Question from a “19 Kids and Counting” fan: What advice will you give Jill as a newlywed wife to keep in mind throughout her marriage?
1. Be available
First, I’m going to pass on the advice that was given to me by a dear friend Gala. Whenever I speak with groups of other moms and married women, I always share this advice. It’s been the best advice that was ever given to me in regard to my relationship to my husband Jim Bob.
Gala had only been married for three years, but she had very wise advice. I was about six months out from getting married, and was just all bleary eyed and in love. I couldn’t wait to be married and be called “Mrs. Jim Bob Duggar.” That was the dream of my life.
She told me: “Michelle, I know you’re so excited. You’re a bride-to-be, but some day you’ll be at this point. I’ve been married three years and I’m still happily married. I have one child, we’re expecting our second and I’m big pregnant. You’ve got to remember this. Anyone can iron Jim Bob’s shirt, anybody can make lunch for him. He can get his lunch somewhere else. But you are the only one who can meet that special need that he has in his life for intimacy. You’re it. You’re the only one. So don’t forget that, that he needs you. So when you are exhausted at the end of the day, maybe from dealing with little ones, and you fall into bed so exhausted at night, don’t forget about him because you and he are the only ones who can have that time together. No one else in the world can meet that need.”
“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’ ”
I’ve realized the sweetness of that through the years. While I am always joyfully available for him, in turn, he’ll lay down his life in any way. He will sit there and listen to everything I need to tell him because he knows that I’m there for him, too. I’m meeting his needs, he’s meeting my needs. We’re willing to be there for each other. And each one of us has different needs in a marriage relationship and that’s what’s so precious. I’ll share this advice with Jill so she knows that she’s got to be a wife first and then later, Lord willing, she’ll be a mother. Her responsibility before God and Derick needs to come first. It’s not just me and the Lord; it’s me and the Lord and my husband.
2. Talk about disagreements privately
Another piece of advice, I’ll tell Jill – don’t ever talk about things in front of your children that are supposed to be between you and your husband only. Step aside and say we’re going to talk about this privately. And don’t ever put your husband down in front of your children or other people, especially your families. Talk privately. We always say in our family, we praise publicly, but we correct privately. And that’s marriage advice that I would give to anyone.
3. Get marriage advice when you need it
There are going to be those times in your marriage where you might not always agree; you might not see things eye to eye and sometimes you may need a trusted third party to be a counsel for you in your marriage. Feel free to go to that trusted wise counsel that you both respect and get counsel when you need it. We have all been there. Yes, we have a oneness with spirit in Christ, but there are times that we need others to give us life counsel. So be willing to go seek it together.
It’s important to note that you can get marriage counseling in a lot of different ways. Your friends are very quick to offer advice, but it might not always be the wise advice you need to hear. Another option is to listen to to messages from scriptural teachers together. Through the years as we have gone to marriage retreats, Jim Bob and I have tried to take time out as a couple to listen to messages from other couples that have either learned from their mistakes or from others with the Christian perspective that we share. Even if you can’t afford to get away for the weekend, that’s fine. In our early days, we’d often plan a romantic dinner and listen to readings together and have grandma babysit. It would strengthen our relationship.
Jim Bob and I say we have the best love life ever because we’re so experienced now, but we are also still learning about each other and it’s just great. I’ve gone back and reread some books that were helpful to me and I’m writing out notes to share with Jill. I’ll be giving her a little bridal package that has lots of things that she’ll need for the honeymoon. Jill is very understanding of a lot of things because she’s a midwife and she’s helped a lot of mothers. But there are still a lot of things that I want to share with her before her wedding night. For me, it’s a whole different perspective because I’m sharing this information with my daughter.
And even fellows need a lot of help! These guys need to know they can’t go into this thinking they’re all macho. They need to get their knowledge from the right perspective to go into things with the right ideas.