Being married is not something that you naturally know how to do and it’s not something that you can REALLY prepare yourself for. I read books, I prayed, I seeked advice, but I could never be fully prepared for all that marriage has in store for me and I am always learning.I mean, it’s a RELATIONSHIP, so it’s messy. But without the mess, there’s no beauty. Thank goodness I have a gracious husband who gives me a pretty steep learning curve! There are however, always new lessons that I am learning, some are more surprising than others. The amount that I am learning from the wonderful women around me is astounding, and SO INCREDIBLY HELPFUL, that I will never discount the reward of listening to sound advice. While my advice is simply opinion is is full of things that I am learning personally and where the Lord has me now. And wherever that is, it is good.
1.) If he doesn’t think about it, it’s not because he doesn’t care, he LITERALLY does not think about it!
I can’t tell you how many times my feelings were hurt because I thought Geoff didn’t care about me, or he only thought about himself. One of our first arguments was a result of that! But, I am learning that if he doesn’t think to wash my clothes when he was washing his, it wasn’t out of spite or laziness, he just LITERALLY did not think about it. As a woman, this does not make sense to me, but he can really just think about nothing. And he does that. And it’s okay.
2.) Boys stink. Period.
I have three times more laundry, have to change the sheets twice as often, and have to buy 4 times more candles and air fresheners. Also, it is GREAT to have two bathrooms, and even better if they are on separate floors. In the morning, I get ready upstairs and he does his thing downstairs. In the evening, I cook downstairs and he does his thing upstairs. It is always time-consuming, necessary, and stinky. There are dirty socks and dirty undergarments all over the place. My socks disappear and I’m pretty sure his duplicate. All of this is just something else to laugh about because there is NO changing it, and I will just have to be okay with this for the rest of our lives. He puts up with my mess and all my stuff, so I can laugh and be grossed out and giggle at his oddly stinky body.
3.) Leaving is not an option.
We argue, we fight, we cry and we give each other the stink eye. But in all of it, we know that together, we are safe. No matter how much we aggravate each other or how many times I forget to close and lock our side door, we will always work it out and we will always end the fight holding each other and feeling even more in love than we did when it started. I knew walking into this marriage that it wasn’t going to be easy and that I’d have to fight for it. I fight for it because it is SO INCREDIBLY PRECIOUS and it is worth every battle.
4.) Be willing to have difficult conversations; even if you have to schedule them.
One of the first things my mentor told me was that her and her husband scheduled “Difficult Conversations”. Sometimes, something really important comes up that you just can’t talk about in the moment. But don’t lose it, don’t stuff it and try to forget. IT ALWAYS COMES BACK UP. So be willing to sit down and talk about it. Hear each other out and don’t interrupt until the other person is done talking (or venting). Then be kind to each other. This is WAY easier said than done and we are not great at this. But it’s something for us to work for and when we actually follow through the way we should, we can look back and say, “WOW, that was GREAT.”
5.) Have fun. Spend money, waste time, and just BE.
When you get married, there’s a barrage of new responsibilities and changes and plans that were never there before. Now you have to plan meals, grocery shop (for TWO, and men eat very differently), budget, combine budgets, clean up after each other, organize two different schedules…and those are just the logistics, let alone all of the emotional and spiritual changes! So, loosen up your panties and just enjoy each other. We’ve learned to schedule date nights where we just ENJOY each other. Sometimes we do things that are cheap like go to the museum and pretend like we know what we’re talking about while we critique paintings and dream about painting our own beautiful masterpieces someday. And sometimes we splurge and go out to a nice meal and order whatever our taste buds are craving. Because sometimes our RELATIONSHIP is more important than our BUDGET and it’s something worth investing into.
6.) Get a dog.
Okay, now this really isn’t for anybody. But, for us, it was the most beautifully challenging gift we could have right now. About a month 1/2 in, we rescued a playful and freakishly adorable golden doodle Through her, Geoff and I have had to learn how to communicate better, share responsibility, discipline and train together, and care for something that’s outside of ourselves. It also forces us to be home a lot more which in turn forces me to not over-commit us outside of our home. (Being a social butterfly and also busying myself to sometime escape, this is something I regularly do, and Geoff regularly tries to protect us from!) Our dog, Oakley, is such a blessing to us and has drawn us closer together. She’s also made us think a lot more about having kids and how our lives would change and how much more we have to learn about training someone up together. Thank goodness Oakley is our training ground 🙂
7.) Be open and Be honest.
There’s no fooling each other now. We LIVE together. He sees everything about me. For our marriage to be healthy and to grow, we need to be able and willing to lay everything out there, even, no, ESPECIALLY when it’s scary. This also means that I need to be honest with myself, and when something hurts, that that is okay. It is never irrational or weird, it is simply honest. And we need to accept ourselves and each other honestly.
8.) Surround yourself with married people
We have a lot of learning to do and what is better than being around people who have already learned it? Their advice doesn’t always click or make sense in the moment, but when it does it’s like WOAH. And it completely alters the dynamic of our relationship, in a really good way. We are both held accountable and we both are given this really sweet picture into the future of our marriage and how to be with each other. In the married women around me, I see a lot of grace and a lot of respect. I see them CHOOSE to respect their husbands and CHOOSE to love them as they are, not as they want them to be. I’m learning that I married Geoff as he is, not as who I expect him to be; that we will both change and we will choose to love each other in those seasons (yes, love is more often a CHOICE than a feeling. The feeling is a result of the CHOICE.)
9.) A healthy marriage is not always a happy marriage, and a happy marriage is not always healthy
This is something Geoff’s mentor told us before we got married. This shattered my pre-concieved idea about what marriage would be. I grew up thinking, “If I only had someone that loved me and wanted to marry me; to be a provider and a husband, everything would be okay again!” This is the western point of view on marriage and it is devastatingly inaccurate. The point of marriage is not to make us “happy”, it is to make us “holy” or better. We refine each other. We call each other out on our weaknesses and encourage each other in our strengths. There is no part of this that is EASY. If I am always chasing happiness, I am never being refined. And if I’m not being refined, am I REALLY happy? I can say now that the times that I feel most “whole” or “content” are when God has broken some stronghold or walked me through some sort of pruning process. There is conflict, and then there is resolution. But if you have no conflict, can you have resolution? No. I cannot ever be discouraged if I find myself “unhappy.” My husband is not perfect, nor am I. But I know that that is not the point. And I know that God is using our marriage to make us more like Him and to show me how deeply he cares for me. That is the most beautiful, wonderful thing I could ever ask for. I am SO THANKFUL for that. Geoff and I choose to run towards discomfort and expose wounds or scars because that is what will ultimately bring us HEALING and REDEMPTION. That’s not what is “easy”. But, it is where God’s taking us, and wherever it is, it is good.
There are of course many other things that I am learning, I am ALWAYS learning. But, I think I will leave it at that. Part of this is to simply follow my own journey, to be able to look back and see where I’ve come from and what I’ve learned. It’s always surprising and always fun. And if you learn something along the way, then it’s even better.