5 Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Marriage
It is so hard to believe that it’s already been a full year since my husband and I stood in front of our friends and family to say “I do” to a life of loving each other. This year has been full of travels and adventures, laughter and tears, ups and downs, and so many learning moments. And now that we’ve been through all that, I’m clearly a marriage expert and am here to share all my knowledge and wisdom with you! (Cue hysterical laughter.) I am so far from being an expert, it almost feels a little silly to be sharing marriage advice. I’m not sharing any ground-breaking insight here – just a few little things I’ve discovered about myself and our relationship over the past 365 days.
1) The Little Things
It’s the little things that matter big time. I think in the early years of relationships, we can make and receive a lot of grand gestures of love, as we’re trying to impress each other. Going above and beyond planning a romantic date, buying extravagant gifts, getting a huge ring and planning an elaborate wedding day... Those things don’t need to stop when you’re married. You can still treat each other now and then. But it doesn’t all have to be an over-the-top grand gesture. Sometimes the little things mean more than a big thing. Sometimes I stop at an Italian grocery shop to pick up my husband’s favourite sandwich or he’ll bring me my favourite flavoured iced tea on his way home. Sometimes it’s helping with a chore that we’ve been avoiding for too long. Just the little moments in the day where we thought of something to make the other’s day a little brighter.
2) Be Together
This one might seem a little obvious, but I already warned you I wouldn’t be telling you anything ground-breaking. Obviously, it is so important to spend time together as a married couple. It is so good to connect and bond and spend meaningful time together. It’s important to do things together and experience things together. But sometimes just being together is more important than doing things together. If you have a busy schedule, it can be easy to place pressure on the limited amount of time you have together. You have to do something fun and memorable and really connect. But that doesn’t have to be the case. One Sunday after church we didn’t do anything in particular, but it’s still one of my favourite days we’ve spent together. We sat together on the couch, cuddled under a blanket. My husband played videogames and watched TV and I read my book. There was no major bonding activity or hours of intense communication. We were just together.
When our first holidays as a married couple rolled around, I wanted so badly to make them memorable and “our own”, implementing our own family traditions just for the two of us. And we were able to do a couple things, but holidays are hectic, man. I’m not sure how our next holidays will look or how they’ll evolve over the years. But we had one tradition come about naturally that I’m sure we will do for years to come. Every Saturday morning, my husband makes breakfast (pancakes, omelettes, chicken and waffles, we’ve just about had it all!) and I read aloud. We’re currently working our way through The Chronicles of Narnia. It is one of my absolute favourite things that we do together. We just have a slow start to the morning and get to spend that time together. That time is set aside every weekend, just for us. Traditions don’t have to be big and spectacular. Just something that you both enjoy.
4) It’s Not About Me
As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. – Ephesians 5:31-33 NLT
This has been one of the harder lessons to learn, but I also think one of the most important. The times that I find myself most unhappy in my marriage have been the times that I am solely focussed on me. I’m not happy, I’m not getting the attention I think I need, I feel like I’m having to do too much. If my marriage is working, I should be happy, right? Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe you should be happy in your marriage – you don’t want to be eternally miserable. However, it’s important to examine the cause of your unhappiness. For me this year, more often than not (honestly, 99.99% of the time), any unhappy feelings have not come from a “marriage issue” or been my husband’s fault. Any unhappiness and discontent have stemmed from my own heart issues. Instead of looking to God for joy in my life, I start to place that responsibility on my husband and my marriage, and if things aren’t “perfect”, I think something is missing or something is going wrong. The thing that’s going wrong is my own selfishness. I spend my time upset that my marriage isn’t serving me how I think it should be, when I should be putting my energy into serving my husband and marriage. My marriage is not at all about me. My marriage is meant to be a picture of Christ’s love for the church, so it is my responsibility to make sure I am loving my husband that way (not making sure my husband is loving me according to the guidelines I’ve created in my own mind).
5) Marriage is Work
I think one of the things I heard most often prior to getting married was that “marriage is work” and “marriage is hard”. Now definitely, marriage isn’t just a downhill slide where you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. But I think using these phrases gives the wrong idea. “Marriage is work” always made me picture every day being a struggle, constantly having to keep track of my words and actions, ensuring I was always doing the right thing, and pushing through hardships that were sure to occur far more often than good times. It made me picture having a dead end, menial job, where the work sucked, the boss was impossible to please, the coworkers were a pain, and you could barely drag yourself out of bed every morning to go to this miserable job you were trapped in. That could not be farther from the truth! Marriage is finally landing your dream job, with a supportive and encouraging boss, your bff as your business partner, where you enjoy your work, your work is rewarding, the perks are great, and you still can’t believe that this is what you get to do for the rest of your life. So yes, marriage is work. In the same way that if you want to become a master painter, you must pick up your paint brush and paint. In the same way that if you want to become a pro football player, you’ve got to toss a ball around once in a while. You can’t sit back and stare at the paper until a painting magically appears, or stare at the field until you win a game. You’ve got to get out there and actually do something. Marriage is work, and it’s not always easy, but it’s something you’ve chosen to do, something you want to do, and you can enjoy every minute of it.
I’ve spent this past year learning to indulge my husband’s love of cars, to appreciate far too spicy food, and to enjoy talking politics (well, more listening to others talk about it...I’m still learning, I guess), but also more of what being in a marriage really means. In this upcoming year, and the years ahead, I’m looking forward to better learning how to communicate, how to better support my husband, and always to love better. Marriage is a beautiful blessing, and I love getting to learn and grow together.
Are you married? What’s a lesson you’ve learned through the years?