One Up!: Three Things I’ve Learned from My First Year of Marriage

Last year, I wrote the article Why I Celebrate My Marriage Monthly to express the importance I felt in taking notice of the joy in my relationship for more than just once a year. As of April 2019, I have officially reached an entire year of legal matrimony and have collected a few valuable nuggets of wisdom along the way. It’s amazing how much a couple can be put through the test over the course of 365 days (give or take). Every day is a blend of challenge, celebration, and the downright mundane. However, even as humdrum as some days seems to be, there is always a take away.

Here are some things I’ve taken so far:

  • Nothing Prepares You For Marriage

Before saying, “I Do”, I did some homework. I wanted to know what to expect while being committed to someone for the rest of my life. I read articles, spoke to married couples and even chatted with divorcees for tips on what to avoid. I did my best to keep a positive attitude about everything and to immediately address any conflict head on as means of balance and resolution. My husband and I lived together for years before becoming engaged so I thought I had all the experience I needed to be prepared. I was wrong.

It did not matter how many years we were together prior to our marriage, things changed after the ceremony. There was a mental shift that took place when we realized that were proclaiming our union to everyone in such an official way. This turned up the heat when conflicts occurred and elevated our expectation for one another. Nothing prepared me for the life-threatening scares and hospital visits, the deeply heated debates, or the overwhelming joy I feel when he looks into my eyes and calls me “wife” with a big smile. So although it doesn’t hurt to do your research, just know that you’ll never really know how things will change.

  • There is No Such Thing as Equal

Fairness has always been a priority for me. I grew up in various environments – sometimes in a house full of family or just with my mother. Being an only child, I valued my space and belongings and respected that of others. When Marko and I moved in together, I made great efforts to make sure there was a “his and hers”. As a middle child, he was more indifferent which would infuriate me! He’d say, “There is no such thing as fair, babe. Things aren’t equal ” (while eating the last piece of my dessert portion). It took me forever to understand where he was coming from but I finally did.

It is no mystery that relationships thrive when there is give and take. The misconception, however, is that this exchange is split down the middle. The truth is that there is always sacrifice happening and usually someone is sacrificing more than the other at some point. Ideally, both parties will have their chance to be on the receiving end of this but the way it looks is likely to be very different than what you may expect and from what others are doing. While I was concerned about my husband drinking 90% of the juice in the fridge, he was also the main breadwinner at the time working overtime to pay the majority of the bills (so what I only get a cup of juice sometimes, water has less carbs anyway). To be clear, this has nothing to do with gender roles as our relationship dynamic is pretty unconventional in some ways. The point is that as life goes on together, priorities flex and sweating the small stuff only makes things more challenging. We tend to get more out of partnerships when we enjoy exchanging thoughtfully and wholeheartedly and focus less on quantity.L

  • Tune Out the Third Parties

Almost immediately after our wedding, Marko and I were bombarded with questions about when we were having children. Thankfully, he and I were on the same page of keeping that conversation and decision between him and me but it can be tough to block out, especially when the mean-well inquirers are family. We quickly realized that we would not allow ourselves to be pressured into choices that we were not ready for and would also be mindful about how much we share when we were going through things.

Advice from a select few can be insightful but it is important to have clear boundaries. You never fully know what others’ intentions are and what they are capable of with too much personal information about another’s relationship. This pretty much can be applied across the board, even for non-married couples.

Like any other transition, marriage takes willingness and adaptability. Although individual authenticity is greatly important, so is cooperation and compromise. So tell me, what is the biggest lesson you learned or challenge you faced in your first year of marriage?

Reality Marriage

Love is an important factor when deciding on a partner but, honestly, it does not conquer all. If that were true the statistics wouldn’t look so grim. According to the American Psychological Association, over half of first-time marriages in the U.S. will end in divorce. This bears the question: What’s going wrong here? It has been polled that the top reasons for these failures are 1. Getting in for the wrong reasons, 2. Lack of individual identity, and 3. Becoming lost in roles. However, we’ve known this for a while which bears the next questions: why do we keep getting married? And when we do, how do we keep screwing it up? My theory is that people are actually marrying an idea, not a person.

Over a month ago, I married the man I consider my best friend – corny, I know – but it has not always been easy. In fact, most days are not but every hardship is totally worth the growth that occurs afterwards. The thing about our relationship is that it was like so many that fail, entered into with a crap-ton of baggage and riddled with terrible communication. We cohabited for 4 years before we decided to get engaged and an additional year before we actually got hitched. Today, I never want to know a life without my husband but things weren’t always so smooth. We’ve done many things that nearly screwed our chances into a statistical demise yet somehow we not only survived but are thriving together. This may sound rather presumptuous given the odds against us. After all, couples who co-habitate before marriage are over 30% more likely to face divorce, my marriage is still pretty fresh, and we’re under 30. What makes me certain was not always so but eventually came to be. What is it you ask? The answer is complex yet simple: Realism.

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It is common that realism is regarded as synonymous with pessimism but I couldn’t disagree more. Realism is about likelihoods which has varying degrees dictated by  certain factors and what is realistic for one may not be so for another. Is it really possible to have a problem-free marriage over decades and remain in love? Perhaps but not likely. Can you really make a relationship work for the long haul under unfortunate circumstances? Absolutely! It’s quite obvious what the differences are when listening to the stories of more seasoned married couples. The successful ones are almost always rooted in realistic values and there are steps a couple must take to achieve this; a big one being the ability to move forward anew.

Realistically, no relationship has a future when stifled by the past. This means digging deep to ask and answer hard questions about our identity for ourselves and each other. We must learn to forgive offenders and let go of preconceived expectations of what the relationship is supposed to be. These perceptions are usually formulated by our need to control things as we wish to avoid pain we’ve experienced before or to live up to some false narrative. Although we may learn to draw healthy boundaries when we are honest about who we are what we want, we cannot expect anyone to fill out voids. We can only do that for ourselves. Otherwise, we will only notice their shortcomings and remain incomplete regardless of our relationships status. We must come to grips with our weaknesses and strive for improvement – notice I did not say perfection.

Truth is, life is messy, love is messy and problems are inevitable at one point or another. However, we greatly improve our chances when we know ourselves well enough to make choices in our truth. This allows us to enter into partnerships well-informed so that when hardships do occur, we realize them as opportunities for growth instead of resorting to shame, blame, and self-pity. And to be true with yourself and the ones you love, what’s more real than that?