A young friend of our family just proposed to his girlfriend this weekend. They’re both in the American military, stationed in Europe, so our friend’s posts often involve mountains and lederhosen and other assorted European specialties. But recently a particular girl has started popping up in those pictures, so I was waiting for some sort of news.
On Friday morning they posted a selfie (if you have two people in the picture does it become a selfies? An ourselfie?) of the beginning of their flight to Rome. By Friday afternoon they were posting the photos of the ring as they smiled like madly-in-love fools on the streets of Rome.
But I sort of feel bad for the girl, just a little bit. How is she ever going to win an argument now? He’ll be able to finish every fight with this: “Do you remember that time I proposed to you in Rome?” She won’t be able to trump that. He wins.
At least, not until she has some babies. Then she can end every argument with “Yes. Do you remember how I gave birth to your children?” And there’s nothing that trumps pregnancy, labor, delivery, and nursing an infant. Not even a gorgeous engagement ring in Rome.
My first piece of advice to this bride would be to have a baby right quick so she has some ammunition during arguments.
I should probably mention that I’ve been married for almost seventeen years and so I might not be the romantic fool I was so many years ago. Melanie Shankle talks about this phenomena in her book The Antelope in the Living Room. Old Love, she calls it. Old Love is solid and loyal and beautiful, but it sleeps in socks and flannel pajamas. Old Love has long given up on New Love’s slinky nighties and batting eyelashes.
So with Old Love firmly in mind, here are some other things I’d like to tell new brides everywhere.
- Be very nice to his mother. If necessary, be very nice to his mother from across the country. Listen, sometimes you’re just not going to get along with the woman who gave birth to your husband. It might be you, it might be her, it might be that both of you are crazy. Just get over it. But it’s easier to get over it if there’s a significant land mass between you.
- If you have no plans to be the only one who cooks dinner or cleans the toilet for the next fifty years, make that clear up front. I love my husband so much. So, so much. And the man is not lazy, nor is he a slob. He’s tidy and (I may have already mentioned this) I love him very much. But I missed a key opportunity to spread the housework around when we were newlyweds. My love language is Acts of Service, so of course I wanted to cook the dinners and clean the toilet/tub/oven. Now, all these years later, there’s no way to tell the man to go cook his own dang dinner without sounding a wee bit mean. He has no skills and it’s all my fault. (P.S. Eric works more than fifty hours a week providing for our family, so it’s not like he’s sitting around watching golf. And I love him very much.)
- Try not to let yourself go. I feel like a 1950s granny for even typing that out loud, but it’s true. Time will inevitably change your body. You will get a little fluffy and saggy even if you exercise like a madwoman. But just giving up and buying muumuus in five colors is going to make your husband very, very sad. He will appreciate any effort you put into yourself, especially if it means you don’t look like a wild, misshapen hag when you’ve been married for twenty years.
- He is going to be very interested in “romantic physical activity” for many years, and your greatest kindness to him will be to enjoy it right along with him. You can fail at almost everything as a wife if you get this right. He can hire an accountant to handle his finances, go to restaurants for meals, and hire a maid. But hiring out sex is frowned upon universally, and affairs are no better. He’s going to want sex, and he married you to get it. Be generous and have fun.
- Think well of him, then speak well of him. Verbally spewing about his faults says a lot more about the grossness in our own hearts than his behavior. Jesus himself said, “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” (Matthew 12:34-35). Well said, Jesus.
- When in doubt, shut up and pray. I’ve never regretted the times I’ve prayed before speaking. Here’s the thing. We can’t pray, “Lord, please show this fool what an idiot he’s being.” No, no, no. Try this instead: “Lord, please help us to show humility and love to one another. May we care for one another instead of insisting on our own way.” I promise you, in seventeen years of marriage this approach has never failed. God has stepped in repeatedly to turn us to one another, instead of against one another.
I don’t know it all, so what advice would you give?