There is a verse in Deuteronomy 24:5 which says "When a man takes a wife, he shall not go out with the army, nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken." This would not only be great for the military to follow, but I got to thinking of how profitable it might be for newlyweds in general.
I recently read that a high percentage of divorces occur in the twenties age group. That is not surprising. Many of these are first time marriages. Some of our young people have come out of dysfunctional homes with broken marriages where an example of a healthy marriage is severely lacking. How many young couples have had extensive counseling that goes beyond taking a personality or compatibility test? How many have some idea of what they expect marriage to be like?
Taking the entire first year to focus on building a strong marriage may prove to be very beneficial. People spend time and focus on learning to be successful on a new job or career. Why not do the same for marriage? Doing this may help minimize problems in the future.
If people get married for the first time thinking that with enough love it will just work out, they may be in for a real shock. It doesn't work that way, folks. Every single marriage requires attention and work, some more than others. So-called "dream marriages made in heaven" are the exception, not the rule. Added to this is that many couples may not have a clear understanding of how to cultivate real love, apart from the physical intimacy aspect.
What I am suggesting here is that each partner in a first time marriage, for one full year, spends time and energy on what makes a marriage work well. Don't be involved in ministry, or any hobbies, clubs, or organizations that use up a lot of your time or take you away from home. This does not mean that you have to sit at home, be bored, and not have any fun. You can still do things together. It is simply asking the question, "How much time are you spending at working on your marriage as opposed to time spent on activities or involvements in other things. Do away with any unnecessary things to free up as much time as possible to build your marriage. I am not talking about not going to school to get a degree. That is the basis of your income.
So, what can be done during this first year to build a good foundation for one's marriage? Here are six things to consider, though they are not by any means the only ones. These are six that come to mind from my own experience.
1. Develop roles and expectations for things like cooking, doing dishes and laundry, taking out the trash, and household cleaning. If these things seem trite and unimportant, keep in mind that if two people live in a house then two people need to share responsibilities of maintaining it. It is not a woman or man thing in terms of who does what. These things can cause some real problems in marriage if one just assumes that the woman does certain things and the man does certain other things. Also have a proper concept of headship and submission as taught in the Bible. Headship does NOT mean that the man always makes the decisions, and submissiveness does NOT mean that the woman always bows to the man.
2. Learn how to communicate. Listening without interrupting is very important in marriage. Also speak up for your interests, likes, and needs. Speak with the correct words and proper tone of voice. The words "you never" or "you always" should never be spoken in a negative way toward the other person.
3. Learn how to solve problems or resolve situations together. Some times both spouses can work together on something, but in some instances one spouse may be better than the other at resolving a problem.
4. Learn to manage money well. Money problems are a major cause of divorce.
5. Practice forgiveness EVERY day. This way bitterness will not spring up in your marriage.
6. Learn what real love is. Guess what? Real love is not based on feelings; it is built on making a conscious decision by an act of the will to love another person.
Some things that you can do the first year of your marriage to put into practice these previous six items are:
1. Read books on marriage, together.
2. Start scheduling "date nights."
3. Read and study biblical passages on marriage. The Bible has a lot of good wisdom about marriage, even if you do not consider yourself a religious person. Here are some key passages: I Corinthians 13 (the love chapter), Genesis 2:18, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Ephesians 5:22-23, Colossians 3:18-19, I Peter 3:1-4 (for women) and verse 7 (for men), and Song of Solomon, a love story in the Old Testament.
4. Go to a marriage seminar. Don't wait until you feel you have a need. Think of it as a preventative measure. Catch problems BEFORE they develop in your marriage.
5. Begin discussing and appplying the 6 elements listed above.
Begin to work through all of these things during your first year, to help build habits through your entire marriage.