The early months and years of marriage are a time of significant change. Marriage involves at least one or both people moving to join as husband and wife under one roof. A young wife changes her name to show she now belongs to her husband as the two form a new family. Both the new husband and new wife are stepping into new callings they have never had before! With all the change and transition, it shouldn’t surprise us when conflicts, disagreements, or misunderstandings arise.
If you’re a young woman preparing for marriage, you need not fret that marital conflict will spoil the first years, nor should you assume that you and your husband won’t deal with any bumps or tense times. Rather, you can prepare to be the kind of wife who handles conflicts with maturity, charity, and inner peace. Which is to say, you can prepare to be a Christian wife.
He’s Not You
The profound mystery of marriage is that two become one — a man and a woman, distinct and different, joined together in a one-flesh union. Yet in that bodily joining, the two minds do not meld into one. You will think about things much the way you’ve always thought about them; so will your new husband.
Over lots of time and with lots of effort, you will begin to think together — to think alongside your husband, to let him know how your thoughts are developing, and also to understand and appreciate that he will always think differently than you do, no matter how well you both may communicate. This is one grand blessing of marriage: he’s not you!
Quick to Hear, Slow to Speak
Because of these natural and good differences of frame and mindset, a new wife can prepare for moments of disagreement by cultivating patience when her husband’s opinion or decision doesn’t make immediate sense to her. Remember, he’s not you. He may have many good reasons for how he thinks, talks, acts, and leads. Perhaps he sees an angle you don’t see; perhaps he has a priority you haven’t considered.
James says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20). If I could give you one very important piece of premarital advice, it would be this: slow down and listen before you answer or react.
I would guess that the sin for which I’ve most regularly needed to ask forgiveness in marriage is making a snap judgment over some innocuous (or even good) way that my husband was thinking or leading. I would mistake and challenge his choice or initiative because I thought my way of thinking was right and normal, and his way was abnormal and therefore wrong. I was routinely caught off guard by just how different we are.
Now, after 21 years of God’s helping me to slow down and listen, I can say that I am more thankful than ever that my husband’s frame and mindset are different from mine. It is a gift from God to be married to a godly man, who is not me. Don’t try to make your husband be like you or like your closest girlfriends. Praise God for the differences, and practice patience as you grow in appreciation for him.
Whispers Singe Marriage
Proverbs 26:20 says, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.” This bit of God-breathed wisdom pictures quarrels as a fire. And what is the fuel for the quarrel-fire? A whisperer — that is, one who shares information or secrets or private matters with someone who shouldn’t know them.
A young wife must realize, from the get-go, that her marriage is a sacred trust. The Golden Rule can go a long way in helping us grasp what we ought, and ought not, to share with others: Would I want my husband to share [blank] about me? As Proverbs 31:11–12 tells us, a husband’s heart trusts his godly wife. As he confides in her, she does not harm him but does him good all his days.
In the early years of our marriage, I realized that some women wanted to turn conversations into complaining about their husbands. In the process, they almost relished the misery of others alongside their own. Others simply grasped to know more than they ought to know about the intimate details of another’s married life.
What might not be obvious to you yet is that joining in this sort of indiscrete “whispering” can cause conflict in your marriage. When you complain about your husband to friends or overshare the intimate details of your life together, you can expect that your regard for and treatment of your husband will begin to lack honor and respect. And don’t be surprised when the things you “whispered” about him make their way to his ears.
Decide now not to engage in that sort of talk. Be the kind of wife whom your husband can trust in every way. If there is some private matter with which you and your husband need outside help, go to a trusted pastor or godly couple for guidance. But don’t denigrate the sacred bond of trust that you have with your husband through indiscretion or gossip.
Disagreeing with Submission
Even when we avoid hasty speech and practice discretion, and even when our husband is loving us as Christ loved the church, legitimate disagreements will still, at times, arise. When they do, the overarching posture of the wife will often determine whether her input is a welcome counterpoint for consideration or a difficult hurdle to get past.
When a trustworthy wife pursues godliness, seeks good for her husband, and submits to him, a Christian husband will not balk or be threatened by her sincere (and respectfully offered) disagreement. You may even be surprised at how eager he is to gather your input and how seriously he takes it, even though he isn’t bound by it (nor would you want him to be!). You want him to be a man who fears God and acts as one who will give an account for the way he led his wife and family.
When a young wife looks to “the holy women who hoped in God,” such as Sarah — who submitted to Abraham, even “calling him lord” — she can have inner peace through marital disagreements (1 Peter 3:5–6). Why? Because, as Peter tells us, her hope is in God, not in her desired outcome or in her husband’s ability to make the perfect decision. When a young wife’s hope is in God, she can trust his work in the heart of her husband and in herself.