This article is addressed to men. It concerns the first year of marriage. The first year of marriage is the most important in establishing important habits.
The First Year of Marriage
Some men act as though their work is done the moment their bride says “I do.” It’s almost as though, on their wedding day, they take their to-do list and put a check mark next to “find a wife.” Then after the honeymoon, it’s back to work. It’s back to that to-do list—with many more battles to win and more check marks to make.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this phenomenon in men is that, at the same moment they’re feeling a sense of finality about their wedding day accomplishment, their brides are seeing it as just a beginning.
Choosing Not to Choose
Here’s an important single foundational assumption. Your marriage and your life are going to be a hundred times more satisfying, more resilient, and more prosperous if you intentionally develop the right habits in the first year. That is when the investment is fairly “inexpensive.”
If you undervalue this first year and develop bad habits, a solid marriage will be much more expensive to recover later on—or these habits may eventually destroy your marriage.
Time-Tested Principles for the First Year of Marriage
As you and I explore this first-year investment strategy, I want to unveil a treasure that is thousands of years old. Listen to this amazing piece of advice, tucked in the Old Testament between instructions on divorce and directions for the proper use of millstones when making a loan agreement (no kidding):
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)
Although the prospects of such a thing may sound hilarious or outrageous to you, there are some interesting investment principles buried here that you’ll want to take seriously.
The Challenge Principle —”For one year”
Most guys love a contest. We gravitate toward the competitive. Well, here’s a huge challenge: If you want to have a great marriage, don’t do anything for a whole year except learn to love your wife.
I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking, “C’mon, be reasonable. I’ve got work to do. If I were to take a whole year off, I’d be fired from my job—and that wouldn’t be good for either of us.”
Don’t worry. I’m not advocating unemployment. I’m just advocating intentionality. Your job in your first year of marriage is to become an expert on one woman—your wife. You are to learn, better than anyone else in the world, how to “bring her happiness.” And the Old Testament advice is to take one year, ONE WHOLE YEAR. A weekend seminar or a great book about marriage will not be enough. It’s not even the standard five session premarital counseling commitment. There’s no other way to say it: It’s a big investment!
The ADD Principle—”not to be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him”
Like folks who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), our problem often is our lack of focus. We’re distracted by things our wives don’t see. These are things they may not even care about.
Because you’ve checked “get married” off your list, you may be tempted to pay more attention to other unfinished things. These are things like going on to graduate school, landing a good job, or staying in shape physically. But now that you’re married, your most important assignment is working on building this relationship with your wife.
The Reciprocity Principle—”bring happiness to the wife he has married”
Chalk it off to our humanness. But most of us have this backwards. We’re eager for our wives to find ways to make us happy.
My friend Gary Smalley tells the story of a newlywed couple who moved into the house across the street from Hank and Edna. Edna noticed when the young groom came home from work each day. But instead of pulling into the garage, he parked his car in the driveway and walked down the sidewalk to the front door.
She also noticed that he always had something in his hand. It was a wrapped gift, a bunch of flowers, or some other special item. He’d ring the doorbell, and his wife would answer the door. Then he’d present the gift, and they’d embrace.
Edna couldn’t help herself. One evening after dinner she told Hank all about the couple. She told him what the young husband did each day. “Why don’t you start doing that, Hank?” she wined.
“Well,” Hank stammered, “I guess I could.” He took a deep breath, “I could do that. But I don’t even know that lady.”
Regardless, Edna had it right. It was Hank’s job to remember what it was like when he was romancing her.
Early in our marriage my wife, Bobbie, said it to me this way: “I just want to know that, even though you’re busy, once in a while you stop and think about me.”
Make Her Happiness Your Priority
Okay, you might be thinking, but what should my wife do for me? That’s a fair question. But the answer is sobering. This Old Testament admonition says absolutely nothing about your wife’s job. She’s given no direction at all. But this is where the reciprocity part comes in. When you make her happiness your priority, your wife finds herself compelled to make you happy.
Doing everything you can do during this first year to make your wife happy is not just an unselfish act of martyrdom. Having a contented wife will make an immense difference in your own happiness.
The book of Proverbs affirms this idea with a touch of humor. In fact, the following exact words appear twice in Proverbs. “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.“
Pay Attention to Your Wife Especially in Your First Year of Marriage
Though it’s not always the case, unhappy, nagging, contentious, quarrelsome wives are often married to overly busy, non-responsive, preoccupied, self-absorbed husbands. And, by trial and error, these wives have learned that the only way to get their husbands’ attention is to do something annoying.
Your challenge is to choose to pay attention to your wife during this first year. It is to be more than you do to your neighbor’s new car or to the NCAA Final Four on television. And when you make this investment during the first year, your marriage will be far more satisfying for the rest of your life. It will be worth millions.
Decide to make the next twelve months the most important year of your life.
This article came from the wonderful book, Most Important Year in a Woman’s Life, The/The Most Important Year in a Man’s Life. It is written by Robert Wolgemuth, Bobbie Wolgemuth, Mark DeVries, and Susan DeVries. And it is published by Zondervan. It’s the winner of the Silver Medallion Book Award. The Wolgemuth’s and the DeVries offer here a two-in-one, flip-over-format volume aimed at newlywed Christian couples. One half is written for him and one half is written for her. It’s an excellent book that we highly recommend.
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Filed under: Newlyweds & Beyond
17 responses to “MEN: The First Year Of Marriage Is The Most Important!”
(SOUTH AFRICA) Thandi, congratulations that you were able to see this article before getting married. I wish I did. R u now married? How did it go?
(USA) This is great!! I will be sure to print and give copy to my fiance.
(RSA) This is great, I wish I could have seen this before. I’ve been married for 1 year exactly, and am going to send this to all my friends who are getting married soon.
(GHANA) Got married about four weeks ago. I do wish I saw this earlier, though it is still good that I have seen it now. I just forwarded it to my husband. We want to ensure our marriage is full of love, happiness and fun. God bless! Naa
(CANADA) I’m so glad I read this. I’ve heard the first 45 days are the most important days but I’ll definitely keep it up for one year. Although I keep thinking about myself most of the time and what she should do to make me happy and make me feel loved, I must put her before work and other things.
(USA) Working on my third month of marriage and am grateful for the information. Funny how some things reoccur over and over. I believe God puts things in front of me untii see with my eyes and hear woth my ears. Thank you.
(UNITED STATES) (Sigh) Why is everything I find about this subject either from the woman’s point of view, and/or is of a religious nature? Do they think that only church-going Christians care about their relationships?
(CANADA) Hi George. The reason these things are from a woman’s point of view is because women’s needs are more complicated. The reason this article is from a Christian perspective is that this is a Christian website. However, that said, I would add that this board has the most open and frank admonitions I have ever read anywhere, and for that alone, I value it highly. Honest self reflection is so rare these days, wouldn’t you agree?
(USA) It is God who made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve… Sorry. If you like to know the side that man needs most from a woman: read Ephesians 5:20-33. There you see for the benefit of the two, not just the woman. There is a book called Love and Respect that came out of these passages. Hope it’s helpful to you.
(SOUTH AFRICA) This is a very interesting article and I just e-mailed the link to my husband. We are on our third month marriage. Thank so much to the authors for such a resourceful website. I will send this URL to all my married friends. I’m sure in twenty years we will be coming back with testimonies inspired by this website.
Thanks so much and may the good Lord continue to bless you with more wisdom.
(UNITED KINGDOM) This is a very good work done. Thank you for this eye opening. Please send me information about any interesting topics you may have. Thanks.
(GH) This article will be very helpful to my marriage. I hope that my husband of two months will come across it since I recently gave him this website.
(UNITED STATES) I am close to my 8 th month of marriage. I wish my husband would have seen this before we got married. It has been a very hard road. Before we got married, he was very independent. I felt like I had to beg him to include me in his daily life. It felt as if time spent with me was a favor to me. In spite of that, and because he always said things would be different before we got married, I continued moving forward with him.
Here we are 8 months later and I still experience the same feelings of loneliness and frustration. As of late, I have stopped complaining about the time we do not spend together. In fact, I’ve pretty much stopped talking about anything altogether. I don’t want to get a divorce only because of the vow I made to God. Not him. But right now, I’m feeling completely hopeless. At any rate, this is a beautiful article and I’m so happy for all of those who found it in time to save marriages and keep them strong.
Kimberly, I’m so sorry to read of your marriage and how it has been lonely and frustrating for you. I remember those times and can relate to the hopelessness a spouse can feel that anything could ever change. And I know how 8 months can seem like forever… sometimes one week can seem like forever. But remember, that in your vows you promised a lifetime to being married to this man. Eight months in relationship to a lifetime is only a drop in a bucket. You also promised to love “for better or for worse.” You made this vow to your husband AND to God. For you to already entertain the “D” word (unfortunately, I’ve been there and done that) is (and I’m sorry to say this) more than premature.
I’m glad you don’t want to get a divorce because of the vow you made to God. But to phrase it that it is ONLY your vow to God that keeps you in your marriage, “not him” referring to your husband, is dangerous. Yes, I know you’re thinking this because of the rejection you feel and the frustration and what seems like hopelessness, but it also can act like drilling a small hole within a dam. It can open the floodgates for more to follow. Believe me Kimberly, it’s not that I’m blaming you (or blaming anyone), but you’re the one who wrote so I’m addressing you.
I’m sad for you that you didn’t recognize that the promises of “things would be different” after marriage, should not have been something for you to build your hope and your life upon –one in which you would make covenantal vows, without seeing more of a commitment coming from him. But you did, and so the next step is, what can you do about it? If you truly want things to change, please don’t keep going down the path you are. Things do need to change, but I’m thinking you will need to be the one to prompt the change. You may think, “But I’ve already tried and I’ve expressed myself over and over again to him and there isn’t any foreseeable change.” And yep! Again, I’ve been there and did that for a long time after we were first married. We almost ended up in the divorce court, as a result. I kept “trying” and crying, the same way over and over again and for some reason, I expected that things would change for the better. Insane, I was! I know that now.
What brought about true change for the better (though, at first it was very small ones here and there…a bit discouraging, but I hung in there) was when I came to Christ and HE impressed upon me that what I was doing might have worked for some marriages, but it wouldn’t work for mine. I needed to become a student of my husband and a student of marriage and I needed to become less “needy” and more independent on working on my issues and on the things that I could learn with the Holy Spirit as my “Wonderful Counselor.” He also impressed upon me that I made a commitment for life –one that meant I needed to approach it maturely… in the areas I wanted to whine and throw tantrums, I needed to grow up and apply myself to maturity and perseverance. I wasn’t to go about it as the world does the “fairy tale — quick fix or I’m out of here way,” but rather to do this God’s way, as His colleague in TRULY loving my husband.
I learned through this journey that I was the one who brings the heart into our marriage. Steve was very self-centered (and so was I in a different way, in my neediness and such) and if I didn’t look for and find ways to draw him back into the marriage, he would be happy just doing his own thing and coming to me here and there when he saw fit (which wasn’t often).
I’m really not sure what Steve thought marriage was about or why he married me, other than to have sex (which became problematic for reasons I won’t go into here), but it sure wasn’t why I married him. I’m not going to say that my reasons for marrying Steve were anymore noble (because we can always put a different spin on our own reasonings), but they sure weren’t God’s reasonings. It truly was God who turned our marriage around. He impressed upon me to be the first one to do the studying and applying what I was learning. I eventually saw that my “mission” –the one God gave me, was to learn what I needed to learn about being a good marriage partner and also to bring God’s heart into our marriage, to little-by little join God in turning my husband’s heart back home –towards loving as God does. On his own, my husband just wouldn’t get it. But as his partner, as God’s colleague, together we would bring the potential out of Steve –that which was buried deep within, but needed help getting it out. I can see now that Steve would have done fine as a single guy, but he wouldn’t be the wonderful man of God he is now, without a partner (me –the one God chose, but I had a lot of work to do on myself first and THEN I could partner with God in this mission –to God be the glory).
I could go on and on, but instead, I encourage you to pray and ask God to guide you. Prayerfully read through this web site. Become a student of marriage and your husband. A good article to read first is, in the “Grow Your Marriage” topic, and is titled, “Getting a Masters Degree in Marriage.” Read and glean the information you can, from there, as God leads you. You may need to go to a marriage-friendly counselor (you can read about that in the Marriage Counseling topic), for some guidance and/or obtain some of the resources we recommend and visit other recommended web sites. But PLEASE apply yourself to learning. Please don’t give up –it’s WAY too early for that. And don’t say, “I’m happy” for others, but that happiness isn’t obtainable for me. I didn’t think it would be for me either and look at what happened. My husband and I have been married for over 41 years and passionately love each other. It gets better every year. I hope that for you. I hope you will fall into the arms of your Bridegroom, Christ Jesus, and ask for His help in loving Him, even more, and showing you how to love your husband as God loves him –sometimes with tough love, and sometimes tender love, even when he doesn’t deserve it (just like you and me don’t deserve it sometimes). I pray the best for you.
(UNITED STATES) Wow. I am speechless. I am so touched that you took the time to respond and to share some of your own story. It sounds so familiar and it’s at least comforting to know that my road has been traveled before. Right now, my heart is not changed. But I know that prayer is never in vain. So I will definitely take your advice to at least pray- which in hopelessness I admit I have slacked on. Thank you so, so much for caring. You have no idea how much that response means to me.
I laughed a couple of times reading this, but by the time I got finished, I almost felt tears of joy come from me. I am within my first year of marriage, and while it is fulfilling, it is definitely a huge challenge. I feel that this article truly may have saved my marriage! The point of devoting one year toward LOVING YOUR WIFE is so crucial.
As men, it is natural for us to find fulfillment in devoting our time towards satisfying our ambitions. In fact, we see this as what we SHOULD be doing; training for a 5k, earning that degree, writing a novel, aiming to catch the trophy wide-mouth bass… things like that.
In our first year of marriage, we must solidify our commitment to our WIVES, so we don’t feel that satisfying her needs is a hindrance toward our own fulfillment. Often, piecing together what it will take to be successful in worldly ventures involves many long hours of tedious tasks. These are often the things that our wives are not able to share our enthusiasm in, and how rifts in a marriage can occur early on. Pursuit of whatever brings you worldly fulfillment isn’t worth finding fulfillment with God through your wife.
May the Good Lord bless the author of this article, and if you are reading this, may He bless you and your marriage as well!
It thrills us, James, to see that you “get it” as far as the importance of using the first years of marriage to build a great marital foundation so you grow in your love and intimacy. All the things you referred to that you would like to do are good things. But we just have to make sure we do them in the right timing and with each other’s blessings. Now is the optimum time to work through your priorities as to when to do what so you AND your wife both feel satisfied in your marriage. It’s a continual growth process. And it starts after you say, “I do” in your marriage ceremony.
To help you further, below are 3 quotes that we have posted (along with many others) at https://marriagemissions.com/about-us-2/quotes-on-newlyweds/ concerning the first years of marriage. We think they are so insightful (along with articles we have posted on the web site) to help couples learn how to build their marriages to be good ones for both spouses. How we wish we would have had this info when we first got married (even several years in)! This would have prevented so many arguments, and hurt feelings. We had no idea all that it takes to make a marriage a good one, which we now have, but it took a lot of painful years to get here. How we want to help others avoid so much of that dysfunction and angst! Thankfully, you are starting off on a good footing. Marriage can get hard sometimes, but it can also be so very, very good when we put the work into it and learn what we need to apply. Pray, read, and learn:
• “The public is so ill-prepared for and ill-informed about marriage. They don’t realize that the first 2 years of marriage is the time when a new civilization is hammered out. We mislead couples by calling it the ‘honeymoon’ phase. We send them off without the basic understanding of what to expect. Plus, we don’t give them the skills they’ll need to lay the foundation for a life-long marriage. It’s cruel and barbaric. Just getting the basics out to the public is the first step. Explaining what the research has found about WHY the first 2 years have the highest failure rate is the next step. And, teaching and equipping couples what to do about it is key. The first 3 years also has the highest infidelity rate. Very few people realize that. So much needs to be done in marriage education.” (Diane Sollee)
• “A cultural myth says that the first two years of marriage will involve romantic love, passionate sex and will be problem free. They have nothing to worry about. Like much of common-sense advice, it is simplistic and wrong. In reality, the first two years of marriage are crucial in building a solid marital bond of respect, trust and intimacy. An important part of the bond is developing a couple’s sexual style. This is so that sexuality can be a shared pleasure that deepens and reinforces intimacy. Plus, it’s a tension reducer to deal with the stresses of married life. When sex goes well it serves a huge role in enhancing marital vitality and satisfaction.” (Barry McCarthy PhD)
• “Marriage is more than sharing a life together. It’s building a life together. What you do now is for both. And what is said now is for both. What your purpose is now is for the kingdom and giving glory to the image of God.” (Norm Wright)
As you look to build your life together with your wife to “live a life of love” as God tells us to do in the Bible: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Romans 15:5-6) May God bless your marriage!