What I Learned in my First Year of Marriage
Marriage is meant to make you holier, not happier has been a resounding theme for me since that warm July night when he asked for forever and I said yes. Those are such pretty words, aren't they? The mix of idealism and perfectionism in me loves that mantra. In a world where divorce is common, these words give a way out. They are like trout swimming upstream away from all the other fishes- creating their own path.
Instead of viewing Cal has the source for my happiness, I can view him as a source of refinement; one that gives room for me to be formed into who I was always created to be, my original self. And yet, I am constantly failing to live up to this quintessential idea, as my internal self is constantly reminding my exterior. I am beginning to learn that "baby steps" equates to years of learning, falling, climbing, sliding back down, and getting back up again. A dear friend of mine encouraged me to write down the lessons I learn in each year of marriage- for each year and what it holds looks vastly different. Although I am about seven months behind (ha 🙊), I have been taking notes in my heart, and hiding them away until I can come to full understanding. As for any other piece of advice I will give on this topic, these lessons stretch beyond the scope of marriage.
Being busy convicts us of our true priorities.
Phew. There. I said it. Being busy is something I've fought against tooth and nail.
But I can't give that up!
I cry. And sometimes, that's true. Some things we cannot give up. Cal and I's first year of marriage was busy. I'm talking three-jobs-fulltime school-exams-papers-church-relationships-cleaning-newly-wed busy. Because I am not going to sit here and try to prove myself as
(pause: is it just me, or is being busy the new sought after identity? Like
look at me and how much I can juggle and how good I am at multi-tasking and how many friends I have and yet I still have time for perfect devotion bible pictures to post on Instagram. *
Ahem. Totally throwing myself under the bus on this one.* But I'm just tired of trying to prove myself by filling my plate. Can I get a hallelujah amen? And end rant.), I will just say that it was busy and we were ill equipped. While I was trying to juggle 10 million hats, Cal was trying to study and pass the CPA, which is arguably the hardest standardized test there is. We are talking 40% pass rate. It's tough. Oh, and did I mention that he didn't even like accounting that much? Picture this: we are on a train, in Germany, on our honeymoon, and he is cracking open a tax law study book. Not a fun way to start the rest of our lives. (And yes, I am being a bit melo-dramatic. On purpose 😉. Because there are many, many worse ways to start a marriage, and people have had many, many worse years - married, single, engaged, or looking. But I am also working on not covering up one affirmation with another. So I will own it- although it was not the worst thing ever, it was still hard.) The point is, at that point in time, we had nothing we could cut out, but could only hold up our heads and continue barreling full speed ahead. And what I learned was that, while sometimes you cannot slow down, you can always re-prioritize. We had to work hard to communicate well and to say no to others or work (yes, work absolutely must be included in this) in order to make time for each other. While it was not always the most glamorous (hello date night to the grocery store), it was still a priority. Our top priority had to be to learn to love one another well. Which leads me to my next lesson...
Seasons are temporary, but can still last for years.
In the midst of the haze I was functioning in last year, I realized that I was just zoning the season itself out. I was so fixated on when it would end that I did not realize that "the end" was not promised to me in any specific time period. Was I going to continue to press forward without fully appreciating the holiness of the now? Just because I landed in a place that I did not want to stay in did not mean that I was "allowed" to wallow until it was over. This was the point when I started fully leaning in. If we were going to function in a blur of busyness, I was at least not going to let it define our lives. While I did know that I would graduate in May, I did not know when the fog of the CPA would clear. I did not know when our lives would become "normal" again. I did not know when the transitions would stop. And although our lives have leveled out a bit, the transitions have not stopped, and our lives are far from the 9-5 job-and-house normal right now. And you know what? That's okay. But it took me a heck of a long time to be able to say that.
Prayer has more power than nagging does.
Dang, you guys, this one is hard. If everyone just did things the exact way we wanted them done, life would be so much easier, right?!? (*hint* I'm being sarcastic here 😉). But honestly, it is a difficult concept to wrap my head around. In fact, it is an entire mentality shift. Praying over our spouse's (or any loved one) is a releasing of control, and an opening of palms in surrender. I have found that the root of nagging for me is one of a deep seeded wish to push my own will on others. Even if I have the best of intentions in this, it can quickly become an unloving response in a desire to change another person. Timothy Keller talks about how his wife has a "prayer closet", and he knows when she enters into it, that he is in "big trouble". All jest aside, the Lord is much more powerful than our words could ever be, and ultimately He loves our spouses much deeper than we can ever fathom.
PS- the book,The Power of the Praying Wife, rocked my relationship with nagging. I firmly believe prayer is an approach that will breathe life into any and all marriages.
It's essential to ask for what you need.
I don't care how well your spouse may know you, he/she will never be able to read your mind. Early on in our dating relationship, I told Cal I didn't care about Valentine's day. And in the moment, I didn't. I felt it was an over-hyped holiday and excuse to spend money. However, when the day rolled around, I was excited by the last minute surprise I had planned for him. When Cal did not reciprocate, I was a little crushed. In my mind, I was giving him the perfect segue into a sweet surprise- because after all, I wasn't "expecting" anything. Sound familiar? I learned that expressing my needs does not take romance out of the equation, but rather, it provides the opportunity for Cal to see a more complete picture of my heart. And ladies, sometimes our men need to be asked more than once for something. (Warning: do not let it turn into nagging. See above 😉)
Just because I am able to voice these lessons by no means should give the impression that I have mastered the techniques. These are lessons that I will have to learn and relearn for years to come. I expect in fifty years I will still not have perfected the art. And I believe this is why marriage is meant to make us holier- because we are constantly growing, changing, and becoming a more developed picture of our Creator. The absolute worst thing we can do is to believe we have reached a point of perfection on this side of heaven. However, when we meet our Savior face to face, we will then become all of the fullness of who we were created to be. Until then...
Learning, making mistakes, & growing with hands wide open-
Thanks to Lexi Russellfor the most amazing wedding photos!