My wife and survived our first year of marriage by making it to our first anniversary last weekend! At times, the journey wasn’t the most beautiful or graceful thing I’ve ever done. My wife and I struggled at times, we fought at times, we loved at times, and we truly enjoyed the journey at times. But at other times, we got loud, got stubborn, and even swore a few times. At this first anniversary date, we’re both excited we made it, and also relieved that our first year of marriage, and all of the challenges that came with it, are finally done for us. We made it, and because we learned how to fight together, and for each other, rather than against each other, we’re happier now than the first day we started. This is what I looked like last weekend when I made it to my first anniversary with my wife:
When you go to weddings, everyone looks so dressed up and beautiful. People pour drinks, laugh, and dance around in few-times-a-life-happiness. Everyone for the moment presents themselves the best they can, and pretends everything is great in their life so that they can just enjoy the moment of marriage and celebration.
Now that I’ve been married for a year, I realize that the hard part comes the next morning, when all the guests leave, and you wake up with this person you were married to the day before. Their make-up is off, all the pretending is over, and you realize there is no road map ahead. If you want to make something special of your life, it’s all up to you. It’s a trail that’s never been blazed before because there are now two unique souls at the lead who have never worked together in such a partnership before. For me, that’s where I fully experienced the journey of marriage for the first time. It was the first time in my life I didn’t have an exit strategy planned in case something went wrong. For better or worse, I had committed to making this relationship work for life, and that was a scary moment to accept. I’d never been in anything that deep before.
The next thing that happened was that my wife and I had our first serious arguments as we began to make our first decisions together. During this period, we realized we both had our own unique issues to deal with. I’ve learned that marriage will reveal your most unique issues, because now someone is there to see every aspect of you. Everything you do now impacts someone else. You actually see the disappointment in another person’s face every time you let them down. Every time you fall short, or give up, or become selfish, it’s like there’s a judge in the room with you that will now tell you every time you’re being bogus. And at least in my experience, my first year of marriage included many times when that judge went off and let both of us that someone in the house was being bogus.
After proudly surviving my first year of marriage, if you asked me what the perfect wedding card would be, this would read something like this:
“Enjoy your first year of marriage, and the next year of realizing you’re both horrible messes facing your own unique challenges together, and I hope you enjoy the fun you’re about to have as you journey out of that mess together to find the life you were destined to live.”
I don’t think I’m saying anything taboo here. It’s the truth. After being married, I totally realize why the divorce rate is so high in this country, and why even though some couple stay in marriages, why they’re ultimately unhappy marriages. The truth is that after the romantic, steamy, exciting period of dating, where the journey ahead into marriage looks so optimistic, easy, and fluid together as one… And after the wedding night, where the entire world seems to spin around you in a warm, brightly-lit romantic slow dance with the person you love the most, you wake up the next morning with a new person in your bed, and you realize you’re now in one of the longest, deepest, and toughest journeys of your life, and there is no one-size-fits-all road map to learning how to work together as a couple, and master the new journey you’re on.
And then the pressure really gets going, because it’s no longer just yourself you have to find answers for. Now there’s 2 sets of dreams pulling you in different directions, 2 sets of basic needs to fulfill, and 2 sets of answers you suddenly have to weave together to make sense to both of you. The selfishness inherent in each of us, that nobody ever noticed before, suddenly gets in the way every time it shows up with your new spouse. You’re not just surviving the challenges of your new journey the first year of marriage. You’re now surviving the little demons of selfishness that you’ve got away with your entire life because you’ve been on your own, and nobody knew you well enough to call you bogus at times for being so selfish. Marriage is hard because it’s ultimately a refining fire that God uses to make you both better people.
I believe there is a reason why many marriages don’t make it. Parts of the journey can get hard, and many people don’t like enduring anything hard. It’s why TV was invented. Most people don’t want to change. They don’t want to listen to their true spiritual calling. They don’t want to be vulnerable, and admit they have issues, and accept the fact they need help and need to change. It’s easier to ignore it, divorce it, move on, start over, and just hope the next time around has different results. What’s hard about marriage is that most of us have issues, and suddenly when you’re married, suddenly your life isn’t just full of your own issues, but it’s suddenly full of two-times the issues, because you’re stuck on this new life-long journey with somebody else’s issues too.
I was so excited in the above video celebrating that I survived my first year of marriage, because I just didn’t give up, or begin an early spiritual death because I was trapped in a scary situation, but instead my wife and I learned to fight for each other – not at each other. We slowly learned to fight against the issues we both brought into marriage by being imperfect human begins, and then we began to have victory over the challenges that tried to destroy us as we just started our journey.
One by one – day by day – we attached the issues we now shared as one, and fight by fight against our own selfishness, we got better, happier, and healthier together. Over a period of our first year of marriage, our life was less controlled by the demons instigating unhappiness, and more led by angels that inspired a new attitude in us that we could conquer anything we put our hearts and minds into.
And as I finish writing that sentence, I realize I’m heading into year two of marriage! I made it past year one, and we’re now experienced fighters heading into year two optimistically looking toward being warriors who will one day find the calling we were meant to live, married as one, together.