“And they lived happily ever-after.”
It’s the ending to almost every single Disney movie, leaving you to assume that you too will find perfect happiness in every moment spent with your loved one. Nothing will ever come between you, your children will be perfectly behaved, and fairy godmothers will show up to bippity-boppity-boo a carriage out of your 2004 Toyota Rav-4.
My wife Lyndsey and I recently celebrated our first year of marriage. And by “celebrated” I mean “gave each other a knowing smile and breathed a deep sigh of relief mixed with accomplishment.” We’d learned what every couple learns that first year: marriage, though wonderful, is a lot harder than the movies made it out to be.
In the words of marriage expert Paul Tripp: “What did you expect?”
I asked Lyndsey to join in and share some of what we’ve learned in our first year or so as newlyweds. Here are three things that were big eye-openers:
1. Alone time is vital
As a bachelor, my time used to be my own. If I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t have to. I could stay home, watch Netflix for hours, read quietly – an introvert’s paradise!
Then I married an extrovert.
Now, I have a responsibility to give up the selfish hold I have on “my time” and meet the needs of my spouse. As you can imagine (or maybe know from experience), that has been a major change!
However, I’ve also realized that I still need to have alone time; not only so that I can watch March Madness (though that’s nice, too!) but because I am more energized to love her if I have time built into my week to re-charge myself. It doesn’t just happen. It’s something I’ve had to build into my routine so that I’m better able to give my time and focus towards her.
2. You don’t have to feel the same about everything
There’s a balance in marriage between figuring out how to maintain your individuality, while also learning to give yourself up for the other person.
It’s okay to not always be on the same page about every little detail of your life and/or have the same feelings about everything. Talk about it. Know how each other feels. Be okay with some of the differences.
For example, there are certain things that I find exciting and interesting that Jace does not. On the other hand, there are some settings that Jace is perfectly comfortable in that give me anxiety (like being on the radio!) Sometimes there’s pressure to make the other person feel exactly the same feelings that you feel. It doesn’t work and it’s not healthy.
Our culture often says “this is me, take it or leave it,” but Scripture calls us to serve one another in love. Marriage is not abandoning your preferences, but knowing when to set them aside for the good of the other.
3. Speak your spouse’s language
Fun fact – if I speak Arabic to someone who speaks French, it doesn’t matter what I’m saying to them, because they can’t understand it. It’s the same in marriage.
If I speak Words of Affirmation to a wife whose native language is Acts of Service, there’s going to be miscommunication somewhere. I have to “speak” in a way that she understands best. I have to act in a way that she appreciates most.
Some days, marriage is all sunshine and unicorns.
Some days, it’s more like rain and whatever the opposite of a unicorn is.
The good news is that you and I don’t have to walk through our relationships alone. I’m thankful for a loving spouse who is willing to celebrate the joys and give grace to the failures. And I’m thankful for a God Who does the same.