If you’re a newlywed, congratulations! You’ve made the biggest and most beautiful commitment of your life, other than following Jesus. Marriage is a commitment that doesn’t come with a detailed instruction manual, so feeling lost or not knowing what to do is part of the learning process.
The newlywed season of life is one of constant learning. In particular you’re learning about what it’s like to live as a married couple. You’re also learning a lot about your spouse that you didn’t know before getting married. There are plenty of books and resources that exist to help you with marriage; today I’m highlighting two books that speak especially well to the newlywed phase of marriage.
You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith
It doesn’t take long in marriage to realize that you really don’t like the way your new spouse puts away laundry, leaves dishes in the sink, or pushes snooze on the alarm clock about a dozen times before they actually get out of bed. My wife may or may not have realized one or two of these about me early on in our marriage.
The reality is that both you and your spouse brought a lot more than you realized into your marriage. Along with all of our clothes, furniture, and other belongings, every person that gets married brings their habits into their marriage.
You Are What You Love by James K.A. Smith is a book about the spiritual power of habit. Our habits are formed as a result of what we love most, and our habits also shape what we love most. You might be surprised that the first book I am recommending to newlyweds is not a book on marriage, but the principles that James K.A. Smith uncovers in You Are What You Love are a powerful force when applied to the sphere of marriage.
Smith’s contribution is his observation that our habits, actions and pursuits are deeply affected by what we love most, and that our loves can unknowingly be shaped by the everyday habits that surround us. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” James K.A. Smith’s You Are What You Love will help you to identify the habits and practices that stir your love for God and guard your heart, as well as the ones that don’t!
God created humans to be creatures of habit. It’s a lot easier for us to maintain good habits than it is to shed unhelpful ones. The newlywed stage is a unique opportunity to take stock of the habits that are currently shaping your hearts. It’s also an opportunity to create habits that will encourage the love that you have for God and for your spouse. That’s why I love this book. Smith teaches you to recognize liturgies and rituals that will help you make love, care and grace an instinct in your marriage. There is no better time to form those instincts than when you are newlyweds.
See-Through Marriage by Ryan and Selena Frederick
I wasn’t paid or compelled to include the Frederick’s book on this list— it’s just that good! Here’s why:
If you’re a newlywed, you’re learning a LOT about your spouse every single day. Not only that: your spouse is learning a lot about you. Despite the heightened levels of intimacy and familiarity that a new marriage brings, it’s tempting to hide parts of yourself from the person who is closest to you. There may be parts of you that you don’t want even your spouse to know about.
In order to truly experience the fullness of unity that comes with marriage, it’s vital to maintain a spirit of openness and vulnerability that leads to knowing and being truly known. Tim Keller once wrote, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.” The second book I am recommending is on the topic of transparency in marriage.
The newlywed stage is a great time to begin healthy habits for your marriage that will stand the test of time. The habit of taking meaningful risks to be transparent with your spouse at the beginning of your marriage will continue to pay dividends for the rest of your life. In the book See-Through Marriage, Ryan and Selena Frederick paint a compelling picture of what it looks like to be fully known and truly loved in the context of one’s marriage. They explain how the gospel frees us from the fear and shame of being exposed to the people we love most. Stepping out and taking the risk of transparency is actually what will help bring unity in the place where division is, and develop emotional oneness with your spouse. Read See-Through Marriage with your spouse and learn to make your marriage a space that is safe, honest, and vulnerable.
Make the most of these years!
You Are What You Do and See-Through Marriage will help you make the most of the newlywed stage in marriage. The beginning of marriage presents its own unique challenges and trials. It can be tempting to idolize having the “perfect marriage;” practicing all the right habits and saying all the right things. In the midst of pursuing great things in marriage, remember the purpose of marriage: to be a sanctifying picture of the gospel. Forming God-honoring habits and transparency are not ends in themselves; they serve the ultimate end of becoming more like Christ.
Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?
Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?