What They Don’t Tell You About the First Year of Marriage
What comes to mind when you think of newlyweds? Perhaps words like love, smitten, unwavering, romantic, and blissful. While all of these words ring true, there's so much more to being married than meets the eye.
This week I celebrated my first wedding anniversary. As I fell asleep with my husband on Monday evening, we thought back to 365 nights ago when we were drifting off to sleep in different beds, knowing that the next time we opened our eyes, it would be the day we were getting married. What an amazing feeling. So many emotions wrapped up into 24 hours of love, lace, laughter, and one epic party. I LOVED my wedding day. I loved the life in it -- from the family and friends, to the morning coffee (and mimosas), to the excitement and nerves, to the running late, to all the things that didn’t go as planned yet made the day even more perfect. It was a breathtaking day that went exactly how is was meant to, but certainly had its hiccups.
Being from a big, fat, Italian family, I'm part of roughly 12 weddings per year... And having planned my own, I think I'm enough of an expert to estimate that you get about two-thirds of the wedding day the way you planned it. That leaves one-third for life to take the wheel and drive you wherever it pleases. And if that’s not life trying to teach you the first lesson of marriage, then I don't know what is. So pay attention, because if you try to fight it, the ride just gets more bumpy.
It’s hard to believe the earth has taken a full trip around the sun since the day my husband and I said, “I do.” When we got engaged, we used to joke about taking the marriage one year at a time, reviewing the relationship at the end of each year, and deciding if we wanted to “re-up.” The concept was funny before we got married, but after one year?? Well that joke has taken on a whole new level of humor.
Let me take a moment to say that my husband is one of the best men I know. I feel beyond blessed to have met someone who loves me all the way. And I do mean ALL THE WAY. Sure, he loves the stuff that’s easy to love, but you know someone loves you all the way when they’ve seen your dark side of crazy and instead of running scared, they love you even more deeply. The point here is that even with a once-in-a-lifetime kind of relationship, even in a soul-mate, Disney-fate type of love, the first year of marriage is no fairytale.
I’m sorry to be the rain on your wedding day, but someone HAD to say it.
For those starting to worry, fear not. If you walk down the aisle to the right person, the first year is worth every crazy-romantic, silly-dramatic moment. It’s somewhat similar to a roller-coaster ride. Try to picture it..
You arrive at the park and the excitement ignites as you become captivated by the experience. Looking up, you see the tippy-top of the highest ride in the park and your eyes widen with wonder as you watch the riders dive to the ground at high speeds, level off, and then with a split second to catch their breath, head straight for more thrills. Just when you think you can’t get any more excited, you decide it's time. The whole day planned around this moment. You reach the entrance of the ride and your momentum is forced to slow down, waiting on line for what feels like five years. It moves SOO SLOW. Finally, it's your turn. You take a seat. Someone comes over to make sure the seatbelt is tightly fastened because they know you’re going to need it. The entire way up your mind is racing..
“This is awesome!! I’ve waited so long for this. I wonder if this seatbelt’s going to hold. How high are we actually going? This is taking a while. I can't tell if I'm excited or terrified. Oh stop worrying! This is going to be a blast!! But what if it's not?? If I freak out right now, will they stop the ride? What if I start to cry? There’s no way this thing is going to stay on the tracks when we go upside down. Oh well.. at least I’ll go out having fun! Seriously.. how are we still not at the top?”
Round and round, the thought carousel goes until you reach the top. For a split second, the thoughts cease. No more worries; you're committed to this ride now. Your stomach starts to drop in anticipation of the fall..... and you’re off! The rest of the ride goes by in a blink. Every turn different, every twist unique. Some parts pure elation. Some parts pure whiplash. But all together, one hell-of-a ride. When you get back to the starting point, you’re not the same person who stepped onto the ride three minutes prior. You're braver and you're more committed than ever. Knowing the experience ahead, you smile wide and buckle up for round two.
Do I believe there are people out there who’s first year of marriage is more like a trolly-tour of Magic Kingdom? Of course! My experience isn’t Universal (pun intended). But I do believe the experience I described is more common than people are led to believe.
While 12 months doesn’t exactly make me a marriage master, I think it's a message worth spreading. I’m still trying to figure out who packaged and sold the idea that the first year of marriage is one, long honeymoon. It doesn’t seem fair to promote the idea that after your dream wedding, your whole life is going to be a fairytale. It’s setting the stage for unmet expectations. And when a person's reality doesn’t meet up with their expectations, they often think something is wrong with their reality. That’s just not the case! Divorce rates are entirely too high for us to be setting newlyweds up for failure. Someone needs to give newlyweds permission to be upset or unhappy sometimes – permission to question if the decision they made was right, permission to make mistakes.
The first year is filled with so much love and light. You'll often find yourself out of breath from moments of passion and excitement. It goes without saying that walking through these experiences with your person will be extraordinarily wonderful. However, it's often the tough times that strengthen the relationship. It's a fight that becomes a lesson in compromise; a mistake that leads to a lesson in forgiveness; a question of doubt that answers with a deeper reaffirmation of commitment.
My purpose isn't to cast a shadow over the beautiful parts. It's to allow some light to shine onto the parts that are usually forced to stay where you can't see them. If we believe we are exempt from error or difficulty, we are more likely to be deeply disappointed and less likely to work towards correcting that error. Whether you've been with your person for one year or one decade, getting married somewhat resets the clock on getting to know each other. It's not that the person changes drastically; it's that responsibilities change, dynamics change, and most of all, our expectations change. Give your new relationship a chance to grow. Even a seed of the most beautiful flower won't begin to grow just because we expect it to. It's purpose is to blossom, but without attention and care, it can't reach its innate potential.
It's safe to say that my husband and I decided to "re-up" for another year. I'm sure this time around the sun will be crazy in its own way, but whatever lies ahead, I'll be holding his hand tight, enjoying the ride.