I'm trying to grab for some big metaphor here. It's marriage after all. It's weighty, you know? I'm sure I could sound pretty compelling if I used the theater metaphor, how marriage is a theater into which onlookers long to see something beautiful.
But honestly, our first year of marriage hasn't felt that heavy. Despite lots of people saying the first year of marriage is the hardest, lots of things feel ordinary. Easy, even. Here are 9 other thoughts from 9 months of marriage:
1: Making space to be alone is OK.
Neither of us have ever really been around somebody so constantly. We're buddies, no doubt. But after the summer ended, we noticed each other slip into the background. Oddly, you forget the people you're around the most. As we've made space to be alone, we get to come back and remember who it is we're with.
2: The fewer flaws you knew, the harder your first year of marriage probably is.
We discovered the first major knot in our relationship during our premarital counseling. We've been waiting for things to get rockier since the morning we woke up from wedding day. They haven't yet, and we think it's because things get rocky when you start discovering just how unlovely your partner can be. Nothing has sucker-punched us yet because, although we both have major character flaws, the big stuff isn't hidden.
3: You're really weird.
After living with yourself non-stop for a few decades, you can almost get the impression that you're the standard-bearer for normal habits. When you get married, no such illusion exists. All of a sudden, another person gets a front row seat to your idle nose-picking, your totalitarian breakfast regime, your not-so-subtle-yet-all-too-passive way of stating your preferences, and the random crap you Google when you should be doing something productive.
Oh, and you fart all the time when you sleep.
4: Sometimes, you just need to pack it in, call for a mulligan, and go to bed.
Some conflicts have an expiration date that's way past your bedtime. Kasey and I are both peacemakers, so we hate the idea of going to bed flush with anger toward each other. We've learned that some conflicts have no end in sight, and that's no reason to keep driving through the night. Rest stops are OK. Sleep burns the dross off a conflict.
5: Decision-making is a dance you'll always be learning.
Making decisions alone is hard enough. Making decisions as a couple is even harder. Then you throw Jesus in there, and stuff gets really sweaty. Like a thermometer, decision-making gives you an idea to just the whole union thing is working out. We don't have any solutions. How any two people make decisions as one is a knot we're still untangling. Maybe even a gift we're still unwrapping. But decision-making is a dance we'll never stop learning, and it reveals both holes & wholeness.
6: Sex is more than attraction.
Boo, trev. So much for being a romantic. A year ago, I mostly assumed that you make love when you're all hot and bothered. A year ago I wasn't married, and now I know feelings are awfully fickle to only make love when they're around.
Hollywood implies that sex happens after a sudden five second burst of hormones and passion. Awesome. Sometimes it works that way. But as Christians, we believe sex is a meeting space where two people symbolize their whole-life commitment, and sometimes that involves putting it in the calendar and following through no matter how we feel then and there.
7: Other friendships won't happen unless you plan them.
This has actually been one of the hardest adjustments. Throughout my entire life, my closest friendships have begun on accident. They continue because we have natural intersections, i.e. school, ministry, dorm. Not anymore. It's not that we won't. We just don't, not unless Kase and I sit down on Sunday, carve out times, and shoot out texts to make something happen.
8: Conflict is good. Bloodthirst is bad.
Sure, conflict is good. I'm sure you've heard that before. It's a sign that two individuals are actually getting to know each other. But as the clouds of conflict roll in, we try to observe the words forming inside before they pour down. On our good days, the words drip softly. On our bad days, they drip red.
Conflicts are defined by how they start, says marriage guru John Gottman. So soften your start-up, and take the blood out. And learn to make and receive repair attempts, which are just one person taking ownership of the problem and wanting to find a resolution. We sign our repair attempts by whipping our arm like a baseball throw. We accept repair attempts by locking our elbows like half a baseball swing.
9: Fun is a virtue.
For us, marriage was the advent of responsibility. Suddenly came electric bills, social engagements, keeping up an apartment, and patching a vocation together. Then came the eyebrows, taut and furrowed as if they were shelving all this new weight. We've learned fun isn't an accident; it's a virtue. And like all virtues, you've got to practice it even if you don't feel like it. If we don't plan silly adventures, home and other familiar things have way too much gravity. If we don't choose to have fun in the ordinary moments, soon grit & graveness seems like it's all there is to adulthood. Marriage might signify the end of childishness, but it doesn't have to be the end of childlikeness.