By Maggie Reimherr
I cannot even count how many times I’ve heard this sentence in my short 24 years of life: “Marriage doesn’t exist to make you happy; it’s to make you holy.” (#christianprobs) There’s something about this sentiment that’s a little unsettling, that suggests that marriage is a miserable relationship, BUT don’t worry - it’s making you holy.
In 3 months of marriage, here’s what I believe to be true: marriage is like one of those extremely well lit, magnifying mirrors that women use when applying makeup. You look at yourself and think, “Yikes. There’s some room for improvement here.” Here’s what I also believe to be true: you can work on the areas that need improvement and concurrently choose joy. The goal? To be happy and become more holy at the same time.
If you’re reading this and have been married for longer than 3 months, you’re probably thinking this:
I know that we have a lot of life left to live. It’s not always going to be as simple as it is in these days with no babies, 2 stable jobs, a 1 bedroom apartment, and the freedom to travel, to go out to a nice dinner on a random Tuesday, and to do whatever we want within reason. But hear me out: I’m learning a lot of lessons that I think will stick as we traverse the next 60+ years side by side. If we learn the basics now, we’re laying the foundation for a good life. Here’s what I’ve learned in just 3 months:
1. I am not a perfect angel person who is an absolute dream to live with.
Wow, can you imagine that? I’m kind of rude sometimes and a little bit lazy. Sometimes I’d rather leave my shoes and clothes strewn about than put them away. I’m prone to let the dishes stack in the sink for a day or two before dealing with them. I’m really loud when I’m trying to get dressed in the morning while Derek is still sleeping. Oops...
2. It’s easy to be a jerk when you’re living with someone.
This was a hard lesson for me, because I like to think of myself as a generally kind person. But I often find myself thinking, “WHY IS THIS PERSON ASKING ME SO MANY QUESTIONS??? LEAVE ME BE.” Sometimes, I just don’t want to speak to anyone, and this dude keeps trying to talk to me (#introvertproblems). The other night, after asking a series of questions earlier in the evening, Derek asked me what I was doing, and I replied, “OH MY GOSH, I’m looking at Twitter. UGH.” I could have handled that better.
3. It’s easy to not be a jerk when you’re living with someone.
Here’s a hard truth about point #2: you are in control of your actions and emotions. Seriously. Other people aren’t responsible for the way you handle your feelings. If you’re annoyed that your husband didn’t rinse the ketchup off of his dish from dinner, and now it’s crusted on (gag), you can still control how you react to it. Instead of, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DID THIS AGAIN, YOU SLOB,” you can say, “Hey honey, just want to remind you to rinse off your plates! Thanks!” If you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of an outburst (does anyone?), don’t be the one who dishes it out. Pun intended.
4. Life does not have to be one long date.
Before we got married, I couldn’t really picture what marriage would be like, because I couldn’t imagine spending that much time with another person. Anyone who’s ever lived with me knows that I like to go into a room by myself, close the door, and binge watch Netflix. I thought when we got married, we’d have to hang out ALL. THE. TIME. I was a little nervous. However, we fell into a groove really quickly. We discuss what we want to do in the evenings (read more about that here). If those things happen to align, great! Let’s hang out! If not, I’ll be camped out in front of the TV watching Gilmore Girls while Derek plays games on his computer.
5. …But you still need to date.
Your husband is also your boyfriend. There’s something really nice about sitting across the table from your spouse at a restaurant while decompressing from the week. We have planned, out-on-the-town date nights at least twice a month, and this works really well for us. I lovingly force Derek to sit through musicals on a regular basis in the name of dating me. Dates at home are great too. We spent a series of Fridays in our second married month watching Marvel movies, eating pizza, and drinking beer (and now I realize why my clothes are tighter than they were before the wedding). I’ve also taken up cooking fancy food as a hobby, and we’re loving dinner dates out on our balcony this summer.
6. Marriage works a lot better if you put away notions that it’s supposed to be a fairy tale.
This is real life. A Bachelor style romance isn’t sustainable. You and your spouse probably won’t go on Instagrammable adventures multiple times a week. You’re doing your whole life with this person - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Things you will probably experience:
- Tiffs over how you should spend your money
- Botching the recipe you were really excited about making your husband for dinner and having to go to McDonalds
- Conflicting expectations of how you’re going to spend your weekeday evenings (I just wanna watch Parks and Rec, but he wants the TV for video games)
- The brunt of your spouse’s frustration over a hard day at work
- Irritation over the fact that he sheds body hair all over your bathroom
- Rage that she chews with her mouth open (*guiltily raises hand*)
- The desire to just be alone every once in awhile
7. There are good ways to handle conflict and really bad ways to handle conflict.
Don’t get defensive. Don’t be mean. Express your feelings calmly and rationally, and be open to the other person’s point of view. You might find that they have a point. If you don’t, they might come around to yours. Those chances increase significantly when you handle the discussion like a reasonable human being.
8. You might have conflict over stupid things, like “roommate issues.”
This isn’t something I anticipated when we got married. However, I think it’s pretty healthy that the majority of our conflicts are over household annoyances. For example: loading the dishwasher, doing the laundry, “WHY DID YOU LEAVE YOUR TOWEL THERE?”, “why is your dirty laundry NEAR but not IN the basket?” etc.
9. Being in love with your roommate is really fun.
While we have “roommate conflict” every so often, the best part of living together is that I have a constant support system and best friend sharing 800 square feet of space with me. When I’m down, I have someone right there, 24/7, who will cheer me up. When I accomplish a goal or am successful at something, I have him there to celebrate with me. When he has a whim, like wanting to have a sleepover in the living room, I help him move the mattress. When I say, “Wanna go get ice cream?” he’s got his shoes on and car keys in hand in .5 seconds. When he texts me, “I’m hungry” (#millennials) from the bedroom, I whip up an omelette and take him breakfast in bed. When I want to snuggle, he snuggles with me. I get hugs and kisses all the time. It’s the best.
10. People may tell you the first year of marriage is REALLY hard, but that may not be true for you.
As we walk through the newlywed season with other couples who’ve gotten married within the last few years, we’re realizing this: everyone’s experience is vastly different. The first year of a marriage might be really hard. But it might not be. It’s been pretty easy for us so far because we learned to communicate really well through being long distance for a year and a half. Your story or your friend’s story might be different. I’ve found myself looking around thinking, “Why isn’t this harder? Everyone said this would be harder! WHEN IS THE OTHER SHOE GOING TO DROP?” Instead of being fearful for what might come in the remainder of this first year, I’ve just learned to accept that year 1 might just not be a hard year for us. There are going to be plenty of challenges down the road as our circumstances change, so there’s no need to borrow trouble. We’re basking in the simplicity of our DINK/newlywed life for now.
So three months in…I think I have all the answers to a successful marriage now! LOL JK. I’ll never have all the answers. What I do know is that no other relationship has ever challenged, encouraged, and inspired me like this one has. Marriage is such a gift. It’s a relationship that’s refining me to become the person who I aspire to be.
What about you? Married folks, what did you learn in your first few months of marriage? Leave us a comment on the blog or on social! We’d love to connect!
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