Updated: Jul 3, 2019
Today, Father's Day, marks the anniversary of our first year of marriage. I have officially been married for 365 days. Well, according to our elopement date on June 16th. Our wedding date is March 16th, which we've concluded is our main anniversary, and this is our half anniversary, sort of like the whole six-months before your real birthday is your half birthday thing. I am not sure if this sounds snobby, silly, or ridiculous when I say it out loud to people, but this is what we have decided to do, and that's good enough for us.
So what is the key to a happy marriage? This question has plagued society for decades, and is a major topic of conversation. I love hearing about marriages. I gladly welcome any conversation about the topic. They are rich and fascinating discussions, but the truth is no two marriages are alike because no two people are alike. You can read all the marriage books, listen to every podcast, seek advice from family members, elders, and co-workers, but it won't guarantee a more improved, enjoyable marriage. Seeking advice from outside sources can aid in a marriage, but it won't change it. So what do you do? You must be willing to expose your wounds, address them, and take personal steps to heal from them.
Take me for example. Erick and I had very different ideas for how marriage should look because we were raised in two very different homes. My biggest struggle in marriage was accepting that my coping mechanisms for dealing with pain were not healthy in order for us to work as a unit like a marriage should function. For a while, our marriage felt like two individuals residing under the same roof. We still loved each other, but I had become an expert at doing my own thing and not relying on Erick for anything. Being the daughter of a mother with mental illness, forced me to be very independent from a young age. I was a very self-sufficient kid and learned not to rely on other people for help. Furthermore, when mom upset me, I processed my emotions by going off to be alone. Writing or taking a run in the park were my healing methods. Then I got married.
My poor, poor husband. When Erick and I had a disagreement or I felt hurt by something, I did not want to talk about it. I wanted to retreat to my journal to write or go to the park in solitude. When we needed groceries, I went to the store. When I needed a new pair of pants, I headed to the mall. It never occurred to me that Erick would want to do these mundane tasks with me? But he did. A few months into marriage, he told me that it hurt him when I choose to write out my feelings instead of talk about them. It hurt him when I needed a new pair of pants, and didn't invite him to go with me. When it came to the grocery store, Erick explained how much he loved going to pick out fresh fruit together. I admit that I move at a very fast pace, and going to the grocery with my husband always means we will be there for much longer then I intended, but in the end it is worth it. Every mundane task we have done together has been worth it. Every hard, mind-numbing talk we have had about feelings, has been worth it.
The first year of marriage forces you to take a hard, good look at yourself, and ask? Do my life habits hurt or help my marriage? Mine were definitely hurting it, but with time, prayer, and patience things improved. 365 days into marriage, and I have learned to be more gentle. I invite Erick to go to the mall with me when I need to get something. I encourage him to come to the park with me when I want to take a walk to clear my mind. I have learned to ask for help, and admit I can not do everything on my own nor do I really want to. I have learned how to communicate better, to talk about my feelings and not store them up inside of me so nobody can find them. Most importantly, I have learned how to function as a team, and not as an individual.
The marriage advice I learned, that changed our lives, was being right is not worth it in the end. When I allowed the pride I had that "my way is the right way" to dissolve, our marriage improved vastly. If you are feeling unsettled in your marriage, I encourage you to observe your personal habits. Take a good hard look at them and ask yourself do my behaviors help or hurt my relationship?
When we take the tough steps to observe and admit our way may not be the best way, marriage can become a joyful, delightful partnership. Today I encourage you to observe the life you live when nobody is watching, and ask yourself what do I do that may be harmful to a loved one? The answer my friends is the golden ticket to having a happy marriage.