How to Handle Transitions in Marriage

As newlyweds, we face a lot of transitions. In the early years of marriage, we may move, change jobs, attend college or grad school, and even have our first babies. There are many shifts of various types. How should we handle transitions in marriage?

How to Handle Transitions in Marriage for Newlyweds | Grace Upon Grace Today

Purpose, Value, Needs, and Time

Too often, one spouse will jump on an opportunity or possibility without consulting the other. This happens often with newlyweds, because we easily remember what it was like to be single! Instead of making life-changing decisions without your spouse, sit down together and discuss four things: purpose, value, needs, and time. You can even download my discussion guide for a handy way to talk about upcoming life transitions with your spouse!

Reconnect, Reconnect, Reconnect

Embark on the transition, and reconnect along the way! My in-laws told us that marriage is a series of consistent two degree shifts. We are not automatically aligned to our spouses every day. It takes regular, small times of reconnecting to get back on track. I once heard a pastor say that you should strive to spend an hour a day, a morning/evening a week, a day a month, and a weekend a year with just your spouse and no distractions. His encouragement was to start small and build up.

In transitional periods, we often lose the seemingly “automatic” connection that we had before. For example, during the school year, my husband and I go to sleep and wake up around the same time. We work together, so we ride together in the car. We have certain times that we can reconnect without really working on it. However, now it’s summertime. We have separate part-time jobs. We go to bed at different times. All of a sudden, the transition has made our reconnecting more difficult.

In order to handle the transition well, we must find a time and space to reconnect. Maybe that’s becoming more serious about a structured dinner time every night (no phones allowed!). Or reading our devotional book before I go to bed, and then once I’m asleep, he goes back to a sports game or TV show. It could be cuddling on the couch for ten minutes after your kids are finally in bed. Squeeze that reconnection into your new schedule somewhere, because you will feel far away from each other if you don’t.

The difficult (yet beautiful) thing about reconnecting is that every day might look different. New baby? Your sleep schedule will definitely be thrown off. Changing shifts at work? He might have to leave the house before you’re awake. Occasionally, reconnecting looks like doing something for your spouse when you can’t actually be with your spouse.

When You Can’t Be There

A traveling husband or a new mom may not be able to “be” there physically for their spouse the way they might want to. Instead, reconnect by doing something special for your spouse. My husband is planning to be out of town later this summer visiting his aging grandfather. We can still connect with a FaceTime date, a handwritten note tucked into his suitcase, or a “good morning” text on a busy day. When I am working longer than he is, he might put away the clean dishes from the dishwasher or make the bed if I’ve forgotten it. Those little things really add up, especially if we have less time to reconnect in person.

Communicate the Essentials

Everyone knows that practical communication is important. I’m talking about the “working” side of a marriage here: I’m running errands at this time, can you pick up the kids here, and what are we eating for dinner? When there are transitions in marriage, it is important to discuss them together, and figure out how they work within the schedule and routines you are familiar with.

For this, I love the Cozi App. I have a personal planner that I keep with me (and a chalkboard calendar in kitchen), but I realized that when summer hit and my husband and I started our separate part time jobs that we would need something to keep us organized. Cozi came to the rescue. With one calendar divided by color for each family member, it is easy to see who needs to do what each day and week. There’s also a grocery list and to-do list that is accessible by anyone in the family (just like a calendar), so it’s easy to send your husband to the store for you! I am not an affiliate for Cozi; I just enjoy sharing the app with others.

Obviously, using a neat app has not replaced face to face communication, but it has made it easier for us to stay on top of life transitions. We feel more connected just by knowing what time the other person will be home or where he or she is working today. My brother-in-law and his wife use a giant calendar on their refrigerator. My mom has her calendar printed out and sitting on her desk. Do what works for you and your husband.

Do Not Compare

Finally, do not allow envy to sneak into your heart. Nothing will put a damper on your marriage like comparing your transitional periods to another couple’s transitions. When you start comparing (“Why is my husband not finished with school yet?” or “How do her kids already sleep through the night?” or “How did they already buy a new house?”), you will feel empty and lacking. Instead, focus on what you do have. Focus on the values and the rewards of this stage where you find yourself right now. There is a purpose here in this transition.

 

P.S. Did your get your free Transitions in Marriage discussion guide? It’s not too late!

What transition are you currently facing in your marriage?

5 Things that Surprised me about Marriage

Last week marked ten months of marriage, and my husband and I are eager to celebrate our one year anniversary very soon. In this relatively short time, I have come to realize that so many things I once thought about marriage are simply not true! I thought I might share some of these marriage surprises so you could commiserate – some hilarious and some not-so-funny.

Marriage Surprises | Things That Surprised Me Once I Got Married - perfect for newlyweds | graceupongracetoday.com

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Morning Breath

When I thought about all the joys of romance in marriage, sleeping in the same bed and waking up next to my sweet husband was top on my list. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to flutter my eyelids open, roll over, and peck my sweetheart on the lips? …gross. The first time I tried it, we both had such terrible morning breath that I vowed to never try that again! We still like to cuddle some mornings when have time, but definitely not kissing.

It Still Takes Work

Before we got married, we met with an older married couple from our church for mentoring and we worked through a pre-marital study book together. We also met with our associate and lead pastors, and we gleaned advice from other couples and from various books. (We spent quite a bit of time and money on our wedding, and I felt like we were spending more on our marriage!) There was a lot of effort put in up front. However, after our honeymoon and as time went on, we realized that we could not just “coast” through our marriage. When things got difficult or other obligations got in the way of our proximity and connection to each other and to God, we fought more and we felt less close. One morning, I woke up and realized that I could not simply set the car of my marriage on “neutral.” I had to continue to invest in our relationship. I realized that marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. When you put in the extra work, you get to enjoy it.

Some Things Matter More Than Others

You want to know a simple way to make your marriage better? Ask your husband what matters to him! It blew my mind when someone gave me this advice. Here’s the thing: My husband does not really care if the house is spotless or the bed is made or the kitchen floor is clean. He values having clean clothes and something to eat. When I realized this, I was able to stop trying to be SuperWife and instead be the wife that he needs and desires. I choose to focus on laundry and grocery shopping first. Yes, the kitchen floor gets swept, but I focus on how to serve him how he desires it first. Likewise, he does the same for me! I love that he picks up extra work on the weekends sometimes, because it helps the budget. I also love when he’s home on the weekends. We are able to work out a schedule each month that satisfies both of us as well as the budget.

Socks… Socks Everywhere

Since I graduated high school, I always lived with female roommates and/or housemates. I know what it is like to walk around someone else’s laundry or dishes. However, I was just not fully prepared to find socks on the living room floor that no one will pick up until I pick them up on laundry day. At first, I became angry with my husband: How dare he leave his stinky socks on my floor? But honestly? It’s not that big of a deal, and I am thankful that he is home long enough to take off his socks in the evenings. Sometimes I ask him to pick them up (which he does gladly), and sometimes I gather them up with the rest of the laundry. It’s not worth yelling over – most things aren’t.

Men are Different From Women

I know, newsflash, right? Even though we married women roll our eyes at this one, we too often assume that our husbands think and feel just like we do. Ironically, my wonderful, sweet husband is just plain different from me. He has strengths in areas where I have weaknesses, and he has weaknesses where I have strengths. Case in point: Our kitchen sink began leaking around the seal. My husband cleaned it up, examined the sink, and made a plan for how to reseal it. Then he left the wet towels by the sink. At first, I only saw the wet towels. I did not see his effort in repairing the sink. His thought-processes work differently than mine, but that’s a good thing. Did God not create man to lead woman and woman to be man’s helpmeet? We need each other in a beautiful way.

Marriage Surprises | Things That Surprised Me Once I Got Married - perfect for newlyweds | graceupongracetoday.com

What have been some of your marriage surprises?

Hello 2016

It’s been a crazy year… But haven’t they all been crazy recently?

When 2015 dawned, I was bowling with my mom, brother, stepdad, and stepfamily. It’s a long-standing family tradition. I celebrated six months with that handsome guy in January, turned in my first real resignation letter in March, and began the process of moving to a new state. During a Sunday morning sermon, our pastor explained that sometimes we don’t see the next step. We don’t see point C when we’re standing at point A. We have to step out in faith to point B and follow God’s leading. He said: “Jesus is standing on the waves, calling you to step out of the boat in faith,” referencing Peter’s walk on water. At that moment, I realized God was asking me to follow Him to my next place, which involved moving closer to the guy who would soon become my fiance. So, I took a new job, moved to a new city with new roommates in a new apartment, and fell deeper in love with the handsome guy I’m marrying in less than six months. He proposed in October, and it was perfect.

In 2015, my OneWord was love. One single word to focus on for the entire year. That’s three hundred and sixty five days of one word. One. Word.

But y’all… It works. I learned so much about love. When 2015 began, I was celebrating six months with my first and only boyfriend. When 2016 begins, I will celebrating less than six months until we say “I do.”

When 2015 began, I was learning how to continue to love a Buddhist co-teacher. When 2016 begins, I will be learning how to continue to show love to 60 sweet and crazy teenagers.

When 2015 began, I was praying for the future service opportunities I would have to show love to others. When 2016 begins, I will move from assistant to teacher roles in the toddler class at church.

Above my desk in my bedroom hangs a quote from Ann Voskamp:

You love as well as you are willing to be inconvenienced.

So much truth. Love is not easy or convenient or simple. Love cannot be an afterthought. The beautiful thing is we get another shot each day. I’m not the best at showing my fiance that I love him, and sometimes I find it difficult to accept his love, but I know that he’s not going anywhere. He loves me, and we are willing to try again if we didn’t do such a great job of showing that love this time around.


 

As we move into 2016 in the next few hours, I wanted to take a moment to announce my OneWord for this year. In a world of smartphones and commercials and social media and pushy waitresses, I want to focus. I want to be in the moment. Like the quote: “Wherever you go, be all there.” I want to be mentally aware where I am physically existing. I want to be connected to my body, my soul, my emotions, and my Savior. I want to be real with people who are actually in the same room with me. I want to pray with passion because God and I are actually having a real and meaningful conversation. I want to give and serve and love it. I want to invest into people and I want to be invested in. I want to go and meet and dream and love. I want to be present.

OW2016

Not Easy

Well, I’ve come full circle. Again. I have a project due tomorrow for the first year teacher’s program at my school and I am cleaning, organizing, and blogging in a feeble attempt at procrastination. This reminds me of college so much, except that I am listening to rain instead of Mumford.

I’m also coming full circle in a different way. This summer, I will be moving. Again. With a doubt, I am overjoyed to be moving. I landed my dream job with an amazing support system. I have a potential housing situation lined up. I will no longer be living 3.5 hours from my amazing boyfriend… I am so excited about what is to come.

The existence of excitement does not preclude the existence of fear, exhaustion, uncertainty, uncomfortability, insecurity, or difficulty.

In fact, excitement and uncertainty have often gone hand in hand for me. Excitement and exhaustion are two words that describe my overseas travel impeccably – often at the same exact moment. Excitement and fear define my first year of college in a nutshell.

So here I am, putting on my big girl panties and moving to another state. For a boy. For a job. For a better living situation.

I know, without a doubt, that this is what God has for me. I know that it is good. It know that it is His plan. I know this because it has worked out perfectly in only the way that He can work things out. I know this because the guy who lives there loves me with safe, sacrificial, challenging love that blows my mind. I know this because God has proven himself again and again. I know that it is God’s plan for me to move to this new state and city and community.

Regardless, I am still afraid. I am still tired, uncertain, uncomfortable, insecure, and preparing to face difficulty. “Being in God’s will” (whatever that means) does not mean that everything is peachy. Following God does not make your problems disappear.

This morning in church, my pastor explained that with good couples, one partner has strengths where the other has weaknesses. The opposite is true as well. In moments of alignment, they complement each other. In moments of misalignment, they complain: “We’re so different from each other! Why are we even dating/engaged/married?!?” But that’s just what makes couples work. We’re supposed to be different from our partners. They complement us.

If we take difficulty (like the example of the complaining couple) to mean that we’re in the wrong place or God is punishing us or we should leave, we’re understanding difficulty inappropriately. Sometimes we are in the “wrong” place, and God makes that clear to us while calling us to a new place. But we should not run away from difficult situations. We should work through them, only leaving if proven necessary. That’s why we should not break up relationships or get divorced over difficulties. We should work through them and figure out the real issues.


One reason I am afraid is that I don’t do “new” very well. I am a hardcore introvert who loves dependability. That’s one reason it’s hard to be around a lot of people. Other people often do things that are unexpected, and that leaves a lot of newness and inconsistency to deal with in a group setting.

However, I have realized that I need people. Shocking, I know.

I was reading an article from Donald Miller that discussed introversion and extroversion. One person commented: “…it takes me several days of complete solitude to recover [after a big social engagement]. I used to apologize for it, but now I just plan for it.” I think that summarizes the introvert’s needs perfectly. It would be wrong of me to constantly apologize for the weird things I do because I’m so introverted. However, it would also be wrong of me to pretend I didn’t have a need for “recharge” time. Like the commenter said, I should plan for those things and give myself grace to work through them.

It is great to acknowledge and utilize an understanding of personal traits like introversion and extroversion, but we cannot let the labels dictate our lives. Introverts cannot eliminate community time any more than extroverts can eliminate solitude time. It’s necessary to have experiences that shape and stretch us, and both community and solitude are essential for spiritual growth. My old youth pastor used to tell me that ministry (and a lot of life) is 80% what you want to do and 20% what you don’t want to do.

As I think about moving and making new friends, developing relationships, seeking mentors, exploring a new city, and learning a new job, I know there will be difficulty. I know that a lot of the tasks I must accomplish as I move are challenging for someone who is 98% introverted like me. But life is not about “easy.” It’s about becoming more like Christ, which is anything but easy.

I’m ready for it. I know I will feel afraid but I also know that God is with me. I know I will feel insecure, but I also know that he has brought me here. I know I will face difficulty, but I also know that this is where he wants me. I’m ready for this new adventure because I am taking my adventures one step at a time.

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.