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?

To Have Purpose

When I was single, I thought that I would only find purpose if I had a boyfriend. When I was dating, I thought that life would only have meaning if I was married. Now I’m married to an amazing guy, yet I caught myself just the other day wondering if having kids would give me the fulfillment I felt that I was lacking. What does it mean to have purpose?

I felt like I had “arrived” (whatever that means) when my sweet husband and I rented our first home, bought our first couch, and settled into a routine together. But then I wanted to buy a “better” couch, buy a “better” house, and get “better” jobs. I wanted us to get more education and more possessions and more friends and more fun experiences. Where does the cycle end?

What does it mean to have purpose? | www.graceupongracetoday.com

What is My Purpose?

Having grown up attending a Christian school that was affiliated with a Presbyterian church, I learned the Westminster Catechism. I remember reciting lines and lines of it before my fifth grade Bible teacher. Over a decade later, there’s only one line I can still repeat word for word: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” (You can find the Westminster Shorter Catechism at Creeds.net.) Therefore, what is our purpose? That we glorify God and that we enjoy God.

John Piper is oft quoted as proclaiming: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I see “satisfaction” as being parallel to “enjoyment.” Likewise, Piper argues that God’s demanding of our praise and adoration “is his highest virtue, and your highest joy.” That is our purpose.

What About…?

The human life does not seem to line up with that, unfortunately. Typical American Christianity argues that family and prosperity are the chief ends of man. One of the two Christian radio stations in my area is touted as being “family-friendly” and consistently relays information directed at parents and children. It is as if singles and couples without (or with grown) children are somehow less Christian. I get the message that the radio station is not for me because I do not have kids.

Is a spouse, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence what Christianity is supposed to look like? We are all too guilty of turning our “American Dream” into a “Christian” goal. Have we forgotten that the Savior of the world did not own a home or get married or have a savings account? What did he do? He glorified God.

A home and a marriage and a savings account and a family are good. But they are not the best. In summing up Philippians chapter 1, John Piper explains: “Christ is glorified in you when he is more precious to you than all that life can give or death can take.”

“Nothing Can Separate Us”

See, “life” can give a child. “Life” can give a house. “Life” can give a spouse and a job and a retirement plan. “Life” can give those vacations you’ve always wanted and the next item in your collection and the car you have dreamed about. We forget that death can also take those things away. What are we left with at the end of the day? Either Christ or an eternity without Him. The Apostle Paul writes that “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” Not even death. Yet, death can separate us from literally everything else.

“To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain”

Why would I not value Christ Jesus higher than everything else? In life, I have the opportunity to love Him, to serve Him by ministering to others, and to enjoy Him and all that He has made. In death, I have the joy of spending eternity worshiping Him and enjoying His literal company. To the Apostle Paul, life was good and death was also good, because both meant that he got to be with Jesus.

Living in the state of constantly wanting more and better and bigger has left me tired and empty. I realize now that getting a boyfriend did not complete me. Neither did getting married. Neither will having kids. I will only find my purpose when I glorify God, when I make much of Him, when I enjoy Him, and when I am satisfied in Him.

What does it mean to have purpose?

It means finding everything I need in Christ. It means going to Him first when I am sad, stressed, overjoyed, or at peace. It means not self-medicating with the things of this world when only God will satisfy. It means I do not compare my life with my Instagram feed – I compare it to Scripture. It means I do not ask Google what it thinks about my life choices – I ask God. It means I choose to cultivate friendships with people who love God and challenge me.

John Piper writes that when we realize our purpose, we see the treasure that Christ Jesus really is. We want to share him with others because we know His intrinsic value. We want to give freely of our money because obeying God by serving others is more important than our retirement plans. We want to deny our immediate desires in order to do what God immediately desires.

Deny Yourself

What does it mean to have purpose?

Jesus said that if anyone is to follow Him, they must deny themselves. I do not want to deny myself. I do not want to give up what I want. But what if the way to purpose, satisfaction, and joy is by obedience to someone other than my desires? Yes, family is good. Children are good. Homes and cars and savings accounts are good. But these are not my ultimate goals. These are not my ultimate priorities.

Counter-intuitively, my goal is to deny myself my desires in order to serve the God who already owns everything in the universe. The beautiful part of this is that God does supply my desires when I put my joy in Him first and foremost.

See, my goal is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That will give me purpose, joy, and fulfillment even when the outward circumstances of my life do not look picture perfect.

What practical choices can you make in your life today to find your purpose in Christ?

Take a Hike!

Hi, you’ve reached a post from the archives of Grace Upon Grace Today! Last Updated: June 21, 2017. I am now happily married to the “boyfriend” in this post! Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to look around.

In one session of my recently-completed Christian counseling, my counselor M and I discussed appropriate coping mechanisms. She asked me to share what was working for me (as well as what was not working). At that point, winter was fading fast and we were seeing highs in the 70s and 80s. I mentioned that I had been going on walks: around the neighborhood, around the lake, and that I was loving it. M brightened at this. She told me that both the back and forth movement of alternating left foot, right foot, left foot, and moving the body forward help not only to improve creativity and creative thought, but also to relieve anxiety.

Is it any wonder then that I love taking walks and going on hikes with my boyfriend?

Take a Hike with someone you love! | Date Idea from Grace Upon Grace Today

We’ve been dating for almost one year, and we’ve been hiking basically since the beginning. In fact, for our very first date, J took me to the state botanical gardens, which is full of beautiful flowers, plants, and a couple easy hiking trails.

We’ve spent other dates walking the paths of local parks, ambling beside rivers, visiting waterfalls, and climbing mountains of various sizes. I love it. Not only does this give us a chance to try new things together, but it gives us a chance to talk. That’s something a date to the movies just can’t do.

Most of our relationship has been long distance, and unfortunately, there is a lot of stress, fear, and uncertainty that comes with long distance relationships. It’s hard not being able to go for an impromptu ice cream date on a bad day. It’s difficult to make it through challenging situations when Skype dates are as close as you can get. For that reason, I would urge new couples to consider the pros and cons of long distance before signing up for it. On the other hand, being long distance has taught us a lot about communication and has made our time together that much more special.

If you have been in a relationship or a marriage for very long, you’ve realized that sometimes it takes creativity to solve problems and reach compromises. When possible, J and I try to save important conversations for our in-person dates, because we’ve found that when we can walk together, we can come up with more creative ways to work through situations. Just as Steve Jobs brainstormed ideas for Apple while walking, we can brainstorm ideas for our relationship.

A final word about hiking dates: They are usually free! Bring a water bottle, maybe a picnic lunch, and you’re all set. We have been to local city parks, state parks, natural waterfalls, a botanical garden, and even an abandoned railroad tunnel, and very few of them charge for admission.

So go take a hike with someone you love!


This post has been submitted to the Summer Date Ideas blog round-up by Susannah Kellogg at Simple Moments Stick.

Lessons in Love from My First Year of Teaching

Education is figuring out what works for individuals.

My mentor teacher sent this one sentence reply to one of my long emails detailing a strategy I used with one child’s particularly difficult behavior. I found this statement to be true throughout the remaining months of my first year of teaching out of college.

Lessons in Love from My First Year of Teaching

During an “exit interview” of sorts, my principal explained that it takes 3-5 years for new teachers to master their behavior management techniques. Most new teachers leave the field of education in the first five years because they struggle with behavior management. (New teachers also leave for two other significant reasons: 1. There is so much else to do besides teaching that they feel overwhelmed; and 2. Administration or co-workers are not supportive.)

My principal told me that once I feel confident and secure in my behavior management, I will get new students who throw the entire system out of whack. Jaded teachers often say that it must be the chid’s fault that the system isn’t working. Successful teachers acknowledge that they are getting paid to find a solution that works for each child. And then they go find one and use trial and error adjustments to make it work.

Successful teachers reflect and attempt and adapt and adjust and try again because children and hope and future and love matter…

Love. Is that not why I became a teacher in the first place?


Yesterday was the last day of my first year of teaching, and I found an excellent post about marriage that ironically correlated with teaching in one amazing aspect: both are based on love. In this recent post, Ann Voskamp wrote these three earth-shattering statements:

Marriage is a commitment meant to form us, not a commitment you enter only once you’re convinced you’re finally formed.

Marriage is something that we learn, like the way we learn our mother tongue.

Whenever you want to rant, it’s your cue you need to make a request.

First, Marriage is a commitment meant to form us. I have already seen that in my dating relationship. Yes, I love my boyfriend. He loves me. But we also love Jesus. And Jesus is not content with us not going anywhere. The Christian life is about growth (albeit sometimes slow) and change (as much as I hate it) and sharing (despite my introversion).  Proverbs says that “a friend sharpens a friend” and that could very easily be a significant other of any type doing the sharpening.

“Sharpening” can take any number of forms… But it usually hurts. It hurts when I have chosen a selfish alternative to love and then my boyfriends calls me out on it. It hurts when a colleague asks me to talk with him/her about a poor decision I made. It hurts when I have neglected relationships with my family members. Despite the hurt, it is good to be becoming a new person in Christ. Think of justification versus sanctification. Justification is the immediate salvation that saves a person from Hell and into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Sanctification is the continual process of salvation that molds a person to be more like Jesus. I have been told that marriage is one of the most difficult things anyone will ever do purely because of the significant amount of sanctification that occurs if we will be humble enough to let it sharpen us.

Similarly, a successful teacher reflects on previous experience and adapts his/her practice to see what might work better next time. He or she is constantly undergoing reflection and adaptation, becoming a better teacher along the way. The reflection process is often painful, but we can use it to form us personally and professionally.

Second, Marriage is something that we learn. I feel that the connection to education is so apparent here. A person cannot and will not learn how to be a successful teacher by sitting in some college classrooms and taking notes. A person cannot learn by watching  videos of good teachers or by observing real classrooms. A person cannot truly learn how to be a successful teacher by doing some practice lessons or even twelve weeks of Student Teaching, either. It takes years of hands-on practice as a teacher to truly become a successful teacher.

Likewise, a person cannot and will not learn to how to be a successful marriage partner by sitting in some sermons or conferences or reading some books. A person cannot learn by observing successful marriages or by talking with successful wives and husbands or by dating for a while or even by living together before marriage (playacting is not good practice!).

Pause. Am I saying that any of those things are bad or wrong? No. Those are great things! Read all the books and attend all the seminars and observe all the successful people – for both teaching and marriage! But remember that those things do not a successful marriage make. A successful marriage (and a successful teaching career) are based upon practical practice. I have learned to start practicing essential skills while dating (listening strategies, how to apologize, how to forgive, ways to show appreciation), but there is no true way to practice actual marriage until, well… Actual Marriage. It’s something that we learn. And we learn how best to do it through practice. Lots of it.

Third, Whenever you want to rant, it’s your cue you need to make a request. This is one of the things that Ann Voskamp learned during her marriage. When you want to rant (or choose a ranting alternative, like stonewalling or avoidance), make a request instead. She gave the example of ranting versus requesting that her family put away their shoes in the mudroom. Problems can be solved so much more easily by asking politely and encouragingly than by ranting about how No one ever puts their shoes away! 

I see this in my dating life. When I acknowledge something that I need from my boyfriend, I get his attention by touching him. My boyfriend is huge on physical affection, so I can put a hand on his knee or his shoulder to get his attention. Then I ask for what I need. I don’t put down, use extremes, or get overly emotional. Here are some examples of two negative responses and one positive response if I wanted my boyfriend to call on his way to work.

  • Ranting: “Why do you never call me on your way to work? It makes me so angry! You can’t remember anything!”
  • Avoiding would be to not mention anything (or to fall silent on the phone when he asks if you want him to call when he’s on his way to work). And usually this is followed by becoming super emotional and overly disappointed when he doesn’t call.
  • Requesting: “Could you call me when you leave for work? It would be really important to me.”

Since most of our relationship is long-distance, I’ve learned that when we’re on the phone and I can’t touch him to get his attention or to signal importance, I can use a key phrase: “This is very important to me” or “It’s important to me that you….”. This is huge. Sometimes men need a little announcement; they aren’t usually good at reading between the lines.

This all to say that I’m finding what works for him and for us. He is doing the exact same thing. He has learned how I react when I’m upset or stressed and he finds ways to react that are helpful and not upsetting to me. We are both learning how to request instead of ranting or avoiding. This not to say that we have it all figured out. I have used all three of the responses above multiple times to varying levels of success. But I am learning.

Just as successful teachers use trial and error, research, and observation to figure out what works for their students, so successful significant others use those techniques in their relationships. When we are excited about a new relationship, we use these techniques and observe things about our significant others without realizing it, but when our relationships don’t quite fit into the “new” or “exciting” categories, we may struggle to note them. For example, I know that my boyfriend likes peanut M&Ms, looks good in green and blue plaid shirts, and has an awesome tie collection. I know that his love languages are physical touch and words of affirmation and I know that he is a huge extrovert. We’ve been dating for almost a year, and I’ve observed, researched, and experienced those things because our relationship is comparatively new. However, it took some digging to realize that my seventeen year old brother loves Grumpy Cat memes because he’s seventeen and I don’t live at home anymore, but now that I know, I send him some occasionally because that is one way I can contribute to our relationship. (He sends me some back, too!)

In both teaching and in our personal relationships, we are called to be consistently looking for ways to fully love the other person. In teaching, this is demonstrated through intentionally meeting the needs of our students educationally and often personally as well. In relationships, this is demonstrated through learning how best to show love to our significant others in ways that they will receive well as well as learning how to manage conflict in our relationships in ways that benefit the relationship instead of tear it down.

It’s amazing what completing one year of teaching has taught me. Do you have any lessons from this past school year, this past year out of college, or your current relationships that you’d be willing to share? Comment below!