John Paul and I are approaching our one year anniversary, and I've been thinking over the past year, trying to pinpoint things that I've learned, things that surprised me, or things that were just as expected. I'm finding that it is hard to think retrospectively because marriage just feels so normal now. Even our family sometimes says "You guys have only been married a year? Feels longer."
Every time I write about marriage (which is often) I always feel the need to give a disclaimer because I get the feeling that a lot (if not most) people in our culture don't really have a good grasp on what marriage is suppose to look like. They seem to be either extremely cynical and don't believe in it, or they have a romanticized picture of marriage. I've seen girls who just want to get married, or worse just want to plan a wedding, jump into one of the biggest commitments of their lives without so much as a second thought about what marriage will look like after the "I do"'s. If you're only getting married because you are in love with that person, or if you think marriage will somehow fix the problems you already have...you might want to look into a reality check. Marriage is so much more than romance and feelings. It's a serious partnership that requires a lot of sacrifice and the character of the person you choose to marry will become far more important to you once the butterflies start to wear off. It is incredibly rare to be so compatible that you have next to no isssues.
All of that to say...the words that follow are not meant to make marriage seem easy. It's meant as an encouragement to the people who are like how I used to be...cynical and doubtful. I think I was the kind of person that needed affirmation about the good things marriage brings. I was all to aware of the trials it would bring. And to be honest, I didn't get a lot of that affirmation, so I want to give it to others.
The First Year
Some say that the first year is the hardest. I'm guessing it probably is for a lot of people, especially the under prepared. You get back from the honeymoon and suddenly you have to live with this person. Your independence and freedoms are much more limited now that you have to consider someone else's feelings and plans. They kind of get on your nerves all the sudden. They aren't acting like the person you dated anymore. You get annoyed with them. You fight more than you thought you would. And so the list goes. I've heard some pretty sad stories about marriages that broke up within just the first few months. A couple that we mentored with said that they had their first "big" fight on their honeymoon. I have some family members that would attest to the fact that year one is a big adjustment.
Others say its the easiest. A lot of people experience a "honeymoon phase." You know...where you don't fight and you're happy all of the time because you're just excited about marriage and your life together. A few months into our marriage we had lunch with the pastor who did our premarital counseling and his wife. When he asked how things were going we smiled and said "Eh, we're still in the honeymoon phase. We're just kind of wondering how long it'll last and when we'll finally get into a fight." He informed us that his honeymoon phase lasted three years. What changed after year three? Kids. Similarly, John Paul's older brother says that that marriage didn't become a challenge for them until their first son was born. Children change the whole dynamic.
So year one is either the easiest or the hardest. It varies depending on the couple. And kids change your dynamic. That's the consensus. But what about us?
I have a confession.
I always assumed I'd get married. I wanted to get married. My cynicism was a practice but my nature is pretty romantic. I chased the feelings even as I battled them. Most of my high school and college careers were spent trying to figure out if marriage can even work anymore. The climate of our culture, the crumbling marriages I saw all around me, it was discouraging. I knew I absolutely would not get married unless I was a hundred percent sure that the person I married was a man of character and that he believed in marriage as much as I did.
I knew John Paul was that guy pretty early on but we still spent more time preparing for marriage than preparing for the wedding. We read books, we mentored with other couples, we got premarital counseling...my expectations were set for a tough first year...
Our first year has been absolutely wonderful.
And while I know we haven't been married that long, that new problems will arise, and that kids will change the dynamic entirely, I'm really happy to know that marriage is more than I ever hoped it would be.
I feel I'm my true self with John Paul, that being his wife was who I was meant to be. I'm sometimes amazed at how well we fit, even all our strange weird habits and humor. I love our partnership. I love that we get to minister as a team and tackle things together. I love the dynamic that we've fallen into. I look at him and feel like he's the only person I'll ever want. I don't find myself struggling with the things I expected to struggle with.
To be honest, this is more than I expected. Maybe I over prepared? But I am pleasantly surprised at how natural it all seems. I know this is just the beginning but I am so encouraged. I thought I'd be struggling with so much more at this point, and instead it just feels so right. I still love him with my whole heart and have not a single regret.
He's still the only person I've ever wanted to spend forever with.