The first year of marriage only happens once. So when we got married, we figured it would be good for us to intentionally invest in it to set a good foundation for our future together; to make the first year count. Since we viewed our relationship with each other as the base for our future family, we wanted to pour into it as much as we could right at the start so what when the storms came (as they inevitably would), we would have something to fall back on. Now that we have a baby, we are very glad we did this.
Here are 8 things you won’t regret doing before your first anniversary:
1. WORK ON YOUR SEX LIFE
Yep, I’m starting with an attention-getter. Unlike what the movies would have you think, having great sex doesn’t come naturally. Take time to find out what the other person’s preferences are, talk about it, read books on it. See what works and doesn’t work for the both of you. Talk through any sexual history that may hinder your intimacy as husband and wife. Physical intimacy is a reflection of the other aspects of intimacy that make up a strong marriage, so it’s essential to develop this part of your relationship. An excellent resource is Sheet Music by Kevin Leman.
2. PRACTICE FIGHTING FAIRLY
In your first year of marriage, you are bound to come across differences of opinions, as well as instances of miscommunication. Use this time to practice your skills of conflict resolution. The scarier this prospect is, the more important it is for you to work on it. Establishing the groundwork of how to fight fairly will be extremely valuable in future years. Keeping the air clear also builds trust between the both of you.
3. TRAVEL AND HAVE FUN
Enjoy the honeymoon period! Even though marriage is a major transition in life and brings many adjustments with it, there is something special about finally starting a life together with your best friend. Take advantage of not having children yet, go explore places and try new activities together. Make memories that you can look back on and smile at. Laugh together every day.
4. DEVELOP FRIENDSHIPS WITH OTHER COUPLES
Great marriages don’t happen in a vacuum. Connect with other couples who have the kind of relationship you want to have. Learn from them. Observe them. Ask them questions. Connect yourselves also with couples who are in a similar stage as you. It’s good to have company on the journey.
5. ESTABLISH THE HABIT OF PRAYING TOGETHER
Someone once told us “The couple that prays together, stays together.” And statistics support this. When we first got married, we wanted to set for ourselves a pattern of checking in with God each night before we went to sleep. It took a bit of work at the beginning to remember to do this. But over time, it has become one of our favourite times of being together in the day. When we connect with God, we naturally also connect with each other. Our prayers reflect what’s going on in our lives. Sometimes they are longer, sometimes they are a short, “Thank you for loving us, God.” But this practice reminds us that God is the source and strength of our relationship.
6. MAKE TIME FOR IMPORTANT CONVERSATIONS
As with everything new, there is a learning curve that comes along with getting married. Be intentional about giving yourselves the space and time to have those important conversations. For us, part of making sure we could do this meant that I worked only part-time. We also decided to pull back from some other commitments at church so that we could focus on our marriage for that year. Additionally, we took a mini-getaway every three months to evaluate where we were at and dream about how we wanted to keep growing in our marriage.
7. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR IN-LAWS
The in-law relationship frequently has a bad reputation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are able to, spend time with your in-laws. Get to know them and invest in your relationship with them. It may feel awkward at first, but you are now family. These are the people who have loved your spouse for his/her whole life. They are also the people who will be your children’s grandparents. Getting to know them now not only paves the way for a better future together, it also gives you a different perspective to know your spouse better.
8. DEPOSIT AS MUCH AS YOU CAN INTO YOUR RELATIONSHIP BANK
The marriage relationship is like a bank. You can make deposits. And you can make withdrawals. In the good times, make as many deposits as you can so that when the hard times come, you can make withdrawals without risking bankruptcy. Ways of doing this include going on weekly dates, regularly expressing appreciation to each other, attending a marriage conference, creating positive memories together and laughing whenever you can.
A great marriage is one of the most worthwhile relationships to invest in. And the first year is a key opportunity to build a solid foundation for all the years to come. Don’t let it slip by without making the most of it.
[This post originally appeared on Converge Magazine.]