I think the things we’re ashamed to say are most often the questions we really, really need answers to. For the longest time after my wedding I was embarrassed every time anyone asked me archly, “So, how’s married life?” What was I supposed to say to that? That it was horrible; that within the first week of our marriage I was half-wondering if it was too late for an annulment; that we had each declared that if we’d known what it would be like, we wouldn’t have married each other because it was so completely different from what we expected?* Clearly not.
But that being the case, I didn’t feel comfortable smiling brightly and saying, “It’s great!” either. To be clear, we love each other. You only have to look at our wedding pictures and see our radiant joy to be sure of that—and I did look, many times, in the first few months. But after too many months of feeling alone and ashamed, I finally admitted that it was difficult, that we were fighting a third of the time, at least.
And the older woman who had asked said, “Only a third of the time? You’re doing well! All marriages are like that at the beginning—it seems to get better about the one-year mark.” That, I admit, just made me mad. You mean all those married people who had been asking me how it was going already knew the answer and were, deliberately if unthinkingly, putting me in an awkward position? I immediately vowed never to ask anyone, “How’s married life treating you?” again.
(I still haven’t settled on a more considerate question. I’d love to hear suggestions.) Still, none of that changed the fact that people kept asking. Eventually I settled on a standard answer, which was, “Like all marriages, it’s nothing but roses and butterflies,” said in a lightly ironic tone. It worked extremely well. The responses I got seemed much more self-aware, less glib. One woman was honest and cute enough to turn to her husband and say, “Roses and butterflies! We didn’t have any of those, did we?” The thing that made it so extra painful and so disillusioning was that I honestly wasn’t expecting a fairytale.
I knew good marriages aren’t effortless. But I thought I was prepared. I’m fairly intellectual. I like thinking about cause and effect and how to change the pattern. I learn well by reading. And I was interested enough in relationships to read everything I could find about how to have a good one. Not just silly fashion-mag features but serious how-to manuals: Dr. Laura; the “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” feature in Ladies Home Journal; research articles.
I had come away with a pretty strong viewpoint on what the important issues were and how to deal with problems. I’d made sure to discuss it with my fiancé, and he had seemed to agree with it even more strongly than I did. And yet, when we got married…wham. (Perhaps it would have been different if we had lived together, or even slept together—yes, we were one of those couples—beforehand. But I don’t really have any way of knowing.
) Eighteen months in, it makes absolutely no sense to me why the first year (or in our case, the first sixteen and a half months) is so hard. Okay, so there are things like finances or in-laws or each other’s little annoying habits that will prompt some discussion and maybe even some fights. This makes sense. This is what I expected when my mom warned me, “There’s an adjustment period when you get married.
” But in my experience, saying there is an adjustment period when you get married and saying surgery without anesthesia “might hurt a little” are about equal understatements. I’ve said this to a few people, and they all agreed with me so I know I’m not totally crazy. Nor do I understand how it gets better even though you can’t always see what has changed. But it does get better. The first six to eight months were pretty uniformly miserable, I won’t lie.
By three months I thought we needed marriage counseling, and at six months I insisted. The counseling didn’t seem to make much of a difference. But one day at about the ten-month mark my husband texted me at work, “Do you want to go sailing?” I replied, “When?” and he said, “Now.” It was the middle of a Friday afternoon and we were supposed to go to counseling in less than three hours.
But one of his complaints was that we didn’t do enough fun things together. It somehow seemed important to say yes, so I did. We had a great time and never got around to rescheduling our appointment. There was no really logical reason for it, but somehow our problems didn’t seem so desperate anymore. It wasn’t miserable anymore, but it wasn’t great either. We were still muddling through. There was still one really big unresolved issue—something that made me feel betrayed since we had discussed and agreed on it when we were dating, but my husband hadn’t followed through on his part after the wedding.
But I finally decided that he knew what I wanted, and if he wasn’t doing it after all the times I’d asked, asking again wasn’t going to change anything. Not asking didn’t change anything either, but it did save us a few arguments and it felt like a step toward maturity. And even though things weren’t great, the longer we were married the more I understood why I had felt so strongly that my husband was the man I was “supposed” to marry; why, even though it was so hard, he was better for me than any other man would have been.
A little over a month ago things jumped forward again. We had a couple of difficult conversations that would usually have turned into arguments…and didn’t. I don’t know why or how we were suddenly mature enough to manage that when we couldn’t before. One of the conversations was about our big unresolved issue. While we were having it, I felt the world shift around me, and since then, I’ve seen a big change in my husband’s behavior.
I don’t know why or how it suddenly clicked, but I couldn’t be more grateful. It’s still not a fairytale. Of course it’s not. But it works. It feels like a real marriage. It feels enough. And I know it will keep getting better over time. *Fortunately for us, we both believe in marriage too strongly to give up that easily. Editor’s Note: We understand that there are a lot of strong opinions within our community when it comes to discussions of saving sex and cohabitation for marriage.
As always, we ask everyone to please respect the author’s choices and frame comments in a way that speaks from your own personal experiences without shaming anyone else for theirs.See Also: First Grade Worksheets Pdf
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“So, how’s married life?” It was the question everyone asked us, and one that always left me feeling a little bereft as to what to say. The truth is, our first year of marriage was tough. Very tough. Not because we’d made a mistake, not because I regretted the decision, not because I wanted out. Even though I was sure we’d chosen right and wanted in—it was still surprisingly tough. I cried.
A lot. Tears of frustration. Tears of pain. Tears of despair. Tears of martyrdom, spilled out on my pillow before sleep finally came. My husband coped with it in his own way: he withdrew into the safe, ordered world of writing computer code. At least there, he understood the problems. We were in love, but we were only just beginning to learn how to love one another well. We hadn’t yet begun to learn that beyond the declarations of love and commitment comes the daily study of discerning what your spouse likes, and deeper than that—how your spouse thinks.
There was no particular sin or problem that made it hard. It wasn’t that we were mismatched. It was more just that it was painful to figure out the changes. The most honest thing we were able to say about that first year was that it was “a big adjustment.” Here are three things we found surprisingly tough to adjust to: 1. A New Schedule of Together/Alone Time It was hard to change our expectations of how time together was spent.
When we were dating and engaged, our time together was spent “TOGETHER,” and then we went home to our respective houses and did our alone-time things alone. But once we were married, was time at home together time, or alone time? How did we figure that out? I expected marriage to feel more like an extended low-fuss date. He expected it to feel more like alone time, except with me in the house.
It was a painful adjustment for both of us. 2. The Exhaustion of Making Endless Decisions We quickly developed decision-making fatigue in that first year. Before we were married, we had had to decide on a few things together, and considered ourselves pretty good at making those decisions (our wedding planning process was surprisingly smooth). However, once we were married, we discovered that every part of every day and every routine in every chore now had to be decided on: we didn’t want to presume to do it “his” way or “my” way, so that meant having to have conversation after conversation about what “our” way was going to be.
When should we eat dinner? What should we eat for dinner? Who will do what prep and cooking for dinner? How long after dinner is it acceptable to wait before doing the dishes? Should washed dishes be dried and put away at once, or left to drip dry until morning? None of these questions were particularly important, but it was much like the fatigue of a group of friends all trying to decide on a place to go for dinner and the conversation just goes and goes and goes because no one wants to decide for the group.
We were tired. 3. A New Set of Social Obligations While dating, I had a large circle of (mostly single) friends, with whom I spent about half the nights of the week. Once married, what was to happen to those friendships? I wanted to maintain those relationships and not be the friend-who-dropped-off-the-face-of-the-earth once she got married, but I couldn’t leave my new spouse alone at home three nights a week, nor could I always be inviting my girl friends to our house.
They were my friends after all, and while they liked him they didn’t exactly want to bare their souls to my new hubby. Every day of that first year brought fresh tension as we tried to wrestle with these challenges. And so I did what all nice-girls-in-a-bind do: I cried. In private. But in public, when asked (again) “so, how’s married life?,” I still had no answer. Did they really want to know? Did they want to know how marriage was? Or were they really just asking (as so many in the Christian community do) what it was like to have sex? Would telling the truth about it being hard that first year have been understood? Would it have been seen as betrayal? Betrayal to my husband, or to an idealized notion of marriage? At the time it felt like it might be both.
So one night, when an older, wiser friend asked: “So, how’s married life?” and then followed it up immediately with, “It’s hard, isn’t it?” I just about dissolved with relief. It was hard, and it was such a relief to say it. And you know what? It got better. That first year wasn’t all terrible, but to be honest—it wasn’t all great. I have friends who have had most wonderful first years of marriage.
Honestly, I’m happy for them. But I just wanted to put in writing that it was not so with us. Just in case there’s anyone out there, whether in year one or year four or year 14, who feels like this marriage gig is HARD and I didn’t expect this and am I doing something wrong? and will I always feel like this? and I don’t regret this but I’m still crying all the time … Just in case that’s you, I wanted to say: “So how’s married life? It’s HARD, isn’t it?” I know.
We struggled through it, and we came through the stronger for it. You can too.