This past Sunday was our one year anniversary!
Over the last year, I think we’ve had ups and downs, and lefts and rights, and have crammed more in the first year of marriage than any one set of humans could come up with (click here for a timeline of our first year). The first year has been more fun, and more rewarding than I could have imagined. And through those 365 days, I found more and more that saying those two words on March 5, 2016 was the best decision of my life.
While it was my best decision, I’d say there were definitely lessons to be learned. Wife-ing is harder than it looks, and it’s not all playing house. While some aspects didn’t really change, some did, or became more responsibility. Working different schedules between the two of us, meal planning, working my first full-time big girl job, housework, fur children (3 of them!), the list goes on and on. I’m just thankful we were basically done with school because that would have been just extra stress (and getting through it while we dated strengthened our relationship!). There were many things (some the hard way, some the easy way) that I feel like I learned, so I thought I would share.
My biggest lesson learned is one word- choose. Every day is made up of decisions and choices and every marriage is made of decisions and choices as well. You can choose to be angry about things, you can choose to work together on things, you can choose to see the joy in situations that are less than ideal. But most importantly, when it comes down to every other thing and your spouse, choose your spouse. I chose to marry him, and now, I work my hardest to choose him over and over, day in and day out.
This means that when he gets a random afternoon off, between piles of laundry and going with him to push the button while he shoots skeet, I choose him. Or when we don’t agree on something, we choose each other, knowing that we are still on each other’s side even though we aren’t seeing eye to eye. I choose to defend him, to honor him, to respect him, to fight for him, to love him, and to have fun with him. Whether it’s big things or little things, you would be surprised at the difference it makes knowing you are choosing each other, both directly and indirectly. Not out of obligation, but out of love and respect for each other and your marriage.
Now, I know some people would look at that and laugh, and say that’s a lot to put out of yourself. And it is. But here’s the thing- you make those choices knowing that your spouse is choosing you as well.
He chooses to get dressed up with me after a long day at the hospital so we can go out to a nice dinner. He chooses to bring me lunch on his time because he knows sometimes it’s hard for me to get away from the clinic. He chooses to pitch in with everything around the house when he can, and often uses his one afternoon off in the warmer months to mow our lawn and take care of the outside of our house. He makes good and hard choices knowing that it is his responsibility to be the head of household. He chooses to be a Godly husband and lead our family to serve the Lord. And in our brief time off together, he chooses to find us something fun to do so we can relax and enjoy time together.
So that is my lesson: make the conscious decision to choose one another every day. When things are good, choose one another. When things are not good, choose one another. Choose to live life together, to do major (and minor) activities tother, to love each other, and to be there for each other.
Obviously, one year makes not an expert. And when thinking about what I learned, I thought about all the amazing wives I know, and wondered what they learned during that year. Was I behind the curve or on target? Steven and I are blessed to be surrounded by many, many examples of long marriages, including more than just our parents and grandparents. Their advice was full of wisdom and hilarity, and asking this question to all these women was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had.
So, when asked the question “If you could give your newlywed self one piece of advice about the first year of marriage?”, this is what these sweet women had to say:
*Since many responses were submitted anonymously, all names were removed. If you were sweet enough to help, and recognize your response, please feel free to give yourself credit! If the years married was known, it is added to the end of the response. Each response is featured in its entirety.
“I would definitely make myself learn how to get ready faster. Hair, make-up, and showers took too long for my hubby!”- 36 years
“Probably should have been more attentive and patient toward my husband and taken time to truly enjoy one another!”- 34 years
“Instead of trying to make everything perfect and living by a planner, I would say enjoy each other and have fun.” – 33 years
“Pray with my husband and place God at the center of all we did.” – 40 years
“I would be stronger- not as meek in all relationships.” – 42 years
“If I could do something differently, I would not have made English Pea Salad almost every day for lunch. Bless [her husband’s] heart, he ate it anyway. We were married in 1955 and he died in 2011, so I guess what he ate didn’t matter.” – 56 years
“I would argue and fuss less. It’s not worth it.”- 55 years
“Being kind is more important than being right.”
“Don’t be afraid to be the first to say sorry. I am stubborn and prideful and saying sorry doesn’t mean that you are giving in and this was hard for me to really understand. Saying sorry really means that you are acknowledging your faults and taking responsibility. Arguing is always going to happening, it all depends on how you resolve it and being willing to apologize first can quickly de-escalate the situation and help your remember that you love your partner. When I work with couples, this is one of the hardest things to teach because so many people thinking that there has to be a winner. As a couple, there should never, ever be a loser.”
“For me, it would be choosing the right time to talk. Often times in the first few years, I would start talking through my feelings, fears, and frustrations right as we got into bed (11 pm). Ultimately, we’d end up staying up late, saying harsh words out of exhaustion, and then deal with the damaging words. I’ve learned in the last few years that when I approach a rough subject earlier in the day, then not only are we saved from an argument, but we also find resolution and warmth in each other’s words and arms.”
“Find a balance–between work, family time, personal time, and spouse time.”
“Listen more and not be so quick to react.”
“The simplest thing is…you don’t have to pretend everything is perfect or has to be perfect. It’s ok that you are only good at cooking certain things, that the house isn’t always kept tidy. It’s also important that you continue to make time for yourself as an individual, yourself with your friends, and that you don’t have to be the perfect newlywed couple doing all parts of life only as a “couple”. Stay true to yourself too!”
“Learn to say “wait I’m on your side” during heated arguments. It doesn’t mean we agree but we are in this together and will work through it together. Biblical definition around submission – it does not automatically mean meek and mild or not giving your opinion or worse yet second class. It is an attitude of service to listen to/respect the wisdom of your spouse. Men have a huge responsibility for the family and therefore don’t usually move at our speed. Granting them the time to ruminate over the situation is part of submission. Grow together. Your relationship will change. Enjoy each season together.” – 28 years
“The main thing is: Marriage is not designed to make you happy but to glorify God.” The other thing is “Embrace the things about him that drive you crazy, because [self] in 7 years will actually love those things.” – 7 years
“Realize that are now each other’s immediate family. Your parents and siblings will always be your family but you need to go to each other first. When difficulties arise look for solutions together before going outside. The more you build the bond between you the stronger your marriage will be.”
“I got married at 21 and my husband was 20. I would definitely remind myself that when you get married, you won’t always be married to THAT person. Changes will take place and you have to grow with that person. Me and [my husband] aren’t who we were back then. We have both changed, and we had to change and grow together.” – 7 years
“There are many things to learn during the first year of marriage, but I feel after your Faith, the three most important things to work together on are Communication, Compromise and Forgiveness. You will each find you have things that will drive each other crazy. What may seem like a small thing to you, may be a big deal to your new spouse. Talk it over with each other…calmly. Don’t let little things build up in you until you get so frustrated it turns into a fight. Talk to each other about everything…no matter how big or how small. Next…learn to compromise. This can be hard to do. You are not only beginning your new family and life together, but you are also merging the rest of your two families together. While taking time to build your new life, you also need to be able to build a life with your parents/siblings AND your new in laws. This means splitting time between each family as needed. Just because you are now on your own, it doesn’t mean your parents don’t want to see you. Remember to include them in your life events. Call them, visit them, talk to them. You and your spouse can compromise on how this will work best for you…especially for the holidays. If you have a family tradition from growing up, don’t forget about it, somehow try to bring those traditions into your new family. And lastly…Forgiveness. No matter what…no matter who hurt who…no matter what has been said or done…forgive it. We all regret things we say in the heat of a battle, so we all need to learn forgiveness for each other. Our days are limited on this earth for us to be together, you do not want your possible last words to be of anger. No matter how hurt you are, pray about it and God will show you the answer. Just because you are the first one to say I’m sorry, does not mean you are weak, it means you love that person enough not to give up.” – 18 years
A HUGE thank you to everyone that helped with this post! I really appreciate everyone’s kind words and excellent advice!