Learning to Love: Lessons from the First Six Months of Marriage

 

It feels almost silly to write about what I’ve learned in the past six months of marriage, because, well, I’ve only been married for six months. I taught high school for nine years. I was a single adult for over a decade. Six months seems like a drop in the bucket in comparison. But when I reflect back on how my life has changed since Kristian and I declared our consent before the Lord, our family, and friends, it feels as if those six months were miraculously expanded to include several years’ worth of transformation, healing, growth, and joy.

Obviously, the biggest change for us has been our pregnancy, which wasn’t unexpected in the sense that we were hoping to become pregnant as soon as possible, but was unexpected in the sense that literally nothing can prepare you for how transformative pregnancy is to your body, soul, mind, and marriage. Some of our non-Catholic friends and family were incredulous when we told them that we were hoping to get pregnant right away. “Don’t you want to have some time together first?” they asked. And I get it. Part of me wishes that I hadn’t felt like crap on toast for three of the six months that we’ve been married. Part of me wishes that Kristian and I had been able to take a camping trip with all of the awesome gear we got as wedding gifts before I had to pee every five minutes (getting up in the middle of the night to go in the woods isn't an option in my world). Part of me wishes that we could have had years to take advantage of Kristian’s flight benefits (he works for Delta), travel the world together, and all that jazz.

Baby J getting blessed by the Holy Father during our babymoon/L'Osservatore Romano

Baby J getting blessed by the Holy Father during our babymoon/L'Osservatore Romano

But that’s not the best part of me, and I know it. I know that, at the end of the day, my life and our marriage is not about me--or us--it’s about being living witnesses of the love of a God who continually pours himself out to us. I also know that so many of my dear friends and family members would have loved to get pregnant right away, but had to suffer through years of fertility struggles, and in some cases are still struggling. I don't know why we received this gift right away, but I know that it is a gift.  And when I look back on the past six months, mild morning sickness and weight gain notwithstanding, I wouldn’t change a thing.

The first trimester, when I was sick and tired 90% of the time, was such a time of growth in our relationship and an opportunity for me to receive Kristian’s love and for him to serve me in a new way. Staying in more and socializing less gave us an opportunity to spend quiet evenings together that we won’t have again until our kid(s) are grown and out of the house. Knowing that our family is growing has given us more of an eternal perspective on things like finances, home ownership, etc. And watching Kristian snap into protective Daddy mode has been a total joy for me. I always knew he had a servant’s heart, but since we became pregnant, I’ve been blown away by his selflessness and daily sacrifices.

My (dried) wedding bouquet by Petals, ink, and print by HatchPrints. 

My (dried) wedding bouquet by Petals, ink, and print by HatchPrints

True, we haven’t entered into the post-honeymoon period yet, but I think the lessons we’re learning now will serve us well as we enter into the universally challenging years of parenting little ones. I know that the past six months have inspired greater trust in and admiration for the man that I married, and I can only imagine how much more I will fall in love with him as I watch him grow into his fatherhood.

I sometimes wonder what kinds of suffering life will bring our way...what struggles we will have in the future that will test our love like gold is tested in fire...what the periods of “dryness” in our marriage will look like...and then I hear the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart a gentle reminder to enjoy this time. And once again, I have to surrender all of my fears and anxieties to the Lord, because otherwise Satan so easily steals my joy.

How could I NOT love this man?!

How could I NOT love this man?!

Quite a few people have asked me if marriage is everything I hoped it would be. The answer is, as always, “yes...and no.” Yes, it is wonderful and freeing* and so much FUN to live life with your husband day in and day out. But I didn’t expect how healing and challenging and purifying it would be--even though many of my married friends told me it would be. Kristian has taught me to rest in his love, to receive love even when I feel unworthy of it, to stop interrupting and LISTEN before responding, to pay attention to the ebb and flow of his emotional state and learn the cues for when he’s hungry or tired and just needs a break. He’s also taught me to be more spontaneous, romantic, and joyful. I didn’t savor life quite as much as I do now, and that is in large part thanks to my dear husband.

So, there you have it. Nothing particularly profound, but for me, it is incredible that I actually wrote this post. Not just because I’m writing as a married woman, but because I am at peace. Even in the midst of all of the uncertainties of pregnancy and the growth of our little family, I am at peace. And that, my friends, is a miracle. Deo Gratias.

NB: It is true that there is freedom in entering into your vocation; Kristian and I have both experienced that these past six months. It’s paradoxically liberating to know that I am bound to my husband for the rest of our lives. But I am convinced that I wouldn’t be able to experience this freedom to the depth that I have if I hadn’t gone to therapy (and truth be told, I’m still going) and spiritual direction before I ever met Kristian. And yes, I am plugging therapy once again. It really is that important, folks. Don’t put it off!