This post was drafted in April for my year of setting monthly goals. Before I get back on track with writing one for October, I decided to go ahead and publish this one…
One day in January 2015, I walked in for a noon yoga class and saw one of my friends from teacher training. She took one look at me with a “what’s wrong” face, and I instantly burst into tears. Turns out, the first year of marriage is tough. Really tough. She listened as I talked about how strained my relationship with Brett felt before saying “Yeah, the first year of marriage is the hardest. There was a moment or two when I wondered who I’d married.” So, I wasn’t the only one to have had that thought. In the days and weeks following our conversation, I asked a few people about this seeming truism, and they all agreed and offered their tales of the challenges in their first years of marriage.
Depending on who you ask, the reasons the first year is so challenging varies. Shared money, extended families, differing expectations on who does what, no longer having a wedding to look forward to – I heard each of these. For me and Brett, I think a lot of it has to do with getting married when we were older and more set in our ways. And when we had each been living by a different set of rules and experiences up to that point, the conversations around our differences became pretty intense. There’s a reason why, in our vows, he promised to put up with my craziness and I promised to put up with his stoic facade. Those personality traits can make communicating about differences really REALLY challenging.
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. – Kahlil Gibran
Right around the time I was Googling first-year-marriage-and-divorce statistics, I asked him to go to a therapist with me. Since we didn’t do premarital counseling, I wanted someone to sit down with us early on and and give us some tools to better communicate and get on the same page. We went, got the shit scared out of us, cried, proceeded have some really difficult conversations, and since, things have been better – much better. And, each month since gets even better.
Back in April, I decided to (quietly) devote the month to focusing on our relationship. I tried to do so primarily by:
- Remaining calm as we talked about money and taxes. I grew up in a home where no one discussed money. Ever. He grew up in one where it was discussed constantly. Those differences have shaped how we engage with money. And, since that month was the first time we were dealing with joint taxes, I knew it had the potential to be really stressful.
- Making a point of stepping away from the computer for at least an hour each day and instead doing something to make the new house feel like home. Since I was working mostly from home, this made sense.
- And, in a move straight from the book this year’s list of intentions is based on, The Happiness Project, giving “proofs” of love without expecting any praise or acknowledgement in return. I’m big on acknowledgement. When I do something – anything – I want to be appreciated. So, taking a month to just do nice things to show my love and not point them out nor expect anything in return was huge.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
We’re now five months after this original post was written and a little more than two weeks away from our one-year anniversary. The “goals” from April now come naturally. And, our relationship has never been better. People say the love grows after marriage – I didn’t really believe that before. I do now. When we do have a difficult conversation – which isn’t that often – it no longer feels like World War III is breaking out in our home. We communicate better and appreciate each other more (and are more intentional about expressing it to one another). We also laugh – a lot.