Today frequent reader and contributor Ngina Otiende from Intentional Today joins us with her top 10 mistakes–in the hopes that we won’t follow in her footsteps! Her first book released yesterday on Amazon, and I think Ngina’s stuff is awesome. So I asked her to guest post for me, so I could spread the word about Blues to Bliss.
As a new bride I didn’t know much about marriage, the man I married, or myself.
But I thought I knew a lot.
After almost seven years of marriage, now I can smile at some of my naive expectations and thoughts. But back then it was no smiling matter. I was steeped in new bride blues, I had no grace to give myself or my husband. And I did not understand that good wives are made over time, not over night.
Here are Top 10 things I did as a new bride that set our marriage on edge (and how not to follow in my steps!)
1. Scrubbing our house down the day he went back to work
And proudly proclaiming “I scrubbed the house down..and my back is killing me!” when he walked through the doors in the evening.
What he heard?
“Your (former) bachelor pad is filthy and it’s your fault I am in so much pain”
No man wants to feel like they hurt their wife, especially not from the wife herself! Or that they are dirty.
Over the years I have learned that it’s not so much what I have to say but how I say it and when I say it.
2. Thinking our first fight was the end of our marriage
Before marriage I heard “In marriage, God will either see both of you or none of you” I interpreted that to mean that Tommy and I had to be in perfect agreement all the time – no conflict or issues, certainly not sulking and being mad at each other for days at a time. When we stumbled into blues-ville, God would leave, to return once we sorted out our issues.
I battled hopelessness and despair. I thought our little love would limp for the rest of its life (because divorce was never an option). And I was mad with Tommy for messing up our spiritual life!
Over time, God would show me that every couple has issues, even the brand new ones! In fact it’s our issues that make us need Him. He would never leave us or forsake us, but we had to make a conscious intentional decision to invite Him into our messes. We (let me say, I) also had to learn how to put our messes in His hands. And leave them there.
3. Fearing to seek help
You know how you get married and everyone thinks you are swinging from the chandelier in excitement,
Yup. I did not yet understand pre-wedding mentoring is advance preparation; it does not wipe out possibilities of marital challenges, it equips you to handle them.
Our mentors understood that challenges would come and they wanted us to consult them and not feel ashamed. Me, I needed to get over my pride and say “Er, I am having a hard time following this guy because I think he doesn’t like me anymore”
4. Forcing him to stay up late in the night to resolve conflict.
I was the in-your-face-we-can’t-sleep-
Especially when I elbowed him at 2 am in the morning with “I can’t sleep, we must talk!”
You can’t always iron out conflicts the first time you try. And since God is always interested in real peace, not fake peace that comes from sweeping things under the carpet or rushing through resolution to get back to your “nice Christian lives”, He doesn’t mind us working through challenges slowly, so we can get to the bottom of things. He’s not worried or intimidated when it takes a couple of sittings – or days – to iron out the creases and crooks.
5. Ironing his clothes
On the week my husband returned to work, I ironed all his work shirts, polished his shoes and proudly pointed it out when he came home in the evening. I was so proud of myself.
My husband plucked everything from my hands, walked away and told me not do that again.
Husbands are different. I thought all good wives take care of their men in that way. But mine likes to pick his clothes, iron them, polish his shoes and generally take care of himself.
Now that I am slightly older in marriage, I am beyond grateful that my man likes to take care of himself like that! ‘Cause there are many who prefer to be helped in that area (and nothing wrong with that by the way). My lesson? Don’t import everything you hear, just because it works in someone else’s marriage doesn’t mean it will work in yours.
6. Thinking I had nothing to give
Because of our not-so-few-squabbles, I felt disqualified from helping others. I also felt the pressure to be perfect in order to mentor and walk with other courting couples, brides-to-be and newly-weds.
I would learn that it’s my messy marriage that gave me a message, my hurts and lessons enabled me to empathize. Without experiential lessons, I would be an empty gong; trying to take others where I had never been.
Now I know that early marriage adjustments and challenges are good because they keep you on your knees and make of you an effective messenger of God’s love.
7. Worrying about disappointing others
Not too long in marriage someone came to me and told me she’d heard my husband and I were very unhappy. And this person was so disappointed because “If she (Ngina) had waited so well and yet ended up in an unhappy marriage, then marriage is no good at all”.
I was shocked that someone imagined I was miserable. Why? Was it that time I cried during worship? Is it the way I am wearing my hair, do I look unhappy? If others think we are unhappy, are we unhappy? We don’t agree on everything, does that mean we should always agree? She’s a single person, what other singles have I disappointed, how will this affect them for the rest of their life?
I was an irrational mess.
Marriage is not perfect. Ours was not, still isn’t, perfect. Though we get better, you never really eliminate challenges.Fortunately the only person we need to be doing marriage for is God. He’s the Author–our happiness and joy and impacting others is a result of living for Him and doing marriage His way.
My lesson? Don’t take responsibility for other peoples’ opinions and disappointments, even their joy!
8. Making my husband the source of my happiness
I don’t know how we stumble into this idea as new brides. But somewhere between the glories of a courtship filled with chivalry and sweetness and the crescendo of the engagement and a wedding, we start imagining that our husbands are responsible for our happiness and joy. We are crushed when they disappoint (because they do at about Week 1 of marriage).
We start wondering if we made a mistake and how to correct it. I learned quickly that I married a fellow human being. If I wanted happiness and joy, I had to go get it myself!–from God, not from a human being. Tommy was, still is, the most amazing man, but He cannot supply what I need to get from God. I have to remove that impossible expectation on him and look to God to meet all my needs.
9. Having no life outside “us”
I had just resigned my job of 7 years, I had nothing going on in terms of a career. I “lost” 99.9% of my friends when I got married. I was broke. And I was a newlywed! (isn’t that why we get married anyway, to have a forever best friend?!). But while Tommy was the greatest guy and the best gift that ever happened to me since Jesus, he made for a terrible girlfriend. And the sad thing was, he was not even trying to improve. I had high expectations, but over time I would learn that I need other women in my life–I need activities. I need to cultivate passions and goals outside my marriage–not to compete with my marriage, but so I could be balanced and purpose-filled.
10. Expecting great sex without intentional involvement
I expected my husband to know how to make the bedroom exciting without my involvement. “He’s the guy; he knows how to make things work.” I was a passive new bride. And it made for disappointments before I started making serious mental adjustments.
Guys like to know what is working and not working in the bedroom–not in harsh critical ways, mind you, but through loving practical feedback. When they operate in the blind, they tend to give their wives what they think they need. And that’s not always a good thing.
The wise bride learns (and the emphasis here is learns) to speak and communicate and respond to her husband, not lie back and expect fireworks without effort.
Ngina Otiende is the author of the newly released book, “Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily-ever-after in the Early Years“. In the book she talks about her early marriage challenges and how God transformed their relationship through intentional effort and grace. Ngina blogs at IntentionalToday.com where she equips the early-wed wife with tools and resources to create intentional happily-ever afters. Connect with Ngina on Facebook, and Pinterest