There is something about marriage that teaches you lessons you had no idea you needed to learn! Brandon and I will be celebrating our 5-year anniversary this summer. Whaaat?! How has it been that long already? Time seriously does get faster!
We got married when we were 22 years old. Brandon was on his two-week break between semesters at Wake Tech and working two part-time jobs, and I was working full time for minimum wage at a nursing home. Our future was financially unsure (as are a lot of marriages in their early years), and we were moving into a little one bedroom apartment in Cary with hand-me-down and Craigslist furniture. Nevertheless, despite our stresses, we were happy as clams because we were finally GETTING MARRIED! We were so excited about getting married that we didn’t care about much else!
It was in that first blissful and crazy year that I learned three valuable life lessons.
1. I am more selfish than I think I am
Living with another person is hard. You’re used to doing things your way, and your spouse is used to doing things their way. Before we were married, I lived with my parents, and I had never even lived on my own before! Talk about a learning curve! I was trying to figure out how to be a wife and how to live on my own at the same time!
It didn’t take very long at all to see that Brandon and I did things differently…like loading the dishwasher, making the bed, and folding clothes (to name a few). Eventually, these little differences developed into little arguments, and some of them turned into bigger arguments. The issues were actually small, but they were made large by us and our selfishness and pride. We each thought our way of doing things was better, smarter, and right. However, in a marriage, there is no option of moving out or getting a new roommate! You have committed to this person for life, so you are forced to figure out how to make it work!
At some point, I finally realized that the problem was rooted in my selfishness and only looking out for myself, and I just had to force myself to let go! Learning how to chill, yield, submit, relax, and not be a commanding, demanding control freak takes a lot of practice (and it is something I still have to work on!). This is especially hard to do as a perfectionist. I always see how something could be better, and instead of voicing those things, I have to consciously make an effort to simply let Brandon do things his way without interruption or correction. The key is serving and sacrificing for your spouse and treating them with preference over yourself. Easier said than done, right?! Just practice doing it with one thing at a time!
Question to ask yourself: What is one thing my spouse does that I can decide to just “let go” of from now on?
2. Communication is key
Boy, I really didn’t know how important this one was when we first got married! Multiple married couples told us before we got married that good communication was one of the most important things in a relationship! I honestly didn’t put a lot of thought into those words, though (probably because I was a terrible communicator!). Good communication seemed easy and simple to me. Just be nice and don’t lie! That’s what I thought good communication was! I have learned that there is so much more to it than that!
Brandon is a fantastic communicator, and he has helped me grow so much in this area! When we were first married, I mostly communicated my negative feelings through non-verbal communication, i.e. passive aggressiveness, pouting, sighing, dropping hints, etc. This drove Brandon crazy! I had a really hard time speaking up when I was upset because of my non-confrontational nature. I hated feeling like I was complaining or nagging, so I let my frustrations be known in other ways. And while I thought I was being a good wife by not being a nag, my indirect communication wasn’t being comprehended and was, in fact, just as bad as nagging. This resulted in Brandon and I becoming irritable and short with each other, and this cycle of frustration got old pretty quick.
I have learned that the fastest, clearest, and often most peaceful way to resolve an issue is by having a conversation. It’s so simple, and yet it’s so difficult for some (me!). I am fortunate to have a husband who will try and have a conversation with me if he knows I’m upset. Brandon usually responds much more kindly to me when I gently ask him to do something or calmly tell him how he hurt my feelings, rather than huffing out of the room or just shrugging and saying, “I don’t know” when he asks me what is wrong. Again, this is something that takes practice! Assume the best about your spouse’s intentions, and practice kindness, gentleness, and honesty!
Question to ask yourself: Am I guilty of using destructive communication habits, and in what situations can I start using productive verbal communication?
3. Marriage changes your spiritual life
This is a change that I was not expecting when I first got married! I first put my faith in Jesus as a child, and I grew to love the Lord and the Bible as a young adult. Throughout high school and college, I was very disciplined spiritually! I read my Bible every. single. day. without fail. I had a wonderful, close relationship with God, and I talked to him daily! I loved him with all my heart! Needless to say, getting married threw a big wrench in my routine!
When Brandon and I were dating, anytime we would hang out together, we were focused on each other the whole time (duh)! We would spend as much time together as we possibly could until we had to go our separate ways. Well, I guess it never occurred to me that once we got married and lived together, that his presence in the house would be a constant distraction to me! My number one love language is quality time together, so if Brandon is in the house, I find it very difficult to go off by myself and spend time with God. And as fantastic and wonderful as our first year of marriage was, I distinctly remember feeling a distance in my relationship with God, and that was sad for me!
I don’t know why it took me by surprise, though, because the Bible clearly says that getting married will change your spiritual life! “…The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.” -1 Corinthians 7:32-34. In other words, I should have seen this struggle coming! When I was single, I had hours of time away from Brandon that I used for whatever I wanted! After marriage, however, we were together 24/7, and alone time was rare. If God expected that my interests would be divided, then so should I!
In time, I just had to learn to give myself the same amount of grace that God gave me. The balance between striving for perfection and cutting myself some slack is not easy for me! But I found that God is much less interested in legalism than in a devoted heart. Yes, I think he wants me to read my Bible every day, but I also know he wants me to love him with all my heart. Jesus was human too, which makes him the perfect God to be able to sympathize with our struggles! He knows the time, effort, and dedication a marriage relationship takes (especially in that first year)! Don’t beat yourself up if you are feeling like a failure in this area, take God’s grace and start new each day pursuing him!
Question to ask yourself: Am I too concerned about legalistic checklists? How can I love God more today?
Thank you so much for reading! I hope this was helpful for you in whatever stage your relationship is in! I am still working on all of these things myself. As a matter of fact, I anticipate Brandon laughing at some of the things I’ve written because of how true they still are! Keep pushing on, though, and stay encouraged!