The First Year

This may be more than a few months late, but I’m pleased to announce that we survived our first year of marriage! We celebrated with a fancy night out (that included dinner and a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown Anchorage) and taking the train to Whittier the following day for a day-cruise.

Andy & I with Surprise Glacier - June 2013

Andy & I with Surprise Glacier – June 2013

As I’ve said before, whoever first said “The first year of marriage is the hardest” was definitely onto something. Some days I want to strangle him (and I’m sure he sometimes feels that way too!) and there have been many days where I have thought to myself “What did I get myself into?” But more often than not I can look at my husband I think “Oh yeah” with a loving and grateful heart.

There is a stigma that surrounds people who choose to marry young. They’ll never make it. You’re throwing your “fun years” away. You’re going to change so much in the next 5-10 years. We’ve heard it all. Granted divorce rates are highest among young couples and those who have been married for less than 5 years…

I will be the first to admit that the D word has crossed my mind more times than I care to count in this last year. Our road has been long and winding, full of potholes and bumps. Marriage is a beautiful thing, but its not always pretty. I have had to continuously realign myself with God’s vision for marriage and remind myself that I refuse to let my marriage become a statistic. At least a negative one. I won’t let all those folks who adhere to that “young and married” stigma be right.

I want to share with you a few things I have learned in my first year (now nearly year and a half) as a wife. These lessons weren’t always easy for me to learn and remember – I am my fathers daughter after all! My hope for you is that you will be more open and less hard headed than I was starting out.

Yes. There will be change. In both of you and in your life together. Learning how to handle household responsibilities between two people, how to share you personal space with someone of the opposite sex, and learning to see your home as not just your home but a home that you share can all be hard things to get used to. But the point about trying to be one is that you both learn to adapt to those changes in one-another together.

As a wife and student with a stressful day job, Andy and I face fluctuations in our financial state a few times a year. I work full time in the summer and between semesters, but during the semester I cut my hours back  so I can go to school. That means our income takes a hit. Last fall, that change in income was scary and I worried that we wouldn’t be able to afford our bills or many social activities (and Christmas was coming). But we made it work. We cut back, switched to cheaper alternatives where possible, and put money away when we could. Since then we’ve both gotten raises, and when this fall semester came and I cut my hours at work in half, I felt much more secure because I knew we could take care of each other. It was one change that we adapted to together.

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. This tends to be more of a problem for us ladies (but gents, you’re definitely not exempt!). It took my husband telling me several times before I learned to manage my tone of voice. He would ask me a question, I would snap at him, and immediately feel bad for doing so. And the cycle went on and on. I’ve since learned to be mindful of how I answer him (remember your mother teaching you to “think before you say”? Mmhm), and to be gentle and calm when requesting he do (or not do) something. This is especially important when your spouse hurts your feelings or does something offensive. Responding with a gentle and sincere tone generally yields a calmer reaction in your spouse.

Learn your spouses love language(s). And most importantly, learn to speak them. We don’t all feel loved in the same way as our spouses, and this is an area you should work on together to build a better relationship. For example, my top love languages are Quality Time, Physical Touch, and Words of Affirmation. I feel most loved when my husband does simple things like hold my hand, tell me I look nice or pretty today, and when he puts the phone down or mutes the television to listen to what I have to say. Can you see how that information can help my husband love me more effectively? If you don’t already know each others love languages you can find out here. All it takes is 10-15 minutes to complete the survey and you’ll get your results emailed to you. (Be sure to share them with each other!)

Get out and do things. Don’t let work, school, housework, or anything else in our day to day lives bog you down. Change things up! Pick a new activity to go try, a new restaurant, or volunteer with your church for a weekend. You will both quickly get bored if you don’t shake things up now and again, and more often than not that boredom gets taken out on each other.

Take advantage of marriage resources that are available. Find out if there is a small group at your church for married couples. Not only can you fill your spiritual and fellowship tanks, but you can also form healthy friendships with other like-minded married folks [Having married friends is also a very important thing]. Marriage Works! has wonderful resources and encouragement for couples at all stages of marriage. They offer faith based, biblical teachings and insight for marriage. Like their Facebook page to get daily encouraging words right in your news feed.

Don’t play the blame game. When you blame your spouse for problems, nobody wins. When you “win” an argument, your marriage loses. Make sure you examine your own words and actions before you point the finger. Often times both spouses are contributing to the issue, and who started it is irrelevant. What matters is you put it to rest together so that you both win and your marriage benefits.

If you survive the first year of your marriage, you’ve already beaten so many statistics. Marriage is a learning process. These things don’t happen over night, and there will always be new lessons to be learned. God doesn’t give us challenges that we can’t handle. He gives us opportunities to learn from and trust in Him.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3 NIV)