I was 22 when I got married. It was the most beautiful day. When I walked down that aisle, I was smiling and laughing and shaking with joy. I’ve often wished that I could re-live that day. It was truly incredible.
Some of the best pre-wedding advice I got was from a dear friend. She encouraged me to remember that I was not just planning a wedding…but I was planning a marriage.
My incredible husband and I have now been married almost exactly a year and a half. It has been a wonderful year and a half. We often tell each other that we are the most in love couple ever. Almost every night after we’ve gone to bed, we just lie there, talking and laughing. It’s not uncommon for us to stare into each other’s eyes and just giggle like teenagers in love.
That’s not to say that the past year and a half has been challenge free. What with lots of doctor appointments, plans changing with the Air Force, communication issues, figuring out how to live in a 12 x 12 apartment, moving halfway across the country, transitioning to parenthood, etc, we have definitely learned and grown together.
So how was the transition from singleness to marriage?
Honestly, and I feel weird saying this….we had a somewhat seamless transition. I have heard countless stories about the “horrible first year” of marriage. I have heard about the times where you will wake up and wonder who in the world the man next to you is. I’ve heard about becoming disenfranchised and falling “out of love” in that first year of marriage. We haven’t had any of that.
I’ve often asked myself why that is. I think part of it has to do with the fact that my love and I have literally known each other our whole lives. We were acquaintances, then friends, then best friends, then in love, then married. We have known each other and how we believe, think, and act for many years. I am so incredibly thankful for that. We didn’t have to deal with very many surprises about the other person after we were married.
Many people advocate short relationships and short engagements. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, and in many cases it is very wise. But from the time the Pilot and I knew we were going to be married until we actually said “I do”, we were together for a little under two years…engaged for nine months. While we both would have jumped at the chance to actually get married sooner, we were able to deal with so many more “real life issues” in a way that I believe couples with shorter relationships are just not able to. This was also very helpful for our marriage.
Plus…..I really did marry a gem of a man.
I know, I know. Every girl thinks that. But for me it’s actually true. 😉
One of the things that has surprised me about marriage is literally the astounding love that my husband has for me. I still sometimes just shake my head, utterly speechless. How can so much unconditional love, continual forgiveness, sweet servitude, and helpful wisdom be bound up in one man? And how in the world did he end up falling in love with me?
The Pilot’s incredible character is such a reflection of our God. There are times when, I admit, I feel that I have sinned just way too much for God to forgive me. Then I think of my husband. How did he respond when I asked his forgiveness? The Pilot’s eyes were full of love, his arms literally opened to me, and he forgave me completely. How much more forgiveness does my heavenly Father have for me? Wow.
But to get down to some more nitty gritty issues of life….
One of the things that surprised me about marriage was my selfishness. Sometimes I am just going about my day, not really thinking about something that I just said or did….and all of a sudden it hits me like a hammer. Oh. my. goodness. Could I really have been so selfish? What’s worse is when it’s an ongoing something that I have said/done. To be honest, I don’t think that any amount of preparing before marriage could have cured me of this. Unfortunately, selfishness is so wired into the human DNA that I believe that it is a battle I will face until the day I die. But thank God that His grace is enough for this battle, and I do not have to live in bondage to selfishness. My husband certainly deserves more. And so does my God.
But one of the biggest surprises to me is another one that is hard to admit. Good Christian wives don’t have this problem, right? 😉
I was stunned to realize one day that I struggled with living off of my husband’s income. Before we got married, we both agreed that I would be a stay-at-home wife. Not to say I couldn’t get a job…in fact I did some teaching for the first several months of marriage. But the Pilot would be the bread winner. I grew up with that mindset…that’s also how it was in my parent’s household. So I couldn’t even believe that I was struggling with that. I found myself wanting to contribute, to do something important to help out…and feeling bad that I was spending all of “his” money. I’ve felt like my “job” doesn’t really matter or contribute to our family in any big way. He’s the Big Cheese of the house…I just cook and clean for him.
I know that my husband’s view of things is entirely different. On the occasions where I have accidentally referred to “his” money, he has immediately corrected me. Our money. He doesn’t at all feel that I am trampling on him or filching his hard-earned money.
For me, it has become just accepting and delighting in the roles of our family structure before God. I thought that I was prepared for that…as I said I was definitely raised that way. Nothing prepared me for feeling this way, and the only answer is to pursue and delight in God’s purpose for me as a house wife. It is contributing. In a big way. It isn’t less of a job or less important just because I don’t bring home a paycheck.
One thing that I think is huge in preparing for marriage, and that I would tell any single or engaged person, is to learn how to read your man’s love. One of the common complaints about marriage is that the romance has worn off or the husband doesn’t truly understand the wife. I think that a large part of this is because the woman has yet to learn how to read her husband’s love.
Most girls grow up with extremely romantic ideas in her head. What will Prince Charming say and do to sweep her off her feet? Each girl knows the things that make her feel important, special, and loved, and naturally she desires Prince Charming to do those very things for her.
Well….the interesting thing is that most men are not usually wired romantically the same way as their women. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t romantic. It just means that what is romantic to them may not be what is romantic to you. This is where reading and knowing your man comes in. There have been many times over the past year and a half where I have thought to myself….”Why in the world did he just say/do that?” or “Why won’t he do _____ for me?” It took a while, but I finally realized something profound.
The way that he feels, understands, and shows love is oftentimes different from me. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me. It doesn’t mean that I’m not being cared for adequately. It means that he is showing me aspects of love that I would never have considered before. I get to broaden my “love horizon.” I get to learn about the man that God has given me for life. I get to learn how my man acts and thinks. It’s actually quite an exciting thing to ponder!
This is not to say that if you are truly offended by something that you shouldn’t bring it up. Or that if there is one thing that would just absolutely mean the world to you that you can’t subtly (or explicitly) ask him to do it. But there is a learning curve. Learn about your man. Enjoy his love. Enjoy the way he expresses his love for you. I know that my sweet husband would do just about anything to see me smile and be happy. Even if the picture doesn’t always look like what I imagined pre-marriage…I know that he adores me and is doing his best to cherish me. (He does an amazing job too!! Remember earlier when I said I married a gem of a man? It’s true.)
For people who are pursuing marriage…whether you are single, dating/courting, or engaged right now….I recommend just learning what you can about marriage. I am so thankful for such a solid foundation of what marriage is and looks like.
One of our premarital counseling assignments was to interview five married couples. At first I was not pleased. Seriously? It would just take time and it would probably be really awkward. I was wrong. It was incredible. I am so glad that our pastor had us do this. We got so much wisdom and we were so encouraged that we could do this.
One couple talked to us about how much we need to just cling to God and each other because Satan was so furious that we were joining together to form one strong union. We needed to be prepared to fight his attacks.
One couple encouraged us by saying that where we were pre-marriage we were already so ahead of where they were after marriage as far as knowing and understanding life. Rather then meeting us with skepticism about being prepared for marriage, they equipped us with confidence that we were on the right path. We were so blessed and encouraged by each couple we interviewed.
Sure, no one is ever really 100% prepared and ready for marriage in the sense that there is always a learning curve and always ways to improve and grow. But if you are steeped in your relationship with God and if you are surrounded with godly influences…you are well on your way to a godly marriage.
There are also some great resources that have benefited me, both before and after marriage….
A Man Worth Waiting For by Jackie Kendall
The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace
The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex by Sheila Wray Gregoire (I highly, highly recommend this book. I definitely would only recommend it, though, if you are married or within a few months of marriage. Sheila also blogs at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. I also recommend her blog, but be aware that she often blogs about marital intimacy and it may not be beneficial until you are engaged/married. )
The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
Whether you are single, engaged, or married, however, I encourage you to just pursue God. Marriage is not the end-all point of life. Marriage will not satisfy you. A good man will not satisfy you. If you are single, there is nothing wrong with learning how to be a great wife, but don’t let that distract you from what God has for you now. Regardless of marital status, guard against letting marriage become an idol in your life. Marriage is an incredibly beautiful and wonderful gift from God. But He is the One Who provides all meaning to marriage and to life in general. We can’t get caught up in the gift and forget the Giver.