Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reflections on the Dreaded First Year

Everyone says it.  Seriously, everyone.  "The first year of marriage is really hard."  People who are married say it, people who have been married say it, and even people who aren't married say it (only then it's "I hear the first year of marriage...").

Well, I've been married one year now.  So I have some input on the whole thing.

Reflections on a first year of marriage...

(And I feel like I might first need a little disclosure about this: when you first move in with someone, it's hard.  I did this about five months before we got married, though, so it didn't affect our first year.  But yeah - moving in together is an adjustment.  [And rightfully so, I'd say, which might contribute to the "dreaded first year."]  But that didn't weigh in for us - so that won't be considered in my overall assessment.)

So, we got married in November.  I highly recommend this.  (Aside from the fact that I was eating healthy all through Fall and thus didn't enjoy many Fall food treats last year, but whatev.)  We got back from our 10-day honeymoon on Thanksgiving.  So basically, after our awesome wedding, and our awesome honeymoon, we came home to the awesome holiday season.  It was the most perfect transition (because I hear that some women go into a sort of post-wedding sadness since they're no longer looking forward to something that requires a lot of their time).  All through the holiday season we were happy and giddy about our wedding, each other, and all the merriment of the holidays.  Everyone was congratulating us whenever they saw us, we were still getting presents, we were eating and drinking a ton (since we'd been off alcohol and carbs for 90 days) - it was an awesome time - the "honeymoon period," I'd say.

And then there was the rest of the year.  And it was fine.  It was a normal year.  We went to work.  We did our normal nighttime routine.  We did stuff on the weekends.  Our schedules didn't change that much from where they'd been the 3 years we'd been together.  But I wonder if a contributing factor to first-year troubles for some people is a major change in routine.  So, maybe before you get married, you go out every night, stay out until 3am every weekend night, generally live pretty carefree.  But then you get married and feel like you maybe need to settle down a little more.  Well, that might cause some trouble.  Or if one of the spouses changes jobs, that might cause some adjustment.  Or if you move to a new house/neighborhood/city, that might call for some tough times.  Or if you didn't do a lot of stuff before with other couples, so you then have to try to merge social lives that used to be exclusively guy time and girl time, that might make a tough first year.

But we didn't have any of that going on.  It was a "normal" year for us.  So we had some really good experiences/moments (fun trips, a few weddings, good food/wine, fun concerts, etc.).  And then we went through some hard experiences (putting BenCat to sleep, family illnesses, family situations that changed, etc.).  There were peaks and there were valleys.  And this is sort of my interpretation of what I imagine marriage will be like forever: I think there will always be peaks and valleys.  Because that's how life goes.

So were there times in this past year when marriage was hard?  Yes - very much so.  It was never hard in a regret sort of way - it was just hard: we fought, we weren't nice to each other, we were selfish.  But then there were times that were awesome - we didn't fight in situations when we easily could have, we were nice & supportive of each other, we were selfless - and it was idyllic and enviable, like everyone wants their marriage to be.

I guess as we grow old together, we'll understand each other more, which might make the valleys of marriage less frequent.  But I truly think that they'll always be there, if not just because hard/sad/awful things happen in life and you have to deal with them.  Or if not just because of the volatility of one's emotions - that quite possibly at one time or another in life, you'll feel like a failure or depressed and that will affect your relationship with everyone, your spouse included.

I do agree with the statement that "marriage is hard work."  It's permanent.  So in a relationship that isn't committed in marriage, there's always the possibility that you could break up.  But a marriage is forever.  I think this can cause you to get lazy at times - that is, you know that you should do this one thing that your spouse wants/needs for fulfillment in the marriage, but since there's no risk of breaking up, you can slack about doing it at times.  In theory, husband and wife are constantly striving to be the best spouse they can be, but in actuality, it doesn't happen every. single. time. 

So, in conclusion, our first year of marriage was hard.  It was also easy.  I'm glad we're over the hump - for some reason it feels more legit to be married more than a year.

I need to work harder at it.  Jonathan does too.  But overall, I think we're doing alright.  I'm excited for many more years, and for all the things that will happen in our life together.

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