Ben and I have been married 86 days now.
I’m not sure how long we’ll be considered newlyweds. It seems like a subjective label. When do you stop being newlyweds? Is it when you hit the year mark? Is it when you have kids? Is it when you start farting in front of each other with little or no embarrassment? Not sure.
Well, for now anyways, I am a newlywed. And the number one question I get asked (behind, of course, “When are you guys going to have kids?”) is: “What’s married life like?”
It’s a funny question because I’m not sure how I am supposed to respond other than, “Great. We are loving it!” Really, what other response is socially acceptable? It’s like asking a new mom holding her infant if she likes her kid. Any other answer besides, “yes,” is going to be awkward at best.
But behind the well-meaning question is a desire to congratulate me on my marriage and a true sense of intrigue. I am grateful for the congrats, and I understand the curiosity. We live in an age where marriage has gotten a pretty bad rap. Strife, affairs, abuse, divorce, frustration, unhappiness and irreconcilable differences are the all too often tales of life after vows are exchanged. When someone is happily married, society has taught us to just give it time. Someone will fall out of love. Someone will screw up. Someone will decide marriage no longer suits them. Just give it time. And when we meet a couple who has been married for quite some time and they are still happily in love, we treat them like an anomaly- a unicorn of romance that must be documented and studied closely.
This is the world we live in. And to top it off, the idea of marriage is always personal. Whether we are married or single, we all have experienced it. We all grew up in a home where we saw marriage, or the absence of it, up-close. And our experience, both good and bad, framed our perspective on marriage more than divorce stats or celebrity marriages ever could. And if we’ve experienced the heartbreak of a failed romantic relationship, well, it only adds fuel to the fire burning down the ideal of a happily ever after.
So, today, I want to share with you some insight into my “ever after”. It’s just the beginning, the first page of a covenant between me and my husband, that by God’s grace, will span a lifetime. Since it is the beginning, I will spare you the marital advice. Ben and I will need at least a few years under our belt and a few weathered storms in our history before we dare to attempt that. Instead, I offer you my reflections and, more importantly, hope. For the hopeless romantic and the ruthless skeptic, the fiercely independent and the preferably dependent, the regretful and the ashamed, the content and the discontented, the bachelorette and the engaged, the bridesmaid and the bride, the brokenhearted and the openhearted, the lover and the fighter, the confused and the certain, the tempted and the devote, the idealist and the realist, I offer hope.
May my confessions open your heart to the possibility that marriage is messy, yes, but it can also be something more. Ben and I are discovering that “more” with each new day, and I hope you do too. For the singles and the marrieds alike, I hope you discover more healing where there has been pain. I hope you discover more forgiveness where there has been shame. I hope you discover more peace where there has been drama. I hope you discover more passion where there has been apathy. I hope you discover more contentment where there has been frustration. I hope you discover more connectedness where there has been loneliness. And above all, I hope you discover more love…
So, here are recent newlywed findings:
- Sex is great, but a sense of humor is gold.
Ben and I waited till our wedding night to have sex with each other. It was a mutual choice we made driven by a desire to honor God and each other. To be clear, we didn’t get married to have sex with each other. That is simply not a good enough reason to commit your life to somebody else. We got married because we loved each other and we were both ready to enter a lifelong covenant between each other of faithfulness and devotion. Sex for us was a celebration of that covenant. And Ben and I have been celebrating a lot these days. 😉
When I was engaged a few of my married friends told me jokingly, “If you are fighting with your husband, just remember, sex makes things a lot better!” Noted. But, I was surprised to find that for Ben and I there was something equally important to the ability to have sex in our marriage- and it’s the ability to laugh in our marriage. We crack each other up! He makes me laugh like no one else, and that has been huge for both of us! For the most part, neither of us take ourselves that seriously, and it has allowed us to be playful when we could be frustrated and cheerful when we could be disgruntled with each other. Laughter has been the secret sauce of our marriage, making it sweeter than I could have ever imagined.
- I can’t be a wife and a single lady at the same time.
For the most part, I made the most of my single years. I loved my independence, living alone, having my own schedule, and making my own plans. But when Ben and I got engaged, I knew times were changing for me. I was now making plans with someone else, about to live with someone else, and would be creating a life with someone else. I realized that I would be a very frustrated wife if I continued to think like a single woman in our marriage. A successful marriage couldn’t be defined by my own preferences being catered to or my plans being the ones we choose or my way being the way we do things.
Psalm 45 is the story of a bride and a groom about to become husband and wife. It’s an allegory of the Church and Christ, and the union that Jesus’ sacrifice has made possible between God and His people. It also spoke to me very practically as I approached my own wedding day. Particularly this word of advice:
“10 Now listen, daughter, pay attention, and forget about your past.
Put behind you every attachment to the familiar,
even those who once were close to you!
11 For your royal Bridegroom is ravished by your beautiful brightness.”
–Psalm 45:10-11 TPT
So, I said goodbye to thinking like a single lady. I’m learning to put the needs of my marriage first. I’m learning that compromise isn’t a bad word, and that it has its place in deciding where to eat, what movie to watch, how to decorate the living room, or how to budget for the month. I don’t always get my way, and neither does Ben. But we are forging our way, and we are doing it with love and respect as our guides.
- Kindness is king.
One of the best pieces of marital advice Ben and I have gotten, was over dinner with a mentor we love deeply. When we asked him how to build a great marriage, he simply paused from his steak, looked up at us from across the table, and said, “Be kind.”
Simple, yeah, I know. The great thing about this piece of advice is there are endless ways in which it can be applied. Kindness is usually in the little things. It’s in the tone I use when responding to my husband after a long day. It’s in the attentiveness in which I listen to him share about his day over dinner. It’s in taking the time to fold his shirts the way he likes even though for the life of me, I don’t know how it makes any difference. It’s reaching for his hand and holding it when we sit next to each other. The kinder we both are, the safer we become to each other, and the more intimacy flourishes.
- Stay safe.
We should be able to come home from work and vent about our frustrations. We should be able to bring up something that has been bothering us without the other person becoming immediately defensive. We should be able to confide in each other and know that we will keep our confidences. We should be able to disagree with each other without flying off the handle. We should be able to tell each other we are stressed or freaked out about something without the other person becoming stressed or freaked out in the process.
We should be safe for each other. Our home should be a safe place built on honesty and compassion. We don’t always get it right, but we are striving to become husband and wife who are unguarded and trustworthy, where our vulnerability is met with love and support.
- Be his biggest fan.
I think the world of Ben; that’s why I married him. He’s brilliant and strong and funny and brave and kind and driven and well, the list goes on and on. It doesn’t matter how highly I think of him though if I don’t express it. I’ve got to tell him. I’ve got to brag about him when he isn‘t around. I’ve got to have his back when he takes a big leap of faith. I’ve got to pray for him daily.
The marriage that Ben and I want to build is one where we both champion each other. And Ben has been that way for me since the day we met. His support has already caused me to soar in new ways. Our belief in each other isn’t something we want to dwindle with time. Instead, we are intentionally choosing to send the text that says, “I love you and believe in you. I’m proud of you.” We are intentionally choosing to stand and sit next to each other with pride as the other one preaches or leads a meeting. We are intentionally sowing into each other’s dreams and weaving them together to create one hopefully magnificent life and marriage.
- Stay humble and be grateful.
Marriage is humbling me because I am realizing that sometimes I am wrong. Gasp. Yes, girl, crazy, I know. I’m also discovering that my way is not always the best way and that I am a little more selfish than I’d like to admit. So I’m learning to ask for forgiveness quickly. I’m swallowing my pride in exchange for character development, spiritual maturity, and well, new and often better ways of doing things. I’m also learning to be grateful for every moment. The humbling ones, the spectacular ones, and everything in-between. Every day with Ben is a gift. And every day that I acknowledge that fact is a day I open my heart to the sweet surprises being married to him brings.
- Jesus above all else.
Ben has a saying: “You, me, and Jesus, babe.” Basically, Jesus and I are his ride or die crew. Lol. But we do try to keep things that simple. Each day we wake up and choose Jesus and choose each other. We know we need Jesus at the center of our marriage. We make the choice to follow Jesus and His ways. We don’t do it perfectly. But our greatest ambition is to love Jesus, to love each other, and to love others. It’s the funnel in which we are making decisions; it’s the north star that guides us through disagreement; it’s the essence of what we sit together and dream about when we imagine the future. Already, we have seen God’s provision and blessing and guidance in our marriage. And because we are individually receiving the love and truth Jesus has for us, we can love each other truthfully and speak truth to each other in love. My prayer is that as our marriage turns to new pages and new chapters, that the story remains the same: “You, me, and Jesus, babe.”