In at least one aspect, marriage is like football. In a close game, the winning team is usually the one that made the most significant adjustments in strategy along the way. That’s what effective coaches do at half-time —give the players the key adjustments that will gain them the advantage in the final quarters. A winning marriage requires the same mind-set. A husband and wife need to recognize that surprises requiring proactive early marriage adjustments await them in their relationship.
Early Marriage Adjustments
Barbara and I were no exception. Perhaps the biggest adjustment we faced early in marriage resulted from our differing backgrounds. Barbara grew up in a nice suburban setting near Chicago and later in a suburb of Houston. I grew up in Ozark, Missouri, a tiny town in the sticks. Barbara came into our marriage a refined young lady. I was a genuine hillbilly.
Some issues, triggering the need for adjustments in marriage, are major: like being raised in a dual or single-parent family. It could involve being an only child or growing up with several siblings. Or perhaps it’s coming from an economically —challenged family. Or you could come from a family that had it all, or you grew up with parents who didn’t embrace religious faith. The list goes on and on: opposite personalities, differing cultural backgrounds.
Minimally, a couple will have to adjust to differing traditions, and values. There are adjustments to habits, and rules learned in unique backgrounds. As time passes, other adjustments to sexual performance, financial pressures, and job demands may be required. And let’s not forget a big adjustment in a small package— spelled B-A-B-Y! That’s right: the first child.
Minor Differences in Early Marriage Adjustments
Often it’s the minor differences that cause the most frustration and requires the most creative flexibility. Someone has said, “We’re worn down less by the mountain we climb than by the grain of sand in our shoe.” One of those tiny grains of sand can be the toilet seat. The husband may come from a family of all boys where the toilet seat’s default position was up. If this guy marries a girl from a family of all girls, where the seat remained in the horizontal dimensions, you know the potential for conflict and the need for adjustment.
In our home, for years a grain of sand was the way I “helped” Barbara. I put my socks in the clothes hamper wrong side out so that “the dirty side got washed.” She’s finally trained me to do it the “right” way.
Every married individual must adjust to qualities in a spouse that weren’t noticed or were ignored, during the dreamy days of dating. How many people have encountered a painful frustration in marriage? How many have asked have themselves, “Did I marry the wrong person?”
If that question arises, you need to confront it immediately. If you don’t resolve whatever doubts you have promptly, they’ll hang indefinitely like a distant storm cloud on the horizon of your relationship.
Biblical Admonition to Leave and Cleave
Anyone struggling with this question should go back to biblical admonition in Genesis 2:24-25, where spouses are commanded to leave, cleave, become one flesh, and be completely transparent with each other. If you’re bothered by such doubts, face them by getting away alone for a weekend to seek out the Lord and pray for His peace on this matter.
Let me assure you that you’re married to the right person. How do I know this? It’s because God hates divorce and wants your marriage to last. You may have gone against some biblical admonitions in getting to where you are in your marriage. But the Scripture is clear: You’re not to undo a “mistake” and, in the process, make a 2nd mistake.
The solution to handling issues of adjustment lies in regarding your relationship is more important than your individual values and desires. If you hold on tightly to what you want, you’ll never get to the point where you understand that the well being of the overall relationship is what ultimately matters.
Here are some points to remember as you make early marriage adjustments in your relationship:
1. Recognize that adjustments are inevitable.
Every married couple has to deal with the grains of sand in their shoes. It’s 100% normal. If you realize up front that you’ll have to make changes in your behavior and learn to tolerate frustrating traits in your spouse, your attitude will be more in line with what James wrote: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.“ (James 1:2) He said to consider it all joy when you encounter trials —not if you encounter them.
2. Understand that adjustments have a divine purpose.
God uses these issues to combine two unique people into something new called “us.” I also believe that God uses early marriage adjustments to teach us how to love another dramatically different, imperfect human being. At prime moments, God will use your marriage to show you how to love the unlovely.
3. Ask God for wisdom on how to live with this person who’s different from you.
Instead of trying to change your spouse and correct all of the bad habits, how can you accept the situation or adjust yourself? Barbara realized this early in our marriage. She recalls, “I had to realize that God had to change Dennis. I couldn’t.” Marriage may be an institution, but it isn’t a reformatory.
4. Be more concerned about your own rough spots than those of your spouse.
Jesus said we should take the log out of our own eye before trying to take the speck out of someone else’s eye. That’s’ truly advice made in heaven for marriage. If I’m not willing to make changes, how can I expect Barbara to change?
5. Make a commitment to work through inevitable adjustments.
The apostle Paul provided guidelines for handling adjustment rhubarbs when they come your way: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.“ (Philippians 2:3) That’s a description of a grace-based marriage. It’s giving your partner room to be different and flexing on his or her behalf.
Sometimes at our Family Life Marriage Conferences, the speaker asks couples to face each other. They are to say aloud, “You’re not my enemy.” Later in the conference husbands and wives go a step farther. They say to each other, “You are my friend.”
Early Marriage Adjustments
Do you consider your wife or husband a friend? If not, is it possible that the two of you haven’t adjusted to each other’s differences? Are you letting the “nit-picky” issues in life rub away the good feelings in your relationship?
Making adjustments is usually not easy. But the rewards are worth the effort. What changes could you make today that will communicate clearly that your spouse is a dear friend, not an enemy?
This article is adapted from the book: Starting Your Marriage Right: What You Need to Know in the Early Years to Make It Last a Lifetime. This book is written by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, and is published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. It offers what you need to know and do in the early years to make your marriage last a lifetime. It discusses concrete ways to put important principles such as communicating more effectively. Other early marriage adjustment issues are: forgiving each other, and discovering how to meet each others needs. Plus, there is help in handling in-laws, sex, money, and time pressures.
— ALSO —
The following are a great article, with links to additional ones that can help you as you make those early marriage adjustments:
Lastly, you can find other supportive articles to help you in this stage of your marriage by going to:
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