘us’, what solutions would result in us as a couple being stronger and more loving together was the desired outcome.
Husband: Fortunately, the times of serious disagreements between us have been seldom and that we commonly find a solution or viewpoint we both can agree upon. Disagreements are often a product of differences in personality, caused by cultural background or gender related. It helps not to see each other’s viewpoints as opposing, but rather another perspective to engage with. A lot of times these occasions help us understand each better and focus on what’s most important. In the beginning of our relationship the outcome felt more of a win or defeat. Now we have progressed to where agreements are found much easier as than before. With any outcome I like to remind myself that love for each other in our relationship is put first.
What did you do to build a relationship with your spouse’s family?
Wife: Like any healthy relationship, it needs time and attention. I made sure to get to know each of his close family personally by spending time just one on one. Giving time and attention to his family members has been quite a joyful experience for me. It was not always easy, as the family habits and cultural differences would come up. I sometimes would struggle with the limitations of his parents and especially since it seems like they would never be able to grow or change. I realized, however, they are making small steps and I need to stay humble and not judge them, but rather support them in these small steps. Any big journey starts with a single step.
Husband: We decided together that we wanted to live in each other’s home country for a period of time, as part of letting go of habits we were accustomed to and to understand our spouse’s background better. During this period of time I had the chance to live with my wife at my parents in law. They were very accommodating and nice to live with, which I understand is not always the case for every family. Personally I value that experience and felt I integrated well into the family throughout that time. Through doing acts of service in which I could contribute to the family, I felt their appreciation for having me around.
What does building a God-centered marriage mean to you? What do you do, practically, to bring God into your marriage?
Wife: Essentially, to me it means to have an environment, a culture in our couple and family, where God can feel welcome. It entails having a certain standard and considering God especially in bigger life decisions. It also means being sincere with each other and also to seek out the god within me, and the god within my husband and supporting each other in growing that godliness within ourselves – being kind, being loving, being unselfish, but also being hopeful, being honest. Partially it is setting time aside for each of us individually to connect to God and we try to serve our community as a couple as well. But practically…We are still exploring how to center our marriage on God. It has been difficult to build habits like HDH and prayer as a couple together.
Husband: This is what I find challenging. We both are quite committed and like to put God first. Over the past years, our spare time has been dedicated to helping with workshops, programs, church community and checking on other blessed family members. We have always been on the same page about allocating time to what we see as our mission and if we are asked to help, we contribute as we can.
Another aspect concerns HDH and prayer, which have been a little bit more difficult for us to do together. I often read HDH by myself, as I like it as part of starting the day, where as she is used to reading when ending the day. Sometimes we come together and read a little in the evening. It feels like we’re just doing what we’re used to from how we grew up and we still need to find a better way we can incorporate it especially as a habit to continue with our children.
How did you decide which spiritual traditions you wanted to follow together as a couple?
Wife: For me the spiritual traditions that matter most are upholding the value of the Blessing and of the lineage, upholding the potential and vision of true manhood and true womanhood, of giving first, putting God first, of building loving relationships, of upholding mankind as one family under God. I personally focus more on the why behind the things we do (and am more flexible in the how or what of the things we do). When speaking of traditions like Pledge or Holy Days, we haven’t really consistently done much to be honest. It is something that we want to make part of our lives by the time the kids are there, as they will need some more structure in this.
Husband: I find this a hard one. We are not deciding on which to do/not to do, since we generally want to live up to all our church traditions as best we can, but simply manage to live up to what is being suggested partially. It is an ongoing conversation on how we approach them. One aspect that we have been talking about is tithing. We agreed that tithing is important for us to do but that we also wanted to choose ourselves how to invest. This concerned tithing of time just the same.
We make time to attend church service and partake in mission work whenever the option arises. As we are not always able to make time together, but because we see the purpose in this, we are okay with one of us being away for longer periods for supporting other 2nd Gen for example. For the rest we are still in progress of improving our spiritual habits and will certainly have to figure that out for the time when children come.
Any other advice you would give to newly Blessed couples?
Wife: Be honest and patient, first with yourself and then with your spouse. Own up to your limitations and be grateful when your spouse triggers those to come to the surface! It allows you to deal with them together and grow from it. Be therefore also kind and forgiving towards yourself and to your spouse. Give trust. Especially for the ladies, overcome your shyness in giving feedback for in between the sheets. He cannot imagine what you feel or like, as his body is different, and will not know how to make you feel loved unless you tell him, and he will be grateful for it!
And both of you, keep hope. Build a beautiful picture together of where you want to be in the future and work for it! When you get stuck, seek advice from mature people you trust. And lastly, enjoy wholeheartedly.
Husband: Personally, I would say three things. One, (this is for the man) your wife may be hoping for a proposal. I knew mine was through several hinted moments until one day it worked out. The Blessing and wedding ceremony for us had both a different status. While the first was more the promise of commitment towards God, the wedding has been a celebration of our love for another.
Two, celebrate your love through a civil marriage. Though it didn’t change anything in our relationship, it was for us a moment to give back to all the people in our lives that mattered to us. We held it 5 years after our blessing, but for the guests, our family and friends, it became a much appreciated event.
Lastly, seek help. May that be from friends, elders or other couples. May that be through workshops or other marriage advice sources, there are plenty. Don’t isolate yourself as a couple. Every couple has their individual circumstances, and problems are to be expected. Focus on finding solutions rather than preventing disagreements. Being able to communicate your feelings and thoughts is vital for your spouse to understand you – this especially helped us come closer as couple. Don’t pressure each other, whatever the situation. What your partner does should be voluntary, that’s how we make our spouse’s happiness a reality. Be kind.