Awhile back, I received the following email:
I stumbled upon your blog by complete accident this morning and am now bawling at my desk! My husband and I have been married for a whole six months and it has not been as blissfully easy as we had anticipated. I'm the oldest of four and the first of my group of friends to be married- I've been feeling like I have no one to talk to about husbands and no one to get feedback from if what we are going through is “normal”.
I've only read a few of your posts (so far), but the ones that I read about marriage hit so close to home. I just wanted to thank you for being so honest about the short comings you feel you have and offering up tips and tricks you have learned over the course of your marriage.
When I read this email, I immediately wanted to pull this girl into a giant cyber hug. I totally get where she's coming from. Marriage isn't a walk in the park! And one of the hardest things for me during my first year of marriage was the feeling that I had no one to talk to. My poor husband. I went from living with chatty girls all through college, with late night pillow talks and plenty of hugging–to living with a man. Granted, living with a man wasn't necessarily bad, it was just VERY DIFFERENT. Like the email above, I was also one of the first to get married from my main group of friends, and I felt very isolated in my new married life. Most of that is because society tells us that we look “weak” if our marriage doesn't look perfect, or that it's bad to talk about our marriage with other people.
I completely agree in making a rule to refrain from talking negatively of your spouse, or “Gender-shaming”, but I think there is a negative effect to not talking about marriage issues at all. I remember after having our first few “fights,” having the thought, “Oh no. We are totally not compatible. We are done for!”
It wasn't until more of my friends started getting married, that I realized disagreements are completely normal, and even healthy for relationships. See my post on “fighting in marriage” for more thoughts on that.
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I think the biggest issues in my own marriage arise because we are perfect for each other. Let me explain…
When my husband and I were dating it was our similarities that brought us together. Everyone in our college dorms would laugh and say we were the male and female version of each other. Shortly after getting married, we quickly realized how different we are. Our differences have brought both the beauty and the ugly into our marriage (depending on the circumstance and how humble we are willing to be).
You see, my husband has a LOT of strengths where I have weaknesses. He is organized and tidy, friendly and frugal, and almost annoyingly optimistic. He has patience that I've never known. I think God brought us together for these very reasons. He knew that in order to get me from where I am to who he wants me to be, would require a lot of learning and stretching–sometimes painful stretching. And he knew that bringing me together with someone who has strengths where I am weak, would do just that.
While we have our fair share of difficulties, here are a few things that I feel have contributed to a lasting marriage:
1. We are committed to each other. We made a promise to each other on our wedding day that it would last forever. We are in it to win it. We know we each will have “moments” when we feel annoyed to the max, but there is an assurity there that the other person is staying put for the long haul. When a storm comes, we know it will pass. As long as our relationship remains a committed 3-way relationship (Me, Him and God), we know the storm will ALWAYS pass. And the rainbow that follows always makes it worth it. Some of our best memories together have followed one of our biggest disagreements.
2. We expect growth. One of my favorite quotes is, “[God] gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.” Whenever I feel “stretched” in marriage, I have to remind myself of the opportunity to grow. What feels “bad” can actually be “good” if I allow myself to learn. Just because my husband has a weakness where I have a strength, doesn't mean he is weak. And likewise, shaming myself because I don't have a strength that he does, does nothing for our marriage. We can be strong together or we can be weak together. It's all just a choice.
3. Forgiveness. We both have moments we'd like to forget about, and it's such a relief when we know the other person has “Let it Go.” What a freeing feeling for both parties! I truly believe God created us to need “sleep” so that our spirits could have a chance to renew and start over. With each new day is a new chance. A new opportunity.
We just recently celebrated our anniversary and I couldn't be more grateful for the person I am married to! But, I feel it's important to say that not all days feel that way. Those are usually my growing days. Those are the days that I say, “why does this have to be hard?” And those are the days that God says, “Because you are not quite where I want you to be. But if you let go of some of that pride, you could learn a LOT from that man, and you can be great together.”
So today, I say thanks to the man in my life. Because although I still have ways to go, he has taught me a lot about who I want to be (ironically it's more like him), and I really do think we are great together!
What things/attributes/moments contribute to a happy marriage for YOU?
Friendly Disclaimer: Marriage can be a touchy subject, and no two marriages are the same. I wrote this in response to the email that I received and because I felt that there was someone out their in the world that might benefit from knowing they aren't the only one with hard moments. I realize that some marriages have deeper problems that are more difficult to repair. These may require counseling. This article is not geared towards those dealing with infidelity, mental illness or other major challenges. I have sincere compassion to those dealing with greater challenges and do not pretend to know the answers.