Our closest friends just got married.

My wife and I grabbed dinner with them a few weeks ago and it reminded me of how fun (and frustrating) the newlywed phase of marriage can be. Our friends are clearly in a season of re-learning everything they thought they knew about marriage and each other.

Seeing this reminded me of just how uncomfortable the first few years of marriage can be and how normal it is for couples to struggle.

So, without further ado, here are a few tips (gathered from experts, therapists and research) to help couples navigate the first few years of marriage:

Listening is key.

I can’t express enough how crucial communication is. It’s foundational to any relationship.

Remember, communication has two parts: speaking and listening. Listening is vital in communication. Become a better listener and tune in to your spouse.

You won’t always agree and that’s OK.

You’re not going to see eye to eye on everything. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree.

I strongly suggest coming to a mutual agreement on big things like significant purchases, career choices, family size and holidays. But in small things, it’s OK to disagree.

You’re both going to grow.

A wise leader once told me, “You’ll be the same person in five years as you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet.” Basically, what you learn and who you build relationships with will mold who you become.

You’re both going to grow. You’ll be different people in five, 10 or even 25 years. Grow together and encourage each other’s growth.

You both may see the world differently.

You and your spouse have different life experiences that shape your worldview. My wife and I grew up in different countries and cultures, so we see the world differently. But we try to see the world through each other’s lenses.

Always be intentional with each other.

Successful couples are intentional. They prioritize each other’s needs. Be intentional about putting your spouse first.

Keep dating.

Dating keeps you connected. Get creative with your dates. It doesn’t always have to be dinner and a movie.

And it doesn’t always have to be in the evening. Schedule dates, put them on the calendar and prioritize that time together.

Make sex a priority.

Talk about it. Schedule it. And do it. Sexual intimacy actually increases the emotional intimacy in your marriage.

You both may have different sex drives and that’s OK. Again, talk about it. Sex is an essential part of your marriage.

Boundaries are crucial.

In-laws, social media, opposite-sex friends, technology, money, friends … the list goes on and on. Boundaries matter and they aren’t bad.

Think of them as guardrails. They’re there to keep you on the road and going in the right direction. Talk about them and establish them together.

Conflict will happen.

Your marriage is made up of two imperfect people. Conflict is gonna happen. One of you may see conflict as a sport; the other may avoid it at all costs.

You can’t make conflict disappear, but you can learn to manage it in a healthy way.

Assume the best about your spouse.

Your spouse may do something that bothers you or hurts you. Don’t assume they did it on purpose. You are both learning about each other. Assume the best and give them grace.

Be your spouse’s #1 cheerleader.

Your spouse has goals. Talk about their goals and find ways to support them as they work to achieve them.

Be committed.

Your wedding day shouldn’t be the only day you define your commitment. It’s a daily choice that you make known to your spouse.

Have fun, and lots of it.

Maybe it’s dancing in the kitchen, playing games, being goofy or having Nerf gun wars. Whatever it is, make your marriage fun.

The first five years of marriage can be uncomfortable and beautiful all at the same time.

Whether you’re a newlywed yourself or you have newlywed couples in your life, these 13 tips can go a long way to help newlyweds build a solid foundation for the rest of their lives together.

Mitchell Qualls is the operations director at First Things First. Contact him at mitchell@firstthings.org

Mitchell Qualls is the operations director at First Things First. Contact him at mitchell@firstthings.org

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