[Today’s guest post from newlywed E.A. Stevens is a great response to those who insist they know just what her marriage will be like. They don’t and E.A. proves it.]
They said marriage would be hard.
Yes, the ubiquitous “they” all told me that marriage was hard, that it’s a list of chores, that the romance only lasts a year before the marriage devolves into piles of laundry and dirty dishes and extramarital demands.
The stacks of marriage self-help books all struck the same confusing combination of perky and woebegone tones. Marriage is hard, I read, hard but so worth it. These books were always painfully specific about all the things that could go wrong in a marriage, but rarely offered much insight on what made marriage “worth it.” I probed the latter chapters, where hopeful conclusions usually reside, only to have the books smile at me wryly and say, “Oh, you’ll understand when you get there.”
The books were one thing, but the testimonies of my newlywed friends were another beastie altogether. I’m socially awkward enough to ask people how their new marriage is going when I run into them a month or so after the honeymoon. The answer is almost always the same, in the same weary tone with the same dark circles under the eyes: “Hard. Marriage is hard. Hard, but so worth it.” Gulp.
It was enough to make me not want to get married at all. I was confronted with two opposing pictures of life on the other side of the vows: one where the bride and groom ride off into an eternal sunset of love-struck bliss, and one where the marriage becomes an inconvenience to be borne with sacrificial and self-flagellatory longsuffering. Neither picture was enough to induce me to marry.
But Sam certainly was. We got married this last summer on June 27 after being friends for about two years. I didn’t take as much persuading to get to the altar as I’d originally thought, and I skipped down the aisle in bare feet instead of dragging my way reluctantly as I’d always imagined.
We’ve been married seven months.
Marriage isn’t hard yet.
For the first few months, I braced myself for the shoe to drop. Surely he’d do something that would get on my nerves. Surely we’d have a fight. Surely something, anything, would be a difficult adjustment to make. Everyone had always told me that there was a huge learning curve during the first month or so of marriage; everyone told me to brace myself for the mind-blowing changes ahead of me.
I braced. And I braced. Nothing difficult has happened so far.
Living together has proven infinitely preferable to living apart. Everything about marriage has made my life easier instead of more difficult. Late nights of studying are less lonely, dinners are more fun when shared, and chores are more enjoyable when divided. We didn’t face a huge learning curve, even though both of us were used to living outside of our parents’ homes and had settled into our own domestic idiosyncrasies before our marriage. Living together and sharing our lives has proven to feel much more natural than the alternative.
Any challenges I’ve faced during the last seven months have been outside of the marriage. My nine-to-five occupation can be frustrating, interpersonal drama can be trying, school assignments can be energy-sapping, and then there’s my new blog and my overwhelming sense of inferiority and ill-informedness in my own chosen subject matter to contend with. But being married to Sam has provided me with a haven from these external worries. Being married has made everything else in the world easier, more enjoyable, or at the very least more endurable. A week doesn’t go by when we don’t look at each other and say something about how much easier this year has been compared to last year when we were engaged and counting down the days.
So…when does marriage become hard?
One of my newly married friends had a simpler answer to my awkward inquiries about the early days of her marriage. She didn’t roll her eyes, or cast them down, or sigh wearily, or laugh nervously. Not so much as a blush. She looked me in the eye and said, “Not bad. Marriage is like having your best friend over for a sleepover all the time.”
Of all the counsel I’ve pulled from peers and books, hers has been the closest to the truth. My husband and I started as friends. We’re still friends. We didn’t stop being friends when we started dating or when we got married. We’re buds. We’re pals.
Marriage, so far, is just like getting to have my best friend over every night. It’s not non-stop romantic bliss, nor is it a dull list of obligations. It’s being friends and staying friends.
I’m not saying our spousal dynamic won’t change under the strain of external pressures. I’m not saying that we don’t have a lot to learn about each other (I married him because I knew there was so much more about him to learn, and I want to learn it all). I’m not saying we’ve got everything figured out and there’s something wrong with couples who struggle or have difficulty adjusting to each other. Goodness, no. We’re just as flawed as anyone else.
But it would do a lot of good, I think, to stop telling couples to expect the worst. Marriage is a good thing, a beautiful thing, established by God for the benefit of His children. It’s a fantastic representation of the relationship between Christ and His church. Be honest, of course, but honesty should include the good and the bad. Marriage isn’t God’s calling for everyone, but for those of us called to a permanent bond to another human, marriage is intended as a magnificent gift. Not an amorphous, scary obligation.
Life may become more challenging for Sam and me as we continue to grow together. But for now, as they say in the song, “who knew the other side could be so green?”
E.A. Stephens and her spouse are aspiring gypsies still working their way through grad school. When she’s not clocked in at her nine-to-five job or studying literature, she reads stuff and writes stuff. Her hobbies include, but are not limited to distance running, weight training, cooking, and writing. Some of the stuff she writes ends up on her blog, Liberated. E.A. accepted Christ as her Savior as a child, and writes to honor Him. She’s on Twitter @LiberatedEmma and occasionally tweets funny stuff and and/or thoughtful stuff.