I’ve been married for eleven months.
It’s strange to write the above statement in the first person because one of the biggest changes after you get married is that you start speaking in the plural possessive. Even when you clearly did something separate from your partner, like grocery shopping, you manage to tell people, “When we were at Thrifty’s the other day … ” It just happens.
Two become one.
Our relationship didn’t start out in the typical fashion. While Jordan and I used to tell people, “We met at church,” the truth is that we found each other in a pond full of online fish. The commercials say that one in five relationships start out online. For us, the online dating community was the catalyst for a long-distance friendship between two people who weren’t quite sure what to do with the relationship they were dancing around. After a few years of walking paths that were intricately woven but not quite over-lapping, I committed to moving from a city to an island, so we could figure out what a “dating” relationship really looked like.
At first it was complicated: two over-thinkers trying to keep things casual while knowing full-well that things were already deeply serious. The next year of our relationship was a series of figuring out who we were as a couple, what to do when our pasts reared their ugly heads, how to ride our waves of joy and sorrow together, and learning the best way to bring out each other’s best.
Dating certainly prepared us for our first year of marriage. It was in our time of courtship (although neither of us would actually call it that) that we learned some valuable lessons. I learned that the more I wanted control over parts of our relationship the more I pushed Jordan away. In return, he learned that just because I was crying didn’t mean I was always devastatingly upset. We slowly learned the art of communication and we committed to figuring things out when the communication lines broke down.
As the months progressed and Big Talks began to make their way into our daily conversations (How many kids do you want? How much money do you actually owe in student loans?), marriage quietly tapped both of us on the shoulder to let us know we were ready. Jordan proposed during an impromptu California trip last April. The sun was setting, poetry was recited, tears flowed, and applause from pier-walkers followed. It was perfect.
And thus brings me to my eleven-month reflection on marriage. Simply put, marriage is awesome. It’s not for everyone (as Paul clearly informs us), but it is truly this mysterious and alive thing that allows you to be the best and worst you, sometimes simultaneously, and it almost always results in you learning a bit more about who God is and who He is shaping you to become.
I think the scariest part about marriage is that once you’re married you can’t hide your “ugly” anymore. We all have “ugly” parts … even the really pretty people. Some of us get jealous easily, some avoid conflict, some yell when they should be listening, and some make cutting comments. For me, it was a hyper-sensitivity to criticism. “Oh, you bought chunky instead of smooth?” and I would be in tears. I’ve always been a crier, but after getting married, I felt like crying was a weakness. A weakness that I didn’t want my brand new husband to see and then realize he had married the wrong girl.
But I quickly learned that the more open I was about who I was, who I was hoping to become, and who I was afraid of becoming, I found a listening ear, an empathetic friend, and most importantly, acceptance of it all. The communication part of our dating relationship was still just as integral, if not more so, in learning how to be husband and wife. Honesty goes a long way in any relationship, and without honesty in a marriage, you’re just two people pretending to be the people marriage books tell you to be.
As a newlywed (and I think I can consider myself a newlywed for at least another month), I know that I have a lifetime of learning how to be a wife. I tried to read the right books before our wedding day. And while some were insightful and genuinely full of good, Biblical advice, over-reading marriage books caused me to put pressure on myself to be a perfect godly wife. In new and confusing marital situations, I literally thought, “What would the bride of Christ do?”
That’s where the God-shaping comes in. Marriage was God’s idea. So whenever the plural possessive finds its way into my every day speech, God is as much a part of the group as Jordan or I am. He’s also the most stable one — by a long shot. He has promised me that he will guide my (our) thinking and my (our) actions. On the days I wake up and remember to pray, “Lord, show me how to be a good wife,” I find myself exuding more patience than normal, giving more love than I thought I could, and receiving intimate glimpses of my partner’s heart. As we near our first anniversary, we will continue to rely on God for His goodness, honour each other the best we can, and work daily towards fully understanding what it means for two to become one.
Flickr photo (cc) TempusVolat