10 Things I Would Tell Anyone Heading to the Altar

10 Things I Would Tell Anyone Heading to the Altar

By Tiffany Kong, founder of DiscoveringWE
with her husband, Joseph Kong

If you could go back in time to give yourself advice before getting married, what would you say? Chances are, there’s probably a lot that you would tell yourself to do or not to do. I grew up in a family where we didn’t talk much about what to expect in marriage. Everybody knew that when you got older, you’re just supposed to find a job, get married, and then have kids. 

A lot easier said than done.

I wish I knew that being married would mean dying to myself every day and putting my spouse first. I wish I knew that being married would be one of the hardest things I experience because I’m tested and tempted each day. I wish I knew being married isn’t about finding the right person but being the right person.

You may not be able to change your thinking from the past, but you have that opportunity to do so now for the future of your marriage and also as you teach your future generations on what this sacred covenant really means.

Whether you need the reminder or are giving advice to a loved one headed for the altar, here are 10 pieces of advice for a happy and healthy marriage.

  1. Work on being a better version of yourself

The key to a better marriage is by being a better you. You are the only person you can control. Become the type of person you want to attract. And while it’s important to find the right person, it’s also just as important to be the right person. You can’t give your best to your future spouse if you aren’t your best.

2. You’re not always right

And it’s okay to be wrong! That’s how you learn and grow. When you want to be right all the time, you’re only allowing yourself to see one possibility instead of seeing all the possibilities together. You don’t win anything being right all the time, it will actually end up doing more damage to your marriage than you think.

3. Master the art of apologizing

Own the mistakes you make and apologize sincerely. We all make mistakes and do stupid things, so take responsibility for your actions and apologize. And sometimes just saying I’m sorry won’t be good enough. Be specific in your apology. Admit your fault, take responsibility for your actions, ask for forgiveness, and then ask what you can do to prevent this from happening again.

4. Learn to actively practice forgiveness

You and your spouse will be apologizing to each other for the rest of your lives. One of the hardest things you’ll need to learn is to become an excellent forgiver.  Stop holding grudges and keeping score. When you learn to forgive more often, you release yourself from constantly feeling chained. Forgiveness opens the door for change and growth.

5. Continue to date each other after marriage

Just because you got them, doesn’t mean they’ll stay. By dating each other and continuing to build emotional intimacy, you are building a strong foundation for your marriage. Going on dates creates the memories that you look back on and remember why you fell in love in the first place. It’s okay to schedule your date nights too, it’s all about being intentional.

6. Learn to manage your money

When you get married, you and your spouse’s finances will be combined. There should be no secrets because you will be sharing your debts, bank accounts, and credit. If you don’t learn to manage your money right now, it’ll only get worse after you get married. Your money habits that you have when you’re single will transfer over to become your money habits in marriage. If you have toxic spending patterns, you need to address that and resolve your own money issues before being responsible for someone else’s. Get smart with your money. 

7. Don’t bring your childhood baggage into the marriage

The reason why we act and think the way we do is largely because of how we were raised. When you face conflict, look for clues that explain why your significant other acts in the way they do. Did something happen to them as a child to make them feel this way? Your marriage is not the same as your parent’s marriage, whether it was good or bad. Your spouse is innocent from all of that. You must start fresh and new with your spouse.

8. Love and respect yourself

How you treat yourself will determine how you allow others, including your spouse, to treat you. When you love and accept yourself, flaws and all, there’s no chance that anyone else would treat you with disrespect. Know who you are and how much you’re worth.

9. Throw everything you think you know about marriage out the window

You’re going to build your marriage with your spouse. You two get to define what that means and how your relationship will look like. It’s good to learn about marriage by reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching informative videos. But be careful not to idolize a relationship, whether it be fictional or real, and create unrealistic expectations for yourself and your marriage.

10. There’s a time for everything

There’s a reason why you’re still in this season. Learn everything you can from it, and do not be so anxious for tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

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The 14th Day…Beyond the Hype

The 14th Day…Beyond the Hype

A day known for love and romance is quickly approaching, and there are A-LOT of expectations wrapped up in just that one gentle rotation of the earth. 

If we buy into all the hype, there are roses to be delivered, perfect gifts to be wrapped, and dinner reservations to be made…weeks in advance. Plus, there’s an overwhelming assortment of cards and candies to choose from, which start filling up store shelves mere moments after the ball drops in Times Square.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Valentine’s Day. I’ve just never felt an overwhelming need to be wined and dined on this one particular day of the year. Even as a kid, I don’t remember it being that big of a deal…

I’m not sure if that incident in grade school has anything to do with it, but if your earliest memory of Valentine’s Day is laughing so hard you pee your pants…February 14th might not be your best day for romance.

Remember those Sweethearts candies, the ones with the cute little sayings like, “Kiss Me” and “You Rock”? Our teacher had the brilliant idea for all of us to read one aloud to the nearest boy if you were a girl or vice versa—one at a time—with everyone focused on you! 

Imagine having to ask the boy who calls you “bigfoot” at recess, if he wants to “Marry Me?” while fifty laughing-eyes stare in a chorus of giggles? 

All I could do was laugh along uncomfortably…unfortunately, I laughed too hard. That’s when it happened, the so-called “Sweetheart incident.”  Trying to keep it on the down-low, I quickly tied my sweatshirt around my waist (hiding my indiscretion), before sneaking out of class as fast as possible. Those chalky heart-shaped candies have haunted me ever since.

I don’t recall all of my Valentine’s Days past, but a few—for better or for worse—are memorable in their own special way…

One year, a boyfriend gave me a dozen red roses, a box of Russell Stover chocolates, and a teddy bear. That teddy bear is one of many reasons said boyfriend is no longer in the picture. 

As we discussed our plans for the big day, I happened to mention how cheesy I thought it was for couples to exchange stuffed animals. So what does the guy do? 

He gets me—wait for it— a teddy bear holding a stuffed version of a Sweetheart candy (best memory ever!) printed with “Be Mine.” It was definitely the beginning of the end for us.

Jumping way ahead in the time machine…

There was this one special Valentine’s Day shortly after we were married when my husband left little love notes all over the bathroom. He then proceeded to send me sweet nothings, via the World-Wide-Web, for the rest of the day. 

Walking in the door that evening, he greeted me with a kiss and a glass of wine as he escorted me upstairs to a warm bubble bath sprinkled with rose petals. I asked him about it as I prepared this article, and he laughed saying, “I must’ve seen it in a movie.” Sadly, no rose petals have ever graced my bubble bath since.

So, you know what I remember most about good ole’ days of Valentine’s Day when the kids were in grade school? Staying up late the night before the class parties to scribble their cute little signatures on each of those 75-plus miniature cards. Then folding those little buggers in half, while trying clip the tiny half-moon into the irritatingly small cut out. (Insert frustrated emoji here!!)

Of course, my kids didn’t want to only give cards, they wanted to give candy too. But, if you opted to include candy, you had to follow the Allergy Guide. “No nuts, remember-not everyone likes chocolate, some kids can only have sugar free, and others are gluten-free… and it went on.” It was SO stressful trying to meet everyone’s dietary needs—for candy!

All kidding aside, my husband and I have always acknowledged Valentine’s Day with each other and the kids in some small way. From love notes to small gifts, but making each other feel loved and appreciated has never been reserved for just February 14th.

What really matters is how we treat each other every day of the year. When we show up as the best version of ourselves for our spouse, our family and our friends, the myriad of ways we experience and express love are pretty extraordinary! 

It’s exactly why I’m a little hesitant to get overly hyped about this one particular day in February—when we ALL already LOVE the special people in our lives—TWO-FOUR-SEVEN-THREE-SIX-FIVE!

So this Valentine’s Day, if you’re stressing about creating the perfect date night or staying up late actually making Valentine’s cards with your kids, try to remember what’s really important about the 14th

It’s just one of many days to count our blessings, and remind our loved ones how fortunate we are to have them in our lives.

The Love Affair

The Love Affair

I am having an affair. I should feel very, very guilty … but I don’t. He’s a married father of three. I’m also married with three children. I happen to know his kids very well. In fact, I’ve known his wife my whole life. She is me, I am her. I’m having an affair with my husband.

It’s strangely quiet in our house this week while ALL of our children are gone. Our oldest recently moved south for his first job after college graduation and it’s going well for him. Our second is up in Canada with one of his best buddies visiting his other good friend’s family. Our youngest is at her favorite place in the world, a week-long overnight camp an hour north of us. 

We know all of our kids are safe and happy, soooo we can thoroughly enjoy these few days and nights that we have together. ALL BY OURSELVES. Did I mention that we’re ALONE? Good food, great wine, sweet music, and warm candlelight – we’re loving like we mean it.

We often wonder what we’ll talk about when the kids are completely grown up and not one of them is under our roof. If this week is any indication, it’s them. And we wonder, will we like each other? Yes we do. Yes, we most certainly do.

We’re approaching the thirty-first anniversary of the first time I fell for this guy I’m currently romancing. It was at a party about a month before he was leaving for college. We went on a date or two prior to that, but nothing serious. But THAT night, when he walked confidently through the front door of a friend’s home … I loved the way his shorts fit his waist and the look of his strong, tanned wrists. Truly! I’m not kidding!

We started dating exclusively after that fateful gathering, mostly long-distance because we attended universities in different states, but we married six years later on a snowy February afternoon. 

We keep several shoeboxes of cards and notes to and from one another, sent during the painful stretches we had to be apart, and still add new love letters to the collection now, even though we’ve been together and sharing the same address for over two and a half decades. 

Both my parents and my husband’s, had long-standing, rich marriages and without us even realizing it, modeled to he and I what a healthy, satisfying day to day relationship could look like. That’s a legacy that we prayerfully plan to hand down to future generations, starting with the dear souls that we’ve been raising, and pray that they each, often, have a married “affair” of their own. 

I sometimes daydream about them and about our daughter and sons’ futures and who they might marry, then realize that God already has every minute of their days mapped out. Whenever I look at those three, my heart fills with joy and understanding. God knew from the very beginning of time that my love and I were going to belong together and that those precious ones were going to belong to us. He will work out the details, big and small, for them also.

I’m mindful that the tenderness and affection we have in our marriage can be rare and I’m grateful. I know that every day is a gift from God and I’m thankful. Our girl and our boys have grown at the speed of light and all of our lives are constantly changing. I could worry about tomorrow, but why? I’ll enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

And tonight, right now, I’ll light the votives, pour two glasses of cabernet, play our favorite album and place dinner on the table…my beloved is almost home.

“My beloved is mine and I am his… ” Song of Songs 2:16