Tim and I have been married for 18 months now, and every month has been filled with lessons and laughter. Now that college is almost over, more and more of my friends are joining us at the altar. In honor of the five engagement announcements that any senior in college can expect to see on their news feeds this week, I thought I’d share the five things that surprised me the most in Tim and I’s first year and a half of marriage.
Things can get messy, even between two Jesus-lovers that are doing their best.
Tim and I were both raised by parents who are still married, grew up in church, and have personal relationships with Jesus. We’ve lived super blessed lives, and we’ve both been serving in ministry for years. We look perfect on paper, but our newlywed season has been far from it. When we were engaged, we got a lot of “marriage is hard,” and “once you get through that first year, you’ll be just fine,” but no one ever gave me details about WHY. My biggest reason for writing this blog is to protect you from being blindsided by the reality of marriage. My expectations for marriage were a lot more Happily Ever After than For Better For Worse, and God has shaped me so, so, so much through these last 18 months.
Men and women are super different.
You may think you know this already, but you really don’t. Men and women aren’t just biologically different; our emotions, languages, reasoning, and priorities are all different. One of the weirdest arguments Tim and I have ever had happened when I was rushing around to clean our apartment before a family member visited for the first time. Tim couldn’t understand why I cared so much about how our apartment looked to other people, and I couldn’t understand how he could possibly be okay with welcoming a guest into a messy home. I want people to approve of me, but Tim wants people to trust him. To him, it seemed insincere to only clean for guests instead of keeping the house clean all the time. To me, I wanted my grandma to be impressed with how cute my house was, but I’m far less eager to clean before Tim gets home at the end of the day. Little differences like this can pile up and create a mountain in your marriage if you don’t communicate.
Communication is harder than it sounds.
Tim and I haven’t gotten into many fights, but we’ve gotten into several discussions that left me feeling angry, confused, and misunderstood. Tim’s parents like to have theoretical, high-minded conversations about the future, the “Why’s” of life, and theology, and they play devil’s advocate to encourage pragmatic opinions. My parents are just as smart, but they would rather talk about feelings, give advice when it’s needed, and share stories about their day than have a philosophical discussion. This has been one of the hardest parts of marriage for me, because Tim likes to “pick my brain” and “see what I’m thinking” when I would much rather catch up and tell him about my day. I tend to react emotionally to my opinions, whereas Tim reacts logically, so what I think of as an argument is just a conversation in Tim’s eyes. I get more frustrated over not being able to express my opinion in a way he’ll understand than I do over whatever we disagree on, and I’ve had to learn how to articulate my feelings in a whole new way.
Expectations usually don’t show themselves until they aren’t met.
In one of our pre-marriage counseling sessions, Tim and I talked through our expectations for finances, quality time, housework, communication, and faith. This was helpful, but I had no idea how many tiny, sneaky, unrealistic standards I set for a husband until I had one. The first time Tim really disagreed with me, I saw one creep up: my husband and I will always agree. The first time I asked Tim to put his dishes in the sink before bed, I saw another: my husband will listen to me immediately. The first time I did laundry for us and left a folded pile on the bed, there was a third: my husband will do things, like putting away his clothes, the way I want him to. Expectations are the thief of joy, but you can’t always catch them before the security alarm goes off. The less you expect from your spouse, the more you’ll appreciate them. Aside from respect and cooperation, you can lower the bar and learn to let the little things slide. Paul said love is patient, not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs for good reason.
“Marry your best friend” is super wise advice.
When the wedding day and first night are over, you’ll wake up beside someone that you get to create a life with. Someone you share a home with, spend time with, suffer with, and explore with. Mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation will help far more than sweet nothings and grand gestures. When I look at marriages that have stood the test of time, I see two people that love doing life together. I don’t see two people that can’t keep their hands off each other and think about each other all day. Those things are important, but there are going to be days when you don’t want to cuddle or flirt. In long-lasting marriages, Christ is the cornerstone, and the foundation is deep-rooted friendship. Friendship will give you something to lean on when you’re fighting and exhausted. Romance is what you should pursue out of affection.
Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, [and] always perseveres.” Marriage is the best representation of Christ and the Church that we have on earth, and it’s worth honoring your covenant. I hope that when you start planning your wedding, building a home, or have your first fight, you’ll remember 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Know that you’re not alone, and that I’m always here if you want to talk. Share this with any brides, grooms, or newlyweds you know, and comment below if you have any more tips!