I look at Facebook posts and pictures of couples when they first get married-they look so happy. Every time they update their status they’re either on vacation, about to go on a date night, or bragging about something nice their spouse did for them. That’s all well and good, but I think it’s important to get past the romanticized idea of what things will be like those first few years of marriage and talk about the nitty gritty aspects….
Jonathan and I actually ended up moving out of state once we were married, and moving to a completely new place. He was in school working on his bachelor’s degree, and I was on my own for the very first time in my life. I left my job of two years and had to start over in a new place, make new friends, and learn how to manage finances with my husband.
I think people underestimate the difficulty associated with starting your new home once you’re married. Sure, we loved each other, we were committed to working together on our issues, but it was a lot of work. Suddenly everything had to turn into a conversation: Who would clean what part of the house? Do I really need to fold your laundry that way? When are we going to have date nights? Where are we going to spend Christmas holidays? Do I need to tell you every time I spend our money?
I don’t think either of us was prepared for how much talking and patience it would take for our daily lives to become a routine we were both happy with. Each of us struggled in different areas: I had to learn how to give him space, time to spend on his own without me. He had to adjust to having to be accountable to someone for his whereabouts. I struggled with having to learn to pinch pennies and do without things I thought I needed; he learned not to be such a drill sergeant about being 5 minutes early everywhere we went.
So what helped us get through those first few years?
1. Pre-marital counseling. I always felt like that was the greatest investment we made when we were getting married. We had conversations that helped us understand how our different upbringings and personalities would affect our worldviews and decision-making. We talked about how we wanted to handle conflict when issues did arise. So when things got tough, no matter what emotions surfaced, we knew that the bottom line was that we couldn’t treat each other like enemies. We would eventually come back together to speak about our issues calmly.
2. Accountability circle. We established a small group of people, one or two other couples that we shared our struggles with and talked to regularly. One of them was a couple that had already been married a few years , and the other was a young couple just like us. Sharing our experiences with them allowed us to see that we weren’t the only ones struggling with particular things, and that some issues we faced were really universal to all couples. A lot of people may feel embarrassed or ashamed about opening up to talk about certain things, but this is really when you need to find people you trust and feel like you can be vulnerable with.
3. Prayer. It may sound clichéd, but every time I felt like I was going to lose control and do something I would really regret (like pack my things and run back home to my mom, lol), praying about the situation helped me to think past the emotions I was feeling at the moment and allow God to help me see the situation from His perspective-unselfish love and understanding. Then I could go back to my husband and we would end up trying to empathize with one another and be more willing to compromise and sacrifice for the sake of the other.
The first few years are definitely hard, but now when I look back all the conversations, arguments, prayers, and sacrifices have shaped our relationship into what it is now, and I can honestly say I’m really happy with how far we’ve come.