Advice for Young (& Old) Wives

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Want to have a marriage that goes the distance? Me, too! Here are some of the things that I’ve learned in 23 years of marriage, and my advice for you.

Advice for Young (& Old) Wives | Life as Mom

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Bryan, aka FishPapa, and I have been married for over 23 years. He was — and is — Mr. Right For Me. The picture on the left is us in 1992 when he came to visit me in France as my boyfriend. The picture on the right is us in 2014 when we returned to celebrate our 20th anniversary with six kids in tow.

We’ve been through thick and thin together. Richer and poorer. In sickness and in health. We’ve welcomed six children to the world and cried together over three miscarriages. We’ve moved five times and over 4000 miles.

It’s been a crazy, wonderful, amazing ride for over 23 years.

Did I just say twenty-three years?! I was twenty-one on our wedding day, so I guess we’ve been married more than half my lifetime. Holy cow!

Anyway, over the last 20+ years, I’ve learned a few things. And I’ve made a lot of mistakes when it comes to loving my husband. Thankfully, he is much nicer and more forgiving than I am. I scored, major big time, in marrying this guy.

Here are just a few of the things that I’ve learned over the years, things I offer up today as unsolicited advice for young and old wives:

Advice for Young (& Old) Wives

Advice for Young (& Old) Wives | Life as Mom

Remember that he’s not “everything.”

Your husband is not supposed to fill your every need. You probably already knew this. But, I think it’s easy to forget. I know that I forget. Relationships with other women are vital — and your relationship with God trumps all.

Setting realistic expectations sets you both up for success. Expecting more than is realistic just isn’t fair.

Don’t expect your husband to be everything for you; he can’t possibly do it.

Let him be different.

While I consider Bryan to be my best friend and confidante, there are some things that he’s just not into. Things that I love.

A trip to the grocery store is not his idea of fun. I forget that he doesn’t go giddy over blue cheese and mushrooms, two of my very favorite foods in the world. I forget that he doesn’t really want to hear every detail of “that time of the month,” whereas a girlfriend can nod and respond in sympathy.

Likewise, my eyes tend to glass over when he talks about camera lenses and photography practices. We’re different and that is okay.

He doesn’t have to like everything you like or talk about everything you want to talk about.

Realize he will bug you.

Your husband will inevitably leave dirty socks on the floor, forget to take out the trash, or drive too close to the car ahead of him. Since he is different from you, he will do things differently. And this will bug you.

Provided that they aren’t inherently “wrong,” work to ignore those things or minimize their importance.

Trust me, you’ll both be happier if you let him be him.

Advice for Young (& Old) Wives | Life as Mom

Learn from him and from your differences.

My husband has been an immense help to me over the years in learning how other people think. Sometimes it’s a man brain v. woman brain kind of thing. Sometimes it’s just differences of opinions and personality. Interestingly enough, I tend to be the insensitive one and he is the one to clue me in to be kinder and gentler.

Either way, when I take the time to learn and be accepting of the differences, I am helped personally, emotionally, and socially.

Your husband is the prime example of someone who is different — but who also loves you. You can’t say that about everyone you disagree with.

Forgive and seek forgiveness.

Living in close proximity to another person with differing opinions, habits, and preferences is a recipe for disagreement. It’s going to happen. And as sparks fly upwards, so will our tempers. Get in the habit of forgiving — and asking for forgiveness.

Remember why you said yes in the first place.

Hang on during the rough spots.

I am not a marriage counselor. I’m just figuring these things out as I go along. Twenty-three years is a long time, but I have so much yet to learn. While I continue to make more mistakes, I am thankful to sometimes learn from them.

I know that some marriages are more difficult than others. And really, some seasons of life are harder to navigate than others. Our circumstances can put a lot of stress on our family relationships. These tips are not the cure-all, the magic bullet, or the special formula to eternal marital happiness.

Trust me, we’ve had our problems. However, I’ve found that these things help bring perspective to my situation and help me love my husband more and grow as a wife. I hope they help you, too.

What have YOU learned in marriage?

Originally published May 14, 2011. Updated August 20, 2017.

Advice for Young (& Old) Wives | Life as Mom

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  1. I could use some advice on from the parents with older kids. My husband & I got married later in life (I was 37 & he was 42.) I got pregnant, got eclampsia & ended up with a one pound baby (& was told to not have any more babies.) My one pound baby needed lots of special care over the years. I’m happy to say that he is now a 16 year old junior in high school & a varsity runner. My husband & I attend evey sporting event & school event. My son is starting to look at out of state colleges…I’m really scared at what will happen to my marriage when my son leaves for college in 2 years. I feel like my son is the glue that holds our marriage together. Any advice?

    1. I would say that now is a great time to develop some hobbies and common interests with your husband, so that when the nest empties, you’re not relying on your son. Do you have a regular date night, just the two of you? That can take some work to make it a habit, but it’s really worth it to us to have that time just by ourselves. And like Kelly mentions above, getting away on little overnighters by yourselves. Your son is old enough that you can do this.

      Let us know how it goes!

  2. Take time to just be yourselves not Mom and Dad. We just took a 15 year anniversary trip (only 4 days) and it literally felt like we were on our honeymoon (and we acted like it). When at home and everything else calls to our attention first, it was nice to get away and invest in our marriage for the future.

  3. Unfortunately, I have learned in my 19 years of marriage is that there is ten times more pain than joy, in our case. Trying my best, but 15 years of sorrow out of 19 makes it difficult to hang on through the tough spots when they seem to only be tough spots. Tried A LOT, and now just TIRED.

  4. Congratulations, very good post.
    My husband and I had our 28th Wedding aniversary yesterday. Marriage takes work
    Congratulations again.

  5. Today is our two-week anniversary. The best advice we’ve gotten so far was written by his aunt on our wedding card.

    ‘Be nice to each other’.

  6. Great post. Happy Anniversary! For me, it’s about realizing that life is too short. Too short for judgment, anger, and shortness to rule. Life is fragile – my husband is my beloved. I can’t bear to spend one day in conflict with him when it could be our last. That is the perspective that changed my life in all things. Parenting too. 😉

  7. Congrats! Marriage has its challenges, but it has so much beauty as well, especially when two people are committed to work things through and believe the best of the other person.

  8. Congratulations! Your advice is fabulous, things I take to heart each day. We’ve been married 14 years and we kept the card my dad gave us to celebrate our engagement – he wrote…
    Marriage is like a long, winding river. There will be many places where it ebbs, plenty where it flows. Most people jump off at the ebbs because those are the hard parts, the boring parts, the parts that aren’t fun. But every ebb is always followed by a great flow, the rapids, the excitement, the fun, the best memories…if you went through life only on the rapids, you’d miss out on so very many lessons and moments. Embrace the ebbs; enjoy the flows.
    Happy Anniversary!!

  9. I love reading everyone’s advice! We’re celebrating 5 years this summer and that feels like a HUGE milestone. It’s been very rocky at times (one child who needed two surgeries, six moves, three jobs, one period of living with my in-laws, me having cancer and treatment, buying a home and having two floods), but I’m so proud of where we are. I was 22 and he was 25 and I was a child in many ways.

    My only advice is that the argument that feels so important at that moment really isn’t. It’s not worth the repercussion (for the most part) and all it takes is a little extra patience and the anger will all blow over. We’ve learned that the hard way. 🙂

  10. Congrats! I love what you shared, it’s simple, encouraging and just not said enough.
    We will be celebrating 21 years this June. It’s crazy since I am pretty sure I am still 29.
    We learned early on how to fight. It will happen, so have rules and figure out how to fight within those rules.
    Never, ever expect your husband to notice your haircut. Just tell him you got it.

  11. Very encouraging! & Thank you! I needed to hear this right now. We’ve got some healing in our marriage going on. I think another one is expect change and be prepared to adampt to it. After 2 parental deaths, 2 spouts of depression, living with an alcoholic parent, and neither of us able to find stable work for 2 years (thanks recession!), jumping from state to state and family member to family member with a newborn and then nearly being homeless…life taught us that. And that was in our first 5 years of marriage. We started out doing well, then everything fell apart almost immediately after we got married. There have been times where we’ve both been strong and both failed eachother miserably. Times where one was carrying all the weight and the other couldn’t (depression). I’ve found marriage requires change.

  12. Often we are kinder to our friends and even to strangers than we are to our husbands.. Maybe we simply take for granted that our husbands will always be there, so why try? I try to always remember that he is the love of my life and no one other than God will ever love me as much as he does.. He deserves my kindness and consideration more than anyone..

  13. happy anniversary! Within about a week of marriage, we banned the “D” word from our vocabulary and minds (divorce, that is). If you know it IS going to last, then you will have to make it last with God’s help.

  14. Happy Anniversary! and Congratulations. Yes our husbands bug us from time to time but as my mother said – the thing that attracted you in the first place, ie his sense of adventure will be what drives you crazy some day. My husband’s sense of adventure often leads to him running out of gas because he is a free spirit. I love the free spirit in him but I need to have a full tank of gas before we head out(for my peace of mind).

  15. Happy Anniversary! Today marks 6 years for us. It’s been an adventure! In six years, we’ve had 2 kiddos and my husband completed his Master’s and now is about to finish his PhD. Grad school puts an interesting twist into marriage…or maybe it’s the other way around.:) So thankful for my hubby!

  16. Happy Anniversary! 🙂
    I Loved the post about “good and bad decades” during our 6 yr marriage we’ve had a few good and a few bad years. I’m thankful our marriage didn’t start off in a “bad decade”.
    I Love your Site and lookforward to your posts. This one was especially relevant to me this week.
    Thanks and God Bless you with many more years of happiness.

  17. Happy anniversary FishMama and FishPapa. May you have many more years of happiness and wonderful memories together.

  18. happy anniversary to the fishes!!

    your post today is filled with much wisdom – thanks for sharing.

    this coming tuesday marks our 25th anniversary. =) =)

  19. The best marriage advice I ever received was from my grandmother-in-law who was married for 63 years before her husband died: “There were good decades and bad decades.”

    Not really advice, but it puts things in perspective. When you’ve been married less than 10 or 20 years, the idea of a bad decade sound awful. But if you think about it over 50 years, a bad decade or two is worth it for three or four good ones.

  20. you go girl! i’ve been married nearly 43 years and have come to the same conclusions as you! (we must be right:)

    the points re learning from him about people, realizing that he isn’t your everything (your still need your female freinds), and letting him be different. so true!!

    you wrote about it in a more concise and easier to read way than i did recently. i’m working on being more concise, but the rabbit trails in my head are many.

  21. Yes! What a “surprise” it was to me that my husband had different ways of doing things AND that both ways could be RIGHT ; ) I also agree with sharing an activity with your husband – especially a physical one – we do yoga together and it gives us something to talk about and keeps us physically connected.

  22. Happy Anniversary!
    We have been married a little over 15 years. I was 20 and he was 21 when we married. Out first child is now 20 months old (yes, we waited a long time).
    My momma told me when I married that I would sometimes wake up not liking my husband, but I must always wake up loving my husband.
    That advice has served me well.

    1. Another great piece of advice from your momma! Thanks for sharing!

  23. Congratulations! What a lovely pic!
    I too was 21 when I got married, it was a whirlwind romance, (now married 23 years) and my eldest daughter turns 21 this summer.
    I think there are a couple of things which help keep a marriage happy. Practice saying sorry even if it’s not your fault, and try to show an interest in football…..

  24. I learned to take an interest in my hubby’s hobbies and always, ALWAYS respect him.

    We’ve been married 2 1/2 years and I got married at 18 :)!

  25. Happy Anniversary! Beautiful pic, love it! We will be celebrating our 31st…Time flies doesn’t it? : )

    Very good advice! I have on my site a wonderful old 40s movie, one of the best ever…”The Best Years of Our Lives” …There is a scene where Myrna Loy explains to her young adult daughter how yes…she and her husband, too have had their problems, it was a scene where Teresa Wright who plays her single adult daughter is thinking that her parents have never had any problems whatsoever…. One of the best scenes ever.

  26. So true. So true. Thank you for the great advice to young wives and the great reminders to us older wives. May we continually strive to bring our husbands “good, not harm”, all the days of our lives.

    I have learned to cut my husband more slack over these last 20 years. How silly I was as a young wife to expect so much! I must have read entirely too many romance novels as a young girl. He’s human. I’m human. We mess up. We forgive. We move on.

    Happy Anniversary.

  27. Happy Anniversary! Small world. We celebrated our seventeenth wedding anniversary yesterday! We were married seventeen years ago on Friday the 13th.

    I just believe that we should all treat others as we would want to be treated and everything else will just fall into place.

  28. Something a widow once told me is that she would take all the socks on the floor and any of the other pet peeve things if she could have her husband back. Puts things in perspective.

    And from love and respect ( we should be assuming that something our spouse does that we didn’t like or whatever came from love and not something negative. Don’t assume the worst about our spouse and it makes things look differently.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing what the widow said. That really hit me and I will definitely be keeping that nugget as a reminder to keep things in perspective. I am quite sure you just made a huge impact on my marriage – and life for that matter!
      Thank you!

  29. Congratulations! What wonderful reminders.

    I love my husband to pieces, but find myself really needing these reminders to let the little things go and, like you said, remember why I married him in the first place.

  30. this is great, and congratulations! i’ve just recently learned, after 16 years together and almost 13 married, so sometimes keep my mouth shut! let things go every now and then … i’m always pleased by the effect later … b/c he then also lets things go that i do!

  31. Happy Anniversary! I look forward to reaching the 17 year mark one day!! And I thought we were big stuff b/c we’ll be celebrating 6 years in July! ;-D

    Our marriage started off extremely rocky- I was 19, he was 25 and we were expecting our first baby already. We had moved in together a few months earlier, even though as Christians we knew it was wrong. We had already planned a wedding in September, because we knew we were crazy about each other, that we’d found our “other half”. But when we found out in May that we were expecting we decided to just go to a Justice of the Peace and save every penny we could for the baby.

    I would be a complete liar if I said the first 5 years of our marriage were happy. Far from it. There were some really happy moments, of course. But overall there was a lot of strife, mostly because we didn’t have time to really date and enjoy that time of it being “just us” before we were suddenly parents. That’s a huge leap. Plus our finances were horrible (neither of us had finished college and were working minimum wage jobs), and we had plenty of “extended family” issues. Oh, and to top it all off we were both still pretty immature when it came down to it.

    A few years ago my mom gave me a copy of “The Power of a Praying Wife” by Stormie O’Martin. I started reading out of desperation, but now I still pray those prayers out of a sincere love for my husband. I’ve always loved him and I’m pretty sure he’s always loved me! ;-D We just had some major hurdles right from the beginnning. He’s my best friend and I love the life we’ve started building together!

    I just want to encourage other wives out there who may have had less than the “fairy tale” romance leading up to their marriage and throughout it, that God works through a sincere heart praying for help, willing to be changed. You alone can’t change your husband or your marriage. You will more than likely pester your husband to death and push him farther away from you. Only God can create lasting changes in someone’s heart and mind, because only He can truly know and understand each person, and how to help that person change for the better.

    1. @Danielle B, LOVE that you chimed in to share your story. Marriage is one of the biggest challenges of life, rt next to parenting. Thanks for such encouraging words!

    2. @Danielle B,
      Thank you for sharing your story, Danielle. As someone who’s dealing with plenty right now (illness, extended family our own personalities), marriage does seem overwhelming at times. You and Jessica as well as all the other awesome comments have just served to inspire and encourage me tremendously.
      @Jessica– Congratulations on 17 years! Awesome. You are SO inspiring.

      1. @Prerna,
        Welcome. ;-D

        Sorry to hear you’re struggling- I’ll be praying that the Holy Spirit washes over you and encourages, strengthens and renews you in ways that will effect your family for generations to come!

    3. @Danielle B, Wow! Exactly what I needed to hear! I think I will check that book out.At age 25 I met my husband, who also happened to be my first boyfriend, and fell madly in love.I am a Christian and I knew better, but we got pregnant before getting married, I convinced myself that he is a Christian and we married 4 months after we started dating. And now, almost five years and 3 kids later I can say that it has been very hard, but I take my marriage vows very seriously.I totally have been guilty of pestering my husband and trying to change him.My advice for anyone out there who is getting married is make sure you know the person very well and don’t rush into anything. Seriously.Hang around other people and ask them what they think about the person you are dating.Take their criticism of that person seriously.And once you are married, honor your marriage vows, realize that there are going to be some difficult days, months and years.But marriage is also a blessing and the good times often overshadow the bad.

  32. Happy Anniversary! My husband and I were high school sweethearts who reconnected after years of being apart. We have been a couple for 11 years, married for 7 years this June. He drives me nuts sometimes. We have been through some really scary stuff, we’ve hit super rough patches, one particular one where we almost called it quits. I took my marriage vows to him very seriously, enough where we managed to work it out. I’ve learned that each of us has our own opinions, and don’t have to agree on everything.
    My secret to a happy marriage (what works for us), I want him to be happy, and he wants me to be happy. 🙂

  33. Happy Anniversary and you look beautiful in your wedding pictures. I wholeheartedly agree with all the advice you offered. Next month my husband and I have been married 10 years but honestly it seems just like yesterday. It is amazing how much can happen in a decade. My advice is to make time for each other and have fun together. Make time (without the kids) to just be together and enjoy each others company. Having kids is wonderful but days, weeks, and sadly months (when we are really busy) can go by when sometimes we realize that we have not had a date night alone. That alone time always refuels us.

  34. Love this. Hmm… things I’ve learned along the way through 9 years have been taught to be wiser women and men (you can include yourself in this even if just for this post) and through trial and error. Current favorite “lesson”… happiness is a feeling that comes and goes, contentment is a decision that sometimes requires work and committment. In my marriage, I seek contentment and enjoy the happiness while it is here! 🙂 With this attitude, I find I am “happy” more often!

  35. Wonderful thoughts!
    We will celebrate 13 years this summer! One tip I would like to add: find something you both like to do and do it together, especially if you have kids. It is so important to carve time out in our schedules and doing something together makes that more enjoyable.

    My husband and I joined the Masters Swim Team (even though neither of us swam in high school or college). We are both healthier and have a happier marriage by doing this activity together!

  36. Congratulations on 17 years! Thanks for taking the time to put this post together; that was very thoughtful and helpful.

  37. This is very good advice. I wish I would have known some of this as a young wife. Took me way too long to figure it out.

    Happy Anniversary!

  38. Happy Anniversary! Today marks 28 years for me and my hubby! Hard to believe it has been that long! I will be attending a wedding today of a young couple we know. I told them they picked a great day!

    1. @Elizabeth,

      Happy Anniversary to all of you! Today is also my aunt and uncle’s 28th wedding anniversary! I couldn’t leave without commenting on that!

  39. Never ever ever say anything negative about your mil. It’s a good way to start an argument.

    1. And never ever talk bad about your husband in public. Sharing frustrations with a close friend to get advice? Okay. Sharing with a group for commiseration? Not okay.

      (And happy anniversary, Jessica!!!)

    2. @Wendy,

      Unless your MIL tries to choke you, then you better hope he’s on your side.

      Yes, that happened. She called my children retards (because my daughter has Down syndrome.)

      We no longer have contact with MIL.