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About the Book

The Southern Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Newlywed Years: How to Stay Sane Once You’ve Caught Your Man (NAL Trade Paperback Original, 2007) offers practical advice about everything from decorating and date nights to male-speak and mothers-in-law. It recently won the USA Best Books Award in the humor category.

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interview

After You've Caught Your Man: How to Be Holy Ever After

By Lori D'Augostine
CBN.com Associate Producer

CBN.comOK, so you've snagged your man and had the wedding of your dreams. Your honeymoon was a 10 day, fantasy, whirlwind adventure with all the roses and romance your little heart could handle.

Then, you venture home to start a new life in that tiny little one-bedroom apartment. And all of a sudden, you wonder where Prince Charming has gone. Suddenly, your man loses the ability to feed, dress, and otherwise take care of himself. The weaknesses that you once overlooked as your boyfriend's eccentricities are now laid out like a week-old buffet.

Fear not, Annabelle Robertson has come to the rescue. In her latest book, The Southern Girl's Guide to Surviving the Newlywed Years, this bona fide Georgia Peach, married to a Yankee man for 14 years, is never short on advice to get you through this sometimes painstaking transition.

"Marriage is harder than uncooked grits. And no matter how handsome and wonderful your new husband may be, there will be days when you wonder what in tarnation you've gotten yourself into. Trust me, I've been there," she says.

Recently, I engaged in a candid conversation with Annabelle about everything ranging from household demands to kids. In just less than two months, I will be a newlywed myself, and I believe I've been given a southern dose of reality from this very charming woman.

So, pull up a chair, and pour yourself some sweet tea. You're in for a real treat.

Lori D'Augostine: What influenced you to write this book?

Annabelle Robertson: My husband, Mark was an emergency room chaplain in Atlanta, and was frequently approached by many people to do weddings. Because we went to seminary together, he often had me do premarital counseling together. I was often involved in these weddings as a wedding director, and I found myself giving the same advice to couples over and over again, which essentially amounted to: 'OK, you're in this great excitement of the wedding, but don't be surprised if in about four months down the road, you experience some difficulties and major disappointments. It's perfectly normal. [At around four months you tend to exit the honeymoon period].' It can be a bit of a shock to get out of that honeymoon high. I wanted to prepare couples for that since no one prepared us.

D'Augostine: Why did you write the book as a "Southern Girl's Guide?"

Robertson: That's who I am. I think of myself as a Dr. Phil with pearls and high heels. Southerners have a way of speaking the truth with a lot of humor and a little sass. That's the tone I wanted to go for. I didn't want the book to be a serious, self-help manual for newlyweds.

Even though there was really nothing out there on the market for newlyweds, there are tons and tons of wedding books. And there are books about changing your name and how do you do your drivers license. But, it's strange because there's really not a lot out there on surviving the newlywed years.

We do premarital counseling, but the Church isn't preparing couples for that period after marriage, which is a very intensely difficult period for couples... Moreso today where couples are often doing long-distance relationships, where they often haven't known each other for long. We used to grow up together. Our families often knew each other. That may sound old-fashion, but couples knew each other better then. Now, it's different. Even when you date someone for three years, you often don't spend time getting to know the family, like our parents knew their in-laws. When couples get married, they're searching for that foundation. And part of that surprise and frustration comes from, 'How do we get that?' and 'How do we get that quickly?'

D'Augostine: So, what do you suggest engaged couples do about this disconnect?

Robertson: There are seven things couples can do before they get married. I have compiled some tips I believe to be essential now-a-days: (1) Don't rush the wedding; (2) Be patient -- and set good boundaries; (3) Get to know his/her family; (4) Spend time with happily married couples; (5) Invest in good premarital counseling; (6) Pray and attend church together; (7) Think long-term, when it comes to wedding costs.

Don't be deceived by the world. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and he wants to come and destroy our futures. We have to be very intentional and not let the wedding industry take over. It is a multi-billion industry, and it is just waiting for you to hand over your credit card, and be in bondage for the next 10 years.

D'Augostine: OK, so once you've caught your man, and for the first time (maybe on your honeymoon), your new husband doesn't put the toilet seat down, and you begin to see the difference between men and women... what do you do then?

Robertson: Yes, this is what I think. So many times, couples wait for a crisis before they go to counseling. Mark and I came from divorced families and multiple divorces, so we didn't know what marriage looked like. In Mark's family, they didn't disagree, they divorced. In my family, we did disagree -- loudly, with flying objects, and then we divorced. We began marriage counseling about six weeks after the wedding and did so for two years. I really believe that headed off a lot of problems. The foundation isn't just being built during engagement, but during the early years of marriage as well. When conflicts arise as they inevitably will, you have a safe place to talk about it. Whether it's the toilet seat or something bigger like his mother, you have a place to talk about it.

Here's another thing, try to lower your expecations as low as possible. There's no such thing as "happily ever after." No man is Prince Charming, because you're not a princess. If you've made it to the point where you have never had a fight, you're probably both conflict-avoidant.

D'Augostine: I have a question that you address in the book. How important is it to maintain your girlfriend relationships in marriage?

Robertson: I think that's really huge. First of all, expect and prepare your girlfriends for the shift that is going to occur. There is an expression that says: "When you get married, say goodbye to your best friend. If your best friend is a man, you've just married the wrong person." I think that's true. Your spouse should be your best friend. But remember, he's not a girl! And this comes back to expectation. Men are so incredibly different from women. We live in a society that minimizes these gender differences, but they're huge. If we go into the marriage, expecting him to be our girlfriends, we're setting ourselves up for major disappointment. We must continue to maintain our relationships, especially after the honeymoon period. Men are designed to fix things, and sometimes we need the female, emotional responses to our problems. Also, make sure you have friends together. Get to know couples couples who have been married for a few years and also, couples who have been married much longer.

D'Augostine: Can couples who have been married for longer than the newlywed period, benefit from this book too?

Robertson: I think that couples who have been married longest, appreciate it the most. Oftentimes, brides (because of those expectations) think they'll never argue. It's just life. If you've ever had roomate conflicts, you know what that means. It can be minute stuff with your spouse...where you put the food in the refrigerator, how do you squeeze toothpaste out, the correct way to load the diswasher on top of the major stuff, how to raise kids...

D'Augostine: What about kids? Once you throw them into the mix, how does that affect your marriage?

Robertson: Here's the thing with kids. The lowest dip in the marriage satisfaction curve occurs after baby number one. Children are a blessing no matter how they come. But, they come with very high needs, and they result in extreme sleep deprivation for years. This can be very difficult on a relationship. I think couples should go kid-less for two to three years. When they do come, expect them to come with a certain amount of conflict. But, they are so worth it. I'm even writing a second book: A Southern Girl's Guide to Surviving the Baby Years: How to Stay Married When You're a Mama.

D'Augostine: Anything else you'd like to add?

Robertson: Yes, I don't want couples to hear the negative more than the positive. Marriage is invented by God, and it is God's plan for the overwhelming majority of people on this earth. Seventy-five percent of people marry before they are 35, and close to 98 percent express that their ideal is to be married. Marriage is a gift, but like anything else, it has to be planned for and invested in. We must not expect that it's going to be "happily ever after," but "happy together working towards that joy that only Christ can bring." That is a realistic proposition.

We must not place our expectations for emotional and spiritual fulfillment on the other person. In our society, many of us come out of broken homes where we are loved imperfectly. Even if our parents loved us perfectly as much as earthly parents can, it would still only be 95 percent as compared to God's 100 percent. For some, it may be 20 percent. Regardless, what have we done with the gap prior to marriage, and what are we going to do with the gap after marriage? Assuming our spouse will fulfill the gap, will set each other up for a lot of failure. No one is perfectly healed before marriage. We must become aware of what our issues are, and begin to work on them.

For more in-depth advice on in-laws, decorating your home for the first time, and how to get your husband to put the toilet seat down... check out Annabelle's book... The Southern Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Newlywed Years.


Annabelle Robertson is an award-winning journalist, attorney, and military chaplain’s wife. Together with her husband, she has counseled dozens of newlyweds. She is a regular contributor to Crosswalk.com, has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, and her book has been featured in dozens of newspapers and magazines. Contact Annabelle Robertson

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