Once my 20s came and went, I wasn’t sure if it would ever get married and I was beginning to make my peace with that. God had other plans, which was cool – He knows best, after all. So when my then boyfriend (which is such an odd term to use in your 30s) put a rang upon that thang I was pretty excited.
The first thing most people told me when they found out was congratulations. The second thing they said (esp. The married ones) was: “Oh that’s great. The first year is really hard. It’s so challenging. Marriage is really hard. Marriage is difficult. It takes work. A lot of work. etc.” Effectively turning my pure excitement into minor dread.
I had to wonder, was everyone who was freaking me out right?
Full disclosure, my first year of marriage was awesome. Like, really good. We had/are having the best time being married. Not to say there weren’t any adjustments to be made, there were. Living with a brand new human will always come with some surprises.
What did throw me was quite unexpected. I can think of 2 things that appeared in the first year of marriage that I didn’t know would be a thing:
1. One of the things that is so much different in marriage than dating is the amount of vulnerability required. When we were dating, I could limit a little bit of my really vulnerable moments. Those times when I was feeling really insecure, when I was over-tired and super emotional as a result, or just PMSing on 1,000. Since we saw each other in windows of time, I could put those things on hold when they got to be too much.
I remember clearly the day I figured out that wasn’t a thing once married. I remember having an insecure, vulnerable moment (read: emotional breakdown) – I was sitting on the floor in tears with my new husband staring at me with a “what do I do with this??” look in his eyes. I had no answers for him. These emotions were something I’d been through before, I knew it would pass and I would return to the land of logic soon, but having to walk another person through it in a helpful & coherent way was something I just hadn’t thought about.
As a result, I learned to define what I’m feeling in those moments (tired, insecure, disappointed, etc.) and to communicate clearly to my husband what I need from him. It does us both a disservice if I assume he should just know what I need. Do I need space? Just to talk it out? Food? (a lot of the time it’s food). And then, when a cooler head prevails, I circle back around and explain exactly what the moment was about. I helped us by teaching him how to talk me down off of the proverbial ledge. He took copious mental notes. That has helped us navigate some shaky territory. With marriage comes a new level of vulnerability that, while scary, is an amazing intimacy that you don’t get from dating or with any other human. The support and care that comes from it is like nothing else.
2.Getting married is taking on a new identity. Someone’s wife. Mrs. Something. Honestly, it was a little jarring. I had been just me for a really long time – and now my identity was tied to a husband. I’ve heard some people describe this as a negative. Done correctly, it’s a huge positive. The difficult part is simply adjusting to life as a team. When people say “you” they mean the both of you.
The change in the way I saw individuality felt like a loss in some ways. I felt like all of a sudden people didn’t care that I was still me or that I had a whole established life and personality before we got together. I had thoughts and opinions – and some of them were different from my husband. I didn’t give up the right to have a mind upon signing the marriage license, after all.
I had to figure out who I was as Kasidy, who is also a wife. To understand what it feels like to still have autonomy, but not necessarily individuality. My self governance didn’t go anywhere. I still have agency – my value as a person and the value of my calling is still the same as it was when I was single. But I am also “we”. All things are now tied together. When people see me, they see us. All the time. 24/7. My wins are our wins. His accomplishments are mine, too. Our callings are meant to join together so we can go further and do more than we could alone. It is a delicate balance to get used to and I don’t think I anticipated that.
What I learned is to go to God and ask Him who He wanted me to become in that space. To realize that, no matter what, I am still me with my own calling and purpose. Everyday, still, I’m learning what it looks like now that our callings are joined together to support one another. It is a stretching – but in all stretching, God is growing us into the version of ourselves He wants us to be.
Learning how to navigate those things is tricky at times. I’d imagine most married couples encounter this terrain. The first year is all about how you, both as an individuals and as a couple, decide to engage it. There is no rule that says the first year of marriage has to be the worst. Being married is awesome, truly. The first year was a joy. The unexpected emotions that come with it are normal – it’s all about how you process it. That is what makes the difference.
What have you heard about the first year or what was your experience? Do you identify with the above mentioned? Were there other surprises?