One of my best mates just celebrated their first year anniversary. Along with daydreaming about that blissful day (in Maui of all places!), I’m sure they also reminisced about all they’ve
endured experienced over the last 12 months. Because, let’s face it folks, the first year of marriage is hard. Ok, ok, hard is probably an understatement. But the luxury of retrospect allows me to look back at that first year through a lens of gratitude (and the “I’m glad we made it” feeling of relief). Here are 12 lessons I learned during my first year of marriage.… (some the hard way).
1. What you think is obvious is not obvious
No matter how long you’ve known each other or been together, you don’t know all there is to know about each other. So don’t assume he knows what’s frustrating you, what you need or how you’re feeling. If you want him to know something, tell him. If you want him to do something, tell him. If you want him to fix, understand, explain, stop, continue, avoid, organise, clean or buy something: TELL HIM. It’s as simple as that.
2. It’s ok to fight, but learn to fight fair
You can feel hurt and you can feel angry, but beware when those emotions ignite a fight. You will fight – everyone does – but don’t waste each other’s time and energy screaming, crying, threatening, sooking or telling each other you’re just “getting it off your chest”. That’s just a euphemism for attacking someone you care about. When you find yourself using absolutes like “you never help me,” or “you’re always late”, stop. Replace those statements with specifics and what you want the other person to understand or change. “When you stayed back at work on Wednesday and were late picking me up, I got the impression work was more important than me. That hurt. If you’re going to be late, please tell me.” is far more effective than the silent treatment on the way home. I write this, knowing I’m prone to getting a tad hysterical when the hubster and I fight. But I’ve learned that crying, swearing, walking out of the room (or house), or giving the silent treatment just adds fuel to a fire that will burn you both in the long run. You will fight, but before you do, take a breath, say a prayer, and ask for the grace to commit to open, honest, charitable communication.
3. His family played a part in shaping who he is today
You don’t have to like everything they do or their quirky habits, but you do need to respect them and the role they play in his life. Whether they played a positive or negative role, your spouse’s family shaped some of his values (risk-taking vs stability), habits (whether he washes dishes straight after a meal or after a rest or not at all) and rituals (like when Christmas officially begins – Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or never). Your spouse has a lifetime of history you weren’t present for but his family was – respect this, learn from it, and appreciate it.
4. If you think marriage is 50/50 you’re doing it wrong
Marriage isn’t about equality (nothing makes my eyes roll faster than when people argue that it is). Marriage is about giving yourself completely to the other, for the other. If you’re not giving your 100%, you’re not giving enough. Why is marriage used as an analogy to describe God’s love for the Church so many times in the New Testament? Because if there is any human relationship that can mirror God’s selflessness and generosity and his willingness to sacrifice everything for the one he loves, it’s marriage. When both of you give everything so that the other can have the best, both of you get the best. Duh.
5. Make time for date night
Once you’re under the same roof, seeing each other every day is a given. Making time to have a proper conversation, put in some effort for each other, or simply relaxing together is important and part of what keeps the spark alive. It’s even more important to make time for date night when kids come along, so start the habit early. Date night doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive – heck, it doesn’t even have to be out. Order in, pour some wine, watch a movie and… yeah, ok, you get it.
6. Say thank you every chance you get
When things get habitual it’s really easy to forget how much effort and energy goes into the everyday happenings of running a household. Consciously practice your gratitude when your spouse picks you up on time, remembers what to buy from the grocery store, cooks dinner, does the dishes, takes out the bins, gives you a hug – anything. There are so many studies about how recognition affects motivation and morale, so a simple thank you can work wonders in your marriage by keeping your “love tank” full.
7. Say I love you every chance you get
Because you can. And because you mean it.
8. It’s not about you
Despite what everyone says about your wedding day being “your big day”, marriage is not actually about you. It’s not even just about the two of you. It’s about you, and everyone you’re related to, connected to, and in community with. Marriage doesn’t just bring together two individuals, it brings together your families, friendship groups, and anyone else either of you happens to value and spend time with. You will eventually adapt and learn to accommodate this big, tangled (sometimes awesome, sometimes frustrating) network of relationships and be grateful for all the joy, connection and fun it can bring to your marriage.
9. Whatever you thought you knew about sex is probably irrelevant now
Yep. Now re-read points 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
10. Love can hurt – that’s ok
Because love isn’t actually all about smiles and romance and flowers and long walks on the beach (although it can mean any and all of those things too). Real love – the type of love that lasts long past the first year of marriage – is about sacrifice, and learning to do what’s best for the other. Sometimes the best isn’t the nicest or the easiest, which can hurt. But like they say – no pain, no gain.
11. You will spend the rest of your life learning each other
Accept that neither of you are perfect, that you’re both works in progress, that you’re both just figuring it out, and that if you both get point #4, you’re both doing your best and giving your all. To have a partner in crime and someone who’s going to teach you something new, and love you, everyday? That’s pretty awesome.
12. You are not alone
When you feel like you are, remember that the Sacrament of Marriage is exactly that – a Sacrament. A channel for receiving God’s grace. When you’re feeling at the end of your rope, when your tank is running on empty, when you’ve cried out all your tears, exhausted all your options and your patience has checked out for the day, take your weary heart to the one source of limitless, unconditional love and drink deeply. Let God comfort you, strengthen you, embrace you and remind you that He knows both you and your spouse have your limits, which is why He offers himself daily as a source for limitless grace.
So, what do you think? There were many more lessons learned in the first year. Some funny, some deep, some silly. All in all it was an amazing year and I learned much about myself as well as my husband. So much I could fill a book! Oh… what a great idea. Hmm. 😉