The Top 10 Things I Learned in My First Year of Marriage, Part 1
This post is the first of a two-part series-- stay tuned for the next post!
The complete overhaul that comes from a new marriage is both scary and beautiful. Scary because it forces us out of our comfort zones, causes us to focus on another person, and commands an entirely new level of emotional, physical, and spiritual vulnerability. But these same aspects that frighten us so much in the first year of marriage are also what make it so incredibly beautiful. Through our discomfort, our changed focus, and our increased vulnerability, marriage opens the door for us, as a couple, to illustrate the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ through our marriage. The love, respect, honor, and fidelity we show to one another reveals the love of Christ for His bride the Church, the respect for life that the Scriptures command, the mutual standard of honor that the Bible mandates in all human relationships, and the fidelity of God to His people reflected in the new bride and groom.
But the illustration of the gospel of Christ through marriage is a process through the entirety of the marriage itself. Trying to have a human relationship that shows Jesus takes a lot of learning! So here are some of the lessons I learned in my first year of marriage:
1. Be grateful and say thank you.
You know the cliché, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Well, in marriage, sometimes the grass grows on the other side of the living room. You see, we all have these expectations of how life should be and we all have these inaccurate ideas of what life is like for other people – especially those close to us. And the same is even truer in the context of marriage.
Look at it this way:
I might look at my husband and think he has it easy because he just has to get up and go to work until 5 or 6 p.m. and then he can come home and chill, but me, I start working from the second I wake up until the second we go to sleep – cooking, cleaning, running errands, etc. To my husband, he might look at me and think it’s so nice that I get to stay home all day and focus on my schoolwork, but it’s so hard for him because he is stuck in the office dealing with people and crises for 8+ hours a day, every day.
The reality is that we don’t live in each other’s shoes. We have different experiences every day, and we both do what we have to do in order for our little family to survive and thrive. So instead of allowing speculation, discontentment, and jealousy to exist and build resentment and animosity, we decided to say thanks. We make conscious efforts to thank one another for our individual parts in helping keep our life in motion. I thank him for working hard and providing for us financially, he thanks me for cooking the meals and making sure we have clothes to wear and a clean home to live our life in, etc.
2. Learn to not take things so personally.
We live in a fallen world, and because of that we are all flawed. One of my flaws is that I tend to take things very personally. Whether it is intended or not, I can easily turn a remark into a personal attack, and I’m not known to react well to being attacked.
You’ve probably heard that those closest to you hurt you the most. This is true because not only do we have the most face-time with those closest to us, but we also care the most about their opinions of us. They have the tightest grips on our heart strings. And, in marriage, there is no one closer to you than your spouse.
That being said, it’s very easy for me to take the things my husband says (typically well-intentioned or at least not meant as an affront) and turn them into knives thrust into my heart. Dramatic much? Yah. So it’s been an ongoing lesson for me to stop taking things so personally. In the first few months you hinge on every word your beloved says – and that’s a recipe for disaster. So then you (re)learn that oh-so-important lesson: It’s not about me. Maybe one of us had a bad day. Maybe one of us used the wrong tone. Maybe one of us is very opinionated about the topic. Whatever the source of contention, do yourself a favor: don’t take things so personally.
3. Teamwork makes the dream work.
Before we got married, I was on my own for about eight years. I struggled through various seasons of life including college, job hunting, and a couple of careers. My husband was on his own for roughly 13 years, working his way through the same processes and getting well established in his own career. Both of us had our own successes and our own failures. For me, I struggled to pay the bills and manage my stress level. For him, he struggled to balance his work, social obligations, and sleep. Then, we got married…
At first, it’s difficult to give up your “independence.” We know our own way of doing things, and we think we like it that way. Generally speaking, people don’t like change, and the changes that come with a new marriage are no exception. It takes time to learn that things can’t stay the same, things will change, and that those changes aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
You see, together we are able to balance everything that we weren’t balancing so well before. We are able to split up the responsibilities of life, we help keep each other’s stress manageable, and we have a typical routine and schedule that our days adhere to.
By working together our lives flow better, are more well-rounded, and are less stressful. As a team we are able to help with all the necessities of life and able to enjoy all of the extras of life together. Life is better together because together, life works better.
4. Establish your new life together.
We all grow up in families that have their own customs and traditions, their own quirks. And as I mentioned previously, when we’re on our own we develop this sense of “independence.” So, mixed with the backdrop of our upbringing, we form our individual routines and customs. We also come and go as we please, and factors that affect our predetermined days are spontaneous and temporary.
In marriage, your life now revolves around that of another person. The traditions and ways of doing things that you learned growing up are now mixed with that of someone who probably learned to do things very differently than you. Additionally, the change agent in life is no longer temporary nor spontaneous; it has become the new normal. All of this means that we have to adapt. We can’t try to keep living the way we lived when we were single. And the sooner we accept that change has to happen, the better it is for both spouses.
Keep in mind that one of the really fun things about the first year of marriage is that you and your beloved now get to figure out what life looks like together. You get to establish a new routine, a new schedule, new traditions, a new home, a new normal… together. Your life is no longer about what you are used to or what you want; now, it’s about what y’all want and what works for your family.
5. Live, laugh, and love.
Depending on your personality and how you deal with new situations, changes, and stress, it can be easy at times to take yourself, your spouse, or your situation too seriously. There are times, after a rough day or a disagreement or any number of life complications, when I find it hard to turn up a smile. That’s where my husband comes in and does something silly or crazy or random that ends with me snort-laughing and remembering that laughter really is the best medicine and life’s too short to be grumpy.
Life is full of not-so-fun surprises, stresses, or even just the never-ending list of mundane to-do tasks. I suspect that this is how some couples fall into the mentality of being roommates rather than friends and lovers. We get lost in the have-to’s of life and forget to have fun together.
But when we laugh, connect, and make memories with our loved ones, we are building a stronger relationship. Through laughter, we are able to be more vulnerable with each other, leading to increased trust and friendship. Through shared experiences, we are forging a closer and stronger bond for the most important bond we can have on this earth – our marriage. By doing life together, laughing together, and loving one another, we are honoring and fortifying this sacred God-given union.
So make it a point to be silly, make jokes (especially inside jokes!), be random, try new things, have adventures, and be affectionate.
Stay tuned for the second part of this series!