Most people say the first year of marriage is the hardest, and I hope they are right. If they are, well, we did it! We survived, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
This year, we certainly had our share of struggles, illnesses, dramas, adult conversations, and growing pains, but here we are…still standing.
In my mind, this year has been the hardest I’ve been through. At times, I was overwhelmed with the amount of transitions required of us. All at once, I
had to got to learn to be 1) a wife and 2) a bonus mom to teenage boys in a new-to-me house with multiplying chores all the while trying to get dogs and cats to get along and still keep my day job.
Here are some thoughts on the first year of marriage from a 42-year old first time bride:
I love being called Mrs. Jones
I don’t like it because it means I am married. It means so much more. Some people think it is old fashioned to take your husband’s last name.
I think it is an honor.
It is the name his father gave to him, and the name he trusts me to carry. It is the family I’ve been grafted into. I pray I bear it well.
Being around each other was easier than I thought.
As someone who had not had a roommate in two decades, I was concerned about my capacity to not only live under the same roof as someone but with my capacity to share a bedroom and a bed.
I like my space.
But it turns out, when you marry someone you adore, it really isn’t that difficult [most of the time].
I could not get enough of our wedding photos.
My profuse apologies to my social media peeps and my co-workers for the amount of sharing. In the beginning, I loved how they turned out. Only a year into this thing, I cry when I see them because I now know a little bit of what that commitment takes.
I lost myself at first.
Two becoming one flesh seems like a no-brainer, but in all actuality, it is a marvelous mystery, and I’m quite certain I’ve only scratched the surface. It is becoming one team…one unit… one organism, but at the same time, it is somehow even more.
You work as one body so…
what injures one, injures the other;
what builds one up, builds up the other.
When one is at war with the other, both are impacted.
When two become one flesh, part of each dies. It is a beautiful and painful process. Hopefully, I lost [and will continue to lose] the parts that need to be refined.
I had to learn how to live life even though I thought I was already pretty good at it.
Single Nikol, well, she could pretty much rock the snot out of knowing how to live life. I mean…she had it together (somewhat). She had this adorable house decorated exactly like she liked it. She had her routines. She knew how to load a dishwasher and do laundry. She knew how to hire people for things she didn’t have the expertise to do and the knowledge to learn the things she could. She knew how to juggle work and home and friends and everything in between.
Newlywed Nikol…well…she had a lot to learn.
I was completely unprepared for balancing all that was required with married life and work life. I’m an overachiever and – come to find out – a people-pleaser, so “letting things go” or frequently disappointing others were arts in which I was unfamiliar but am rapidly learning.
Not being able to keep up with chores, not knowing what to cook for dinners; or not knowing what drinks the boys liked felt like momumental failures. Not to mention, I had no idea there was a correct way of laoding the dishwasher…or that my husband folded towels all wrong…or that separating lights from darks was a complicated laundry strategy. Every little detail of life was evaluated and relearned in the context of marriage. It was exhausting.
Yep. Newlywed Nikol was clueless.
PURGE…PURGE IT ALL BEFORE YOU’RE MARRIED
If I could go back and tell Single Nikol one thing it would be to purge everything to the bare minimum and get your fiance to do the same. The amount of stuff two 40-year-old lives bring to the relationship was staggering. I feel like we could purge for a decade and never get through it all.
Multiply every load of laundry you do by the number of people who wear clothing, use towels, and lie on sheets in the house. Then, account for the mysterious people who live in your house that you haven’t even met yet.
My identity was wrapped up in things I never imagined.
This was a big one, and it snuck up on me. Surprisingly, closing checking accounts I had since I was 15 years old was harder than it seemed. Selling the house I adored and worked hard for, well, it was excruciating. Learning that you are dependent on being surrounded by familiar things is disappointing.
I screwed up A LOT.
I pride myself on being able to handle relationships fairly well. I’d say I am average to above average in this capacity.
I try to be kind.
I try to be loving.
I try to be helpful.
I’m fairly self-aware.
But my, oh my, the countless times I failed at being a spouse.
I’ve said shocking things to my husband. At times…I’ve treated his heart poorly, apologized badly, and fought terribly.
Marriage takes forgiveness to a whole nother level.
You want to hear my theory? Forgiveness, not love, is the key to a successful marriage. I’m not saying love isn’t important, and I am certainly not talking about surface level forgiveness where you forgive the person and then hold it against them at a later date which will ultimately lead to resentment. I’m talking about forgiving when you don’t feel like it and holding yourself accountable to keep that promise.
Honestly, I thought I was a good forgiver mainly because I have a terrible memory, but if your memory is long and your forgiveness is feeble, your marriage will struggle because both of you will screw up far beyond what you think your current screw up capabilities are [And I’m only a year in, y’all. Can you image the magnitude of forgiveness required in a 20 year marriage? Or 40?]
Not only will you be called on to forgive things you never thought you’d be asked to forgive, but you will be forgiven in ways that are simply stunning. Each time my husband forgives me for an offense, he reminds me of the remarkable forgiveness God extends to us day-in and day-out. And each time I am called on to forgive, I am reminded of the monumental sacrifice it requires.
It is humbling…and beautiful…and miraculous…and precious beyond words.
Your commitment will be tested!
Hunker down, y’all. If you are striving for a godly marriage [whatever that looks like], you become Satan’s playground.
He will mess with your head.
He will tempt you to fight about stupid things.
He will bring up old wounds from years gone by – over and over and over again.
He will bring fear and terror and anxieties.
He will prey on your vulnerabilities.
He will try to convince you that your spouse is the enemy.
He will come to steal your peace.
He will come to kill your love and devotion.
He will come to destroy your kindness and respect for one another.
He will come after your marriage with everything he has.
I mean it. Hunker down and cling to your spouse and, more importantly, to Jesus because you will not stand a chance if you don’t.
Eventually, I got me back.
Slowly, but ever so surely, I’m getting back to other things I love. New routines and responsibilities are becoming familiar. I no longer feel like I am in some sort of weird survival mode, and with that comes permitting myself some free time and energy to get back to friends and hobbies which had to momentarily take a backseat. I’m lucky enough to have some top-notch friends who were OK with the backseat for awhile and who are happy to welcome me back into their world even if mine looks a bit different.
It is worth it all.
I said at the beginning of this post that this was one of the hardest years for me, yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world because the best things are fought for. The good times and the stressful, messy times are all blessings. The good times bring fresh air and the not-go-great times build strength for us individually and as a couple. And by having fought for what we do have, we are encouraged to fight in order to keep it.
My husband knew how difficult the first year could be. He knew it, and yet he loved me enough to go through it again. I am astounded at his bravery.
He is a brilliant, wonderful man who is equally flawed and perfect, who has scars and wisdom beyond his years. He is a rock with a quiet and persistent patience I will likely never possess. He teaches me more than I could’ve imagined both about love and about life. He is full of love and adventure and devotion. He loves his children fiercely, and me just the same.
He is my favorite face…
my favorite place…
and my favorite friend.
I am grateful for this journey we share.
So, cheers to 365 days together, and may God bless us with thousands more in each others arms until we return to His.