Next month, my husband and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Wow, what a special, surprising, and sanctifying ride it’s been so far. I pray we are just getting started!

I wish I could speak to the excited, fresh-faced, 22-year-old newlywed I was then. She needed so much of the wisdom God has deposited in me along the way. If I could speak to that bride, here’s what I would tell her:

You are on a new team.

When you get married, more than just your name should change. You and your spouse are now a unit, now separated from the previous allegiances you had. You and your husband are now partners to the utmost degree, so honor him by speaking positively of him (even on the days it’s tempting to do otherwise!), consulting him before committing to any significant plans, and considering his needs in each decision you make.

Before anyone accuses me of being sexist, let me say that I would give a newlywed man the same advice. I will never forget learning this lesson a few weeks into marriage. Something broke in our apartment. Out of habit, I reached for my phone to call my dad to come over to fix it. My husband was appalled that I didn’t ask him first.

This seemed silly at the moment, but now I understand how much husbands crave respect and trust from their wives. I should have asked my own teammate for help first.

You’re responsible for your own needs.

Expecting your spouse to recognize and then meet all of your spiritual, emotional, and physical needs will not set your marriage up for success. That may sound harsh. But the adage “you can’t pour from an empty cup” applies to marriage as well.

Yes, your spouse is a partner and someone to share burdens with. But your spouse is not a crutch. Continue to practice healthy self-care. This may look like periodic check-ins with a counselor or trusted mentor. Maintain friendships with girlfriends and still make time for those life-giving hobbies you loved before you walked down the aisle.

I wish I had sought out a therapist instead of dumping everything on my husband and expecting him to fix it!

Be flexible.

This should be obvious. But even if you’ve been a couple for a long time, merging together as a new family will require compromises. Getting married means you have the opportunity to actively decide how you want your new family to operate. As exciting as this is, it can lead to a lot of tension if you aren’t open-minded.

Holiday traditions, budgets, and even seemingly mundane decisions like which direction to load the toilet paper all require flexibility. I chuckle now thinking about the first grocery trip we took as newlyweds to stock our pantry. My husband kept reaching for store brand items on the shelves–which, looking back, was wise for two twenty-somethings on a firm budget!

By default, I had always bought name brand goods and never thought to venture out to the generic versions. I was shocked to discover most things really did taste the same but were a fraction of the cost. In big things and small, don’t assume that however you’ve been operating is the best, only, or right way. Approach your new lives together with a teachable spirit.

Let God lead.

Marriage isn’t really about you or your happiness. Happiness is a byproduct that comes when you do marriage God’s way, seeking to serve Him and your spouse before looking to have your own needs filled.

Stay grounded. Continue to make time for reading His Word, serving in a local church, and maintaining edifying friendships. Join a couples’ small group and surround yourselves with others on the same path. Our newlywed group was such a lifeline for us in that first year. This is the most important piece of advice I would share to a newlywed woman.

Here’s to 10 years of learning and growing together. I cannot wait to see what lessons the next decade brings!

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