If you're a husband, here are some ways you can maximize your marriage's crucial first year:

• Make your wife's happiness a priority. Realize that when your wife feels understood and valued, she will respond in ways that will make you happy. Encourage her to develop and use her God-given talents. Say yes to her requests as often as possible. Decide to act in loving ways even when you don't feel like it, and expect your actions to influence your feelings.

• Get naked - mentally and spiritually. Know that it's just as important for you to uncover the hidden parts of your mind and spirit as it is to be naked with your wife during physical intimacy. Don't keep any secrets from your wife. Be willing to talk openly and honestly about anything with her. Pray for your wife at least once each day, and pray with your wife at least once each week.

• Discover each other's "normals." Identify what you and your wife each consider to be normal, based on experiences from your families of origin. Understand each other's underlying expectations and how they will affect your marriage. When you're arguing about something, try to get to the root cause of the conflict.

• Play the three roles your wife needs you to play. Be a leader. Be the first to serve, forgive, and yield your conveniences in your marriage. Be a warrior. Be strong enough to keep your promises and valiant enough to fight against destructive habits and attitudes that threaten your marriage. Be a lover. Cherish your wife by finding out what communicates love best to her, then doing those things.

• Pursue a friendship with your wife. Know that studies have shown that the greatest marriage protector spouses have is their ability to be close friends with each other. Make it a priority to spend time together by carving out at least six slots of time together during every week. Each slot of time should constitute a full morning, afternoon, or evening. Understand that these times together don't have to revolve around romance; instead, they should simply be low-pressure times to enjoy each other's company while you go about your daily lives (eating meals, running errands, etc.).

• Prevent out-of-control fires during conflict. Accept the fact that both you and your wife are imperfect. Know that you can disagree without fighting. Look to Scripture for guidance in how to conflict, such as by treating each other with respect speaking with gentleness. Know that your wife can be a wise counselor and advocate for you. Seek her input regularly and value it highly.

• Manage your money well together. Make a budget and live within your means. Include your wife fully when planning your financial strategies. Don't take money from your parents unless it's a last resort in a truly emergency situation. Set a spending limit for "fun money" - a specific dollar amount that both you and your wife have the freedom to spend on whatever you want at specific times. Strive to be content and give generously.

• Pursue a healthy sex life. Connect with your wife emotionally as well as physically. Ask your wife what specific things you can do to make the sex life you share better for her. Remember the importance of touching, kissing, and talking for a woman. Ask God to give you the grace to focus your sexual energy solely on your wife and avoid temptations to infidelity.

• Don't let your parents or in-laws run your marriage. Make sure you and your wife - not your parents or in-laws - set the boundaries for your new life together. Always side with your wife over your parents.

• Change yourself, not your wife. Don't waste your time trying to change your wife. Instead, focus on changing yourself. Know that changing your own attitudes and behavior will change the dynamic of your marriage.

Read Part I of this article for steps wives can take to enrich the first year of marriage.


Adapted from The Most Important Year in a Woman's Life, copyright 2003 by Susan DeVries and Barbara J. Wolgemuth and The Most Important Year in a Man's Life, copyright 2003 by Robert D. Wolgemuth and Mark DeVries. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.

Bobbie Wolgemuth is the author or coauthor of several books, including With Love from Mom, the four-book series, Great Hymns of Our Faith, and Hymns for a Kid's Heart with Joni Eareckson Tada. The Wolgemuths have two married daughters, five grandchildren, and live in central Florida.

Susan DeVries has made a career out of being a wife, mother, and supervising editor of every word Mark has ever written. Over the past 23 years, Susan has partnered with Mark in providing premarital counseling and leading marriage retreats and classes for couples. Mark and Susan have three children and live in middle Tennessee.

Robert Wolegemuth is the owner and president of Wolgemuth & Associates, a literary agency. He has authored or coauthored 16 books, including She Calls Me Daddy, the notes to The Devotional Bible for Dads, and Men of the Bible.

Mark DeVries is the Pastor for Youth and Their Families at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has served for the past 17 years. In addition to authoring several books, including
Family-Based Youth Ministry and True Love Waits, he is the founder of Youth Ministry Architects, a strategic-planning service for churches.