Just over one year ago, I was working a fundraising event for an internship, so, naturally, it was an occasion for mingling (awkward) and meeting new people. A staff member introduced me, saying, “This is Mallory. She’s got a wedding coming up in just a few weeks!”
The lady smiled a big smile – a squinty-eyed smile – tilted her head slightly and exclaimed in a squeaky tone, “You’re so young!”
I didn’t know how to respond.
People have a lot of opinions about marriage and the first year, in particular. Some messages are foreboding, like: You just need to make it through the first year. We also talked to people who said the first year is a dream; it’s year 10 when things get rough. What I’ve concluded is that everyone’s experience is a bit different.
As of today, Thomas and I are one year in.
This past year, we’ve called two places home (and, seeing that the move was around Christmas, we set our tree up twice). We adopted a spunky dog, maintained distant friendships, experienced job acceptance and rejection. We’ve developed deeper bonds with siblings, ate a ton of beer pretzels and discovered the impact of a man’s desire to financially provide. We’ve argued over small things, like whether mangoes belong in a salad (more on that one later), and big things, like not feeling appreciated.
And I, myself, am learning. I’ve learned to cut T’s hair and almost make the lines on his neck symmetrical. I’ve learned to like some red wine (the sweeter stuff), navigate Kroger like a champ and cook breakfast for dinner in a pinch. I now understand that dogs love to chew jute rugs and recycling only works if you take it to Goodwill instead of letting it pile up in the laundry room. I’ve cracked two phone screens and, therefore, learned I can’t have nice things. I’ve also learned weddings are way more fun when you’re married.
Through it all, I’ve made a definitely incomplete, non-exhaustive list of some revelations. They’re not new concepts, but new for me in this present context. And, as we know from grade school, context is everything.
I am painfully aware of my own flaws. Marriage gave me an excuse to have someone to gripe at no matter the time of day. I see his messes on the dining table and get frustrated, yet can completely ignore the wreck that is my side table. Interesting how that works.
The grass is green where you water it. Not on the other side of the fence (I didn’t coin this analogy, but I wish I did). Covenant means appreciating him for who he is, rather than being dismayed over who he isn’t. It means choosing to not talk bad about him, even in jest. If I’m not an advocate for him, who will be?
Togetherness matters. There is a time for day jobs, for evening commitments and separate directions. But at some point, you have to start talking. And listening. In dating life, this was easier. We were apart some days and together some evenings. The division of time made sense. When we got married, we had to figure that out again.
Be ready to dole out the grace. In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller writes that Jesus is the only reason we can continue to forgive our spouses and demonstrate grace without feeling entirely empty after we do so. His grace for us gives us the security and power to give it to others. I try to remember this when I see dirty dishes sit in the sink, rather than the dishwasher.
Do I practice these ideals every day? No. The last thing I want you to think is that we’ve figured this out. That would be pretty unbelievable.
But in this last year, we’ve made little steps towards realizing these things.
Maybe it’s true – years 5, 10 or 40 could turn out to be really hard. We’ll take them as they come, but today, I’m grateful for the milestone.
I’ll be sure to take good notes on what I learn this next year.