I have heard it said, “Your first year of marriage is either really hard or amazing and all that you hoped for.” With my one year anniversary coming up in a couple weeks, I have reflected on this past year and have accepted the reality that my first year of marriage was really hard.
Our wedding and honey moon were more than perfect. It was in the next 12 months that I began to learn things I didn’t want to learn, be shaped in ways that weren’t comfortable, and today I am ready to share those with you.
Lesson #1: How Divorced Parents Can Affect Your Marriage
The bumpy road began only a couple weeks after our wedding when I was informed that my parents were getting divorced. It’s not that I didn’t see it coming, but there was something about the magic of a new marriage and the bitter ending of one all happening at the same time that sent me into emotional turmoil. The news birthed insecurities, fears, and feelings I had pushed to the wayside. In the same week, I discovered that Russell was still battling a struggle that I thought was gone, and the flashbacks of my childhood began. The panic attacks began, the restless nights, and the fear that I was going down the same road as my parents began to hit me in the face. The temptation to get really involved in your parents divorce when you are in your twenties is all too strong, and can really cause damage to the relationships around you. I have learned that sometimes all you can do is pray, love your family through keeping quiet or knowing the moments when you can share yours pains, and focus on being an advocate for your younger siblings. This lesson is still sinking in, but I encourage anyone who has divorced parents to find a mentor couple who can help you and your spouse sort through all of the messy fears and emotions. The road will feel long and impossible, but trust me, you will come out stronger and more confident in the love that you have.
Lesson #2: Post-Wedding Depression is Real
I never thought it possible to get depressed about being married in the first year of marriage, but it is real, very real. I don’t think I am alone in this either. To be honest, aside from the news of my parents getting divorced, I wasn’t quite sure why I was struggling with being married so much. It took months, a day really focusing on God, and admitting what was in my heart in order to get to the root of the issue.
God revealed to me that I was very bitter towards the “getting married young” box that I felt many people put me in, and I sure didn’t fit in it even though I was married at only 20 years old. I am a free-spirit who loves to travel, live on the edge, and be independent. Oh, and I hate boxes. They suffocate me, and the “getting married young” box wasn’t for this free-spirit. While God called me to get married young, it went against my natural instincts. He gently revealed to me that just because I was married didn’t mean that I had to “settle down” and throw away the adventurous part of me that wanted to go on adventures with God.
I talked to Russell the next day about this epiphany, opening up about how I still wanted to live out the spontaneous part of me that craves life on the edge with God. He responded better than I expected, and shared how he had been reading You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, which had led him to be passionate about us pursuing God’s calling even if that meant that we would be called on mission trips where we weren’t physically side-by-side. In one conversation, the weight of being married lifted and I felt free, relieved, and excited that God had blessed me with a man who is wired to love me for who I am in Christ.
Lesson #3: Pillow Talk is Essential for a Healthy Marriage
Russell and I have had a lot of life changes in the past year between jobs, different schedules, and moving to a new state. These changes have led to weeks of having different sleeping schedules, missing out on the little details of life, and feeling disconnected. Russell got a new job in August that we were really excited for, but it led to him having to work such long hours which led to him falling asleep right after he got home. He didn’t have time or energy to eat with me, talk to me, or be intimate. I hit a breaking point, and would cry at night when he fell asleep from pure physical exhaustion in the middle of a conversation. It took several months, but we finally discovered a way for him to get enough sleep: put conversations before sleeping as a priority, and learn to be honest about where our energy levels are at. I learned not to get bitter about his exhaustion and to appreciate his hard work, and he learned to make adjustments to help me feel heard and wanted. We have really progressed in setting “pillow talk” as a priority, and it has led to hours of great conversation before bed, reading fun stories together before the sand man comes, and sleeping more soundly as a result of feeling connected and loved.
Lesson #4: Don’t Let Money Drive You Apart
I know young married couples are not the only ones who struggle financially, but being 20-somethings with no money can really take a toll on your marriage. They say that money is one of the #1 reasons for divorce in America, and I began to understand why only after a few months of being married. You are trying to abandon the “single-minded” perspective on money and transition to thinking about someone else even when buying a cup of coffee. It was rough, messy, and sometimes we would laugh at ourselves for how petty some of the money arguments started. The arguments quickly dwindled when we decided to grab our computers, notebooks, and make a tentative 5-year financial plan. Guess what? It revolutionized the way we looked at money. While we both make mistakes sometimes and can act selfishly, we don’t let money tear us apart anymore. Money is just “stuff” in the end, and isn’t worth throwing away the good stuff in our marriage. We have learned to communicate, save, and talk to each other even about the small purchases (learning to be considerate, woohoo!).
Lesson #5: Pray Together
It is so easy to let your spiritual walk be separate from each other and your marriage, but don’t let that be a habit that you both carry into the rest of your lives! It takes time and practice to be vulnerable spiritually on a daily basis, but it is oh-so-rewarding! When you pray together regularly, it opens up the opportunity to be honest about where your heart is at, what you are struggling with, and share the desires and dreams on your heart. We were pros at praying together for a few days or even a few weeks, but letting it slip away when life got “too busy.” For the past month, we have been actively reading faith-based books together, sharing our wildest dreams with each other, and praying sincerely together. I have to say for the past month, I have never felt so in-love, head-over-heels for my husband before! This lesson is the freshest, but greatest lesson that I have learned thus far in my marriage. Putting God first brings you together in a way that could never be fully explained. The love you give each other becomes patient, selfless, and unconditional, continually giving me a lens to see just how perfect the love of God is.
I am sure I will have a much longer list after 50 years of marriage, but these are 5 lessons that have helped me learn how to love myself, my husband, God, and friends greater and deeper than I could have ever imagined. I hope that this can inspire and encourage you that you are not alone.
I would love to hear lessons that you have learned in your marriage, questions you may have, and your personal testimony! You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photography: http://www.bethanysmall.com <— She is amazing and you need to go check out her amazing gift!