Newlywed Hurdles

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It’s happened to virtually every newlywed couple I know, including us. Things you either figured would come but perhaps not in the form or fashion you imagined it.  There are three challenges almost every couple has to deal with if they want to see any semblance of marital health:

  • Finances,
  • Roles,
  • Sex.

Finances were something I thought we had a handle on. I was making a decent wage and since my wife had moved here from Canada, she could find a job on her temporary green card. Her income would only sweeten the pot in terms of what we could afford.  Between the house payment, food, and utilities, not to mention our tithe to church, what else could there be? After all, I’d been living as a bachelor for almost a decade and managed fairly well. 

Was I in for a wake-up call?  Our grocery bill almost doubled. No more bachelor recipes, ramen noodles, and cans of Chunky Beef soup over rice for supper. Add to our menu, some awesome baking, more spices in the rack, and several new food items I’d never bought as a single guy. Kaching! Did you know that a crockpot came in super handy?

Add to that the entire world of make-up, hairdresser, and new outfits from the local mall. My closet of 6-7 shirts, khakis and shorts, and t-shirts was all I needed. I quickly learned that with love comes the need for a wardrobe cabinet in our tiny house, and places for more shoes!

No complaints here, just a reality check on how newlyweds spend money. We spend on what is important to us. When there is more month than money, cash flow gets tight and that’s when tensions rise. Wants versus needs quickly become a point of lengthy discussions. Do I get to go hang with the boys or does she enjoy a girls’ night out?  Do we have enough to see that new movie at the theatre or should be fill up her car with gas?  Money isn’t meant to be an adversarial weapon, rather, it’s a tool to discover how to live as one in priorities. One, I should add, under the grace and presence of God. 

Yes, set up a budget. Yes, talk priorities and if you really want to get a handle on your finances as a couple, pray for godly wisdom.  God promises to give it to you generously.

Another newlywed hurdle is roles in the marriage. 

“I thought you would take out the trash because my dad and my brothers did growing up.”  

“I thought that was your job? My mom and my sisters did that in our house.”

When it came to household chores, one newlywed couple went six months without cleaning the toilet. Neither would stoop to that task. Sit on the toilet, yes, but kneel and clean, never!  That is until things got to rank it had to be done. Both called a truce and did a joint deep clean of the bathroom, with masks and goggles on!  At least they could laugh over the demilitarized zone!

The Bible doesn’t really outline roles between husband and wife. We can read cultural implications into the stories but in the end, whether the husband does the cooking or the wife does is something the two of you have to work through. What I can say is if you read Ephesians 5 from verses 22 to 33, the big idea in marriage presented there is mutual submission. In our home, our roles generally fall along what have been traditional lines. My wife does most of the cooking. I’m the guy who fills in the gaps with takeout. Because of my heart surgery I can’t mow the yard anymore, so I hire it out. Albeit, my involvement in outdoor yardwork has dwindled and that is a point of contention sometimes. The biggest hurdle in roles is when one spouse is doing the heavy lifting around the house while the other kicks back on the sofa with the remote. This is not healthy and can cause a lot of resentment; something not good for any marriage for any length of time.

One word of advice on this issue of roles. How you work things out in your newlywed season of marriage may not stay that way your entire marriage. Add kids into the mix, possible health issues, job changes, and other dynamics and you might find yourself swapping roles or more.

The other newlywed hurdle many couples face is sexual expectations. Sorry to burst your bubble, guys, but all of that porn you watched is a lie! Sex doesn’t happen that way! I know, you say you love Jesus, and I’m sure you do, but unfortunately, in the world, we live in, around 90% of guys who follow Christ struggle with pornography. I sure hope you were able to kill that demon before you stood at the altar. Bringing porn into the marriage bed is devastating. As Paul writes in first Corinthians 7:1-5, sex is about you serving each other and not some foray into sexual consumption. 

Beyond the biology of sex, which I hope you had a mentor or someone talk with you about before you got married, there is the way that a couple in love treats each other. Figuring out sexual positions and getting used to how things work sexually, should always be done with tenderness and patience. The general rules of thumb include:

  • Never doing a sexual act that is harmful, painful, or degrading to your spouse.
  • If they don’t want to do it, don’t force them to do it.
  • Figure out a rhythm of sex. That is, how often you two would like to have sex. 
  • Never use sex as a bargaining chip.
  • If you have to take a break from sex, be sure the break includes time to seek the Lord. 

Bottomline, the greatest goal for sex in marriage is spiritual soul oneness. Two hearts beating as one. Two hearts in sync with each other, two bodies becoming one. Sexual intercourse is an expression of oneness, not how you get oneness.

As with roles in marriage, your sex life will go through seasons of abundance and seasons of drought. As you mature, be sure to let sex take on deeper and richer meanings as you go through the various seasons of sex.  They include:

  • Sex before kids. Usually filled with discovery, adventure, and prolonged intimacy.
  • Then, sex while raising kids (be sure your bedroom door has a good lock on it!)

“Mom and dad, what are you doing in there? It’s Saturday morning and we are hungry for breakfast!”

  • Then comes empty-nester sex. As a newlywed, that season may seem an eternity away, but you will be there sooner than you think! 
  • Finally, there’s senior sex. Yes, it’s’ possible to have good sex when you are retired. Granted, your drive may not be like it was when you were newlyweds, but that is no reason to stop being intimate.

Three hurdles virtually every newlywed couple faces. Don’t let it scare you. Don’t avoid dealing with the issues. Perhaps you could benefit from your mentor or a mentoring couple having a conversation about these three issues. However you decide to address them, do it in a way that Christ is present in your conversations. There is no reason to become adversarial. That is exactly what your number one enemy, Satan wants; to divide a marriage early on and weaken your testimony for Christ.

Even if you have been married for quite some time, it’s always good to go back and address these three key hurdles in marriage.

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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