On the Other Side of the Wedding Vows

[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. StevensE.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.

***

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to On the Other Side of the Wedding Vows

  1. Rusty says:

    It will be 30 years for us this May…hasn’t gotten “hard” yet, even though we have been through the usual mix of things life throws at you. Marry your best friend, keep treating each other with love and respect, laugh together, and as far as I can tell, the “honeymoon” doesn’t have to end… 🙂

  2. Jean says:

    8 years coming up this fall…and still best friends. A lot has changed, but much has stayed the same. It has gotten harder with having a child, my bad bout of postpartum depression (and other illnesses), with many life changes. The Sleep-Over feeling has diminished – it’s more like breathing. (Hard to get excited about breathing, right? Easy to take it for granted.) We’ve each grown into each other in some ways and away from each other in others. But we’re still both committed. We’re still talking (and more important, laughing) and trying our best to support one another. Anytime something kind comes to mind – do it. And Enjoy!

  3. Tim says:

    Thanks so much for allowing me to run this post, Emma.

    I wouldn’t say marriage is hard, but I would say I takes effort. At least I haven’t yet met anyone who says they are in an effortless marriage. In fact, I’d say the effort is part of the joy of marriage.

  4. Gov. Pappy says:

    Good stuff. The missus and I had a similar thing going on. We’ve all heard the stories and we see other couples struggling around us. We had some issues (outlined in my 2nd blog post), but working through them has been a joy, not a nightmare. Not “hard”. I didn’t marry a wife. I married a friend, a human being. She married a friend, a human being.

    Maybe we just lucked out on a personality match. I don’t know. But maybe, just maybe, focusing on the wife/husband aspect of things instead of the simple companionship and friendship aspect has done the whole institution a disservice? It was like 2 years before we really thought of ourselves as even husband and wife. I still don’t really know what that means. Maybe those two terms have become so loaded with baggage they’re no longer a joy?

    Glad to see someone else out there with a good opening to their marriage.

    • I know…sometimes it feels like we’re still dating. We don’t go out on dates much…but Spouse always tells me that our relationship is just one long date. We made up our minds a long time ago that we’d be friends first and always. So……..let’s hope that works. 🙂

  5. hotapplepie says:

    My husband and I have been married for over 6 years. Two small children and this crazy thing we call everyday life have put some bumps in our relationship, but I can honestly say that our marriage is better than ever! I fall more in love with him every day. Honeymoon still isn’t over for us! (It doesn’t hurt that he still brings me breakfast in bed on the weekends.)

  6. Pastor Bob says:

    Eighteen years, two stubborn, self-directed leaders who care deeply about our passions, yet find time for each other. A cross cultural marriage is one of the more challenging. We were ready for the challenges, and they did come. Being strong we muscled through the inevitable “This is how we do this in my culture.” We compromised, we suffered through bad choices, we reveled in the good choices, we enjoyed the successes of others, we grew through the issues, we focused on HIM as the center and…. we never gave in. Bill and Vonette Bright were paraphrased as saying ‘ — divorce was never an option, murder maybe ….’

    God has a calling on each and every life, we face challenges to grow though them, be encouraged, help and be helped. We (a a society) are encouraged as others grow through problems that look insurmountable, yet they persevere and SUCCEED.

    My aversion to polarization causes me to write about this from the counselor’s perspective. Some face problems and resort to horrible reactions (blaming, hiding, more) others have the peace of mind to work though these properly. It is largely who you are and the models you have been exposed to for resolving these.

    Perhaps the writer faced challenges and handled them wisely -without knowing it? One couple exchanged strong words on their honeymoon, and at the two year mark decided that the reaming years would NOT be a continuation of the earlier mistakes.

    Dennis Rainer (of Family Life Ministries (www.famliylife.com)) comfortably describes that it is not the issue so much as it is HOW we face it/them and reach a resolution.

    A younger believer, married for a few years commented to the older believer that he was enormously blessed, since he and his wife and face no problems for a year or so. The older man took him aside and shared this thought, “If you are having no problems, Satan is not concerned with you, for you are no threat to him.”

    Problem resolution is a skill that all need to know. When based on biblical principles, the value grows.

  7. NJ says:

    I think my favorite was, “the first year is always the hardest”. Um, not necessarily. I’ve been married almost 16 years now and I can say that our biggest challenges came years later. Even with some of the problems we’ve had to face, I still wouldn’t choose to be single. If transported in the Tardis to 17 years ago, I still would marry my husband and I’m confident he would say the same of me. There are some things I’m sure we would have done differently, but wedding each other would not be one of them.

  8. Jeannie says:

    Good post — I think it’s good to be both positive and realistic about our marriages. Sometimes our expectations are set so high that nothing could possibly live up to them. I have never found marriage “hard,” but I do think there’s work involved in negotiating another person’s interests and preferences and dreams along with my own. It’s good work, though!

  9. Pingback: So I Wrote a Guest Post | Liberated

  10. Hurray! I’m glad to know that we weren’t the only ones. We’ve been married 7+ years and I still wouldn’t say that “marriage is hard.” Oh, sure. We’ve had our moments that were hard, even days. We’ve had struggles. Some of it was of our own making, but truthfully – the majority of the hard things have been external things, not things within our marriage. Health struggles have also played out some hard times, but our marriage (and faith together in Christ) actually made those, and many other things, easier to bear. While I realize that we may still come to the point where we feel that marriage is hard, so far it hasn’t been what some people make it out to be. I agree with Tim and Jeannie that marriage takes effort and work – but it’s good effort and work.

    It’s kind of weird, but I’ve almost felt guilty sometimes that we seem to be so “happily married” despite our imperfections. It’s almost like it’s something I shouldn’t talk about too much so as not to make others feel bad. I see now that it’s at least partly due to this idea that “marriage is hard.” Apparently I was self-conscious about pointing out that the “misery” isn’t universal? 😉 Maybe I need to be more vocal about that. Thanks for bringing that up.

    By the way, my husband and I were both in our thirties when we got married, so we “should have been” so set in our ways as to have required “major adjustments.” It didn’t turn out that way. It felt very comfortable to be living together. 🙂

  11. Ruth says:

    31 years for us, married in our 30s. Life has been very, very tough at times, but not our marriage. We are best friends, sometimes cross, sometimes tired, often broke, kids were a joyful exhausting extra. Expect some surprises, but don’t listen to the doom-sayers. Lots of marriages are wonderful but we don’t live in Disneyland, so a bad patch is just that, a patch, not an inevitable break down of everything!

  12. Reblogged this on The Dinkey-Bird and Me and commented:
    Some great thoughts from a wonderful friend. 🙂 Why do people feel the need to be pessimistic about one of the greatest gifts God has given us–a lifelong companion? I’m sure that marriage takes effort. But it’s really encouraging to hear that marriage doesn’t have to be hard or miserable.

  13. Amen, Amen, Amen! My husband and I got married May 23, 2015! And we often say that this year has been so much easier than last! These months have been so much better. Do we have to work through things? Of course, but oh it’s so much better! I, as well, get frustrated with marriage books. And maybe newlyweds confuse consistent effort with “hard work”, but I think too many adults advise us on the difficult, horrible things that must be coming without also talking about the beautiful, passionate, new, wonderful daily things that more often come about. So, I guess it’s our duty to tell our friends that marriage IS beautiful and it IS fun and it IS like a sleepover. It does have problems, but it has more happiness then the world gives it credit. We will experience those trials, the fiery blasts, but these are all opportunities to draw closer to God & to each other. I think it’s time we enjoyed the green, green grass before we start bracing for the worst. I LOVED this post! My sentiments, exactly. 🙂 🙂

  14. JillianW says:

    I experienced the exact same thing. All those books and people saying marriage is such hard work, and I still don’t see it. In 20 years, can you please write a marriage book? Maybe your perspective will change, but I kinda doubt it. 🙂

  15. Lady Jay says:

    Thanks for this! I’ve written a similar truth regarding my bandaged marriage, and my mouth. Please see
    https://anecessarypainblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/22/marriage-matters/

Talk to me (or don't)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s