Marrying your best friend is pretty grand. But, it does compel change.
In the past half year of being Mrs. Nathaniel Day, I’ve grown, matured, and learned much about what real love is—or rather what real love does.
No longer is love just an idealized fantasy of passionate feelings and emotion. But rather, the reality is that love is action. It’s what I choose to do for my husband, actively and sometimes with a lot of effort. I’m no expert (after all, it’s only been half a year), but I would like to share some things I’ve been learning.
Real love shares. You get to come home after work to your favorite person and discuss your day—the good, the bad, and the ugly! Merging two lives can be tough, especially if you have lived on your own for several years like Nate and I did. We married when we were 27, and both of us developed lifestyles that were not accustomed to sharing as adults. We shared as kids (he’s the oldest of three boys and I’m the oldest of four girls), but not as young professionals. Sharing everything in marriage means that we each own 100 percent of everything. This shared ownership includes food, the TV, the bed, our closet, the bathroom, cars, health insurance, cell phone plans, the refrigerator and pantry, and even our schedules (one of the hardest things I’ve been learning). Sharing means you care.
Real love develops a shared vision and purpose. Discussions, or what I like to call “dreaming together” allows us to explore what we want our family to be about, and this drives our decisions in finances, relationships, travel/vacation, and much more. Nate and I imagine the future regularly, and chat about how our family can best glorify God with our unique skills and situation. It’s a lot of fun and I highly encourage other couples to take the time to be vulnerable and purposeful about their dreams.
Real love respects the leadership of the husband as head of the household. The Bible says the husband is the head of the family just as Christ is the head of the Church. In every company someone is the top dog and makes the final decision. In our family, that’s Nate – and he gets the tough job of learning how to lead self-sacrificially as Christ loved the Church. I’m slowly learning how to submit to his authority, and I can only follow through with it out of my own reverence for Christ. It’s pretty sweet how things work when we both show respect and love.
Real love builds consensus. In marriage we should seek consensus, where both parties get what they want through coming to agreement. In the past half year, Nate and I have learned to find consensus in choosing what food to purchase and meals to make. We’ve learned how to agree to disagree on how soon or late dishes are put into the sink and dishwasher. Both of us have learned to work together in how to neatly organize the many books we own (and which ones to donate to Goodwill). Aim for a mutually beneficial solution: seek to understand first, then to be understood.
Real love encourages and brings out the best in the other person. Nate and I have put on a few pounds since first meeting in 2008. Blame it on graduate school, moving across states, long distance dating, working in Congress, being unemployed, waiting tables at a high-caloric restaurant, regular DC happy hours, getting promoted and managing a team of folks, or globetrotting across dozens of countries. But those are just excuses. The fact is—we didn’t make it a priority to build in the time to exercise. Now, we push each other to go to the gym regularly and invest in high-energy hobbies. When I don’t feel like it, Nate encourages me to go and visa versa. All of us are imperfect and have room to improve. Graciously accept your spouse’s opinion on how to improve, and offer them constructive criticism for their benefit. Make sure to temper constructive feedback with encouragement.
Real love becomes one flesh in marriage. The Bible says, “A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Real love is a lifelong commitment where a new family is started: the man leaves his parents to start a union with his wife, and as the Bible says, it is then that they become one through the amazing God-given gift of intimacy. I was nervous and excited about consecrating the marriage on our honeymoon, but it was awesome! Sex is to be enjoyed greatly within the confines of marriage. We are continually learning how best to love one another physically, and I greatly cherish intimacy with my husband.
Real love repents, forgives, and doesn’t hold a grudge. Admitting fault is difficult because it requires us to check our egos at the door. Our partner needs to hear this admission of wrongdoing and how sorry we are for hurting them. Make sure you mean it–don’t just go through the motions. Repent and then turn from your ways—begin anew and act righteously. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says love keeps no record of wrongs. Often times when the house gets messy, I get upset about it and bring up other past wrongdoings and annoyances Nate has done; this is wrong and has just stirred up more dissention. When we forgive from the heart, lay it to rest. Conversely, when in error apologize and correct your actions.
Real love prays with and for one another. When we started dating in 2009, Nate and I began praying together regularly. This brought us closer spiritually, especially when we were living in different countries separated by an ocean, 7,000 miles, and with a 13-hour time zone difference. When our schedules didn’t allow for us to pray together, I would go before the LORD’s throne to pray on his behalf. Prayer is a powerful gift you can give another person.
Real love speaks highly of the other in public. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who speak negatively about their mate. Speaking this way ruins your reputation and causes harm to your partner. The person who trash talks their most intimate relationship and lifelong companion cannot be trusted. And for those of us that follow Christ, it crushes our witness and diminishes the brand of Jesus.
Real love carves out a regular time to work on the marriage. When we got engaged in March of 2012, we committed to “Marriage Monday” sessions each weeknight where we would work on wedding planning details and homework from our church’s pre-marital mentoring. Since our wedding, life hasn’t slowed down, and this Marriage Monday tradition is something we maintain and have now come to cherish. Marriage is important enough to us to have a regular place in our weekly schedule, and for now it’s on Monday nights. Make the time to put in the work--your marriage deserves it!
The first half year of our marriage has had its challenges and its rewards, along with much growth. Our partnership is becoming the new normal, and I eagerly look forward to many more years to come learning how real love does.Media: