Last July, I wrote a post titled What I’ve Learned From Marriage in Two and a Half Months. Now, my husband Jefferson and I have been married for almost one year. Actually, our anniversary is this Monday. I wanted to blog about what I’ve learned since that last post…because boy, it’s been a lot.
Let me tell you this: the first year of marriage is HARD. Our first few months together were by far the hardest, but it’s not like our lives magically went from hard to easy. No, it’s like they went from impossibly hard to slightly less hard.
Every single Christian couple we have talked to has told us that the first year of marriage was barely tolerable. There are no exceptions. Literally, everyone we’ve talked to told us this. So, it’s not like we were particularly surprised that it was difficult, but at first we didn’t know what “barely tolerable” would look like for us.
For us, barely tolerable meant so. much. fighting. I’ve mentioned this before, but my husband and I are both brick heads. The most stubborn people you’ll meet. This makes for some very “passionate,” I-won’t-back-down-ever arguments. These arguments have ended in a lot of tears and a lot of frustration and a lot of words I wish I could take back. But from these arguments (and from lots of counselling), we’ve learned something.
1. Arguments are not only okay, they are healthy. Arguing is good for couples. It’s not arguments that are the problem – it’s how you argue. I have a massive yelling issue. I am not respectful during arguments. My husband has a huge problem of just matter-of-fact stating: “You are 100% wrong. There is absolutely no way you could possibly be right. I am 100% correct.” in the middle of arguments. I’m not saying this stuff to put either of us down. I just want to show you that I think THAT type of arguing is wrong, hurtful, not Christ-like, and completely ineffective.
However, arguments themselves are not bad. Arguments arise when we disagree on something – sometimes things we didn’t even know we disagreed on or cared so deeply about. When you argue with respect and love for the other person, you can create compromises and solutions to problems before they get tucked away in the back of your mind and turn into buried resentment. When we argue with love, the conversation usually lasts only a few minutes and we quickly come to a conclusion that works for both of us.
2. Speaking of arguments…that old saying is totally true (mostly). You know the old saying that says the only thing married couples fight about is family, money, and sex? I mean, of course my husband and I have had pretty intense arguments about stupid things (e.g. muffins and video games), but the real fights have almost exclusively been about one of those three things listed. Everyone comes into marriage with ideals and unrealistic expectations. For my whole life, I had concrete expectations about what my family life, financial situation, and sex life would look like in marriage. Obviously, reality is nothing like the fantasies we create and so deeply hold on to.
When you bring two people together with two very different ideals and expectations about some of the most important things in life, panic ensues. Your fantasies crumble and you realize the answers to your big questions don’t have any easy solutions. Still, problems within these three areas are serious and must be seriously dealt with. I’ve learned that these issues should be delicately handled. It’s important to realize your partner is also coming to you with expectations they’ve hold on to for years and years, and those expectations will not disappear overnight. Patience and love is key. From what I understand, arguments about family, money, and sex never disappear. So it’s best to learn how to handle them now.
3. Counselling is one of the best things we’ve done. I know it seems like this post really focuses on arguments and conflict resolution, but…that’s a huge part of marriage. Not to make marriage sound like one giant argument-fest – don’t get me wrong, my husband and I have tons of fun and love spending time with each other – but arguments happen. A lot. For us, anyway.
We started marriage counselling about a month into our marriage. At first, it was actually just a way for us to deal with my anxiety/depression. However, it soon turned into true marriage counselling and we would, without a doubt, recommend it to any and all newlyweds. Counselling has forced us to deal with our issues head on and has given us dozens of effective strategies for dealing with my anxiety AND healthy ways to solve conflicts. It’s also helped us navigate through both of our unrealistic expectations and discover what appropriate expectations are to have of each other.
4. It’s okay to want space. After living in a teeny tiny basement apartment with just one separate room for an entire year, we are LOVING our new home – with multiple rooms and multiple floors! It’s totally okay to not want to be all over each other 24/7. Needing space doesn’t make you a crappy partner. We actually get along much better when we’ve had our much-needed alone time.
5. It’s also okay to want to spend time with each other (& it’s okay to make your needs known). My husband and I are not always on the same page when it comes to how much time we should spend with each other. Some days, I want more alone time. Other days, he does. It’s okay to tell your partner that you need more from them (or less). Expressing your needs (whether it be how much time to spend with each other or something else) is totally allowed and important!
Sometimes, I give my husband space when I really want to be with him because I know he needs it more than I need to be with him. Sometimes, he comforts me when I’m feeling low, even though he would rather be watching YouTube videos on his laptop. I used to feel guilty about asking my husband to be with me when he was off doing his own thing – but now I don’t. I have a right to express how I feel. And so does he. From there, we can both decide what to do.
6. Marriage is worth it. Marriage is not easy. I don’t expect it ever to be easy. Our society tells us that marriage isn’t worth it if it becomes more of a burden than a joy. “If you aren’t happy, get a divorce, because your happiness is everything. Happiness comes first.” We don’t believe that. We made a commitment to each other, and a promise to God.
Sometimes, my marriage makes me feel like the happiest person on earth. Sometimes, I want to run away and hide under a rock. If we all went by our feelings, no one would stay married longer than a few months. But I don’t go by my feelings. And my husband doesn’t either. We choose to love each other even when the other person doesn’t deserve it. We choose to stay together even if we want to run away. And you know what else? We never regret it.
I’ve learned that even though we argue, even though we yell, even though things can get really, really, impossibly hard, marriage is worth it. I love my husband more and more every day. I’ve never met another human being who I have so much fun with, even when he’s boring me to death with his “fun” theological facts. Marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding.
I asked Jefferson if he could tell me one thing he’s learned from marriage. This is what he said:
“If I could only offer one piece of marriage advice, it would be to not focus too much on the moment. Actually, this piece of advice came from my wife!
I’m the sort of guy who gets locked into a situation. Once I’m into something, (i.e. a new class at school, a new friend I’ve made, or even a new ministry opportunity), I can only think about that one thing over and over in my head. This can be damaging when Lauren and I get into fights at home. I live too much “in the moment.”
In the midst of a disagreement, I’ve thought in the past things like: “is this all there is to marriage?” or, “I can’t believe Lauren disagrees with me on this, she is so wrong!” or, “We’re probably going to fight like this every day for the rest of our lives.”
Looking past the current situation has helped me so much I can’t even put it into words. In the midst of hard times, just reminding myself “hey, we’re gonna be okay in just a little bit, this fight is temporary, it’ll be okay,” has been a lot of help.”