When Ashley and I walked down the aisle on May 19, 2001, we were madly in love (and we still are), but we had no idea what we were getting into! I had just graduated from college the week before and she was still in school. Most of our friends thought we were crazy, but we didn’t care! We knew we wanted to be together and that was all that mattered.

Now, 12 years, three kids and a few pounds (on my part) later, I don’t have a single regret, but there are some things I wish I would have known back then that would have made the first few years much easier! I’ve learned that marriages that start strong are much more likely to finish strong, so I’ve put together a list of five things that I believe every couple should strive do accomplish in their first five years of marriage. If you will make these a priority right from the beginning, you’ll be in for a much better road ahead!

In no particular order…
1. Find some good “Couple Friends”

If you only have “his” and “her” friends and you spend you social time apart from each other and always hanging with the girls or the guys, you’re missing a great opportunity to grow in your relationship with your spouse while also growing in friendships with other couples.

2. Make your health a priority

When I got married, I got kind of fat. I temporarily lost all motivation to eat right or to exercise and I dug a hole for myself that I had to work hard to correct. I’ve seen a lot of folks abandon their health early in their marriage and it can create a lot of negative effects on all aspects of your life and your marriage down the road. Find a physical activity that you enjoy doing together and then you’ll get exercise and quality time all at once.

3. Develop a financial plan

We started off flat broke so we figured we didn’t really have a need to budget, but our neglect of financial planning early on led to a lot of debt and the debt created stress and that stress put an unnecessary strain on our marriage. We’ve worked hard to get out of debt and it’s been one of the best things we’ve ever done for our relationship, but it would have been even better to not make those financial mistakes in the first place! If you want to get started with a plan, check out the resources atwww.DaveRamsey.com.

4. Find a good church

Faith is the foundation that sustains a lifelong marriage. Ashley and I made a commitment to get connected into a church right away and it’s probably the single best decision we made. We volunteered together in a youth ministry, made some wonderful friends and grew in our understanding of how beautiful marriage and life can be when you do it God’s way.

5. Keep dating each other

Never stop dating just because you’re married! Continue to create new memories and adventures together. Keep discovering new things about each other. Having a consistent “Date Night” is one of the biggest reasons our marriage is so strong today.

No matter how long you’ve been together, if you start now and put these principles into practice, I can guarantee that your marriage will improve!

This article was originally published on Patheos.


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