5 habits to build in your first year of marriage

Establish these 5 habits to keep your marriage strong — no matter the situation.

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  • The beginning stages of something are beautiful. The beginning is the space where you develop habits, routines, rhythms and traditions right out of the gate. It is the space where the lifestyle needed to accomplish the task at hand is developed.

  • For an athlete who just committed to running a marathon, it means waking up early for a run, specific dieting, good sleeping habits, alcoholic beverage reduction, you get the idea. They make decisions and move forward in light of the end goal. It is essentially the same model for marriage. You are molding a lifestyle needed to accomplish the task at hand.

  • My wife Audrey and I had a hard first year of marriage. Well, kind of ... we had an amazing year, but it was really hard. It was full of really challenging trials, setbacks, broken bones, bad jobs and oppression. Yet it was full of love, growth, encouragement, friends and joy.

  • After many discussions with married friends and older married couples, we made it a priority to set into motion certain habits and routines early on in our marriage. These habits and routines have fluctuated over time as our marriage has grown and matured. They acted as a safeguard against our circumstances.

  • Here are the five habits we built in our first year of marriage.

  • Write Down Goals

  • It's easy to lose focus or get distracted during trials. Physically writing down your goals and dreams will help to reinforce your trajectory. It will fight the lie that the trial is not worth enduring. When your relationship points to something beyond itself, it offers a purpose, a reason to work together towards a mission

  • The goal of your marriage cannot be your marriage. You have to have a goal that represents your mission as a couple. Maybe that goal is raising balanced, kind, loving and wise children. Maybe it's starting an orphanage or fighting injustice, or giving generously to an organization. Maybe it's just creating a hospitable home! Whatever it is, write it down!

  • For us, we have long term goals, short term goals and seasonal goals. Our long term goal is to help revive covenant marriages, marriages that beat average, marriages that give more than 50 percent. Our other long-term goal is to take over the farm and raise children that know and love the Lord. Our short-term goal is to start making and selling Navigator's Council journals. Our seasonal goal is to ski more than 10 times before the end of the season. I've noticed that when Audrey and I discuss our goals instead of writing them down, we lose our focus easier. Having a common, verbalized, written goal hedges against division in your marriage. It's hard to grow apart when you're chasing a mission together.

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  • Social Breaks

  • I feel like there has been a lot of talk about this lately. The whole, "be present, give social media a break" thing. And there should be! As a society, we are just now approaching the time of realizing the effects social media can have on our relationships and personal/mental health. On our honeymoon, Audrey and I made it a habit to continually evaluate our social media use each month and create necessary boundaries. Some of these boundaries include no phones in the bed, airplane mode while on dates, no electronics after 10 p.m., etc... These boundaries fluctuate as our lives fluctuate, but the idea of being in control over our digital use is something that I feel we all need to practice. Form a habit of quality time with your wife, instead of scrolling through Instagram.

  • Navigator's Council

  • Our weekly Navigator's Council was a routine we started on our honeymoon (the first week of marriage), and we consider it the single most influential and transforming routine in our marriage. Each week we ask each other six (of the same) questions, and record our answers in a journal. The questions are simple, but paramount for hedging against conflict, and fostering intimacy in our marriage.

  • Although the purpose of the journal is to cultivate consistent communication on important matters each week, it's incredible to see how effective this practice has been for our marriage. As we've reflected on old entries, we smile at what this mere journal has prevented us from, and the standard it has held us to. The hour that we set aside on Sundays to create time and space for the discipline of communication, has been crucial. Every week it gives us the opportunity to fine tune how we are doing, review where we have been and determine where we are headed.

  • As a guy, it forces me to talk through things and express or explain my feelings and/or actions. It diffuses bombs before they grow, and it creates a safe space that strengthens our marriage, as we move forward with trust and understanding. Also, many of the routines and habits we do develop, have been realized or discussed during our Navigators Council.

  • Never Go To Bed Without Resolve

  • This one is classic and everyone has probably heard it, "don't go to bed angry." When I first heard this I thought, "there is probably a reason everyone says this, and it's probably true!" There was one week in our marriage that made me a believer of this timeless piece of advice. Audrey and I woke up one day and were just mad at each other. There were a few things that triggered it, and every day it got worse and worse. The problem was compounding because we were not addressing it as the week progressed. It lasted a week, and we barely talked to each other. I learned a hard lesson as the spiritual leader of my family - never let a problem sleep on itself.

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  • Back Each Other Up

  • Wherever we are, and whoever we are with, we will back each other up. There is a time to disagree with your spouse, and we believe that the time is not in front of an audience. Don't get me wrong, there are times with good friends where this doesn't apply or make sense. But in general, if I have an issue with something Audrey says, I bring it up afterward or wait until Navigators Council.

  • Marriage is an alliance, a beautiful strong castle that holds both of your hearts. The world is shooting enough arrows at it, there is no need to attack it yourself until you are in a safe space.

  • One of the worse feelings is being mutinied (a pirate term for being disowned by one of your own). It creates all sorts of problems. We actually started this habit during our dating relationship. We agreed to be careful how we challenge each other in public. A few times in our dating relationship we actually got into fights about how we disagreed with each other as opposed to why we disagreed. Maybe this is something you struggle with. If you don't feel like you're on the same team with your spouse while in public, then tell them, and set some boundaries.

  • To Wrap It Up

  • Forming good habits, and constructing guidelines and boundaries for a healthy marriage will result in a thriving covenant.

  • Editor's note: This article was originally published on Beating 50 Percent. It has been republished here with permission.

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Jeremy, along with his wife Audrey, are the minds behind the marriage website, Beating 50 percent. Their mission is to help marriages be above average and compel readers to give more, serve more, learn more, play more, seek more and love more. Jeremy is a professional photographer and videographer. He and his wife live in Bend, Oregon.

Website: http://beating50percent.com

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